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Review - Porsche 718 Cayman

The Porsche 911 is the most iconic sportscar of all time. The Cayman was its younger sibling – smaller, less powerful, yet quick and handled like a dream. The latter an inherent character of the 911 family. While the elder brother has got a facelift, the Cayman has gone for a full generation change. It also got this new number-based nomenclature and is now called the 718.

The convertible version of this broke cover, first. But now this coupe version is here and as it happened, we are the first ones from India to get a chance to drive one. Obliged, but we will still keep it frank as that is the kind of opinion you want from us and are here for.

The 718 Cayman looks much different than its predecessor, yet not. As a whole you still get that not-so-different face with near identical headlamps and flat bonnet. What is different is the way the internals of the lamps are designed. Trademark four LED DRLs made famous at Le Mans and some other clever lamp bits are the difference. The front bumper is all new and is now more horizontal with the air dams at the same height. It actually doesn’t look any sharper though. The rear haunches still stay good and prominent and the hatch is also a similar shape. The tail-lamp structure is now now more streamlined (and horizontal too) with the biggest difference being the rear spoiler which now moves further to the back. Surely, quite of you may disagree, but the 718 Cayman does look the part of a sportscar with Porsche in its blood. Not very edgy but likeable, nevertheless.

The biggest deal with the new Cayman is the fact that Porsche has chucked the flat six-cylinder engine for a flat four. Which is one of the reasons they revived the 718 nomenclature from the 1950s because the car then had a flat-four unit. More radical, but not a surprise, is that the engine is turbocharged. Purists may wail about this forced induction business and they should because the turbo has taken out a bit of urgency out of the whole throttle-to-wheel process. Also, the fact that it will no longer be an unending supply of power as you go closer the redline. However, the Cayman is anything but slow. In fact despite losing two cylinders the Cayman makes close to 296bhp. That’s a whole lot more than even the more powerful GTS version of the older Cayman. Which means it is quicker in its dash to 100kph – 4.9s for the record. And this can be bettered by another 0.2s if you tick the Sport Chrono package where you can kick in the Sport+ driving mode. Impressive.

But more impressive is the way the 718 manages to stay true to the Cayman’s dynamic abilites albeit with slightly less drama in the noise and reflex department. It is is still loud as per Porsche standards and surprising how the active exhausts manage to emit an angry note from what is essentially just a 2.0-litre engine. Power goes to the rear wheels with a help of a seven-speed dual clutch unit – Porsche’s trademark PDK. Calling this gearbox smart would be an understatement. Even in regular mode it manages to be quick and intuitive and almost never falters. I am not a big fan of paddle shifts, which are there, but for the manual shift you can use the gearstick. On a track and even on the twisties, this can be massive fun. The steering isn’t too heavy and manages to provide just the right amount of assistance.

The mid-engine layout helps matters here as the 718 Cayman still manages to maintain its poise under torture. It is a very forgiving car, even now, and you can expect it to boost confidence of its driver even when just over the limit. On the road you may hardly notice the microsecond lapse in the turbo kicking in. Possibly, on a race track, but we would still recommend this if you had the choice of a car to take for a show-off race weekend with friends. Porsche also offers an optional chassis with a 10mm lower ride height and for the first time in a  Cayman, a sport suspension with 20mm lower ride height for added track prowess. Okay, these may not be of much help on our roads unless you are in the habit of heading to those handful of Indian race circuits.

One of the things we always liked about the Cayman was its ride ability on our roads. The new car doesn’t disappoint. For a sportscar, the 718’s suspension set-up exhibits a flawless tendency to absorb road irregularities. Small bumps are barely noticed and this despite us riding on the large 19-inch wheels at the rear. Of course, as is the norm with genuine sportscars, the front has smaller 18-inch wheels. Porsche has upped the braking hardware too although it doesn’t show visually, except for if you go for the optional (and yellow) ceramic brake systems.

Inside, things stay true Porsche with a fairly large steering wheel and an analog tacho and speedo. A new touchscreen system arrives. The interface looks a bit too simple but is simple to use. Ventilated seats aid the two zone climate control system in keeping things cool inside. Porsche claims a significant rise in boot space but that could be because they now include the small unit behind the seats as storage area. Of course, with a mid-engined layout, the Cayman enjoys a tiny boot in the front and fairly largish one at the back.

The 718 comes to India only next year. Porsche has also unveiled a Cayman S internationally but have only earmarked the regular Cayman for us to start with. We’ve had a go in both and it does seem that this slightly less powered one doesn’t subdue the sportscar experience in any way. The 718 Cayman drives much better than it looks, is still one of the most comfortable sportscars around and gets the job of attacking a track too quite well. Yes, it has possibly lost a bit of the drama, which is what we did like a lot, but it will be tough to ignore this car for that one reason simply because it manages to rally around with other weapons in its armoury. It is quicker, is fairly noisy, still handles like it should and without rattling your bones. Do you need more convincing?

Verdict: Rethinks the baby-911 game. Every bit a sportscar but doesn’t show it.

Price: Rs 1.1 crore (estimated)

Specifications:

Engine: 1988cc, flat-four, turbocharged, petrol, RWD

Gearbox: 7A

Max power: 296bhp @ 6500rpm

Redline: 7500rpm

Max torque: 380Nm

0-100kph: 4.7s (in Sport+)

Top speed: 275kph

Turning circle: 10.98m

Boot capacity: 334 litres

Fuel tank: 54 litres

LxWxH: 4379x1994x1286mm

Wheelbase: 2475mm

Drag coefficient: 0.3

Fuel efficiency: 9kpl (estimated)

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