Following its launch in 2005 the Porsche Cayman slowly established itself as a genuine Porsche sports car. Every iteration and improvement helped it become more than just a car for those who couldn’t afford a 911.
That ethos stumbled when Porsche introduced the 718 Cayman, because for the first time, naturally aspirated flat-six engines made way instead for turbocharged flat-fours. The new engines, to no surprise, lacked character, captivating noise and apparent quality of the old units, and for all the model’s other detail improvements, we couldn’t help but love the Cayman less.
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Over the past few years, the winds of change have blown through the Cayman range. At worst, we’ve now come to accept the new fours, even if we still don’t love them, but at best, 2019 saw the reintroduction of the six-cylinder Cayman GT4 to the 718 range, and 2020 enjoys the rebirth of the Cayman GTS using a detuned version of the GT4’s flat-six rather than the former 2.5-litre four.
And quite aside from the 718 Cayman’s power plants, the rest of it is better than ever. Its small proportions make it an excellent fit for UK roads, while its sublime chassis and perfectly weighted controls mean it’s always enjoyable. In many ways, it remains a better car than Porsche’s own 911.
Porsche 718 Cayman: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical specs – A pair of four-cylinder engines, now thankfully joined by a pair of 4-litre sixes. Excellent manual and PDK gearboxes remain.
- Performance and 0-60 time – Even the entry-level Cayman is quick, and the turbo engines punch hard. GT4 needs working harder, but the rewards are far greater.
- Ride and handling – Still among the best-handling cars on the roads. Tactile and accessible, few cars are as enjoyable on a twisty road or a track.
- MPG and running costs – Low-30s economy should suit most owners, even if it’s not a vast improvement on that of the old six-cylinder cars in the real world.
- Interior and tech – Design is now beginning to date, but the quality is still excellent and there are plenty of ways to personalise the cabin.
- Design – Compact, well-proportioned shape is still very attractive, and the new GT4 has that racer-for-the-road look that made the previous GT4 so appealing.
Prices, specs and rivals
Starting at £44,790, the basic Cayman with a manual gearbox sounds like exceptional value, but thanks to a stark standard equipment list it is easy for the price to skyrocket through expensive yet sometimes essential options.
The step up to a Cayman S means sliding over a cheque for £53,746, which not only gets the larger, more powerful 2.5-litre engine, but does add some of the extra desirable equipment that the regular Cayman lacks.
There is a third option with the four-cylinder models though, and that’s the Cayman T. Porsche has done the ‘T’ thing before, and it’s basically Porsche shorthand for a half-hearted attempt at making a slightly more back-to-basics model while adding a few items from the options list as standard. As you’d expect from a back-to-basics Porsche... it’s more expensive than the regular Cayman (£52,055) despite using the same 2-litre engine, though snarkiness aside it’s probably the pick of the four-cylinder Cayman range to drive. The PDK transmission adds £2000 to the cost of each model.
As we write this we’re yet to drive the new Cayman GTS, but it has one key advantage over the outgoing GTS: the six-cylinder engine returns. This is the point at which the Cayman gets serious, and a £64,088 price tag backs that up.
You could though see it as a bargain next to the Cayman GT4. Winner of evo Car of the Year 2019, the £75,348 base price still seems like good value for such a brilliant driving experience, though at more than ten grand above the price of the mechanically similar GTS, the GTS now seems like even more of a bargain.
The small sports car market is on shaky ground these days, but a hardy few manufacturers are still putting up competition. Newest into the fray is the Toyota Supra, which packs BMW six-cylinder power and starts at £54,000. Similar money (£51,425) gets a BMW M2 Competition, while Alpine’s A110 starts at £46,905 and the more serious A110S is £55,900.
This variety makes the sector one of our favourites in the market. For the price, the M2 Competition is probably the most serious and has the most compelling drivetrain, with the engine being effectively a detuned version of the M3 and M4’s unit. It’s most practical too, but for some the boxy shape won’t appeal as much as the lines of ‘proper’ sports cars.
The Supra lags behind the M2 for us, but is worth a look if the Cayman’s four-cylinder models have put you off. It’s the Alpine though in both forms that finally offers a true Cayman alternative. While it’s dual-clutch only, missing the Cayman’s manual option, it’s a genuinely enjoyable and unique car to drive. Its four-pot sounds and responds better than the Cayman’s, it’s lighter, and it has more character.
The A110S isn’t ‘better’ necessarily, just different – and neatly undercuts on price the Cayman GTS it’s probably closest to in spirit.
Click on the links below for our reviews of the other Porsche 718 Cayman models in the range