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Review of the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman: Smaller Package, Bigger Delivery

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On: Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 6:44PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman:  Smaller Package, Bigger Delivery

As big as the world is, it seems as though it is getting smaller and smaller every day. Not just because of things like the internet and smartphones, but car engines have been slowly shrinking over time as well. Back in the heyday of the muscle car era, it was all big blocks and “no replacement for displacement”. At the time, it was true.  Big engines crushed their smaller competitors like grapes beneath Shaquille O’Neal’s foot during a try out for a stomp routine. But, slowly, as technology got better, those big 454-, 440-, and 428-cubic inch engines were replaced by equally or in some cases, more powerful 350, 351, and 383 engines. Then, after some adjustment and increased R&D, those engines became even more powerful, and, in some cases smaller yet. Fast forward about 60 years and we are right in the middle of a second Golden Age of muscle cars, but these cars aren’t just from America, and they are all going through the same shrinkage as their predecessors did decades prior. But this time it’s engines like the big 6.2-liter Mercedes AMG V8, the Indy-inspired 5.0-liter V10 from BMW’s M division, and even the 7.0-liter monster in the Corvette ZO6. These engines have all dropped volume to become a twin-turbo 4.0-liter motor for AMG, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo motor for BMW, and a smaller-but-still-not-tiny 6.2-liter supercharged engine for the track-star ‘Vette. It seems this thinking has purveyed across all forms of engine, and it seems that for 2017 we now know that the 718 Porsche Cayman has become the newest recipient of downsizing.

Apparently, the 2.5-, 2.7-, and 3.4-liter flat-sixes that have powered both the Cayman and Boxster over the years have been viewed as… too big and bulky. Even though these engines have come to define these cars, it seems Porsche has no fear in changing that definition. The 718 Cayman takes what the outgoing Cayman did, and does it better with less. Depending on which model you choose, either the standard Cayman or the Cayman S, you will now get a turbocharged and intercooler 2.0-liter DOHC flat-4 engine or a bigger 2.5-liter version. The standard Cayman drops half a liter and the S drops almost a full liter in size. These smaller engines put out 300 and 350 horsepower respectively, both are a 25-horsepower gain over the outgoing naturally-aspirated flat-6 that powered the previous models. But, even more impressively, the new cars now sport 280 pound-feet of torque and 309 lb-ft for the S, which is an increase of 72 lb-ft for the base and 36 lb-ft for the S. That is some serious twist coming from those diminutive motors.

Backed by either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (with manual shifting mode), those engines get the 3000-pound Cayman moving quick. 0–60 mph ranges from a scant 3.9–4.8 seconds, 0–100 mph in 9.4–11.2 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.4–13.4 seconds and a top speed of 170–177 mph all depending on which model you choose. Obviously the faster times belong to the more powerful S model, while the slower ones to the base model. Both models benefit from stiffer springs and dampers and an update the the suspension geometry in an effort to help the Cayman deliver an even better and more responsive ride to the tune of better than 1.00 g on the skidpad. Fuel mileage ranges between 22-25/26-30 city/highway mpg. Not bad for a car that has a base price of $54,950.

With its engine less than a foot behind the driver, the Cayman constantly reminds you that it is, indeed, a mid-engine sports car. The two luggage compartments may also give it away. There is also a host of features either Cayman features like Porsche Active Suspension Management, and Porsche Stability Management to help keep the Cayman firmly planted on the road in all conditions. Inside, the dash is still the same setup—the cluster of three instruments, with a centrally mounted tachometer (because revs matter more than speed to a real driver), along with a 4.6-inch color screen to help make the infotainment system as easy as possible to operate. The ascending center console keeps things centered around the driver and the slick shifter is seated in just the right spot for maximum control.

Those new, smaller engines sound bigger than they are but they definitely lack the distinctive, soulful growl of the outgoing flat-six engines. But, if we’re being honest, the new 718 Cayman and Cayman S are better than the previous model in just about every measurable way. The Cayman is still a wonderfully powerful car that can excite just about anyone with a pulse. It is an even more well balanced dancer than before, and can still stir our souls with ease. It’s just that, much like the days of yore, days of those big, bad monster motors, when they were gone, there was a very tangible void left in their place. It took people time to get used to the new way of things, to understand, accept, and embrace the smaller, yet more efficient engines as the future, and understand that there is no going back.

So while we will mourn the loss of yet another “big” engine, its end has brought with it yet another example of evolution. Admittedly, it won’t be easy. But, if given ample time to adjust, everything should turn out just fine. Sure, the old snarl of the flat-6 will be missed, much like that of the long-gone big block Chevy V8, but much like history has shown us, after a few redline shifts of the newer, stronger motor, we will figure out a way to be okay with it. The 718 Cayman and Cayman S are living proof that there may just be a replacement for displacement after all.

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