Porsche’s smallest coupe is a sublime sports car
Describing the Porsche Cayman as entry level may seem a little bit harsh, but it is ultimately the company’s cheapest sports car, despite offering huge levels of performance and fun.
Previously known as just the Cayman, it became the 718 Cayman when it and the convertible Boxster were updated in 2016 to come fitted with four-cylinder engines instead of more traditional six-cylinder ones. Practically everyone on the internet complained about the lack of a big engine, so Porsche now offers models with a 4.0-litre six-cylinder unit too.
As the 718 Cayman covers such a broad spectrum of abilities performance-wise, rivals range from the higher end of the Audi TT range to the Jaguar F-Type and Alpine A110.
When it was first launched in 2016, it came in two forms: 718 Cayman and 718 Cayman S. Easy. Since then, the range has expanded to include the T, GTS 4.0, GT4 and GT4 RS.
As is the case with most Porsches, a lot of equipment that you’d expect to be fitted as standard costs extra. While the basics are there, things like parking sensors, automatic wipers and cruise control all cost extra. If it’s a car you’ll be using everyday, you could end up adding the price significantly.
And while the interior is high-quality and impressive ergonomically, it now looks and feels a little dated next to latest versions of the 911 and Macan with their big screens and touch-sensitive areas on the centre console.
Keep reading to find out what we make of the Cayman. Our judging criteria includes the driving experience, interior quality, practicality, and what it’ll cost to run. Then in the verdict you can read if we recommend one or not.
Porsche 718 Cayman boot space, practicality and safety
The Porsche 718 Cayman is surprisingly practical for a two-seater sports car. The cabin is snug, but just right for a pair of occupants. Entry and exit is pretty straightforward, too, with doors that open easily and wide.
There are a couple of cubbies around the cabin and you can hang a coat behind the front seats. You also have two pop-out cupholders hidden above the glovebox, which itself is surprisingly large for a two-seater sports car. The door bins and centre armrest storage are far from being the most commodious, but we’re glad they’re here in the first place.
Boot space and storage
However, the best bit is the twin boot arrangement allowed by the mid-mounted engine. Where you’d find the engine under the bonnet of a conventional family car lies a deep, square-shaped 150-litre boot.
You’ll easily stow a couple of soft bags in there. And then there’s a further 125-litre luggage compartment under the rear tailgate. The Cayman has hidden luggage lugging powers, make no mistake.
Is it easy to park?
Visibility is good with the help of the large windows and door mirrors, but all models also come with front and rear parking sensors as standard. A rear-view camera is an optional extra.
718 Cayman is dripping in safety kit
Six airbags to protect you
Plenty of electro nannies keep you safe
The Cayman hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP but Porsche is a brand renowned for its safety prowess. It’s well equipped with hardware – and software – to keep its occupants well protected in a crash. And many of the systems are designed to prevent an accident happening in the first place.
Every 718 comes with twin airbags in front of both occupants, built into the side of the seat bolster and the headliner to cushion bodies from the most serious impacts.
But just as important is the equipment helping drivers to avoid a collision: bi-xenon headlamps are standard (they’ll flick on automatically at dusk), the door mirrors are heated to clear frost on wintry morning and the huge brake discs clamped by four-piston callipers are supremely powerful, as you’d expect from a Porsche.
Porsche 718 Cayman interior, tech and comfort
How is the quality and layout?
When you first climb in, you’ll appreciate the driving position; it’s snug but everything’s where it should be and you can see out in all directions.
The fit and finish is strong, with tight panel gaps and no squeaks and rattles. The materials used throughout the cabin are top notch too.
The analogue dials are clearly laid out behind the steering wheel sits a configurable display that can beam up maps or trip computer info with the use of a stalk. There are no steering wheel buttons to master here.
The infotainment system is a centrally mounted touchscreen and controls the audio, sat-nav and phone commands. It’s responsive and easy to use but because it’s small, it looks a little old in comparison with other Porsches.
The buttons mounted below can be a little tricky to read and aim for, since they’re small and the same size and shape as each other, but you get a rough idea of where everything is soon enough.
