© 2019 by Andy Pilgrim

All Stars - 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman S

By Andy Pilgrim / March 11, 2017

 

 

A Day at the Office: There’s no place we’d rather work than in a 718. I do understand how there are car enthusiasts who don’t quite understand the apparent journalistic love affair with the Porsche Cayman, never mind agree with it. So, let’s see if I can shed some light on this with the help of the army of editors on hand for All-Stars.

 

Driver connection with the 718 begins at standstill. I’m talking cockpit feel, seat, steering wheel, pedals, gauges, control placement, road view — even smell. From my vantage point as a professional racer, the 718 is a functional driver’s office. Even before I set off, I know I’m in the correct position for doing my job. If you’ve never sat in one, I suggest you do it sometime. And make sure you close the door.

 

Then we get to the driving. Klein said: “Every automaker looking to build a small, lightweight, mid-engine sports car, you can stop now. The 718 wins.” Smith was more measured: “All-around athlete, all 350 horses are usable, housed in a forgiving chassis.” My take? The 718 provides a wonderfully rewarding driving experience, affording a connection to the car and road seldom found in a contemporary vehicle, regardless of price.

 

The 718’s suspension is more refined than the previous Cayman’s. It is well damped and compliant while taking nothing away from the sports-car feel. Approaching the absolute handling limit with any vehicle on the street is risky in more ways than one. However, driving the 718 enthusiastically on our test route was a total joy at less than the limit. On-track performance allowed me to work the car however I wanted.

 

I wasn’t the only one. “It’s hard not to giggle out loud when you’re tackling a technical road or a tight section of track with the 718,” Wasef said. Morrison concurred: “The Cayman S allows you to push it incredibly hard, and whether you’re on the road or a closed circuit, it grows your confidence at an exponential rate without ever feeling sketchy or out of shape.” A couple of notes mentioned understeer when pushing the 718 hard on the track. I found the chassis allowed me to counteract that reasonably easily with some left-foot braking and by varying my steering speed.


Thanks to its newfound torque, the 718 Cayman S laps racetracks as fast as the Cayman GT4, a 2016 All-Star.

 

The Automobile team might be split on the manual-versus-dual-clutch-gearbox debate, but the Porsche PDK transmission is the benchmark for providing fast, seamless shifts. I do, however, understand that many people enjoy shifting gears and using the third pedal. As Noordeloos admitted, “I love manual gearboxes, but Porsche’s magical PDK reminds me why they are on borrowed time.”

 

There was a remarkable spread of opinion and emotion about the new flat-four turbo engine and how it sounds compared to the old flat-six. In the red corner: “Brilliant chassis, brilliant gearbox, and an engine that sounds like butts,” Ougarov said. “Lovely car, absolutely horrible sound,” Cumberford added. In the blue corner: “Criticize the new flat-four all you like, but this is the future, and I think it sounds just fine,” Jordan said. To my knowledge no blows were traded, but I’m adding, “Don’t mess with the flat-six” to politics and religion as things not to bring up at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

 

Regardless of how it makes power, the 718’s light weight, coupled with the 350-hp boxer-four, make for a measurably quicker package than the old car. I particularly like the way the power continues to pull high into the rev range, unlike other turbocharged engines that quickly fall off the boil.

 

Although most of the talk around the campfire concentrated on how well the 718 drives and on the new engine, thoughts on its design, look, and presence were plentiful as well. “This is the best-looking thing you can buy with a Porsche badge, including wristwatches,” Jordan said. I had about as many strangers come up to ask me questions about the Cayman as I did when out and about in the Acura NSX. That speaks volumes.

 

There are always questions about whether any Cayman is worth almost $100,000. Views on this were mostly yes but not overwhelmingly so. The answer will ultimately be in the eyes and wallets of the buyers.

 

The Porsche 718 Cayman S ignites the passion for driving like few cars do. Hell, it ignites passion, period. It is a true driver’s car and a true All-Star. A story to prove the point: It wasn’t until day three of four that I actually got to drive it. The keys were constantly absent from road test editor Eric Weiner’s beloved key safe. It seems nobody could get enough of the 718.

 

– Andy Pilgrim