The Cayman. Once dubbed as the poor man’s 911 but those who wouldn’t let such nonsense deter them would find they’d be rewarded with a nimble, communicative chassis, which still packs a 6 cylinder punch. It’s evolved from generation to generation but is the latest one a backwards step or a forwards leap?
First impressions? Just look at it. The key resembles a novelty key chain which some will love, some less so. It does paint a picture of the attention to detail and quality that you can expect though. Press the open lock symbol and a delicate click and flash of the lights invites you to pop a door open. The handle hinges upwards, solidly – and a cosy, leather clad cabin welcomes you inside. The bucket seats are typical to Porsche form, simple, understated but well crafted. They hold you in the right places without the need for excessive, restrictive bolsters that look like they would be more comfortable in a scene out of the fast and the furious.
The centre console is a little button-heavy considering it has a touch screen but the selection seems to be well thought out so you won’t go spinning into a tree while trying to find out how to switch to bluetooth.
That’s always good.
More of this safe driving approach can be found in the USB port which unlike some cars is placed in the glovebox. The idea being that once it’s plugged in you shouldn’t need to touch it anyway. Music is a gorgeous blend of deep bassy lows and crisp, clear highs thanks to the Bose speaker system. The steering controls are a little light, lacking change track buttons but the essentials are there. Particularly noteworthy is the right scroll wheel which lets you roll through the different digital displays on the third binnacle on the dials which is a very nice touch. It’s high resolution makes it clear, informative and useful. From oil pressure and temperature (or ‘can I spank it yet?’) to track info, phone info and even a map for navigation, the right dial becomes an essential head-up display.
Turn the toy-car-key (by now it’s actually grown on me!) and the elephant in the room raises his trumpet and lets rip. A crunchy, snarly but somehow delicate roar is heard from behind the seats. It reminds you that gone are the days of the flat six boxer engine powering all of Porsche’s range, only to be replaced by a four cylinder boxer, mated to a pair of peppy, torque spewing turbochargers. The all aluminium motor still maintains a bit of a snarl, nicer than most 4 cylinder engines I care to remember, but you’d be lying if you said it was the same. But more on that later.
Shifter into D, and the brakes hold you in place automatically until the Porsche Doppelkupplung box; or PDK between friends, eases you off in no more drama than if you were in a Toyota Corolla. We arrive towards some cascading bends heading downhill from the Blue Mountains, and the ride is smooth. Rigid enough that you don’t feel even a smudge of roll in the corners but well enough dampened that the majority of bumps let you know their presence in the same way that a mother rocks a stirring baby.
0-100kph comes round in under 5 seconds. Not surprising that the diddy 4-pot now generates over 30% more torque than the outgoing 6 cylinder unit. The last of the horses bolt out of the paddock at over 6,500rpm, meaning a rewarding drive for those who wring its neck a little. This means that throughout the range, the 718 remains a blast.
I see a few signs indicating twisties coming up, so it’s time to slam the shifter to manual, prod the sport button and drop a couple of cogs using the flappy paddles. Which the PDK does in an instant – it really is phenomenal. Only nuance is that they’re not quite paddles but rather a two way rocker switch mounted on each wheel which both operate in the same way. This feels counter intuitive, with a traditional layout being to flick left for down and right for up (cue lots of unintended up shifts!). But once you reprogram your brain you’re rewarded with some of the sharpest shifts in the game. As if it already knew how to treat you right, the Cayman shifts gear in a second. The handling is sharp, precise. Yet somehow forgiving. There’s none of the traditional 911 ‘now you have it, now you don’t’ punishment, you push and push and it feels like there’s always a get-out-of-jail plan. The chassis almost Whatsapp’s you updates to give you miles of notice of anything going amiss. You become increasingly aware of the talent and ability oozing from the engineering that makes you start to look like a superstar.
The 2.0 four takes dainty s ips from the fuel tank, our cruise saw 7.6 l/100km. Nobody buys a Porsche for the green credentials but it’s one of those factors that you’ll appreciate over time. The sports button tightens the throttle response, steering feels sharper. Progress becomes a thrilling yet manageable game where you beam ear to ear. Turn in is precise and you can ride long sweeping bends making micro adjustments and feel in total control.
It wouldn’t be a Porsche if it didn’t have a long list of options. From a Sports Exhaust, to Cayman S alloys, and Porsche’s dynamic suspension; PASM – are all options that could see you splash out an additional $15k. Adaptive, ‘Sport-Tek’ seats? $7,480. 20” Carrera wheels? $6,500. Paint them black or body colour? $2,900. Miami Blue bodywork? $5,390. Bucket seats with two tone leather? $8k. Composite brakes will set you back $17k. That’s all without the $8k Burmiester sound system. In fact we were able to spec a Cayman, Base model with PDK up with $108,000 of options. That’s a $220k Cayman, or a $270k Cayman S. Lunacy when you think that is on the path to a 911. But then the same could be said for up speccing a Carrera. Materials, are all, without exception, top shelf.
All told, it’s a crying shame that the soul of the Porsche is somewhat gone. Replaced by efficiency, smoothness. But if that is literally the only negative we can draw from 20 hours on the open road, then it remains to be said that the Cayman knocks on the door of the modern day BMW M Cars to show them what a real sports car should bring to the table. It is simply sensational. Yet, with its amazing four cylinder Turbo unit, I still find the words coming to my mouth – that I wouldn’t buy one. It’s a personal thing, for the same reason that the Alfa 4c felt like it had a little something missing.
Although that said – With over six decades of historical 4-banger Porsches, it can’t really be said that a Porsche it no longer is. The cayman was even originally judged for not being a 911, which given the new direction is clearly a gap that they’re trying to make less prominent. But, and it’s a big, round, electronic spoiler clad but, after we’ve been spoiled with 6 cylinder Boxers for so long; with the offerings becoming increasingly sublime, that the drive becomes about the complete experience that tantalises all of the senses. The somewhat muted motor doesn’t quite pull this off full spectrum, but you shouldn’t let that put you off one of the finest sports cars in the price bracket. Even more so if you can stretch the budget to a Boxster which now out prices the Cayman.