Sweet sur­ren­der

Fans may grum­ble about the switch to four cylin­ders, but there’s still lots to love in the Porsche Cay­man S

Grand Magazine - - WHEELS - Kathy Renwald

Shortly af­ter I brought the Porsche Cay­man S home and posted a photo of it on In­sta­gram, “mi­ami­blue718” started fol­low­ing me, and then “su­per­car­brad” put his lit­tle red heart on my post.

With its Miami Blue paint job la­dled over a clas­sic sports-car body, the Cay­man S cheered ev­ery­one up. Even peo­ple rid­ing by my house on bi­cy­cles gave a nod of ap­proval.

The Porsche Cay­man S is also called the 718. It’s a notch be­low the sto­ried 911. Could we call it an en­try-level Porsche? Prob­a­bly not. The Cay­man S starts at $76,800, the 911 at $104,000.

I think the Cay­man S is bet­ter look­ing than the 911, with lines near­ing per­fec­tion for a sports car. Real­ists also say it is the bet­ter bal­anced car to drive be­cause the en­gine is placed in the mid­dle, not be­hind the rear wheels.

The Cay­man S that I tested for a week was $94,445, al­most $20,000 more than the base price. It’s pretty typ­i­cal that some sort of Porsche trance comes over you when you’re at the sales desk and you start say­ing yes to the op­tions. You tick the spe­cial Miami Blue paint op­tion for $3,000, the sports seats at $2,600, the PDK trans­mis­sion for $3,500 and, be­fore you know it, dreams of home own­er­ship are sur­ren­dered to a 1,165-kilo­gram piece of metal.

But it’s such a sweet sur­ren­der. The Cay­man S is a blast to drive. It’s as­tound­ing that 350 horse­power can pro­duce such seis­mic fun. Our own Golf R has 300 horse­power and costs $50,000 less. In the Cay­man S, it’s about power-to-weight ra­tio and 309 lb./ft. of torque tightly wound and al­ways ready to hurl the car for­ward.

While most of the new 2017 de­sign fea­tures, such as body pan­els and ex­haust sys­tem, are con­sid­ered an im­prove­ment, the switch from a six-cylin­der en­gine to a four-cylin­der has made many fans wist­ful and some even weepy.

Yes, the four-cylin­der is more fuel ef­fi­cient, and still cranks out ex­plo­sive ac­cel­er­a­tion, but gone is the stir­ring sound of the six­cylin­der, a sound that ap­peals to the closet

cave­man in us all. Now the tur­bocharged four-cylin­der greets us with a gruff grum­ble, and ev­ery so of­ten de­scends into a sound like a Subaru. That’s just not right.

Porsche, how­ever, is chang­ing with the times, and de­vel­op­ing en­gines that pro­duce a lot of power in a smaller pack­age and meet ever tighter emis­sion stan­dards. The ev­i­dence is zero to 100 km/h in 4.4 sec­onds. No worries about get­ting the ice cream home be­fore it melts.

So what else is sub­lime about the Cay­man S? Well, the seats are per­fect, snug and sup­port­ive. Vis­i­bil­ity is sur­pris­ingly good, and the cabin is just a mar­vel of crisp crafts­man­ship. Porsche in­stru­ment gauges are works of art, sim­ple and vis­i­ble in ev­ery kind of light.

You can get the Cay­man S as a man­ual, but my tester was the pop­u­lar seven-speed PDK trans­mis­sion. Pad­dle shifters on the steer­ing col­umn al­low the driver to slap through the gears or leave it in auto and let the Cay­man think for it­self.

With the push of a but­ton or two, the Cay­man can be tuned for a more track-like ex­pe­ri­ence. By de­fault the Cay­man is in go­ing-to-church mode. Revs are low, the car is in fourth gear be­fore it crosses an in­ter­sec­tion, and auto start/stop turns the en­gine off at traf­fic lights. It’s sleepy time in Porscheville.

But go for Sport set­tings and you can wind up the revs to red line, lis­ten to a more manly ex­haust note and en­joy an edgy per­for­mance. Steer­ing is flaw­less, pre­cise with­out be­ing twitchy, and the brakes have the best feel in the busi­ness.

On top of all the driv­ing bliss, the Cay­man has a trunk fore and aft ¬ be­cause of that mid-en­gine ¬ with plenty of room for stow­ables.

So the Cay­man S is a com­pelling bun­dle of joy with great per­for­mance, a bit of prac­ti­cal­ity and sen­sa­tional looks. It’s enough to make you for­get that once in a while it sounds like a Subaru.

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