New Car Reviews

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T Driven: T Is for “Total Immersion”

It’s spun from the right stuff.

It would be easy to dismiss Porsche’s new T-badged models (T = Touring) as little more than a global marketing exercise, but the no-frills, 300-hp 1,988-cc turbo boxer-four that powers the Cayman T (and its Boxster T sibling) is actually a decent piece. Thanks to the impressive, real-life performance of its downsized engine, the Cayman T doesn’t feel like an otherwise complete athlete with a weak heart like Porsche’s other T car, the 911 T.

Porsche says the manual-transmission-equipped 718 Cayman T test car we recently sampled can hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and reach a perfectly acceptable top speed of 171 mph. (Specifying the seven-speed PDK box shaves three tenths off the zero-to-60-mph time.) True, the-365 hp Cayman GTS is several ticks quicker to 60 mph and goes 9 mph faster overall, but it costs some 25 percent more—that’s a lot more dough for not that much more go.

The Goods on the Goods

Compared to a naked 718 Cayman, the well-equipped T also represents a 10 percent discount if you were to option the T-specific extras separately on a base-model car. Its sexy stance is emphasized by dark, 20-inch wheels that very nearly require flared arches and by the adjustable PASM sports suspension which lowers the ride height by 0.8 inch. Furthermore, the T goodies combine the Sport Chrono feature and Porsche Stability Management with an in-between, semi-hooligan Sport mode, along with torque vectoring and a mechanical locking differential. The steering rack borrowed from the 911 Turbo is 10 percent faster, the sport exhaust has two volumes, and when fitted with the PDK includes launch control and the Sport Response turbo-boost button. Active transmission mounts cushion abrupt throttle tip-in and tip-out maneuvers. The standard footwear is 235/35ZR20 up front and 265/35ZR20 out back. Wads of extra money buy carbon-ceramic brakes, which this Cayman needs about as urgently as Theresa May needs another Brexit.

With the exception of the tacky, full-length stickers that run along the bottom of the doors, the blacked-out body detailing, and the available smoked taillight lenses, the Cayman T looks every bit as desirable as a GTS. Inside, we find sport seats (take your pick from off-the-peg chairs to pricey 918-style lightweight carbon-fiber buckets with harness passthroughs), acres of so-called Sport-Tex upholstery, and fabric loops in lieu of conventional door openers. Adding an infotainment setup is a no-cost option, but you must pay extra for air conditioning, navigation, variable power steering, dynamic LED headlights, the fat-rimmed Alcantara-lined steering-wheel, and a short shifter. When ticking the boxes, don’t forget to opt for the larger fuel tank, keyless go, and heated seats. Just about the only assistance system worth mentioning is the automatic cruise control with stop-and-go capability.

Speaking of Good . . .

There is this thing about Porsche sports cars no other manufacturer can match. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re driving a 718 T or a 911 GT3, a Cayman GT4 or a 911 Turbo S—they all handle, respond and communicate in a similar zero-delay, totally involving fashion. True, the steering may be a little quicker still in the GT cars, the suspension may be a little softer in the Carrera and the Turbo, and the handling may be a little more neutral in the mid-engine models. But there isn’t much variation in the weight it takes to operate the brake pedal, the effort needed to apply lock, the accelerator travel in relation to the power and torque delivery, the ratio between cornering grip and entry speed, and the post-lift-off attitude. Irrespective of engine size and position, power and torque, weight and performance, all two-door Porsches are spun from the same dynamic ilk.

Because it sounds meaner, answers promptly to throttle orders, tramlines a little more, and is harder sprung and more formally damped even before you dial in Sport, the T feels like a somewhat brawnier and subjectively faster car than the base 718 Cayman, even though it has the same power. And given that it’s crisper, rawer, and more involving, the manual gearbox suits this model even better than the otherwise superior PDK.

When warm, the bigger tires instill more lateral grip as well as fierce traction, but the price you pay is a well-below-par ride on rougher roads. In crosswind conditions and when following ruts, the directional stability can be unsettling at times, and those carbon-ceramic brakes don’t like rain or freezing temperatures. The four-cylinder engine doesn’t sound quite as throaty and strong-voiced as a Porsche six, but at the end of the day the acoustics aren’t really an issue, nor is the somewhat underwhelming on-paper performance. After all, inadvertently exceeding the speed limit in the Cayman T and smiling all the way from one radar trap to the next comes as second nature—just like in any 911.

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T Specifications

ON SALE Early 2020
PRICE $67,500 (base, est)
ENGINE 2.5L turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4; 300 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 2,150 rpm
TRANSMISSION  6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE
22/29 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 172.4 x 70.9 x 49.8 in
WHEELBASE 97.4 in
WEIGHT 3,100 lb (est)
0–60 MPH 4.9/4.6 sec (manual/auto, est)
TOP SPEED 171 mph