First off, here’s something that could potentially put you off the new 718 Cayman — Porsche has downsized its engine capacity. From a flat-six, it’s now down to four cylinders, just like in its topless brother, the 718 Boxster, which arrived first. They have even gone and turbocharged it, with the (always noble) aim of reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency, but in a move that will have naturally-aspirated engine purists squirming. Still, Porsche engineers have managed to wrest more power and torque from a car with a smaller engine and a lower kerb weight, so the 0-100 kph time now stands at under 5 seconds, which means the new car is quicker and faster. With the new-gen Cayman, Porsche has revived the 718 nomenclature it used in its 1950s racing car, which also had a four-cylinder engine.
In terms of design, the 718 isn’t exactly loud — like most cars from the Porsche stable, it looks understated, compared to some of its more exotic competition. The windscreen, roof and boot lid are carryover parts from the older car, and bulbous bi-xenon headlamps (with integrated LED daytime-running lights) and larger air dams add a bit of modernity. Yes, you do get a car that you cannot mistake for anything but a Porsche, but that’s not saying all that much. At the rear, the new clear-lens tail-lights look elegant, while those prominent rear haunches have been retained. The advantage of a mid-engined car is that there’s a tiny boot under the front bonnet too, but the overall luggage area is still mostly notional rather than practical.
In terms of real hardware, the new Cayman goes blazingly fast. Believe it or not, this 2-litre turbocharged petrol unit can unleash 296 bhp, which can convert to a top speed of 275 kph. Torque peaks at 380 Nm, which is a 90 Nm jump over the previous car’s figure — and that car had a much bigger 3.4-litre engine. The standard Cayman gets a simpler turbocharging unit compared to the Cayman S, which gets a variable turbine geometry unit, similar to the 911 Turbo. Unfortunately, the Cayman S isn’t coming to India; what we’ll get is the standard 718 Cayman. The turbo here is still pretty good in that there’s almost no lag. The unit manages to keep the power going like a naturally aspirated engine — well, almost. It does not have the older flat-six’s raw grunt, but is clever enough to keep power going to the rear wheels in ample amounts. Its partner in crime is Porsche’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which is one of the best transmissions around.
Incredible handling, steering feel, acceleration, ride
Smaller engine, turbocharging, muted exhaust note
Where you appreciate all the cleverness is in the way the car can defy physics, while you can focus on the steering and throttle inputs and let the gearbox work its magic. The superb electromechanical steering is similar to the bigger 911 Turbo’s, and the Cayman gets an optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which lowers ride height by a further 10mm, for a purer sportscar experience. Porsche will also offer the optional Sports Chrono package for India. This is operated by a small dial on the steering wheel that allows you to switch between different drive modes. It also offers an individualisation option apart from the usual Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes, a similarity it shares with the 911. With PDK, a Sport Response Button is included on the steering wheel, and pushing this button instantly enhances engine and PDK responses, which is pretty handy while overtaking.The 718 Cayman has large shoes to fill. It is a more ‘affordable’ 911 that, like its elder sibling, manages to defy most physics rules and does so without any drama. When it comes to sportscars, not many are as forgiving to rogue inputs as Porsches, and the new 718 Cayman stays true to that.
The author is the Editor of BBC TopGear India