Low-slung two-seater sports car
Choice of sports seats available
Mid engine = hot
You wouldn’t necessarily think of a two-seat sports car as being a comfy place to sit, but the 718 really is that good. For a car of this type, it’s easy to climb in and out of, although you should avoid the high-winged sports seats if you value everyday practicality.
Once you’re installed in the snug cabin, it’s a very comfortable environment. We’d recommend trying various different seats, as you can specify bucket chairs with extra support for track use. These may resist sideways cornering forces, but aren’t necessarily as relaxed and supportive as the standard items.
Cayman engines are located in the middle of the car, right behind the passenger and driver. This means the cabin can get quite hot and loud. The more extreme six-cylinder engine models can get pretty toasty during a hard drive, but in most day-to-day circumstances it’s not that noticeable.
Porsche 718 Cayman running costs and reliability
What is miles per pound?
Petrol engines 2.5 - 3.7 mppLow figures relate to the least economical version; high to the most economical. Based on WLTP combined fuel economy for versions of this car made since September 2017 only, and typical current fuel or electricity costs.
Petrol engines 21.4 - 31.7 mpg
2021 Porsche 718 Cayman running costs
Surprisingly close between four- and six-cylinder models
Maintenance costs won’t be cheap
But two-year service intervals welcome
What are the running costs?
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Porsche 718 Cayman is not going to be a cheap car to run. But for a car of this type and pedigree, it needn’t break the bank, either. And anyone who can afford the £50k+ price tag shouldn’t baulk at the cost of running this two-seater.
All models come with stop-start, with CO2 emissions surprisingly close between the four- and six-cylinder cars, making you wonder what the benefit of losing two pistons was in the first place.
The 2.0-litre petrol is the cheapest to run and lowest emitting. You’ll get close to 30mpg in real-world driving and mid 30s if you’re really trying. The flipside? Enjoy a fast blast and fuel economy will quickly sink to the 20s, if not lower. The 2.5-litre is a similar story.
The six-cylinder 4.0-litre isn’t far off these figures, with mid 20s around town and reaching low-30s on a motorway cruise with the help of cylinder deactivation.
Servicing and warranty
The Cayman comes with a three-year/unlimited mile warranty as standard. Porsches only require servicing every two years or 20,000 miles, bringing welcome relief from big bills on a regular basis.
However, Porsche dealerships aren’t renowned for their low labour rates. You can expect hefty charges for consumables such as tyres, brake pads and exhausts, particularly if you take your car on track, so make sure you factor those into your budgeting.
Proven platform, few known faults
Recall history is good on Cayman
Smaller four-cylinder engines still to be proven
The Cayman has been around in one form or another since 2006 and has established a strong reputation for reliability with few known mechanical problems. Earlier issues, such as ‘trunk clunk’ – when the tailgate would rattle over bumps in the road – have largely been ironed out.
The Cayman has only been subject to two recalls in its lifetime, and even then they were back in 2016. The recalls were regarding airbag control units and cross member sections.
Porsche 718 Cayman engines, drive and performance
It’s hard to believe the 718 Cayman is the cheapest car in Porsche’s range, given the huge performance levels on offer. You don’t have to go far back in the 911’s history to find models that accelerate slower than the Cayman.
View full Porsche 718 Cayman specs
The base model gets a 300hp four-cylinder engine. It’ll still cover the 0-62mph dash in a sports car-like 4.9 seconds, but when compared with the rest of the range it’s pretty unremarkable. It’s methodical in the way it delivers power but never feels or sounds that exciting.
Pick the more powerful Cayman S (with power upped to 350hp) and turbo lag (the delay in power delivery you normally experience as the turbocharger starts spinning) is even harder to detect.
It’s definitely fast (0-62mph in 4.4 seconds), but as it’s a four cylinder, it misses out on the whipcrack flat-six bark that has come to characterise generations of Porsches.
A 4.0-litre six-cylinder non-turbocharged unit is offered with different outputs in the GTS 4.0, GT4 and GT4 RS models. It’s the engine to choose for hardcore driving enthusiasts because of its brawny power output and characterful engine note.
