Porsche 718 Cayman coupe (2016 - ) review
The Cayman has always been a sports car benchmark, but with smaller turbocharged engines rather than six-cylinder monsters, does it still have the sparkle to top the class?
Interested in buying Porsche 718 Cayman?
While the 718 Cayman is not exactly a radical departure from its predecessor – you’d hardly believe that every panel except the bonnet is new - the 718 is undoubtedly a striking looking car. Featuring a ground hugging, wide-bodied stance, punctuated by sharply creased panels, voracious air-vents and a raised black bar across the boot spoiler, the 718 manages to look as expensive and purposeful as many a supercar. The base model comes on 18-inch wheels as standard, which are great for ride quality but do look rather weedy, while the S adds more visually arresting 19-inchers. However, most buyers will be drawn to the optional arch-filling 20-inch rims, which look the part and do little to degrade the ride quality. You can have some really eye-catching colours as well, including the striking Miami Blue shown in the 'S' model in our pictures.
The 718’s cabin oozes quality and the overall impression is so good you’ll you need to look long and hard - and to a far higher price point - to find a rival that looks and feels as special. While the driving position is low-slung and the seats offer a good compromise between comfort and support, the pedals and gearshift are perfectly positioned and weighted. The 718 also features a steering wheel that comes complete with a rotary dial that allows you to adjust between the various driving modes. The centre console is dominated by Porsche’s latest infotainment system, which features a highly responsive touch-screen and a crystal clear display that allows you to pull up various menus, including high-definition sat-nav maps. Additionally, connectivity to your iPhone can be conducted via Apple CarPlay. Visibility is excellent for this type of car too, so it's easy to judge where the nose and wings are when threading the 718 Cayman down narrow lanes.
No one expects a sports coupe to double as a removal van, but because the 718 is mid-engined, it’s actually more accommodating than you might expect. The location of the engine frees up a deep luggage area in the nose of the car that will swallow a sizeable suitcase, and although the space below the rear hatch is quite shallow, it’s actually wide enough to accept a lightweight golf bag. Other than that, as with most sports cars, storage is a wee bit limited. You can hang your coats on hooks behind the seats, there’s a cubby beneath the centre console big enough for your phone and keys and the glovebox is a fairly decent size. However, the door pockets are extremely slim, so it's hard to get anything bigger than your toothbrush in or out of them, and the cup holders which spring out of the dash are beautifully engineered, but needlessly so.
Ride and handling
All the 718’s controls have a precision and weight that make you feel instantly at one with the car. The steering is sharp and responsive and has a peerless consistency, as the weight and speed of return when releasing the wheel is a mirror image of the efforts and pace required to get the car to turn into corners. The brakes are stunningly effective, too, biting hard even after prolonged use, and the pedal is easy to modulate, but perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the 718 is the way it manages to handle like a rally car yet ride like a limousine, even on 20-inch wheels. Smothering all manner of lumps and bumps with a silky fluidity, the wide tyre contact patches remain glued to the road surface, and as a consequence, the cornering agility on offer is simply staggering. Now it's still firm - you will feel those bumps and cambers in the road - but it's the way that they are absorbed in such a controlled fashion that is so impressive.
It has to be said that neither of the 718’s four-cylinder boxer engines are particularly refined. Both rumble away at idle with all the mechanical refinement of an air-cooled VW camper van, and as the revs rise, you’re assaulted by uncouth rattles, resonances and booms. Even with the optional sports exhaust chirping, popping and banging theatrically, it can’t mask the coarse mechanical racket emanating behind you. When it comes to pace, the official figures don’t tell an accurate story. The entry 718 is so over-geared - to enhance fuel efficiency - that it always feels sluggish below 2,000rpm and bogs down with every shift at low speeds. You need to spin the engine well above 3,500rpm to keep things on the boil, and only then, does it begin to feel as quick as you’d expect. The larger 2.5-litre motor in the S also suffers some lag, but not to the same extent thanks to its more sophisticated turbocharger. It is much quicker to get into its stride than its 2.0-litre sibling, and feels substantially stronger. Once on song, it punches hard and extremely fast, zinging all the way round to the 7,000rpm redline.
The Cayman is now cheaper than its Boxster cousin, and the standard Cayman is a great deal cheaper – we’re talking approximately five figures - than the more powerful S model. However, you’ll need to bear in mind that the S comes with a lot more kit and has a bigger, better engine that helps it produce tangibly better performance; arguably, the sort of performance that the car deserves. If you do stick with the standard Cayman, equip it with the optional PDK twin-clutch gearbox. In official tests, it returns over 40.9mpg and emits CO2 at a rate of just 158g/km. Those are pretty impressive figures, but your consumption will depend largely on how you drive. And let’s be realistic, no one buys a Cayman to pussyfoot around. Although manual versions are cheaper, they’re also less fuel efficient, in some cases jumping a couple of tax bands. Parts, servicing and insurance are all likely to be costlier than the class averages, but this is offset somewhat by the fact that Porsches only need servicing every two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The 718 is too new for any meaningful reliability data to be available, so you’re left looking at the Cayman’s historic performance for clues. Warranty Direct's Reliability Index suggests that the previous model, known as the 987, was pretty patchy, with expensive repairs (Porsche labour rates are eye-watering), troublesome electrics and a fairly voracious appetite for brake components, so we hope things have improved since then. The brand itself also sits in a surprisingly lowly position in the manufacturer table. At least the 718 comes with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, but you might consider investing in an extended warranty when that cover runs out, to avoid any unexpected financial pain in the future.
Euro NCAP rarely crash tests low-volume models such as the 718 Cayman, so there is no star rating for its driver, passenger and pedestrian safety. However, the 718 does come with an extensive suite of airbags and electronic safety systems as standard. The brakes have been uprated on both versions and have fantastic stopping power. There are plenty of options, too, with Active Cruise Control and blind spot monitors available, both firsts on the Cayman.
Porsche are experts at relieving you of your hard-earned, and considering that the purchase prices are so high in the first place, it never fails to amaze us just how little standard kit you get with the basic model. You do get air-conditioning, sports seats trimmed in Alcantara and faux-leather, heated mirrors a touch-screen infotainment system with a seven-inch display, Bluetooth, and a couple of USB sockets, plus Apple CarPlay for iPhone connectivity. But, that’s about it. If you want your 718 to retain its value and represent an attractive used buy, however, then it's worth adding the full leather comfort seats and leather trim for the cabin, as many used buyers consider these to be must-have items. Less essential are the performance upgrades such as the adaptive suspension, sports exhaust and Sport Chrono Pack (which includes launch control), but these items will no doubt boost your car’s appeal to enthusiasts when the time does come to sell.
In most respects the Cayman is still the class-leader. Its brilliant chassis and electric responses means it sets the handling benchmark in this class by a wider margin than ever. It also doubles as a fantastic long distance GT car thanks to its sublime ride quality. What’s more, the cabin is beautifully appointed and represents an exceptional execution of style, quality and ergonomic excellence. Unfortunately, though, the whole 718 Cayman experience is seriously undermined by a pair of disappointing engines, especially the lower powered 2.0-litre. That’s why we have to recommend the more expensive S, but it's still neither as exciting or refined as a Porsche should be.