2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T Review - Wiser Choices

  • Not too much power, nor too little
  • 6-speed manual is a gem
  • Falls in the (relatively) attainable spot between 718 and GTS
  • Handling is crisp and predictable
  • Cabin plasticky in places
  • Apple CarPlay costs extra, and Android Auto isn't on the menu

Wisdom, as an enthusiast, basically boils down to knowing when to spend and when to save, and few cars illustrate that quite as neatly as the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T. Purists and badge-zealots may sniff that, because it doesn't have "911" on the trunk, this isn't the "proper" Porsche coupe. They're wrong.

You could, I think, quite easily make the argument that this 718 is actually the perfect illustration of what Porsche is all about. Driving dynamics above all else; nothing extraneous or that might waylay you from your experience at the wheel. Yes, it has charming nylon pulls instead of door handles inside, as though the hunt for lightweighting has cast out all but the barest of essentials, but really that's a distraction.

It's about balance, and having the right amount of something. That doesn't mean the most, and nor does it mean hair-shirt frugality for its own sake. The Cayman T is the sweet spot, which is more than many middle-children can claim.

Porsche's cheapest coupe remains the 718 Cayman, from just shy of $60k. The Cayman GTS 4.0 sits at almost $87k, and a Cayman GT4 spirals you up into six figures. In the midst of all that, though, the 718 Cayman T starts at $68,900 (plus $1,350 destination).

You get the same 2.0-liter turbocharged Boxer-4 engine as the entry 718, with 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, plus a 6-speed manual transmission. Porsche then raids the GTS for PASM Sport Suspension, drops the ride height 0.78-inches, throws on 20-inch wheels, and adds Porsche Torque Vectoring with a mechanical rear differential lock.

Those fancy wheels and a "718 Cayman T" stripe along the lower doors help distinguish what's already a well-proportioned coupe. You get a dual center-mounted exhaust, too, and a few extra color choices than regular 718 buyers get to pick from.

The optional 7-speed PDK is faster, 4.5 seconds for the 0-60 mph run versus 4.9 seconds in the manual. That doesn't mean you should check off that $3,730 option, of course: we're channeling wisdom and not chasing specifications, remember.

You want the 6-speed because you want to row your own gears. Porsche's gearbox is a gem, and its clutch perfectly weighted; the 718 T trims the stick down a little, making it stubbier and reducing the throw. Because there's enough power, but not too much, you're motivated not to leave it in gear and just rely on torque saving the day. If you want the perfect punch out of a corner, you'll need to downshift.

Involvement is the key. Max power arrives all the way up at 6,500 rpm, and peak torque between 1,950 to 4,500 rpm. You're motivated to keep the 718 T thrumming, then, and if you get it wrong the feedback loop is sharp. Fudge the gear as you exit a turn and you'll find yourself twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the turbo to spoil you back up into playtime. This Cayman does not reward the lazy.

Get your part right, however, and it plays sublimely. The MacPherson suspension combined with mechanical torque vectoring (with a little brake-based extra thrown in for good measure) makes for a scamp in the twisties, while Porsche's slightly smaller steering wheel taps a variable-ratio electromechanical system. It surfs the balance between weight and feel just swell, even if lumpen asphalt does make itself known with a noticeably rougher ride.

Sport Chrono comes as standard, easily snicked between Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes (with an Individual mode that can be customized if you think you know best). A PSM Sport mode trims back the electronics, while thumbing the center button on the drive mode dial gets you the max performance settings in a 20 second burst.

The important parts fall to hand in ergonomic poetry, even if the rest of the cabin isn't quite as harmonious. Lots of buttons, many of them feeling a little plasticky, double-down on the idea that Porsche spent its money where it made most driving sense. The infotainment system is similarly average, Apple CarPlay is a $360 option, navigation a whopping $2,320, and Android Auto isn't even on the menu. Heated seats will add $530 while dual-zone climate control is $770.

You could complain about that – or, for that matter, about the bold but not quite beautiful song of the exhaust, which lacks the sonorous tone of the GTS' six cylinders – but it's all a trade-off worth making. What needs to work, works. What needs to be great, like the supportive and grippy sports seats, is great.

If you really wanted to you could have Porsche wrap a lot more with its leather and Sport-Tex, or even add full buckets, but better to leave that sort of excess to 911 buyers who don't know when to stop. The same goes for the ceramic brakes, a $7,410 option that the Cayman T really doesn't need.

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman T Verdict

Though making wise choices can sometimes feel a lot like self-denial, the 2020 718 Cayman T demonstrates that's not always the case. Few cars illustrate quite so adeptly the idea that "more" is not necessarily "better" and, while no Porsche is cheap, the balance of outlay and reward feels tilted here in all the right directions.

More power, or more technology, and the driver would lose some of that essential connection. To the car, yes, and to the road, and to the feeling that what you're actually doing with the steering, the gearbox, and the brakes all make the biggest difference. Not just how many horses there are, or what the electronics say should happen next.

When to spend, and when to save, and when to say "stop, this is enough." The Porsche Cayman T may not be perfect, but four-wheeled wisdom doesn't come much clearer than this.