Many of us aspire to the Porsche 911, and rightfully so, but a great alternative for a German luxury sports car with a price tag that puts it in reach of a lot more drivers is the 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. The fact that the Cayman has a strong family resemblance to the 911 doesn’t hurt, either.
The latest 718 Cayman, 718 Cayman S and 718 Cayman GTS 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 compared to the previous generation, but that has arguably lost some engine responsiveness and audible exuberance from its predecessor.
What’s New for 2019?
There are no notable changes to the Porsche 718 Cayman for the 2019 model year. See the 2019 Porsche 718 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 expensive 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 model 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.
At the top of the food chain is the 718 Cayman GTS, which packs a hotter version of the turbo-four in the S model making 365 hp and up to 317 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with the manual and 1 mpg better in all three categories with the PDK automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The base 718 Cayman ($58,150) comes standard with 18-in 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, an HD Radio and a 6-speaker sound system.
The 718 Cayman S ($70,550) adds a bigger engine and 19-in wheels.
The 718 Cayman GTS ($81,950) adds an extra 15 hp to the engine in the S model while adding a sporty appearance package that includes 20-in Carrera S wheels as standard and a leather and Alcantara interior.
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, a fancier and more expensive Burmester Surround Sound audio system 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.
As of this writing, the 718 Cayman has not been crash tested by the NHTSA nor the IIHS.
Behind the Wheel
The 718 Cayman is one of the best cars to drive, period. With its midengine, RWD 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 leaves a bit to be desired. You also might find the exhaust note lacking if you’re a Porsche purist. Opting for the 2.5-liter is quite pricey, but it’s ultimately a more thrilling and suitable choice for many drivers. We would also recommend sticking with the manual transmission, despite the PDK arguably being a better transmission since it delivers quicker shifts and slightly better fuel economy. However, 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
2019 Chevrolet Corvette — The Corvette is a very different kind of performance car than the 718 Cayman having a front-engine layout and double the cylinders, but the two are in a similar price range and offer similar levels of driving thrills.
2019 Jaguar F-Type — This Jaguar is another great option for a stylish luxury roadster in this price range and has a wide variety under the hood with your choice of 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines. It lacks the 718’s precision, but boasts a flamboyant character and gorgeous styling.
2019 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 and it’s priced similarly to the Cayman S. 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 example. Luckily for used Porsche shoppers, the brand’s certified pre-owned program is one of the best in the business.
Be a royal pain at the dealer and try as many variations of the Cayman 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 Cayman that’s perfectly optioned for you. For our money, we’d like a Cayman S with a manual transmission, PASM, the sport exhaust, and maybe one of those snazzy colors rather than the more traditional gray or black. Find a Porsche 718 Cayman for sale