Porsche 718 Cayman Review – New version

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Post review Porsche 718 Cayman. The Porsche 718 Cayman has always been one of the most traditional sports cars in the brand’s lineup. Let’s see if this new version can live up to that promise. There are many changes for this next generation of the Cayman, but the one you’ll notice first is that it’s called the Porsche 718 Cayman.

Now, that name comes from an old Porsche historic race car that you may not know closely or may not know well. But the big change that it implies is that this car now uses a four-cylinder engine. The previous car had a six-cylinder. The two-liter flat-four that’s turbocharged in this particular Cayman has 300 horsepower, and this car also has a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that makes for very quick shifts.

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman
2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Now, like all Caymans and Boxsters, the engine is positioned between the rear wheels and the seats, so it makes for a nice balance. And it maintains this lightweight handling characteristic that makes this car so much fun to drive. Up next, let’s take a closer look. Inside the Porsche 718 Cayman, especially the base model, it’s a pretty stripped-down experience. Not in terms of build quality and craftsmanship– that all lines up nice– but in terms of features and whatnot.

Really, all you have on the center console right here is the ability to make the ride worse and turn stability control off, as well as lift the spoiler and turn off the stop/start. But what’s important about a sports car like this is that everything you care about when driving quickly is laid out neatly and clearly in front of you. And that something Porsche has always excelled at. Looking forward, I love the gauge clusters, how you have a large center tachometer that’s clear and easy to read. And off to the side are the ancillary information, like the analog speedometer and other information that you can flip through. Let’s turn the car on and look through some of that.

Now the engine’s on, we can take a closer look at some of the displays here. On the far right display, you have this really cool multi-configurable digital display that you can switch between general vehicle overviews to the nav to your audio settings to your trip information. I really like this layout, because it gives you an extra ability to customize and show all the information you want to see.

2017 Porsche 718 Interior
2017 Porsche 718 Interior

The steering wheel is nicely laid out, with good detents for your hands. And it gives you a pretty good view of the gauge cluster. I like that the red line on the tach is almost at the bottom of the tach. So at the top of the rim, if you put that in a way that blocks out the tach, you can still see red line. Although it’s an automatic, so it’s still going to upshift automatically, but it’s a nice thing to have. This thing on the bottom right here, this little rotary dial, is interesting. It’s going to switch between your various sport modes. You have your sport, you have your sport plus, and an individual setting that you can customize.

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As I go into sport, you can hear the exhaust gets a little bit louder, the reds jump up a little bit, and that activates the firm suspension setting and a couple of other items as well. There’s also a button right here that if I click, it goes into what’s called the sport response mode, which gives you 20 seconds in the lowest possible gear you can access. And it gets the engine working a little bit harder. It’s for quick acceleration, like if you need to pass somebody on a two-lane road.

We only have 300 horsepower from the two-liter flat-four behind us. And that may sound like a lot, but you realize a lot of sports cars in this price range have a lot more than that, upwards of 400 to 500. Fortunately, this thing’s still lightweight. But what I want to get to is that even though that power may not seem like much versus similarly priced sports cars, it still feels pretty broad in application. Ahead of the shifter, we have this touchscreen display that works really nice.

2017 Porsche 718 Display
2017 Porsche 718 Display

When you take your hand away, the lower smart bar disappears. But as you move your hand closer, it shows up so you can know what to tap. It’s a pretty quick-reacting and attractive screen that you can use for reference, but it doesn’t dominate the experience. Because the experience, when it comes down to it in this car, is driving.

This Porsche 718 Cayman is a very traditional sports car. Doesn’t have a ton of power because its focus is primarily on balance, being lightweight, being controllable, being precise, and, as a consequence of all that stuff, being very fun, too. You don’t have to have 400, 500, 600 horsepower to enjoy yourself. You can do that by just having the controls feel delicate and nice to your fingertips.

So how does the Porsche 718 Cayman feel when it’s doing all that stuff? Well, on this tight road course, which is a pretty tight and not terribly quick road course, it feels very good. This is the car that’s going to be very satisfying on a winding track. And a lot of that has to do with just the inherent nimbleness of this car. This is a small, lightweight car with the engine right behind my back, and that affects the handling characteristics in a bunch of ways.

