Porsche 718 Cayman review – the sports car perfected
Topped by the magnificent GT4 RS, has the Porsche Cayman ever been more desirable?
Is it just us, or has the Porsche Cayman now transcended its 'poor man’s 911' image to become a seriously desirable sports car? Sure, it might have something to do with the GT4 and the frightfully good GT4 RS, but in comparison to the 911, which has grown significantly in size and stature, suddenly the 718’s lithe body, simple clean lines and pure driving dynamics seem to have come of age to be all the sports car we could ever need.
It’s not flawless, as the introduction of a pair of turbocharged flat-fours at the lower end of the range does open a significant chink in its technical armour, but the return of six-cylinder motors in the GTS and GT models has been a welcome move. The four-cylinder engines, unsurprisingly, lack character, a captivating noise and the apparent quality of the old units, but the Cayman still appeals in its own right as a magnificently balanced driver’s car.
Now, in 2022, the GT4 RS has arrived (along with its six-figure price tag) to not just overwhelm its direct rivals – few as they are – but also form what could just be the best sports car ever. This, together with the GT4’s capability, and the GTS’s daily appeal, makes the Cayman range more enticing than ever for us, despite its obvious age and familiarity.
Porsche 718 Cayman: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical specs – A pair of four-cylinder engines, now thankfully joined by a trio 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. Sixes need working harder, but the rewards are far greater
- Ride and handling – Still among the best-handling cars on the road. 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 and GT4 RS have that homologation look which is very appealing
Prices, specs and rivals
Starting at £46,540, the basic Cayman with a manual gearbox sounds like exceptional value, but thanks to a minimalist 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 £56,300, which not only gets you the larger, more powerful 2.5-litre engine, but also 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 at £53,870, 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 the standard and S models, and £2303 to the T.
The four-cylinder GTS found its exit when the 4.0 was launched in 2020, and represents the entry point of the Cayman’s more serious derivatives. At £66,700, it doesn’t just pack the bigger powertrain, but also a range of bespoke styling elements, including a very smart set of 20-inch wheels and Sport Design bumpers. Some might see it as a bargain next to the Cayman GT4 which starts at £78,750, but in comparison to the Cayman’s newest model, the £108,370 GT4 RS, it too looks like a total bargain.
In terms of rivals, the small sports car market has seen a renaissance of sorts, but given the spread of Cayman derivatives, so too are its rivals varied. Four-cylinder Caymans have to deal with the recently updated Alpine A110 and A110S, a less substantial and practical sports car, but one with a driving experience that is completely unique and completely beguiling. The four-cylinder Toyota Supra is another potential rival that actually drives with much more finesse than its heavier six-cylinder derivative, but has its own dull powertrain and lacks the Porsche’s crispness.
Direct rival to the Cayman will be the Lotus Emira, but its powertrain and pricing put it somewhere closer to the six-cylinder Caymans, especially considering the V6 and AMG-sourced four-cylinder engine variants are priced at largely the same level. BMW’s M2 is now officially off-sale, meaning that until the new version arrives next year, the Cayman GT4 now has an open goal. However, the M240i has revealed itself to be a great starting point, and at £45,795 is cheaper than even the entry-level Cayman.
This variety makes the sector one of our favourites in the market. For the price, the GTS 4.0 is probably the most serious and is the most compelling as a daily sports car, with the engine being effectively a detuned version of the GT4’s unit. It’s the most practical too, but for some the ageing shape won’t appeal as much as the lines of more auspiciously designed rivals.
Click on the links below for our reviews of the other Porsche 718 Cayman models in the range