Porsche 718 Cay­man S

As bril­liant as ever to drive, but Porsche's baby sport­ster has lost a lit­tle per­son­al­ity

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

THE NEW Porsche 718 Cay­man is ut­terly bril­liant. Apolo­gies for killing the sus­pense, but I sus­pect that’s not go­ing to be a par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing verdict for any­one fa­mil­iar with Porsche’s en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise. No, the truly vex­ing ques­tion is, is this new Cay­man a more de­sir­able car than its pre­de­ces­sor? A highly sub­jec­tive cri­te­rion, but an im­por­tant one, as de­sir­abil­ity is a key at­tribute when de­cid­ing on a sports car – no one buys one be­cause they need one.

Let’s start with the case for the de­fence. The 718 Cay­man may have lost two cylin­ders, but it’s gained a tur­bocharger and in ‘S’ guise that means 257kW/420Nm from the 2.5litre flat-four. This is 18kW/50Nm more than pre­vi­ous Cay­man S’s 3.4litre flat-six, but were you to over­lay the dyno graphs of the two en­gines you’d see the force-fed four-pot has masses more urge ev­ery­where bar at the very top of the rev range.

As a re­sult, ac­cel­er­a­tion claims have been slashed to just 4.2sec from 0-100km/h and 9.2sec from 0-160km/h, at least when fit­ted with the op­tional seven-speed PDK ’box and Sport Chrono pack­age. Even so, a stan­dard man­ual is no slouch at 4.6sec and 9.7sec re­spec­tively. The Cay­man is now very nearly su­per­car fast, with enough punch to pin you back in the seat with­out hav­ing to rev it to the heav­ens.

The very long gear­ing of the pre­vi­ous car re­mains, but is much less of an is­sue as there is now nei­ther the need nor the in­cli­na­tion to chase a 7500rpm red­line. The huge in­crease in mid-range torque means you’re chang­ing gears more fre­quently, which is no chore thanks to the light­ning-quick re­sponses of the PDK ’box or the slick ac­tion of the six-speed man­ual, which also fea­tures rev-match­ing if you’re feel­ing lazy.

This ex­tra urge also al­lows the en­gine to in­flu­ence the chas­sis to a greater ex­tent than in pre­vi­ous nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Cay­mans. When op­tioned with the torque-vec­tor­ing lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, in tight cor­ners a healthy dose of throt­tle is all that’s needed to help ro­tate the car, while in slip­pery con­di­tions care is now needed to avoid wheel­spin in the lower gears. Thank­fully, the new Sports ESP set­ting is beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated, let­ting the car move around while sub­tly in­ter­ven­ing when it deems nec­es­sary.

In terms of chas­sis dy­nam­ics, the Cay­man is one of the finest cars around. The steer­ing is pin-sharp ac­cu­rate and beau­ti­fully weighted, there’s masses of grip yet the chas­sis

Porsche has re­placed a uni­ver­sally loved en­gine with one that's more of an ac­quired taste

can still be sub­tly ma­nip­u­lated and de­spite rub­ber-band tyres, 20-inch rims and next to no travel, the ride is firm, yet rarely trou­bling. The 718 is a car you could cover long dis­tances in very eas­ily, es­pe­cially as the smaller en­gine has im­proved cruis­ing econ­omy to a claimed 6.3L/100km for PDK-equipped cars.

So far, so good, but now the case for the pros­e­cu­tion. The new turbo flat­four may be fru­gal on the high­way, but use the per­for­mance and it loves a drink. This is slightly trou­bling given econ­omy and emis­sions are the rea­sons the old atmo flat-six was phased out. There’s also no­tice­able turbo lag at low-rpm, but by far the most con­tentious is­sue is the noise. De­spite the flat-four con­fig­u­ra­tion, it doesn’t sound like a WRX; a deeper, thicker ver­sion of a Subaru BRZ most eas­ily comes to mind, though VW trag­ics like Morley seem to like the noise as it re­minds them of a tuned air-cooled Bee­tle.

Of course, noise is a sub­jec­tive is­sue, but Porsche has re­placed an en­gine that was al­most uni­ver­sally loved with one that’s go­ing to be a lot more of an ac­quired taste. Price is also now a po­ten­tial is­sue; at a tested $173,340, our car wore $33,040 worth of op­tions and, wor­ry­ingly, few were what you’d call in­dul­gent.

Make no mis­take, the 718 Cay­man is an amaz­ing car, bor­der­ing on driv­ing nir­vana, but more de­sir­able than its bril­liant pre­de­ces­sor? We’d be driv­ing a 981 Cay­man GTS backto-back prior to pur­chase just to make sure.

EN­GINE 2497cc flat-4cyl, DOHC, 24v, turbo / POWER 257kW @ 6500rpm / TORQUE 420Nm @ 1900rpm / WEIGHT 1355kg / 0-100KM/H 4.2sec (PDK) / PRICE $173,340 (as-tested)

Cay­man's speed and dy­namic bril­liance un­ques­tion­able, but its en­thu­si­ast ap­peal may be nar­rower than be­fore

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