Many of us aspire to the Porsche 911, and rightfully so. But a great alternative 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 purer, more engaging sports car, a throwback to earlier Porsche cars, when modest power and perfect balance — the latter an attribute of the midengine design — were the hallmarks of the brand. That the Cayman has a strong family resemblance to the 911 doesn’t hurt, either.
The latest 718 Cayman, 718 Cayman T and 718 Cayman S models have only 4-cylinder engines and are turbocharged, producing more power and possessing a fundamentally different, if controversial, character. The GTS and GT4 models, however, have an old-fashioned naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine. Changes were made to the manual transmission to make the clutch easier to operate, and the suspension and steering were altered to improve ride and handling. The result is a car that’s unquestionably faster and more engaging around corners, compared to its previous generation, but that has arguably lost some engine responsiveness and audible exuberance from its predecessor in the 4-cylinder models.
What’s New for 2020?
The T and GT4 trims join the lineup, and the GTS trim gets a naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine rather than a turbocharged 4-cylinder. See the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman models for sale near you
What We Like
- Sublime handling
- Strong, 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 718 Cayman and the 718 Cayman T are 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 available as 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 transmission. 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.
The 718 Cayman GTS packs a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine making 394 hp and up to 309 lb-ft of torque. The new-for-2020 GT4 model uses the same 6-cylinder engine, but it makes an extra 20 hp. The GTS and GT4 models are both manual-only, with no PDK option. As of this writing, there’s no official fuel economy rating for this engine from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman is available in the Cayman, Cayman T, Cayman S, Cayman GTS and Cayman GT4 trims, which largely differ by styling and performance. The 718 Boxster is the convertible version and is reviewed separately.
The base 718 Cayman ($57,500) 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 and height adjustment), partial leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, 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 PDK 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will set you back an extra $3,210.
The new-for-2020 718 Cayman T ($66,400) is like a more driver-oriented version of the base Cayman, using the same turbocharged engine with the same 300 hp rating. Upgrades over the base trim include a sport suspension, drive modes, a lap timer, launch control and the Porsche Torque Vectoring system (a rear differential lock). Upgrading to the PDK transmission is a $3,730 option.
The 718 Cayman S ($69,900) adds a bigger engine with an extra 50 hp and some unique styling upgrades. As on the base model, the PDK transmission is a $3,210 upgrade.
The 718 Cayman GTS ($TBA) is the entry level for the new naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine, and it adds a sporty appearance package that includes 20-in Carrera S wheels as standard and a leather and Alcantara interior. The Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control, a lap timer and additional drive modes, comes standard on the GTS.
Another new model for 2020 is the 718 Cayman GT4 ($99,200). This is the new top of the Cayman food chain. The car makes 414 horsepower and adds some interior and performance upgrades. Making the GT4 really stand out is a body kit that includes a big adjustable rear wing.
The options list is enormous, ranging from performance enhancements and convenience equipment to customization items such as 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 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adjustable suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes, a torque-vectoring rear differential, a sport exhaust and the Sport Chrono package, which features extra drive modes, a stability control sport mode and launch control with the PDK transmission.
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 (which are packaged together), dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated multifunction steering wheel, 10-way power seats (including 4-way lumbar and memory functions), 14-way adaptive sport seats (which 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 the Porsche Connect app (which includes Apple CarPlay and a number 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 system and an automatic braking system. There’s also a blind spot monitoring system available called Lane Change Assist. The optional Porsche Connect app provides automatic emergency assistance and remote services such as a stolen vehicle locator and remote door locking and unlocking.
As of this writing, the 718 Cayman has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
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 the hardtop body, few cars — if any — can match its balance, athleticism, poise and engagement. The impressively quick steering only enhances the 718 Cayman’s razor-sharp reflexes.
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, even though the PDK is arguably a better transmission because 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 the PASM, which alters the suspension to optimize 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 further enhance handling by lowering the car with PASM Sport setting or by specifying the Porsche Torque Vectoring system, and the sport exhaust system makes the engine note a little bassier at the touch of a button.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Chevrolet Corvette — The C8 Corvette is all-new for 2020, with a midengine configuration and a standard V8 engine. The Corvette and the Cayman are in a similar price range, and they offer similar levels of driving thrills.
2020 Jaguar F-Type — This Jaguar is another great option for a stylish luxury roadster in this price range, and it has a wide variety under the hood with a choice of 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines. It lacks the 718’s precision but boasts a flamboyant character and gorgeous styling that’s been revised for 2020.
2020 Audi TT RS — Although it’s also available in a less-extreme TTS version, the TT RS is the most performance-oriented version of Audi’s two-plus-two sport coupe, and it’s priced similarly to the Cayman S. Engineered by Audi Sport, the same folks who produce the R8, the TT RS 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 no denying the timeless appeal of the Porsche 911. It is, 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 to choose from that you owe it to yourself to have as much experience with the car as possible to make sure that 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 instead of the more traditional gray or black. Find a Porsche 718 Cayman for sale