Porsche 718 Cayman coupe
"The Porsche 718 Cayman is a joy to drive, a pleasure to sit in and great to look at. It’s just a shame the turbo engines are more sensible than characterful"
- Incredibly quick and enjoyable to drive
- Greatly improved running costs
- Beautiful interior
- Minimal standard equipment
- Options are numerous and expensive
- New engine has lost some of the Porsche magic
The Porsche 718 Cayman is a two-seater sports car with few direct competitors. If you’re in the market for this kind of car, you may want to look at the Lotus Emira, BMW Z4, Audi TT, Toyota Supra or a nearly-new Nissan 370Z, but while these three cars are about £10,000 less expensive, none is as exciting to drive as the 718 Cayman. In fact, its stiffest rivals for pure driving thrills are the Lotus and Alpine A110.
Speaking of price, the old Cayman was more expensive than its convertible Boxster sister model, but the 718 Cayman is actually a couple of thousand pounds cheaper than its 718 Boxster equivalent, making it the most affordable car in Porsche's range. You'll still need nearly £52,000 if you want one – and significantly more once you've added a few choice options – but given the performance on offer, the 718 looks like a relative bargain, particularly when you consider that the Porsche 911 is roughly twice as expensive. Costing from around £80,000, the GT4 model of the Cayman might seem expensive but it's so special that we think it's actually one of the best performance-car bargains out there. You can get many of the same thrills for slightly less money if you opt for the GTS model.
The 718 Cayman is offered in five forms: the standard version, a Style Edition based on the regular Cayman, the Cayman S, and then the GTS and GT4. The regular 718 Cayman has a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that's powerful enough to get the car from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds with a manual gearbox, a figure that drops to 4.9 seconds with the PDK automatic and to only 4.7sec with Porsche’s Sport Chrono option. The Cayman Style Edition, primarily an aesthetic upgrade and around £4,000 more than the standard car, sticks with the 2.0-litre engine and offers identical performance as a result.
Spend an extra £10,000 over the base model and you step up to the 718 Cayman S. For your extra outlay you get a 345bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which sees the 0-62mph time drop to 4.2 seconds with launch control.
At launch the 718 GTS used a tuned version of the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder from the S, but in 2020 Porsche answered the call of fans missing the old six-cylinder engine, and installed a detuned 4.0-litre flat-six from the GT4. A lower rev limit restricted power to 394bhp and it’s only a fraction quicker than the S – 0-62mph takes 4.0 seconds with the PDK and Sport Chrono – but the chassis provides even more precision without ruining the ride quality.
The GT4 isn’t currently available to order, but has a base price just shy of £82,000 and is one of the best performance cars on sale. With a naturally aspirated 414bhp 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine and extra downforce from its rear spoiler, the GT4 offers a driving experience akin to a 911 GT3 for less than the cost of a regular 911 Carrera.
Depending on which engine and gearbox you choose, the 718 Cayman can return as much as 31.7mpg, but every version sits in the top company-car tax Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band. True, it'll cost you more to run than a hot hatchback, but it's almost hard to square the speed on offer with the claimed fuel-economy figures – although spirited driving will of course bring fuel consumption down to levels more in keeping with a sports car.
There's a price to be paid for that economy potential, though, and it comes behind the wheel rather than at the pumps. The bulk of the 718's engines are smaller than they used to be, and unlike the old Cayman's engines, they develop their power with the aid of turbocharging.
This brings two unwelcome changes: firstly, the engines aren't as smooth as the old six-cylinder units, with a (very slight) hesitation noticeable before the power-producing turbo comes to life. The second drawback is more obvious: it concerns how the 718 Cayman sounds. This is, after all, a car aimed at driving enthusiasts, who tend to care about the noise a car makes when it's accelerating. In this regard, the 718 disappoints. It’s by no means unpleasant or unruly but the car it replaces had a distinctly characterful and almost tuneful engine, which is notable in its absence from the 718 Cayman – outside of the GTS and GT4, at least.
That’s just about the only bad news, though. In almost every other regard, you can have more fun in a 718 Cayman than pretty much any other car at this price. There’s an enormous amount of grip, so corners can be taken at a grin-inducing speed, while despite the necessary stiffness the suspension must have in order to achieve this, bumps in the road are impressively smoothed out; the 718 Cayman’s driving experience is both thrilling and comfortable.
Despite fears its suspension would be uncomfortably stiff, the GTS only enhances these attributes. It handles with even greater precision, yet somehow manages to ride over pockmarked roads without fuss, while benefiting from the same glorious soundtrack provided by the six-cylinder engine in the GT4. It all comes together to create one of the most enjoyable cars on sale at any price. The GT4 is a much more serious track tool too, with breathtaking levels of grip, but for most drivers who won't ever go on a track day, the GTS offers most of the same thrills for considerably less money.
The 718 Cayman is unlikely to be put through Euro NCAP’s crash safety tests – it's too much of a niche model for this to happen – but Porsche takes safety seriously and is renowned for its excellent brakes. Other safety features include airbags that inflate in two stages depending on the seriousness of any collision.