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2017 Porsche 718 Cayman: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2017

The 911 is a marvelous driver's car, but the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman just might be the better, purer and more engaging choice. That comes from its engine being tucked just behind the two-seat passenger compartment (rather than out behind the rear wheels), which has always been the ideal position for superior balance. Name an exotic supercar and it's almost certainly midengined like the Cayman.

For 2017, however, the Cayman undergoes a long list of substantial changes -- least of which is the new 718 designation it shares with its Boxster convertible sibling. The new engines now have only four cylinders and are turbocharged, producing more power and possessing a fundamentally different (if controversial) character. Changes were also made to the manual transmission to make it easier to operate the clutch, while the suspension and steering were altered to improve both ride and handling. The result is a car that is without question the faster and more engaging car around corners, but that has arguably lost some engine responsiveness and audible exuberance from its predecessor. For most people, we think it represents a big net gain, and it's ultimately one of our 12 Must Test Drive Vehicles for 2017.

 What's New for 2017?

The Cayman gets a new number for 2017, but being dubbed the 718 is only the tip of the iceberg. It has new turbocharged engines plus substantial revisions to its suspension, steering, manual transmission, driving modes, stability control, styling and in-car technology. The Cayman also now costs less than its Boxster sibling.

Read more about the Porsche 718's changes

 What We Like

Sublime handling; strong and efficient engines; excellent interior quality; highly customizable; easy-to-drive manual transmission

 What We Don't

New engines have lost some response and character; too many things are options

 How Much?

$53,900-$66,300

 Fuel Economy

The base 718 Cayman is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Every Boxster is rear-wheel-drive and comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. A dual-clutch automated manual transmission called PDK is an option. Fuel economy estimates are 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving with the manual. The PDK raises those estimates to 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

The 718 Cayman S has a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy estimates are 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined with the manual and 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with the PDK.

 Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman is available in Cayman and Cayman S models, which largely differ by engine. The 718 Boxster is the convertible version and is reviewed separately.

The base Cayman ($53,900) comes standard with 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, heated mirrors, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, single-zone automatic climate control, power reclining front seats (manual fore-aft, height adjustment), partial leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) touchscreen interface, two USB ports, a media player interface, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio, HD Radio and a 6-speaker sound system.

The Cayman S ($66,300) adds a bigger engine and 19-in wheels.

The options list is enormous, ranging from performance enhancements and convenience equipment to customization items like color-keyed trim pieces. Virtually everything can be added a la carte, though there are a handful of packages available to make ordering a little easier.

Performance-enhancing items include the PDK automatic transmission, the PASM adjustable suspension, carbon ceramic brakes, a torque-vectoring rear differential, a sport exhaust and the Sport Chrono package (extra drive modes, a stability control sport mode and launch control with PDK). Comfort and convenience items include adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system, keyless entry and ignition, LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors and automatic wipers (packaged together), dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated multifunction steering wheel, 10-way power seats (include 4-way lumbar and memory functions), 14-way adaptive sport seats (adds adjustable side and bottom bolsters, wider shoulder bolsters and a power-adjustable steering wheel), heated seats, ventilated seats, a full leather interior, a navigation system, a Bose Surround Sound audio system ($990), a Burmester Surround Sound audio system ($4,690) and Porsche Connect (includes Apple CarPlay and a variety of safety remote services).

 Safety

The 718 Cayman comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control, front knee airbags, seat-mounted side body airbags, door-mounted side head airbags, a rearview camera and parking sensors. The optional adaptive cruise control system includes a forward-collision warning and automatic braking system. There's also a blind spot monitoring system available called Lane Change Assist. The optional Porsche Connect provides automatic emergency assistance and remote services like a stolen vehicle locator and remote door locking/unlocking.

The Cayman has not been subjected to third-party crash tests.

 Behind the Wheel

The 718 Cayman is one of the best cars to drive, period. With its midengine, rear-wheel-drive layout and the added rigidity of its hardtop body, few cars (if any) can match its balance, athleticism, poise and engagement. Plus, its quicker steering for 2017 only enhances its razor-sharp reflexes.

Now, those observations apply to every Cayman, but your driving experience will greatly depend upon the options you select. The base 2.0-liter engine offers impressive power, but its responsiveness and sound leave a bit to be desired. Opting for the 2.5-liter is quite pricey, but it's ultimately a more thrilling and suitable choice. We would also recommend sticking with the manual transmission -- yes, the optional PDK produces quicker shifts and is one of the best automatics produced, but the manual is easy to drive and adds back a layer of engagement that's been stripped away by the turbo engines' deeper well of low-end power.

Another important option to consider is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which alters the suspension for optimal ride and handling. The gap between its Normal and Sport settings has been widened for 2017, making it more comfortable when you want it to be and more capable of attacking a twisting road when you need it to be. You can also further enhance handling by lowering the car with PASM Sport or specifying the Porsche Torque Vectoring system (a rear differential lock), while the Sport Exhaust system makes the engine note a little more bassy at the touch of a button.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chevrolet Corvette -- With its all-American V8 mounted up front, the Corvette is quite obviously a completely different performance animal. But the prices are comparable and so is the fun -- though admittedly of a different sort.

2017 Jaguar F-TYPE -- The F-TYPE also has its engine up front and boasts 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines, but its pricing and roadster layout are comparable to the Cayman's. It lacks the 718's precision, but boasts a flamboyant character and gorgeous styling.

2018 Audi TT RS -- Although also available in a less extreme TTS version, the TT RS is the most performance-oriented version of Audi's 2+2 sport coupe. Engineered by Audi Sport, the same folks who produce the R8, it has a decent shot of keeping up with the Cayman.

Used Porsche 911 -- Many will argue the Cayman is in fact the superior driver's car, but there's also no denying the timeless appeal of the Porsche 911. They are of course more expensive, so at this price point you'll be considering a used one. Porsche's certified pre-owned program is quite good.

 Autotrader's Advice

Be a royal pain at the dealer and try as many variations as you can. That means different engines, transmissions, suspensions, steering systems, exhausts, interior color schemes ... whatever. There's so much from which to choose, you owe it to yourself to have as much experience with the car as possible to make sure you order the right Cayman for you. Or just want to know what we'd get? A Cayman S with a manual transmission, PASM, the sport exhaust and one of the many snazzy colors -- silver or black is so dull!

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Porsche 718 Cayman: New Car Review - Autotrader