It has less power than the Cayman S, but this standard 718 is very nearly as good

What is it?

Porsche’s new entry-level sports car. With the 718 Cayman now priced and positioned beneath its Boxster sister, the standard Cayman is the cheapest way into a new Porsche. Indeed, it’s currently the only Porsche with an un-optioned price of less than £40,000, although you'll tip over that by ticking a single option box. This pricing makes the 718 Cayman dangerously attractive when you consider the performance on offer.

As in the 718 Boxster, power comes from the smaller 2.0-litre version of Porsche’s new turbocharged flat-four engine. This 718 Cayman doesn’t have the Cayman S’s variable geometry turbocharger, yet it actually runs bigger boost pressures – a peak of 19psi compared with 16psi in the Cayman S.

The 718 Cayman gets 296bhp, which is 20bhp more than the old 2.7-litre engined Cayman. The biggest difference is torque, though: the 718 Cayman's turbocharged engine delivers a peak 280lb ft all the way from 1950rpm to 4500rpm.

The basic Cayman is far quicker than the car it replaces. Porsche claims a 0-62mph time of 5.1sec for the manual Cayman and a 4.7sec time for the twin-clutch PDK version, which has launch control as part of the optional Sport Chrono pack.

Video review

What's it like?

In short, a very good reason to consider whether you really need to splash the extra cash on a Cayman S. While the old 2.7-litre Cayman always felt like a significant downgrade compared with the brawnier 3.4-litre Cayman S, this new entry-level car is impressively close to its more expensive sister in terms of real world pace.

Sure, the lesser Cayman doesn’t pull quite as hard when you’re really trying, and back-to-back comparison of the two models showed that the smaller engine suffers from slightly more turbo lag if asked to deal with a large throttle opening below 2500rpm. Yet, like the 2.5-litre, this is a motor that can be driven on its bristling mid-range, and while it can’t match its predecessor’s enthusiasm for being revved hard, it pulls hard at engine speeds where the old Cayman would still be rolling out of bed.

Sadly, the turbo motor can’t deliver anything like the spine-tingling soundtrack that the old flat-six managed as it closed in on its red line. Our test car was fitted with the optional sports exhaust, which adds volume with revs but doesn’t change its gruff pitch. The Cayman’s fixed roof means it’s not possible to escape from the noise, and at cruising speeds it becomes droney, even with the exhaust switched to its quieter mode. While Porsche’s engineers have succeeded in making sure the Cayman never sounds like a Subaru - the only other modern car with a flat-four - at idle the 718 Cayman's new engine does make the tick-tick noise that anyone of a certain age will immediately associate with an air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle.

Chassis settings are slightly softer than in the Cayman S, and the standard Cayman can’t be specified with the upgraded and 20mm lower sports suspension. Despite this, it feels almost equally grippy and responsive when being driven at real world pace. The entry-level 718 Cayman has 18in wheels as standard, but can be upgraded to have the Cayman S's 19in or 20in wheels. Grip levels have been increased noticeably over the outgoing Cayman, as is necessary to prevent the increased torque output from too heavily changing the car's driving experience.

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The Cayman still feels like the best balanced junior sports car on the market, but there’s no doubt that there are now bigger forces sitting on both sides of the scales. Some of the subtlety of the old car has gone; there’s less nuance to the steering feel for example, but the new Cayman is much quicker on cross-country pace and can carry huge speed into and through corners.

For most potential buyers, the more significant choice than that between Cayman and Cayman S will be whether to stick with the six-speed manual gearbox or choose the seven-speed PDK automatic. On previous evidence, the majority will opt for the latter, but it’s possible to make an excellent case for sticking with a gearchange, not least because PDK seems rather too keen to kick down when left in Drive mode. The manual gearbox is a peach to use and the engine has more than enough mid-range to pull its long gearing.

Should I buy one?

This standard 718 Cayman feels like a more significant upgrade over its predecessor than the new 718 Cayman S does, especially considering it’s only £200 more expensive than before. We should definitely mourn the passing of the six-cylinder engine, but the new turbo engine beats it on every metric apart from the subjective quality of 'soul'.

Still, many buyers will be unable to resist the appeal of the 718 Cayman S’s bigger and brawnier engine. Choosing that more powerful car also gets you fractionally bigger brakes, leather dash and seat trim, larger standard wheels and a bigger fuel tank.

Forego those and opt for this entry-level Cayman and you’ll save a useful £9000 – enough for a moderate options spree – while still enjoying a car that’s very nearly as fast on the road, and one that certainly doesn’t feel like a poor relation.

Porsche 718 Cayman

LocationMalmö, Sweden; On sale: now; Price: £39,878; Engine: 4cyl, 1988cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power: 297hp at 6500rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1950–4500rpm; Gearbox: Six speed manual or seven-speed twin-clutch; Kerb weight: 1335 kg; 0-62mph: 5.1sec (manual); Top speed: 171mph; Economy: 38.2mpg (combined); CO2/BIK tax band: 168g/km/30%

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Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at autocar.co.uk. Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.

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Add a comment…
jam5ter 17 July 2016

I'll be keeping...

I'll be keeping my manual GTS thanks... and no it won't be for sale for quite some time!
Ski Kid 16 July 2016

Like 8 speed auto

Hi Scratch, no do not like my Mothers cvt for said reason, love my 8speed auto inRRSport is seamless and smooth, you can't see it has gone through all those gears but interested in the pdk and dsg from the point of view if I changed my wifes manual diesel ,which is lousy on fuel perhaps get a petrol and many appear to now use these boxes, but do not fancy having to fork out thousands for a failure of dsg or pdk, so I am going back to thinking of a manual again for her but depends on the car type i suppose.I have found that in the past autos on 2 litre and under are not very good always searching for gears etc, in fairness my mums does not do that ,it is just that feeling and easily skid the wheels,ok the young lads but I feel a right dick when i do it ,hope my 87 year old mum does not do wheelies too often .
Ski Kid 16 July 2016

cvt is a no no

My mother has a Fiesta with the duratec cvt and although the 1400cc engine is quite good the cvt is awful it is like floating in air when it changes gear, almost a sickly feeling ,have any of you experienced this ,also it can really do a wheely if you use too many revs.
Scratch 16 July 2016

It depends

If I am reading this right, @SkiKid, you are not a fan of CVT! Whilst I have a good regard for the ones I have experienced on small-engined cars for around town and gentle driving, put it this way, I would not want one in a Porsche. The disconnect between engine revs and road speed are not good for sporty driving, and quick lift-off and reapplication of power can leave them feeling rather wanting to say the least. I did not get on well with the pseudo "gears" one of mine had, a sop to those who wanted some form of feeling of gears no doubt, and nowhere near precise enough. I preferred "continuous" mode, which was smooth and enjoyable within its limitations. So, if I were buying a small town car, I would love a cvt again, certainly over the automated manuals (e.g. "asg") that seem to get bad press. But that floating feeling, I know what you mean, my better half did not enjoy the driving experience but was fine as a passenger.