So this not being the S, it doesn’t have a locking differential, doesn’t have a lot of features, the more performance-y features that people often talk about when they talk about sports cars. But there’s still a couple of qualities in this thing that make it feel very fun, and it’s very engaging still. The weight balance is one of them. Because the engine’s right behind me, that moves the weight of the car to a very specific point in the car.

And that means when you’re going around a constant radius corner like this, you hear that understeer. That’s the front tires giving up grip. But as you come off the gas pedal, the weight that’s behind you is going to want to swing out, kind of like a pendulum. There’s some momentum there that’s going to want to keep going, even when the front tires are giving up. That’s not going to translate into an oversteer, but it’s going to make the rear want to urge the car. And by living off the throttle slightly, you can keep provoking that movement in a way that helps the front end bite in more.

2017 Porsche 718
2017 Porsche 718

Now, we have this dual-clutch transmission, and the logic of it is very smart. As soon as I get hard on the brakes, it’s going to downshift to second right there, control that downshift really well, match the speed, and upshift right when you expect it to. If you’re going around a road course, of course you’re going to shift at peak power or at redline.

You might need to short shift at some point, because it would be difficult to move the shifter yourself. But when you have an automatic like this, you don’t even need to worry about it. You can just focus on the steering, throttle, and break control. That’s really nice. What we have to talk about, though, is this engine. When we moved to this generation and when Porsche changed the Cayman and the Boxster to the 718 name designation, that came with a decrease in cylinder count.

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We went to a flat six to a flat four. Now, power increased. Fuel economy didn’t change much. And there’s something to be said about the efficiency there, because you’re working with the same amount of power, roughly, the same amount of fuel economy, roughly, but you have fewer cylinders. So there isn’t an efficiency improvement. That said, the removal of that flat six engine, what went with it is also the sound that engine made.

And that was a sweet, beautiful sound that when you got to redline, it just made you want to do it again and again. And that’s what led to a lot of the driving excitement of that car. It was just a beautiful, beautiful sounding engine. This flat-four– some people like it. I don’t. I think it’s very coarse. I think it’s aggressive, but it’s a sound that’s very loud, again, very granular, almost agricultural, in a sense, to my ears.

And it’s something that doesn’t make me want to go to redline as frequently. It makes me want to short shift so I don’t have to hear it as much. This is a matter of personal preference and of taste. And you could see similarities between the sound of this engine and classical four-cylinder Porsche engines. I definitely hear it. I still don’t like the sound much. It’s OK if you do. In fact, you’ll be happier because you can get this car new with a four-cylinder, and I can’t get it with a six-cylinder. So you win anyway.

2017 Porsche 718 on road
2017 Porsche 718 on road

Now, we also have to talk about the way the gearing is laid out. This car has 300 horsepower, which is plenty in today’s world. And if you look at the acceleration results we got, it’s quick enough. Still, when you’re driving down the street– not when you’re on the track like we are now, but when you’re on the street the gearing feels very tall. If you want to make a car feel slow, no matter how much power it has, it keeps stretching that gearing out, because the engine still has to work through the power band. And that’s the case with this car. We have seven forward gears. Why does second need to go all the way to 71 miles an hour? Why does third need a stretch above 100?

I wish Porsche had done something that Chevy did with their 10-speed, which is really tighten up the ratios on the gearbox. You have seven gears. Why not use them? Make them really close, tight together, so that way it will make this engine, which isn’t very peaky– it’s broadly powerful– but it’ll still make a little bit more exciting to keep on the boil. But backing away from the granular complaints, this is still a fantastic handling car. Low weight, agile steering, powerful brakes, solid power, good visibility.

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The nimbleness that you just feel at every part of the car. This is a very engaging and fun car to throw around. This is basically what sports cars should be. Sports cars aren’t about overkill power. It’s about everything working together in concert so it feels satisfying to drive. These cars are more toys than machines of destroying your friends’ times and stuff on dragstrip and road course.

This is all about the experience of driving. But I think that’s what makes me not like the engine sounds so much, is because the experience of driving to me is the engine sound, amongst everything else. And so if I’m not a fan of the engine sound, that’s going to diminish my experience of driving the car as well. While the Cayman’s four-cylinder engine may lack the excitement you’d expect from a Porsche, we’re sure the handling and the styling will make up for it for many.

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