The Cayman is Porsche's attempt at combining a lightweight, tossable and grin-inducing chassis with serious sports car performance. Even in base form the Cayman is quite fast; but it's the perfectly balanced handling that most buyers ultimately cite as their reason for purchasing one. Put simply, the Cayman handles like a dream, thanks to its lack of weight, its ideal mid-engine setup, and high levels of suspension wizardry from some of the best performance engineers in the business.
There are four trim levels for the Cayman: base; S, GTS and GT4. All are powered by horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engines. In the base Cayman, it's a 2.7L unit making 275 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque. The Cayman S and GTS both feature a 3.4L; in the S the engine produces 325 horsepower and 273 pound-feet, while in the GTS it makes 340 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. The GT4 uses an even bigger flat-6 engine, this time displacing 3.8L and making 385 horsepower. Due to the Cayman's light weight, fuel economy is quite good, scoring an EPA estimated highway rating of 30 mpg, with the Cayman S not far behind at 28 mpg. The GTS is only slightly further back at 26 mpg. The Cayman can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Standard items include 18-inch wheels, a 7-inch color touch-screen, partial leather seating surfaces, a programmable garage door opener and power-adjustable seats.
Short of engine, wheel and brake size, equipment differences between the Cayman, Cayman S, and GTS are relatively minor. GTS models, for example, include the Sport Chrono package that tweaks engine response, along with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard equipment, but they can be optioned on the other models. Beyond PASM and Sport Chrono, performance options include ceramic brakes, active body mounts, and torque vectoring between the two rear wheels.
Convenience options include a premium Bose sound system with a 6-disc CD changer, nicer seats, a fully leather clad interior, a 2-zone climate control system, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system and parking assist.
Despite being a fast, small and lightweight sports car, Porsche has put serious consideration into the safety systems on the Cayman. The anti-lock brakes work well, but the system is even more effective when attached to the Cayman's massive 4-piston calipers grabbing cross-drilled rotors. Stability control and traction control are both standard but can be switched off. Two-stage front airbags are aided by side and knee airbags to help minimize injury if an accident should occur.
Some things can't be quantified. The sound of a naturally aspirated flat-six engine spinning at 8,000 rpm. Loud-and-clear feedback felt through a steering wheel. The crisp, rewarding action of a manual transmission clicking from gear to gear. All of these sensations are paramount to theexperience. So what happens if you take one away?
For 2021, the Cayman GT4 is. It's the same gearbox you'll find in a lot of the company's other sports cars, and it comes with a number of benefits. Despite adding 68 pounds to the GT4's curb weight, the Cayman is quicker with PDK. It'll hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, compared with 4.2 seconds with the manual transmission. PDK also allows the engine to produce a skosh more torque -- 317 pound-feet, up from 309 -- and even makes the GT4 a little more efficient, with 1-mpg increases across the board. Of course, the result is a still-dismal 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined, but hey, any improvements are good.
No surprise, PDK works beautifully with the GT4's 4.0-liter flat-six. Left to its own devices, gear changes are as smooth as they are quick, and they're perfectly timed, too. The transmission knows when you're driving hard and holds gears near redline to accommodate. Press the PDK Sport button on the center stack and the DCT is even more alert, keeping the engine revving high to eke out every one of its 414 horsepower. Feel like choosing your own adventure? Metal paddles attached to the steering wheel let you call up your own shift logic, and inputs are rewarded with immediate responses. I wish the paddles were larger and mounted on the column ---- but as far as dual-clutch transmissions go, it's really hard to beat PDK.
The Good ~ Super-sharp reflexes ~ Strong and sonorous flat-six power ~ Quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission
The Bad ~ Small paddle shifters ~ Outdated infotainment tech ~ Can't replace the manual experience
The Bottom Line With its new PDK dual-clutch transmission, Porsche's 718 Cayman GT4 is still a brilliant performer, but isn't quite as fun.
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