Engine: 2.0L turbo four/2.5L turbo four
Power: 300 hp, 280 lb-ft/350 hp, 309 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 7-speed PDK
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 22 city, 30 hwy, 28 combined (base w/ PDK)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11 city, 8.4 hwy, 9.9 combined (base w/ PDK)
US Price: Starts at $53,900, S starts at $66,300
CAN Price: Starts at $61,500, S starts at $75,600
Porsche’s 919 Hybrid race car just scored a major victory in the World Endurance Championship over the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
You don’t have to like or even understand motorsports to appreciate that it takes a lot of automotive ingenuity to win a gruelling six-hour endurance race in the harsh Texas heat. The 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S are direct beneficiaries of a lot of the research and development that goes into a winning race car like the 919. These Porsches are bred from race cars, a pedigree that becomes obvious when you drive them.
New Engines, More Performance
This 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman boasts the biggest increase in performance a Cayman has ever seen from generation to generation, but isn’t any less friendly or usable. Porsche engineers have made a ridiculous amount of enhancements and they will bore you to death with all the minutiae, but all you need to know is that it results in a dramatically better car. They looked at every single detail and didn’t leave anything out.
Starting with the new engine, the 718 family is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. S models get an upgraded 2.5-liter unit that boasts 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, the smaller engine gets more boost, as the bigger one doesn’t need it because of the increased displacement, and Porsche needs to save something for the upcoming 718 Cayman GTS.
Porsche doesn’t like to use the word “downsizing,” preferring the term “right-sizing” for this engine choice because downsizing might lead people to believe that performance has decreased, when, in fact, the opposite is true.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Porsche 718 Boxster S Review
With a more linear torque curve than the flat-sixes they replace (meaning that there’s usable power available whenever you want it), the new free-revving four-cylinder engines boast far more performance and are much more efficient. Power doesn’t drop off as sharply and there’s still plenty of power available even in the higher rpm range. Turbo lag is barely evident, and the smart seven-speed PDK reacts fast enough to get you up to speed faster than you’d ever need, even without using the paddle shifters. The six-speed manual is still available, and, of course, it’s still one of the best to use (much better than the Jaguar F-Type’s). Interestingly, there’s also a neat feature that if you stall, all you have to do is depress the clutch to get going again — there’s no need to turn the key.
All in all, combined with a lighter weight, the regular 718 Cayman with a PDK can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds (4.5 with Sport Chrono) and is faster than the previous Cayman S at the Nurburgring, despite its smaller engine. The 718s also offer better driving dynamics, more purity, and more engagement than the Jaguar F-Type.
No one can dispute the engines’ better performance, but people seem to be divided on how the new 718s sound. At idle and crawling speeds, the 718s don’t sound great (neither did the flat-sixes, in my honest opinion), but activate the optional sport exhaust, punch the throttle, and that fixes everything instantly with a characteristic boxer engine sound and aggressive cracks and burbles seemingly on demand. The sound gets even more aggressive in the S model, and in cars equipped with the Sport Chrono package, putting the Cayman into Sport or Sport+ mode will make you forget about the previous flat-six entirely. Don’t worry about how it sounds, the 718s still sound like legit sports cars.
The Sport Chromo option also brings with it the sport response button, which when activated, engages the optimal gear and for 20 seconds maximizes boost so a driver can make a quick pass. It’s kind of superfluous, but it’s mighty fun to use.
Better Driving Dynamics
As if it was even possible because the last Cayman was so good, the 718s have even better driving dynamics than before. For me, it starts with the steering, which is quicker and more precise than before. The 718s use the same steering rack in the 911 Turbo, and the result is a perfectly weighted setup that gives generous feedback from the road and tires. The ratio is quicker so there’s very little hand-over-hand action needed, and the car generally feels more agile, even when parking. The weight reduction helps matters as well.
The intuitive steering is complemented by the coupe’s balance, which is the type of feeling that only a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive car can inspire. Go too fast into a corner, and the 718s make you feel like a better driver than you actually are. The coupe has huge levels of grip and always seems to be an enabler to increasingly brave driving, always edging you closer to your limit.
Luckily, drivers no longer need to have Red Bull stunt person-level bravery because tweaks have been made to the Cayman to make it more accessible and less scary. Drivers are typically much too timid (or not skilled enough) to turn off the traction control entirely, so Porsche made some tweaks to the stability management program that leaves a bigger gap between on and fully off. There’s now a nice middle ground that increases agility by decreasing traction so you can slide into a corner confidently without being too scared that you’ll end up stuffing the coupe into a guardrail.
More importantly, the better driving dynamics don’t come at the expense of comfort. The suspension hits a delicate balance of inspiring confidence in corners without being too jarring over broken pavement no matter what mode you’re driving in.
Inside, the 718s don’t look that different from the previous-gen models. There are still the dummy buttons that remind you of all the features you don’t have, but there’s still comfortable and supportive sport seats, a lovely steering wheel, and impeccable build quality. The touchscreen is fast and responsive, very user-friendly, and it allows you to use your finger to draw in letters and numbers to input addresses so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available are also available.
The Verdict: 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S Review
Is there a big enough difference between the S and the base Cayman to warrant the price premium? Definitely. If you can afford the S, that’s the Cayman you want. It gives you a better Porsche experience and the increased performance is worth the money. The base Cayman is still fantastic, but the S just makes it more so.
The 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S remain two of the most capable, engaging, and well-rounded sports cars in their price brackets and beyond. If I was in the market for a sports car and had a budget of about $100,000, I’d get a fully loaded manual 718 Cayman S in Miami Blue, built to exactly how I wanted it so no one else would have one just like it. For that money, you can buy much more car, but the 718s are so good that you don’t need to get a 911 to have 911-level thrills.
If you want a well-balanced, engaging sports car that’s plenty powerful, easy to live with and is the progeny of podium-finish race cars, the 718s is the front-runner in more ways than one.