First Drive: Porsche 718 Cayman & Cayman S (updated)

First Drive: Porsche 718 Cayman & Cayman S (updated)

Seven. One. Eight. These numbers, in that order, are steeped in rich history for Porsche and hark back to the company’s racecar that won the 1958 Le Mans endurance race.

However, one of the most significant things about the racecar in the context of today’s motoring environment is that it was powered by a four-cylinder engine — the same as that of the latest Boxster and its tin-top sibling, the Cayman.

Yes, the flat six, normally aspirated engine is no more in the Boxster (save for the limited edition Spyder variant) and the Cayman. In its place is a new 2.0l flat four, turbocharged engine for the Cayman and 2.5l turbo for the Cayman S.

The company has already embarked on downsizing and turbocharging for some of its sports car models, particularly the 911 Carrera.

I think it had to protect the 911’s king-of-the-hill status as the six-cylinder Caymans were well-sorted steers. The Cayman S and its GTS sibling in particular were stellar performers.

The four-cylinder Caymans are hitting the market at a starting price of R854 000 for the Cayman and R93 ,000 for the more powerful Cayman S.

Porsche 718 Cayman

The latest models also usher in a new face to go with its new fangs and see LED head and tail lights introduced. In addition, they have the Porsche lettering splashed across the rear of the vehicle, giving it a very purposeful look, in combination with its rear LED lights.

The cabin has also been given a subtle but suitable makeover that sees the new multifunction steering wheel from the 918 Spyder hypercar and the 911 being adopted. The infotainment system has been simplified with a touchscreen facility that has a much cleaner look.

Back to the engines though.

Those familiar with the outgoing model’s flat-six engines will experience a paradigm shift of sorts.

The flat-six engines brought a colourful, tangible element to the vehicle that was an active ingredient in driver enjoyment that made the Cayman one of the best handling sports coupes.

The new four-cylinder engines are not lacking in the muscle department. The 2.0l motor pushes out 220kW and 380Nm, while the S musters 257kW and 420Nm via either a six-speed manual transmission or the seven-speed PDK gearbox. Porsche claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 275km/h for the Cayman and 4.2 seconds and 285km/h for the S.

Porsche 718 Cayman

We spent time at the helm of both models and, to be frank, the first few kilometres felt like foreign territory (not in the literal sense, although we were in Stuttgart) as you flick down two cogs on the gearbox, mash the throttle to the floorboards expecting the evocative, six-cylinder to clear its throat and engulf the cabin and your aural senses with that six-pot strumming its symphony.

Alas, what you are met with is a humdrum, thrumming flat-four engine that straddles its vocal chords between a 1950s Volkswagen Beetle at idle and a Subaru flat-four in the mid rev range. It still thrives on revs, though, with the maximum ceiling coming in at 7500rpm making it a joy to wind it out when the opportunity arises.

Admittedly, there is a great deal of torque in the mid-range to pull you out of corners with reassuring conviction.

Then there is the brilliance of the chassis which, allied to the inherently neutral dynamics of a mid-engine sports car, makes stringing and weaving a set of road bends the model’s natural habitat and forte. Get into a rhythm and you will relish bends with enthusiasm.

While many new buyers will not mind the new model, I would personally look for a previous generation Cayman S simply for the unwavering charm of its flat-six exhaust note.

However, while I will miss the howling bark of the previous model, the new model is quick, incisive and rewarding to drive.

It takes performance and efficiency to the next level, a dimension where it will continue being one of the easiest and most accessible sports coupes to drive at 10 tenths without fear of being jettisoned rear-end first into the hedges. – Lerato Matebese 

Fast Facts: Porsche 718 Cayman

Engine: 1 988cc, four-cylinder turbocharged
Power: 220kW at 6 500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1 950rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds; 4.7 PDK (claimed)
Top speed: 275km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 7.4l/100km; 6.9 for PDK (claimed combined)
CO2: 168g/km; 158 for PDK (claimed)
Price: From R854 000

Fast Facts: Porsche 718 Cayman S

Engine: 2 497cc, four-cylinder turbocharged
Power: 257kW at 6 500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 1 900rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK
0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds; 4.2 for PDK (claimed)
Top speed: 285km/h (claimed)
Fuel:8.1l/100km; 7.3 for PDK (claimed combined)
CO2: 168g/km; 158 for PDK (claimed)
Price: From R934 000