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Porsche 718 Cayman S 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Stephen Corby road tests and reviews the 2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in Germany.

Uwe Schlanmuller road tests and reviews the 2016 Porsche 718 Cayman S with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in Germany.

The new Porsche 718 Cayman S makes a loud argument in favour of turbocharged, four-cylinder sports cars - by being faster and more economical than the six-cylinder variants it replaces - but it doesn't sound so great while doing it.

For Porsche, and its legions of fanatical, merch-buying maniacs, the shift from its traditional, almost musical six-cylinder engines to more fuel-efficient four cylinders is as seismic as AC/DC hiring Axl Rose, or the Greens choosing Tony Abbott as their new leader.

A group of Australian media recently tried the new 718 Boxster with this new (or perhaps reborn, Porsche has used four cylinders before) boxer-engine layout, and the disdainful, painful words most often hurled at the car's makers were that "it sounds like a Subaru WRX".

The Boxster's open-top configuration lets all that turbo whistling and grumbly barking - like the engine has swallowed an old and cantankerous dog - into the cabin with you and, compared to the more melodious sounds we've come to expect from this brand, it's more than a little grating.

Climbing into the hard-topped, and always superior to drive, 718 Cayman S, we were hopeful that the more solid structure around us might tone down the bad sounds, and only let the good noises in.

Sadly, within less than a minute of firing it up our co-driver was muttering things like "WRX", "bloody" and "time to buy an old one".

While it's true that this new generation of Cayman has made the old one an instant collector's item, it can also be argued that it's a better car, in many ways. Indeed in every way except the sound.

This Cayman S feels supremely fast for something with so small an engine.

The new four-cylinder engine - which Porsche said was forced upon it entirely by the squeezing pressure of emissions laws - is smaller, lighter, more powerful and yet more economical, which is some feat of engineering.

The 2.5-litre in the Cayman S now makes 257kW and 420Nm (18kW and 50Nm more than the previous six-cylinder offering), and will hit 100km/h in 4.2 seconds, which is more than half a second quicker than the old car. Fuel economy is an unlikely seeming 7.3 litres per 100km, a full 1.5 litres per 100km better than ever.

Buyers of the base model are equally spoiled, with the plain Cayman's 2.0-litre flat four producing 221kW and 380Nm, and 0 to 100km/h in 4.7, which is almost a second quicker.

Driving

This Cayman S feels supremely fast for something with so small an engine and, once you push it past 5000rpm and up to 6500pm - at which point you are fairly flying in any gear - its bark becomes a bellow, the turbo noises disappear and some of the old, addictive Porsche music floods back into your ears.

We were driving this new version in Germany, and had just gotten out of a new 911 Carrera S, which made for an interesting comparison.

It also meant we could explore its upper reaches on the limit-free Autobahn, where we found the four-pot Cayman was easily capable of breasting 220km/h, with just the slightest of gaps in traffic.

The Sport Response Button - or push-to-pass function - is also an absolute hoot, as it gives you an on-screen countdown of 20 seconds of Maximum Madness, every time you press it. It's hard to stop doing so.

What most impressed, though, was how fast, fluid and firm it felt on windy country roads. Obviously, the Cayman lacks low-down torque next to the 911, but once the mid-range comes on song it is an absolute tearaway, and loses little in real-world conditions to the far more expensive variant.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment that we could pay this new Cayman S is that, back to back with its ultimate big brother, the Carrera S, there was not much to split them.

It also feels lighter and, with its engine in the middle of the car where it belongs rather than between the rear wheels, better balanced as well. The Cayman S we drove was fitted with optional, nonadjustable sport seats, which only added to the race-car-like sensations, and brought to mind the very hardest edged cars of this range, the Cayman R.

That light weight is a real advantage when you're hard on its stupendous brakes as well, with the Cayman feeling like it could just about stand on its nose, if you needed it to.

The steering is similarly sharp once you hurl it at a corner (and 10 per cent more direct, apparently), although it does suffer from the slight sleepiness at the straight-ahead, and when cruising along motorways, that has somewhat lessened the magic of Porsches since they went to an electronic power steering system from their old hydraulic set-up - another decision that was driven by the need to save fuel.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment that we could pay this new Cayman S is that, back to back with its ultimate big brother, the Carrera S, there was not much to split them, and given the choice - and the price differential - we would happily take the smaller, and only slightly slower car home, forever.

Except, of course, for the sound, which puts the 911 in a different class altogether, and makes the prospect of buying a second-hand, last-generation Cayman so tempting, and such a good investment, for those who can afford to make it.

Verdict

Those who have to have the latest, greatest and fastest will be happy to hear that Porsche has finally brought its pricing into line with logic, and the Cayman now undercuts the Boxster (convertibles are usually the more expensive option).

The 718 Cayman starts at $110,300, but you really should find some way to pay $140,600 for the Cayman S. It's a sound investment in your own happiness, no matter what it actually sounds like.

Would you buy the new 718 Cayman S, or would you prefer an older model? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Porsche Cayman pricing and spec info.

EXPERT RATING
8
Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist

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