Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
  • Instant turbocharged punch on tap
  • But flat-six howl is lost to turbos…
  • …until GTS and GT4 arrived

It’s hard to believe the 718 Cayman is the cheapest car in Porsche’s range now, given its huge performance. You don’t have to go far back in the larger 911’s history to find models that accelerate slower than the Cayman – allegedly the more junior car.

Four cylinder Cayman and S

Even the slowest entry-level model can top 170mph and crack the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 4.7 seconds - no mean feat. Step up to the S, and that figure drops to 4.2sec while top speed climbs to 177mph. Power for these two cars comes in at 300 and 350hp respectively.

There’s no denying that the switch to smaller, downsized four-cylinder power in the main line up has come at the expense of an aurally stimulating soundtrack, however. The whipcrack flat-six bark that has come to characterise generations of Porsche has, sadly, been lost with the loss of those two cylinders.

What the Cayman has not lost is outright speed. You’ll maybe detect a tiny bit of turbo-associated delay if you catch it off-boost in the wrong gear, but this is a problem rarely encountered on the road. Instead, you get lashings of pulling power thanks to the colossal torque on tap. If you can afford it, we’d recommend picking the S, but the entry-level 718 is no disappointment.

We’ve tested both six-speed manual and seven-speed PDK automatic derivatives and can attest it’s really down to personal preference.

The DIY choice is a pleasure to use and suits the character of the car well; but if you live in a city or prefer autos, we’d heartily support the PDK choice too. Gearchanges are quickly and smoothly carried out, and this version is actually cleaner and more efficient.

GTS 4.0

The six-cylinder Cayman is back! Let the good times roll. Although if we’re being accurate, it was the GT4 model listed below that first featured this 4.0-litre powerplant, with it then finding its way into the GTS shortly after.

Strictly speaking the 911 was the first Porsche to use this engine, albeit it a 3.0-litre version with a pair of turbos attached. Take those off, increase the bore and stroke, and you end up with (simplistically speaking) the proper sports car motor the Cayman always deserved.

In this form it produces 400hp and 420/430nm of torque depending on whether you pick the manual gearbox or PDK auto, meaning a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 182mph.

Yes, the Cayman S is faster in a straight line, but the GTS is better for reasons we’ll now explore. The main improvement is the power delivery – throttle response is now what you’d expect from a Porsche and unlike the easy turbo power of the aforementioned model, the GTS needs a big hoof of gas to get going, with a full 5,000rpm before peak torque and a glorious, howling 7,800rpm redline.

This being a Porsche means in reality you only bother the redline in second gear on the road, as it tops out over 70mph, so using all of third is an easy way to find yourself in front of a magistrate. And while it sounds undeniably better than the four-pot car, it’s not as vocal as previous six-cylinder Cayman models, largely down to a socking great gasoline particulate filter blocking its airways.

Still, it sounds and feels significantly more evocative than the standard car and when you consider how little engine performance the GT4 adds, makes this car seem like a performance bargain.

GT4

That’s because while the GT4 piles on more of the good stuff over the four-cylinder Cayman S – cylinders, displacement and capacity for revs – it’s only 20hp more powerful than the GTS, accounting for a 0-62mph sprint one tenth faster.

Porsche Cayman GT4 2020

It’ll do 188mph though, features a zingier 8,000rpm redline and to these ears sounds more dramatic too. Besides, the appeal of the GT4 model is mainly found within the chassis, so you can forgive it for offering only a little extra in the performance stakes.

Handling

  • One of the sweetest-handling cars of all
  • Sublime poise and handling overall
  • Guaranteed to put fun back into driving

This is a rewarding car to drive – for both the enthusiast and the sports car newcomer. We can think of few vehicles we’d rather drive along a twisting mountain road – at any price.

The poised balance provided by having the engine positioned amidships is the key to this agile handling, aided by rear-wheel drive. In short, the 718 Cayman is seemingly plugged into your synapses, pointing into a corner the moment your brain sends messages to your fingertips.

Steering is well judged, quick and accurate, with no hint of the nervousness you’ll find in big brother the 911. And the chassis is well set up for comfort: the suspension quashes bodyroll effectively and yet there’s real compliance here, even on the larger 20-inch wheels many buyers may spec.

For the best ride comfort, however, we’d recommend sticking with smaller rims. The Cayman comes with 18in wheels as standard, rising to 19in alloys on the Cayman S. The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) option is worth pursuing for its blend of sporting firmness and softer compliance allowed by switchable dampers.

GTS

Here’s where the heat begins to get turned up underneath the Cayman – thanks to standard PASM, a 20mm drop in ride height, active engine mounts, and torque vectoring via a mechanical limited slip differential.

Sticky performance tyres measuring 235 and 265mm front and back surround beefed up brakes, with a carbon ceramic option if stopping stamina is a concern.

These additions conspire to turn the Cayman GTS into the ultimate daily sportscar, with the improvements in handling over an already sublime chassis coming at very little compromise in terms of comfort and usability.

The stiffer suspension means the GTS handles predictably flat on the road, with great poise in corners that isn’t easy upset by a lift or application of the throttle mid-bend, just predictable grip levels that are communicated via the wheel and driving seat.

It feels really friendly to use and instantly transparent from the first ten minutes of driving. This is not a car you need to dig into to find its limits – from the very first few miles it reveals everything you need to know – leaving little need for trial and error.

As such it can be driven in a number of different ways depending on your preference. Neat and tidy? That’s fine. Front wheels pinned and rears lit up? Also fine. The GTS is happy to accommodate all moods, somehow managing to offer sharp handling that doesn’t put the driver on a knife edge.

GT4

It’s fair to say this car builds on that incredible base with a host of track focussed upgrades – you’ve presumably spotted the big spoiler, part of an aero pack that generates 50% more downforce than the last GT4 alongside a new front apron, fully-panelled underbody and working rear diffuser.

Porsche Cayman GT4 rear end 2020

You’ll need to be pushing on to get the benefit of this, granted, but Porsche says this GT4 is a full 12 seconds faster around the Nurburgring than the old one, and puts three of those seconds down to the aero. So it’s not just for show.

Elsewhere you get some fancy 911 GT3 bits on the front end, a 30mm lower ride height (vs the standard Cayman) and you can get your spanners out to adjust the ride height, toe, camber and anti-roll bars. The standard adaptive dampers feature two modes – a softer setting that gives you loads of feedback about how hard you’re pushing, and a stiffer one for greater poise and composure.

Fancy aluminium monobloc brake callipers with normal discs or carbon ceramics as an option are in charge of hauling you to a stop after a long straight, and do so time after time with little fade. They require a firm push to get going though, but this does at least mean plenty of modulation at the top of the pedal.

Porsche Cayman GT4 rear driving 2020

The result is a car that feels just as transparent and capable on track as the GTS does on the road, just at higher speeds. You get a similar mechanical limited slip differential and torque vectoring system to help find grip, plus traction and stability control that can be turned off in two stages.

Tellingly, Porsche says you won’t be any slower with it on. This, like the rest of the car, feels like it’s working with you. We drove the GT4 at Knockhill Circuit, not a place for the faint hearted, and after a very short time it felt like an old friend – able to make you feel like a driving hero while relaying pace notes on where to find more grip and speed.

What’s odd is that it offers this deep well of capability without compromising drama or the ability to thrill – it’s not a case of taming an unwilling machine, but being able to pick your line time after time and know exactly how the car will react. It’s predictable and well-honed, which should make it feel benign, but it doesn’t. Very odd indeed.