Love the way the Porsche 911 looks and drives, but its window sticker is out of your league? Take a spin in the 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman. The 911’s little brother is actually a more pure, more engaging sports car, a throwback to earlier Porsche cars when modest power and perfect balance (the latter an attribute of the mid-engine design) were the hallmarks of the brand.
Heavily revised last year, the latest 718 Cayman and 718 Cayman S 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.
What’s New for 2018?
Fresh from its major makeover last year, the 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman sees only a few cosmetic upgrades and color choices. Later in the year, the 718 Cayman GTS is expected to make its debut. See the 2018 Porsche Cayman models for sale near you
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
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/29 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 2018 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 718 Cayman ($56,350) 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 718 Cayman S ($68,750) 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).
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, impressively quick steering only enhances the 718 Cayman’s 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 is fairly wide, 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
2018 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.
2018 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.
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!