If you park an older Porsche 911 – say – a mid-1970s vintage model beside one of the newer models….a 2017 Carrera, for example, you’re immediately struck by the size difference between the two. New Porsches are longer, wider, taller and proportionately massive compared to their predecessors. Older Porsches are actually diminutive sports cars….which is one of the reasons why people love them so much, but the newer models are….well, kind of pumped up and oversized.
That doesn’t mean the newer 911s are terrible cars….far from it, but they’ve kind of morphed into comfy grand tourers as opposed to lean, no-frills, seat-of-the-pants sports cars that those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies knew and loved.
This hasn’t been lost on Porsche and they have addressed the situation by producing the Boxster and its offspring, the Cayman, which has been re-named for 2017 as the 718 Cayman. The 911 remains a spectacular automobile, but if you want something a little closer to the spirit of the original – not to mention more affordable – the 718 may the one for you.
Without stating the obvious, the 718 Cayman is an absolute thrill to drive. If you have any appreciation for things mechanical, you can’t help but love this car.
A few specs. The 718 Cayman is powered by a liquid-cooled, 300-horsepower turbocharged four cylinder. You read that right: 300 hp out of a two litre engine…in street trim. It’s a flat-four, aber naturlich, and can be mated to either a six-speed PDK or six-speed manual, which is what I drove this time around. Technical highlights of this engine include a variable valve timing system, dry sump lubrication, and an intercooler.
All things considered, I’d choose the manual gearbox. This is a pure sports car, in my opinion, and if you want to get the full measure of it, a stick shift is the only choice. Tiptronics are fine, but with a car of this calibre, you really should muck in and handle shifting duties yourself.
It’s also an absolutely beautiful transmission, with slick linkage, well-spaced gates and short even throws. As is the case with most six-speed manual gearboxes, you can get lost once in awhile, but you’ll get over it.
Most importantly, the Porsche driving experience is gloriously intact. Slip the key fob into the left-hand ignition slot, fire it up, and you’re met with a mechanical symphony not found anywhere else in the automobile industry…..except other Porsches, of course….right behind your ears…..this is a mid-engined car, remember. Clutch action is fairly stiff, but unambiguous and perfect for this car.
Porsche is pegging the 0 – 100 km/h time of the 718 at around five seconds, and I see no reason to argue. Suffice to say this car can get you in trouble with law enforcement personnel pretty quickly. It accelerates through the gears effortlessly and smoothly and you’re up to and over freeway speed before you can say “horizontally-opposed”.
Needless to say, brakes are among the best in the industry….in this case, 330 mm up front and 299 mm in back. This is one of the things I’ve always loved about Porsches. Were you so inclined, you could take your 718 directly from the showroom to the track and have yourself a ball….and be competitive into the bargain.
My tester had the usual modcons, such as power seats, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring system, Bluetooth and so on. The 718 also comes with an automatic pop-up rear spoiler, which is cool as hell. Extras included larger 19” wheels and tires, active suspension, a navi system, etc, etc….all of which brought the price up from the base $61,500 to just under $74,200.
If there’s one shortcoming to the 718, it’s that interior elbow room is nonexistent. It seats two, period, and interior cargo room is nonexistent. Yeah, you can put a bag or two of groceries up front, but this is a strictly business, two-seats sports car, where driving the damn thing takes precedence over fiddling with luxury gew-gaws.
Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged, horizontally opposed four cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 280 ft. lb. @ 1950 – 4500 rpm
Price: $61,500 (base); $74,155 as tested.
Fuel Economy: 11.0 L /100 km (city) & 8.3 (hwy.) Premium fuel.
Alternatives: Nissan 370Z, Infiniti Q60, Lexus RC, Mazda MX5, BMW M4 Coupe, Mercedes SLC Roadster, Ford Mustang Convertible, Audi TT Coupe, Chev Corvette.
Manufacturer’s Site: Porsche
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).