The main improvement over the other engines is in the power delivery. Throttle response is now what you’d expect from a Porsche and unlike the easy turbo power of the aforementioned models, the 4.0-litre needs a big hoof of gas to get going, with a full 5,000(ish)rpm before peak torque and a glorious, howling 7,800-9,000rpm redline, depending on the model.
This being a Porsche means in reality you only bother the redline in second gear on the road, as it tops out over 80mph, so using all of third is an easy way to find yourself in front of a magistrate. And while these engines sound undeniably better than the four-pot cars, they’re not as vocal as previous six-cylinder Cayman models, largely down to a socking great gasoline particulate filter blocking its airways.
What’s it like to drive?
One of the sweetest-handling cars on sale
Sublime poise and handling overall
Guaranteed to make you smile
This is a rewarding car to drive for both the enthusiast and the sports car newcomer. The poised balance provided by having the engine positioned amidships is the key to this agile handling, aided by rear-wheel drive. The 718 Cayman is seemingly plugged into your synapses, pointing into a corner the moment your brain sends messages to your fingertips.
Steering is well judged, quick and accurate, with no hint of the nervousness you’ll find in big brother the 911. The stiff suspension means the Cayman handles predictably flat on the road, with great poise in corners that isn’t easily upset by a lift or application of the throttle mid-bend, just predictable grip levels that are communicated via the wheel and driving seat.
It feels really friendly to use and instantly transparent from the first ten minutes of driving. This is not a car you need to dig into to find its limits – from the very first few miles it reveals everything you need to know – leaving little need for trial and error.
As such it can be driven in a number of different ways depending on your preference. Neat and tidy? That’s fine. Front wheels pinned and rears lit up? Also fine.
And the chassis is well set up for comfort. The suspension quashes bodyroll effectively and yet there’s real compliance here, even on the larger 20-inch wheels many buyers will spec.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 driving
We’ve tested both the six-speed manual and seven-speed PDK automatic derivatives and can attest it’s really down to personal preference.
The DIY choice is a pleasure to use and suits the character of the car well; but if you live in a city or prefer autos, we’d heartily support the PDK choice too. Gearchanges are quickly and smoothly carried out, and this version is actually cleaner and more efficient.
The GT4 and GT4 RS models build on that incredible base with a host of track focussed upgrades. Big spoilers, a fully-panelled underbody and working rear diffuser are among the most noticeable upgrades.
What’s odd is that these models offer a deep well of capability without compromising drama or the ability to thrill. It’s not a case of taming an unwilling machine, but being able to pick your line time after time and knowing exactly how the car will react. It’s predictable and well-honed, which should make it feel benign, but it doesn’t. These models work less well on the road and cost a lot more, but they’re ultimately track toys that come with numberplates.
Porsche 718 Cayman verdict
Should you buy one?
Absolutely. The 718 Cayman is that rare thing: a high-quality sports car that’ll thrill when you’re in the mood, and just get on unobtrusively with the business of driving from A-B when you’re commuting.
We would urge you to add some key options if you’re using it every day. A reversing camera is a must, for instance. How far you want to go regarding other performance-enhancing equipment comes down to your personal preference. It’s unlikely models with lower suspension will really benefit you if you’re commuting in a Cayman, but the PDK automatic transmission will make your drive more relaxed. The manual is lovely and involving, but the clutch pedal can be quite heavy in its operation.
The four-cylinder units are very strong and provide excellent performance. The 2.5-litre brings with it a fine blend of power, performance and usability without being overly pricey and this is the one we’d recommend to people who’ll use a Cayman every day. But if you want it as a weekend play thing we urge you to spring for a faster and more visceral six-cylinder model.
What we like
You don’t have to spend the most amount of money to get one that will reward you. Granted, Porsche will certainly oblige if you want the best model, or if you want a bespoke one to your own specification. But we’re pleased to report that even if you bought an entry-level model, you won’t be left disappointed when it comes to driving fun.
What we don’t like
Very little. The standard level of kit can feel a bit mean, and the long gearing – especially with the manual gearbox – means you can’t fully utilise the performance.