Sports cars, there is a LOT to choose from out there. You could have the perfect car but ruined by reputation, or a well marketed brand with a huge following but with a shite car, and then there is everything in between. So how do you find a car which can punch above its weight, blend in with the scenery yet gives nods of approval when people ask you what you drive?
I think I may have found the car.
The Porsche Cayman S. Porsche’s mid-engined powerhouse now in their 718 era sporting four cylinder turbocharged Boxer engines were a concern for me. Were they going to lose their character by moving away from the 981 Cayman S’s 3.4 litre flat-six over to the now 2.5 litre flat four – turbo?
I arrived at the dealership, Porsche had arranged a morning for me to get to grips with the 718 Cayman S and ‘Nick’ from Silverstone to assisting me with getting all geeked out with the car. Now I do have to say, as the odd human being that I am my pin-up Porsche was never a 911 of any variant – it was the Cayman GT4.
That engine, that front end, that squat, those wheels, that exhaust, that sound, that wing, that gearbox. Everything about it makes me weak at the knees. I want one so bad, but it’s never going to happen as all new allocations are gone and all the second hand ones are more expensive than new. Anyway, back to the 718 – Am I to be disappointed with the loss of 2 cylinders and an addition of a turbo?
There is no disappointment here. Nick and I talk about the Cayman S before we get inside; 350 bhp @ 6500 RPM, 309 ft-lb which is delivered from 1900 RPM. Facts like these are definitely a change from the NA Japanese cars I’m accustomed to. The car I’ve been given is equipped with the seven speed PDK gearbox, the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), GT Sports steering wheel, and crucially the Sport Chrono Pack. For the first stint, Nick drives the car and we continue discussing what the hell PASM actually does and he demonstrates some very cool features of the car.
The brakes are good. They’re bloody good. While they’re not the carbon ceramic brakes we hear about, they are four-pot monoblocks on both axles and they are brilliant. We do an emergency stop to the hard shoulder from 70-0 MPH in… not many metres. Launching the car is extremely impressive, what with all that torque delivered from 1900 RPM! We rejoin the speed limit in four seconds.
PASM is included in this car, so it sits 10MM lower and in the most basic terms is a wizard that lives in the suspension, continuously changing the dampers as you drive. It’s not a system that you switch on and off; it’s constantly on, you just change it to Normal or Sport. Nick explains that the in a comfort rating of 0-10, Normal mode caters for 0-7, while Sport mode covers 8-10. The result is a silky smooth driving experience, where it feels like every road you drive on has been freshly laid. The valvetronic sports exhaust isn’t on this very car, but I don’t see why you would need it – it sounds brilliant already. It is possibly the best sounding 2.0/2.5 litre turbocharged exhaust noise you can get today (without resorting to any aftermarket upgrades).
We park up at a pub and check out more features of the car. Front and rear boot spaces are surprisingly accommodating; a neat compartment to the rear and an extremely deep space to the front – you can actually fit a suitcase in the front. Just one though. So it’s now my turn to drive around and get a feel of the Cayman S. The seating position really makes you feel right and ready for a spirited drive – so that’s what we’ll do! The engine and turbo work so well together. Max boost pressure on the standard 718 Cayman is 1.4bar, but this Cayman S with Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) has a maximum boost pressue of 1.1bar. Probably means nothing to some, but wow this car is a rocket with a low stress turbo.
With PASM set to Sport mode, you can feel the bumps and cracks in the road but it’s very subtle. I could live with it in Sport mode the whole time as it’s relatively similar to the setup I have in my GT86 but put it back in Normal mode and you’ll ask yourself ‘what cracks in the road?’, simply epic. The extra dial from the steering wheel is from the Sport Chrono Pack which, not only does it tweak this Cayman S for a quick 0-60 MPH time, but has settings to dial in to; Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual (where you can adjust start stop, rear spoiler programming, sports exhaust if you have one, etc.). Straightaway by adjusting the dials the throttle response changes, downshifts have been made and beast mode has seemingly activated. The double clutch gearbox is wonderful. I don’t know what is inside to make it this silky smooth, probably German witchcraft, but there is zero jolt from any gear change, it’s so good.
Now to my favourite bit. Only with the PDK and Sports Chrono Pack, you get an extra button inside that dial in the steering wheel. Press it once and the turbo spools and gearbox downshifts with the revs pinging to 6000 RPM! I lost my shit when Nick taught me this, it’s like kind of like a KERS button! Boost for 20 seconds, designed to make overtaking (even) easier. We soak up some miles just aimlessly driving around finding roads to test the car out, even driving it through a town to catch a glimpse of what it would be like to live with the Cayman S. It’s really true – noone looks at you. Perfect if you wanted a to remain inconspicuous and attract as little attention as possible but have so much power on tap.
But finally we return to base, handing the keys back to the dealership. This is an amazing car, it looks pretty and people will say ‘that’s a nice car’ and continue on their way. It’s the perfect balance of work and play – it’s totally a daily drive. And it’s a Porsche; a brand that oozes quality! And when you put it up against the previous six cylinder NA car, your answer will be ‘what 6 cylinder version’ – yep, it really is that good, I urge you to try one.
People who say ‘oh but it’s now a four cylinder turbo, it’s going to be rubbish’ well, you’re wrong. It’s simply brilliant, I arrived that morning with concerns about it, and I end the morning wanting one. Thank you very much to Porsche for a great morning!
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