Porsche 718 Cayman

"4" is more!

"It's all about finding the perfect balance," said Hisham.

"The Cayman felt like a rally car: small, beautifully balanced, giving me more feel to push more and hit every single apex of every single curve."

"The size of the car is just right, and it goes perfectly with the electrically assisted power steering."

"Porsche is always giving the driver what he truly wants!"

It's a funny thing that nowadays less gives you more. With this downsizing trend and the more severe environmental laws amended by the European Union, it's fair to say that something beneficial is coming out of all this. I was super excited when I got the invitation to Stuttgart, Germany, to test drive the Porsche 718 Cayman and Cayman S. First of all, I got to visit the world's leading country in the car industry, and second, I've always watched the German rally in the WRC Championship, and I've always longed to drive on those smooth country roads. So just a little reminder of what the Cayman is. When it was first produced it had the best weight distribution among all its competitors - a 50-50 split between front and rear - and a truly mid-size engined car. They gave it a 3.4-liter engine and the power was restricted so it wouldn't overlap with the 911 Carrera.  

My journey began when I woke up at seven in the morning with five Caymans, each in a different color, waiting to be driven. Nothing beats a sunny morning in Stuttgart with a Porsche for breakfast. I got in the 718 Cayman first, which now has a two-liter four-cylinder engine, giving out 300 horsepower and 380 Nm of torque at only 2,000 rpm. Before takeoff, I took a little stroll around the car to have a closer look at its external changes, a newly shaped front and rear bumper with bigger intakes at the front and a more aggressive diffuser at the rear. The car now has the latest in LED technology, and it could look much more futuristic and aggressive if you go for the Porsche Dynamic Lighting System (PDLS) option. At the rear, there's a new black stripe between the taillights with the Porsche lettering in the middle. This gives the car more character, and it makes a bold contrast with the black diffuser. The side air vents are now a bit more focused and aerodynamic to channel more air into the turbocharger.

I got in, adjusted the seat nice and low so I could feel every move the car makes, paired my phone with the Apple CarPlay on the PCM, which now houses a bigger screen that is beautifully integrated in the dashboard; and off we went. I started driving in the city when I had the suspension in soft mode and immediately felt the increase in the stiffness of the chassis, which is great by the way, because it translates into a great sense of driving confidence. Around town, the Cayman is comfortable with an airy cabin; leather, aluminum or carbon fiber surrounds you (depending on the option you ticked on the options list). The size of the car is just right, and it goes perfectly with the electrically assisted power steering. The car I was driving had Burmester, an optional premium surround sound-system, which gave me the impression that I was in a concert hall. We were heading to the Black Forest deep into the German countryside where hairpins, flat corners and long straights laid ahead. I selected the Sport Plus mode with the switch that is now located on the steering wheel and immediately felt the change in the throttle, suspension and steering. Everything now is more aggressive and responsive. The driving position is nice and low and I can feel the connection between the car and me.

The Cayman felt like a rally car: small, beautifully balanced, giving me more feel to push more and hit every single apex of every single curve. It has an excellent mid-range torque and enough power to propel you out of corners. The torque curve is very linear. I know that I will get the right amount of power at the right time to help make the experience more fun with such an engaging machine. The steering is full of feel thanks to the electrical assistance.

PDK technology is now at its best, the gears are selected instantly at the flick of your finger, or if you want the kit car feeling of the 1990s you can still select them with the aluminum lever. Also, in the driving modes there is a red button in the middle that gives the right gear and super throttle response and torque for 20 seconds to overtake or to fly by (maybe a little jump like on some of our Lebanese country roads). I already drove the 718 Boxster and I loved it but I am not a fan of convertibles; this is the ultimate everyday driving machine. I had doubts concerning the sound and I was right: at low rpm the car sounds like a 1971 Beetle with 1302 S model - and it was a flat four. Once you give it a bit of gas with the sport exhaust option it will crackle and it will pop on the overrun. There is a whistle in the turbo when you are in Sport Plus that put a smile on my face because it's something that I am used too with an EVO9 Mitsubishi. Brakes are excellent, with a good and a bit hard pedal feel. PCCB carbon ceramics are an expensive optional extra, but you don't really need them unless you are going up and down racing circuits. And, I must mention again the balance of the car; the flat four sits lower than the flat six, so you have a lower center of gravity. It feels like a go-kart (but a really fast one) with leather, electric seats and a roof. The options list is endless and you can customize every square inch of the car.

The cars where running on Pirelli P-Zeros and on a great quality asphalt unlike our slippery Lebanese roads where the tarmac is like a mirror (some of you will know what I am on about), but it will then drift in complete control with the PSM off, so it's all good. Now the Cayman S has a 2.5-liter engine with 350 horsepower and 420 Nm of torque which thrusts the car from zero to 100 km/h with the PDK and the Sport Chrono options in just 4.2 seconds. On the 718 Cayman S everything is more aggressive and focused, so it has a louder exhaust, a firmer ride, and a 20 mm lower sport suspension option - which, with the also elective 20-inch light alloy rims, makes the S more muscular and focused on track times and precision driving.

Verdict
In my opinion, Porsche has created a masterpiece and given us a product that is as potent as ever. I could really sense the evolution of the model, especially when I have driven almost all the Caymans that went on sale. I hoped for a circuit session to experience the ultimate performance of this sports car, but I was out of luck. Hopefully it will come sometime in the future. One more thing: always opt for the 375 mm steering wheel. It's smaller than the standard and it gave me a greater sense of confidence. Well, "4" is more as you already read, and that you can be sure of. Last but not least, thank you Porsche for always giving the driver what he truly wants.

Rivals: Audi TT RS, Jaguar F-Type coupe V6, BMW M2, Lotus Evora 400, Alfa Romeo 4C
Pros: Mid-range torque is absolutely superb; balance is perfect, beautiful exterior styling
Cons: The sound comes from a 1971 beetle
One word: uplifting
4.5 stars

Specs

718 Cayman
2.0L turbocharged, 4-cylinder, 300 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 380 Nm at 1,950 - 4,500 rpm
6-speed manual, PDK 7-speed dual-clutch auto with manual shifting mode, RWD
0-100 km/h: 4.9 sec (4.7 sec with Sport Chrono package), top speed: 275 km/h, fuel consumption: 6.9 L/100 km  
Weight: 1,451 kg - 1,497 kg

718 Cayman S
2.5L turbocharged, 4-cylinder, 350 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 420 Nm at 1,900 - 4,500 rpm
6-speed manual, PDK 7-speed dual-clutch auto with manual shifting mode, RWD
0-100 km/h: 4.4 sec (4.2 sec with Sport Chrono package), top speed: 285 km/h, fuel consumption: 7.3 L/100 km 
Weight: 1,451 kg - 1,497 kg

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