It’s not often we’d kick off a story about another Porsche 718 with how it looks - they’re incredibly familiar by now, even the racier ones - but then the Style Edition is quite the sight. Anyone with a phone only needs glance at social media to see yet another Ruby Star Porsche; they’re usually right next to the green ones. The impact here in the Style Edition no cost options, specifically having the standard-fit 20-inch wheels from the GT4 and the contrast package in white. In a sea of black wheels and graphics it’s a welcome splash of colour, and driving a Porsche that looks like an ice cream sundae isn’t without considerable appeal on a sunny afternoon. People have spent far more on Porsches that draw many fewer gawps than this 2.0-litre Cayman.
How ever it’s specced, moreover, now could hardly be a better time to revisit the Cayman. There’s obviously very little time left with petrol-powered 718s, but there's also the recent arrival of fresh four-cylinder sports cars in the shape of the Lotus Emira i4 and Mercedes-AMG SL43. One is a more obvious rival than the other, yes, though surely we aren't the only ones to be interested to see how a car launched as long ago as 2016 compares to the AMG-engined alternatives.
The years may have flown by since the introduction of the 2.0- and 2.5-litre Caymans, but we all remember the backlash like it was last month. To say people weren’t keen on flat-four 718s would be putting it very mildly indeed. The reaction was so violent as to feel almost biological, like fans were genuinely allergic to the notion - no matter the technology or expertise that had gone into it. Back then the response was perhaps easier to understand, especially with cars like the F-Type V6, Audi TT RS and Lotus Exige Roadster still around. The return of the six-cylinder GTS has reminded everyone how good the 718 package can be, too. But, well, the next step from four cylinders is none at all, and all the comparable sports cars have similar layouts, so perhaps it’s time to make the most of what we have…
The Style Edition is only available with the 300hp 2.0-litre engine, rather than the more powerful 2.5 S with 350hp and a variable vane turbo, so it really is back to basics as far as forced induction Porsches go. But you know what? There remains a lot to like here. The engine sounds better than it once did, less thrashy and just more subdued than the very first models, which must be a good thing even if it’s far from symphonic. But then again, it’s been a while since any four-cylinder car was worth listening to. In its favour, the 718 has an authenticity to its noise, not trying to hide its curious character behind symposers. It’s a gravelly boxer turbo, like it or lump it, but just know it doesn’t sound as bad as you remember - or might have been told.
There’s a lot more about the engine that’s unequivocally positive. It still has great throttle response, and the sort of energy seldom found in forced induction motors when it comes to revving at peak power and beyond. It’s a zesty, vibrant 2.0-litre turbo, and anything but run-of-the-mill. Performance is some way off the Emira, which boasts another 60hp and much more tightly stacked ratios - or even the lighter yet equally powerful A110 S - but the willingness of the powertrain means it isn’t often caught out.
Moreover, the PDK is leagues ahead of either AMG's eight-speed DCT or nine-speed MCT - or the Alpine dual-clutch - and contributes to the feeling of this Porsche being spritelier than the numbers imply. It kicks down faultlessly in any mode, getting you back into the power instantly, yet crucially will settle back down to a cruising gear with a steadier throttle (all too often autos keep a lower gear longer than is desirable). Manual control is precisely what’s wanted, too - no Lotus-style weird paddles or lever arrangements here. This remains the standard bearer for sports car autos, fast and decisive throughout. Would be even better with a shorter final drive…
Even in a less-than-optimal spec - with the big wheels and lower PASM suspension - this is a fine mid-engined chassis. Responses are inevitably a bit fuzzier and mushier when compared to the GTSes and GT4s of this world, and the Cayman can’t change direction with the grace of an A110, but it’s so nicely balanced and manages its weight superbly. The stiffer damper mode feels a tad surplus to requirement here, the standard setting doing a decent job of isolating you from the bad bits of the road and connecting you to the good bits of the car. Too often the Sport damper made the wheels jar with the surface. It should be noted that an Emira i4 throws up less noise from its tyres, and it is probably the more exciting car to drive in the right situation. But as an everyday sports car compromise, there is precious little to fault when it comes to Cayman ride and handling. Does look good on those big wheels, too.
On a lesser vehicle, fitting the rims from the track-focused flagship to the entry-level model and calling it the Style Edition would surely be met with a response bordering on derision. But, importantly, the Cayman just about gets away with it. It still drives and steers and stops as well as any other, with the added benefit - if you want it - of a bit more visual punch. Oh sure, an Emira will draw even more admiring glances, and our four-cylinder sports car of choice remains the Alpine, yet there remains plenty to recommend a plain old Cayman. A plain old pink Cayman, rather. Enough to think we might all be clamouring for a flat-four turbo back when the EV arrives...
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 718 CAYMAN STYLE EDITION
Engine: 1,988cc flat-four turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch PDK, rear-wheel drive (6-speed manual standard)
Power (hp): 300@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 280@2,150-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds (5.1 with manual, 4.7 with Sport Chrono)
Top speed: 170mph
Weight: 1,365kg (DIN)
MPG: 30.7-31.7 (model range)
CO2: 208-201g/km (model range)
Price: £56,000 (price as standard; price as tested £65,336 comprising Tinted taillights for £477, Bi-xenon main lights including Porsche Dynamic Light System for £677, 64-litre fuel tank for £93, Power steering Plus for £204, Sport Chrono package including mode switch for £1,731, Porsche Torque Vectoring with mechanically locking rear differential for £1,019, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with ride height lowered by 10mm for £1,112, PDK for £2,199, Ruby Star Neo paint for £1,824. 20-inch GT4 wheels painted white, 718 Style Edition contrast package in white and model designation in white all NCOs.)
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