2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Looking on the bright side of losing two positions

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

Engines are getting smaller and smaller, but their power levels still seem to keep growing and growing.

One of the best examples is the new Porsche 718 Cayman coupe and its Boxster roadster counterpart that both deliver greater potency, but with two fewer cylinders than before.

Many Porsche fans will bemoan the loss of the six-cylinder engines have powered the Cayman since its creation. They made magical sounds throughout their rev ranges and produced enough power to satisfy most needs. However, automakers these days are seeking greater efficiencies — improved fuel economy, lower emissions and reduced costs — while still delivering a rewarding driving experience.

The new 718 Cayman (the mid-engine Boxster soft top also gets the 718 tag) is wrapped in an updated body that remains true to the original 2006-model-year design. The 718 in the name pays homage to an historic racecar from 1960, but there’s nothing retro about the new car.

The front end has been slightly reshaped, including new headlights, and the side air intakes have been enlarged. In back, the taillights are also evolutionary. Both base and S versions have new 19- and 20-inch wheel designs, respectively.

Note that the length, width and distance between the front and rear wheels is virtually identical to the 2016 Cayman and that the new four-cylinder engines provide no weight reduction to the total package, which checks in at about 3,150 pounds.

The Cayman’s cockpit has undergone some minor updates, highlighted by new gauges and a seven-inch touch-screen that houses the audio, communications and optional voice-activated navigation system. These changes only enhance what is arguably one of the most attractive and livable sports-car interiors to be found anywhere.

Porsche also reengineered the suspension and steering to improve both the Cayman’s road and racetrack agility.

But it’s behind the passenger zone where the changes are most apparent. The base Cayman now runs with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s a significant bump from the 275 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque produced by the previous base six-cylinder.

Move up to the 718 S’s 2.5-liter turbo-four and the horsepower increases to 350 and torque to 309 (the previous six-cylinder was rated at 325/272).

Gone, at least for the time being, is the hot Cayman GT4 that put out 385 horsepower from a 3.8-liter six-cylinder.

Both 718 engines can be mated to six-speed manual transmissions or the seven-speed automated manual, called the PDK.

Porsche says the base 718 can sprint to 60 mph from rest in 4.9 seconds (4.7 with the PDK), while the S does it in 4.4 with the six-speed (4.2 with the PDK). These values are quicker than before, but less so for the Cayman S.

The optional Sport Chrono package, available for PDK-equipped cars reduces these times by a couple of ticks with the help of a launch-control program. It interacts with a driver-controlled Sport Plus setting that adjusts the engine, transmission and suspension functions for a sharper and more responsive experience.

Fuel economy isn’t usually a priority for Cayman buyers, but the base 718 with the manual gearbox gets 21 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, or 22/29 with the PDK.

Pricing starts at $56,350, including destination charges. That amount includes a high degree of content, but there are plenty of extras to tempt a fatter wallet. Along with the $3,200 PDK, you can add a sport exhaust system, lighter and better-performing ceramic brakes, sportier multi-adjustable leather seats covered in upgraded leather, and genuine wood trim.

The $68,750 Cayman S has slightly more base equipment, but you can also add enough options to push the total price into 911 territory.

For the first time in Cayman history, however, the coupe is priced less than its roadster counterpart ($2,100 less for either base or S versions, to be exact).

Of course what every Cayman owner values most is an abundance of driving enjoyment and the cachet of owning a piece of Porsche sculpture. The 911 is the next step up and costs tens of thousands more, but for many people, the Cayman 718 checks all the boxes.

What you should know: 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

Type: Two-door, rear-wheel-drive sport coupe

Engine (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder, turbocharged (300)2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder, turbocharged (350)

Transmission: Six-speed manual; seven-speed automated manual (opt.)

Market position: In everyday driving, Porsche’s entry-point coupe performs a lot like a 911, but for a lot less money. In terms of sheer value, would you take it over a similarly priced 460-horsepower Corvette?

Points: Mild redesign adds to the Cayman’s already good looks. • Inspired interior design and appointments lean toward luxury. • Both engines deliver more punch, but it’s the base turbo that makes the most difference. • Considerate of Porsche to remain committed to manual transmissions for this model. • An affordable alternative to the 911 Carrera.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); lane-changing assist (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy) 21/28 (MT)

Base price (incl. destination) $56,350

By Comparsion

Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe
Base price: $57,600
Lightweight Italian model is a true exotic with a not-so-exotic price tag.

Audi TTS Coupe
Base price: $52,900
292-h.p. version of the TT promises a fun ride. 400-hp TT-RS more so.

Mercedes-Benz SLC
Base price: $48,900
Retractable hardtop is standard, but the hot SLC43 version is a pricey upgrade.