Porsche's 718 Cayman T is a pumped-up and more enthralling base model.
If I had my druthers, there would be a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 in my garage. It's a brilliant car to drive with a naturally aspirated flat six-cylinder engine, head-of-the-class dynamics and seriously good looks. But that greatness also comes with a six-figure price tag. Ouch. If that's a little too rich for your blood, but you want a really rewarding experience, might I suggest taking a gander at the 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman T?
The T builds on the base 718 Cayman, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four engine making 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. While those aren't jaw-dropping numbers, they are more than serviceable, getting this 3,065-pound coupe to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Those who pony up an additional $3,730 for Porsche's PDK dual-clutch gearbox can do the 60-mph sprint in 4.5 ticks. Top speed for both drivetrain configurations is 170 mph.
As far as power is concerned, the base flat-four provides more than enough. The Cayman T gets off the line nicely and the engine delivers stout midrange grunt for shooting out of corners. Power hardly tapers off when approaching the 7,500-rpm redline and this car is a joy to command while working the slick manual shifter. Throttle response is also snappy with pedal placement that's ideal for heel-and-toe rev-matching. If there's one thing that Porsche fans will knock, however, it's the engine note. To me, it's not terrible, especially with the sport exhaust. But it admittedly doesn't hold a candle to the glorious noise a proper flat-six sings.
Acceleration times and v-max numbers aren't what the Cayman T is really about. Instead, it's the overall experience. To improve that, the T gets some standard chassis goodies that previously weren't available on the entry-level 718, such as Porsche's sport suspension setup that drops ride height by 20 millimeters, active drivetrain mounts, a mechanical limited-slip differential, 20-inch Carrera S wheels and the Sport Chrono package.
All of this works to make the Cayman T an engaging specimen, especially with the Sport Plus drive setting engaged. It turns on a dime and the electromechanical steering system provides oodles of feedback. There's hardly any dive under braking and there's little to no body lean. The 20-inch staggered Pirelli P Zero tires offer tons of grip, and this balanced handling behavior has me hankering for track time to safely find the 718's dynamic limits.
When it comes time to simmer down for routine commutes or road trips, the Cayman T is still plenty capable. Throwing it into Normal mode softens the dampers, providing some ride compliance around town, which is no easy feat on a car shod with 35-series tires. Don't expect to unnoticeably float over every road imperfection, but small to medium impacts are mostly absorbed and even bigger blemishes don't really jolt the cabin. The Cayman T is relatively fuel-efficient, too, returning an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Like any proper sports car, the T looks the part. It isn't all that different from the standard 718 Cayman, but it doesn't need to be. The Cayman's curvy body lines and nice proportions still garner attention, and the only things that set the T apart from the base car are the Titanium Gray-painted 20-inch wheels, gray mirror caps, black exhaust tips and badges.
Head inside and there's a slightly smaller-diameter GT Sport steering wheel, nylon door opener loops in place of traditional handles and woven Sport-Tex fabric seat inserts. Overall, the Cayman T has a purposeful and straightforward interior free of many frills. The seats are generously bolstered, the driving position is comfy and there are some storage cubbies in the doors and center console, but you aren't going to find soft leathers lining every surface or snazzy trim pieces jazzing things up -- at least not as standard. In typical Porsche fashion, all that kind of stuff is available as extra-cost options.
That's not to say my Cayman T tester doesn't have any creature comforts and extras. Dual-zone automatic climate controls and three-stage heated seats are here. Handling infotainment is the last-generation Porsche Communication Management system that uses a small but crisp and responsive 7-inch touchscreen. Here it's outfitted with available navigation that quickly calculates routes. A Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay are standard, though Android Auto still isn't supported. The driver-assistant tech menu is limited to a $700 blind-spot monitoring system and $1,670 adaptive cruise control system, with the latter only offered on PDK-equipped cars.
Given the performance-focused mission of the Cayman T -- which starts at $70,250, including $1,350 for destination -- I wouldn't go too crazy adding options when building my ideal model. I'd throw in a no-cost white paint job on it that'd contrast nicely with the black side strips, gray wheels and mirror caps. As enticing as the $7,410 carbon ceramic brakes would be for track running, I'd forgo those to keep cost in check and because the standard steel clampers are more than adequate for spirited street driving. Choosing the $140 16.9-gallon gas tank instead of the standard 14.2-gallon unit provides more driving range and the $700 blind-spot monitoring system adds peace of mind. That brings my ideal car to $71,090, which slightly undercuts the $72,710 price tag of the car pictured here.
As much as I adore the Cayman GT4, I never once found myself bored with the Cayman T. Outside of the less-than-ideal engine note, it's difficult to find something to dislike about the T from a performance standpoint. There's enough power to keep things interesting during spirited drives, the chassis offers supreme balance, it looks great and, most importantly, it's a car that's pure, involving and truly a blast to wheel around.