Like many others when growing up, you make lists of cars you’d love to own one day, and it’s a safe bet that those lists include brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren. Porsche is no doubt on that list too, and their cheeky ads from the 1980s proved that, but unlike the 1980s the number of Porsche models to choose from has expanded to include the Cayenne and Macan SUV’s, the upcoming all-electric Taycan, and most importantly the Boxster and Cayman.
The Boxster, and eventually the Cayman made 911 enthusiasts angry as it’d destroy the brand and its focus on making sports cars like no other. However, jump forward to the latest generation 718 models, and the mid-engine design has gifted something special to those who have always dreamed about owning a Porsche sports car but who might not be able to swallow the entry-level price for a 911 Carrera.
I’m not saying the 718 is cheap, but starting from $110,000 (before on-road costs) and with our model sitting close to $180,000 drive away it’s not like everyone is out racing to have one to race around the city. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find a sports car in its price range that makes you feel as excited to be in one, and experiencing it. And here’s why…
Firstly, it simply looks gorgeous. The design won’t have it mistaken for anything but a Porsche. The low coupe is proportioned perfectly from the front and back. Due to its mid-engine layout the rear end wonderfully tapers off, and as a side-effect, manages to give you a lot more storage space than you’d think. From a visual perspective, the only thing that looks off on the outside is the hilariously small brake callipers which are exaggerated by the thin spoke design of the 20-inch Carrera S alloy wheels fitted.
One thing which the 718 Cayman does pick up and own is the side intake scoops on the rear wheel arches. Not only does it look fantastic, but the raw engine noise you hear is glorious. It makes you want to have the windows down to hear the growl from the boxer engine as you accelerate. The experience is augmented even more if the optional Sports Exhaust System is fitted, along with the Sport Chrono Package, is highly recommended.
Not only does it sound great, but it provides great amusement too. A group of shoppers jumped out of their skin when they walked past just as the Cayman started up. How’s that for a little four-cylinder?
And yes, it’s a four-cylinder engine compared to the six-cylinder engine found in the previous generation models. However, as famous Porsche is for their straight-six blocks, Porsche has had just as much success with four-cylinder race cars. It perfectly suits the car and the personality which the 718 name has had in the past.
The Porsche 718 from the 1950s and 1960s, with its four-cylinder boxer engine, managed to punch above its weight and beat out larger and more powerful cars on the track. In the 718 Cayman S, power sits at 272kW (350HP) and races from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds for the PDK (4.6 for the Manual). However, opt for the Sport Chrono Package, and that drops down to 4.2 seconds.
It’s not all about acceleration, you can find yourself in a more affordable BMW M2 Competition, and it’ll take you to highway speeds in 4.2 seconds too. Where the 718 Cayman S shines is when the road stops being straight and starts to twist and turn. Not too far out of Brisbane there are some fantastic mountain roads which I take all the cars which I test, and in recent memory, the Porsche is simply wipes the floor of everything else.
No other car I’ve taken on those roads comes close to how well the balance in the Porsche felt through tight and winding turns. The PDK gearbox is quick and is smart enough to know what the perfect gear is for what it’s doing. If you want to put it into manual mode for greater control, it does exactly what you ask when you want it. The PDK is regarded as being a special piece of engineering, and as a lover of manual cars, the gearbox converted me.
However, Porsche didn’t only nail the gearbox; they nailed the electric steering too. Porsche has nailed the feel of electric steering for the last few years, but when other manufacturers of luxury and sports cars still can’t add some life into their steering systems, it makes you appreciate what Porsche engineers have achieved.
The 718 Cayman S is a car that I could happily drive around Australia in. Cabin space is surprisingly good for the two occupants, and luggage space is plentiful in a car of this class. Due to the mid-engine layout, you not only get a “frunk”, but you also get a parcel shelf in the middle as well as a small space in the boot. Up front, you can easily fit a medium-sized suitcase standing up or a couple of overnight bags. The parcel shelf works great for backpacks, or jackets and the boot will fit another couple of small bags too. Add in the clever door pockets, and stow-away drink holders and there probably isn’t much else you’d ask for.
Oh, and there are two quite deep storage slots either side of the parcel shelf behind the seats. They’re awkward to access, but probably the best hiding spot for valuables you have to leave in the car. You only know to look there if you’ve read this review, or owned a Cayman yourself.
As for the rest of the interior, the design is classic Porsche. There aren’t as many dials in the instrument cluster compared to a 911, but you get all the information you need (or would want) as a driver. The digital screen found on the far right isn’t the highest resolution, but overall I think it’s a great balance of new age tech, and classic sports car design.
The steering wheel is what you’ll find in all current Porsche’s, including the wheel mounted driving mode selector makes sense but doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the look. I prefer having the driving modes back with all of the other vehicle options in the centre console. One, because it makes me feel like a pilot prepping their fight jet, but two, because if all the vehicle settings are there, it makes sense for the driving mode options to be there too. It’s a minor complaint in an overly great car and something that I wouldn’t ruin the owning experience for me.
Porsche did a great job of taking the Boxster and giving birth to the Cayman, but the third generation car has taken a car that 911 owners scoffed at and made it a classic sports car in its own right. It’s a stunningly beautiful car, one that I couldn’t stop looking at when walking away from it. Sure, you could spend less money on something faster in a straight line, or something that makes a bigger statement. However, it wouldn’t be a Porsche. It wouldn’t be a Cayman.