Porsche 718 Cayman review – the last stand for the Cayman as we know it
The combustion-engined 718 Cayman isn't long for this world, but its still a delight in (almost) all its forms
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 (now discontinued) GT4 and the frightfully capable 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 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, as Porsche transitions towards EVs with battery-powered Cayman and Boxster replacements due in 2025, the current model is the last of its kind. It's a portal into the timeless joy of driving a compact, mid-engined sports car with a manual gearbox. This, together with the GT4 RS’s astounding 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, joined by two 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 previous six-cylinder cars in the real world
- Interior and tech – The design and tech are now out of date, but the quality is still excellent and there are plenty of ways to personalise the cabin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 GT4 RS has the homologation look you'd expect
Prices, specs and rivals
Starting at £51,800, the basic Cayman with a manual gearbox sounds like decent value, but thanks to a minimalist standard equipment list it is easy for the price to skyrocket through expensive yet sometimes essential options.
The next step up, the £57,824 Cayman Style Edition, focuses on aesthetics rather than mechanical upgrades, as the name suggests. With a contrasting graphics pack and wheels, along with the option of a retro Rubystar Neo paint colour, the Style Edition is the most visually striking model this side of the GT4 RS. Black or white exterior badging, dark exhaust tips, embossed headrests and illuminated sills also feature, along with extra equipment to justify the price hike. This includes bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel and Apple CarPlay integration.
The step up to a Cayman S means sliding over a cheque for £61,800, 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.
The Cayman T used to fill the space between the S and the £75,124 GTS, but it's been discontinued. So while the GTS now commands a serious premium over the next model down, it also packs a naturally-aspirated 4-litre flat six to deliver the kind of scintillating drive we've yearned for since the 718 launched with a four-cylinder engine. Along with the powertrain, the GTS gets subtle chassis upgrades and 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 more usable Cayman GT4 (which has since been axed from the range), but it doesn't quite have GT car levels of focus. The £108,370 GT4 RS is a different animal altogether, with an extreme blend of power, grip and aggression. Sometimes too extreme.
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 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.
The Lotus Emira is closer in philosophy to the Cayman, but its pricing is very punchy indeed, with the turbocharged four-cylinder variant costing £81,495. The V6 Emira is more expensive still at £85,995, positioning it £10k above the Cayman GTS. BMW’s M2 makes a more compelling case at £64,890, even if it isn't quite as visceral and keyed into the road as we hoped it would be. The incoming CS version could certainly change that, however.
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