718 Cayman (300hp 2.0-litre turbo H4) costs from £39,878, while prices for the 718 Cayman S (350hp 2.5-litre H4) start at £48,834

718 Cayman (300hp 2.0-litre turbo H4) costs from £39,878, while prices for the 718 Cayman S (350hp 2.5-litre H4) start at £48,834

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Emissions. Reading that word surely makes executives at Volkswagen Group divisions shudder. But sometimes its use is benign: the new 2.5-litre flat-four turbo in the Porsche 718 Cayman S is low on CO2, returns more than 35mpg in the real world and sounds like no other previous Porsche engine.

New names, new positioning & new engines

Changing the names and flipping the positioning of the Cayman and Boxster has taken place to coincide with facelifts. Whereas the previous generation Boxster came first and the previous shape Cayman looked like what it was - a Boxster with a roof - the current series models have been well executed. Linking them with a 718 prefix is a new idea, as is switching their places in terms of price: the Cayman is now the cheaper car.

Whereas the Panamera, Macan and Cayenne have no numbers in their names, the range of sports cars now consists of 718 Cayman, 718 Boxster and 911 Carrera. That also ties in with the former 918 Spyder and 919 Hybrid, the latter being the LMP1 Le Mans race winner.

The new 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed flat four in the car lent for review has 350hp and 420Nm of torque in the Cayman S. The engine block and heads are cast aluminium and the turbocharger has variable turbine geometry, as is the case with Porsche's flat six engines.

Zero to 60mph takes 4.2 seconds and the top speed is claimed to be 177mph (with optional PDK and Sport Chrono). Thanks to things such as start-stop, it achieves 38.7mpg Combined when linked to the PDK dual clutch transmission. The press car saw a worst of 19mpg - there are lots of steep hills encircling the city where I live. These are best climbed often, and as fast as is legal. Going easier, you can certainly see 40-plus mpg. Overall it delivered not quite 36mpg.

Platform, construction & chassis

The 718 series cars began reaching UK Porsche dealerships in October. Their basic platform shares certain modules with the 911, despite the obvious different positions of the engines. The monocoque body is constructed from a mixture of aluminium and steel, while the doors and bonnet are formed from the lighter material. 

Aside from PDK, another option is Porsche Active Suspension Management. PASM means electronically-controlled dampers and that includes a chassis which is 10mm lower than that of the standard S. 

Porsche engineers have retuned the car's steering too. This remains an electro-mechanical set-up but the steering ratio is now 10% more direct. You can feel the difference though that's not to say the Cayman S is a twitchy, nervous car; far from it. Another change over the previous pre-facelift model is rear wheels / tyres which are 1.5 inches wider. Which is another reason why levels of grip never have you wishing for all-wheel drive. If you do want AWD in a Porsche sports car, it's a 911 or nothing.

Another change for the S is 6mm thicker front brake discs. These are shared with the 911 Carrera, but at extra cost, there is also the option of PCCB: Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes.

Unlike the 911, the 718 cars have a six-, not seven-speed manual shift as standard. The PDK, which is Porsche's own design, has seven ratios in all of the company's sports cars. The driver can flick up and down with PDK using either the gear lever or via paddles behind the steering wheel.

Panamera starts the Porsche interiors revolution, 718 must wait

The doors feel as light as they clearly are yet somehow in the closing, there is a solid sound to them. It's an easy car to get in and out of, even if it does look fairly low and the centre console feels higher than it would in, say, a Panamera. 

The 718 Cayman and Boxster both come with the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) as standard, and this has a larger touch screen. The interior has the expected built to last for decades look to it that seems to be synonymous with Porsches. The trouble is, now that the new Panamera has done away with the traditional dials and push buttons, the 718 cars have an air of an earlier era about them.

If you're a Generation-C for Connected, then you might find the Cayman somewhat dated inside but there's a lot to be said for what many will call an old-school interior. Everything is easy to find at a glance, especially if you've driven any other Porsche of recent years. Shortly after I borrowed the Cayman S, a Volvo S90 came for review so I will talk more soon on the merits and dangers of almost fully touch-screen interiors versus the way things used to be. 

Manufacturing & model heritage

The 718 Cayman and Boxster are manufactured at the Porsche plant in Zuffenhausen, overflow assembly at the fomer Karmann works in Osnabrück having ceased in August 2016.

Some model history now to show us how we got to the newly revised cars. Originally, the base Cayman was powered by a 275hp (202kW) 2.7-litre six-cylinder engine, while the Cayman S came with a standard 325hp (239kW) 3.4-litre unit. Each of the 718 cars therefore gains 25hp.

The more powerful Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS had their global debuts at the New York auto show in April 2014 and went on sale from the following month. The Boxster GTS was powered by a 243kW (330PS) version of the 3.4-litre H6, while the Cayman GTS' 3.4-litre engine produced 250kW (340PS).

The Cayman GT4 had its world debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2015, with the first cars arriving in German dealerships later that month. It was powered by a 283kW/385hp 3.8-litre H6.

Four-cylinder engines were, as noted above, part of the mid-life facelifts for the Cayman and Boxster ranges announced in December 2015. The official reason for changing how they relate to one another was to be consistent with the pricing strategy for the fixed roof and open-top versions of the 911. The restyled and renamed Boxster premiered at the Geneva motor show in March 2016 with the Cayman following a month later at the Beijing show.

There is a special version for China, priced at under CNY600,000 and this is powered by a 250PS version of the 2.0-litre H4 engine. This is the same 1,988cc flat four turbo which powers the Cayman, whereas the S has the 2,497cc unit as standard. In the Cayman, the 2.0-litre boxer produces 220kW (300hp) and 380Nm, so 50 horsepower and 40Nm less than the 2.5-litre boxer. 

Aside from cubic capacity, another difference between the 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines is the lack of VTG for the turbocharger in the smaller of the two.

Cayman as a (two-person) family car?

Could you call the Cayman S a practical sports car? Indeed you could, given how easily it is to drive for anyone, allied to the roominess of its boots. That's right, there is more than one. Up front, there's the usual deep recess which will take two standard roll-on bags side by side and the volume is 150 litres. Above and behind the engine, there are carpeted spaces onto which you may pile up to 184 litres of chattels, as long as all your gear clears the glass hatchback.

The 718 S is as sensational to drive as the old Cayman was, even if that spine tingling scream of the flat six is sadly no longer available in any Cayman or Boxster. At idle, the 2.5-litre engine sounds a lot like a Subaru engine of the same capacity. Having spent six months in Sydney in 2015/2016 I heard a lot of those engines, lest you wonder how I could have heard any. Here in Europe, none is available with that large a capacity, let alone the 3.6-litre H6 in the Outback (which doesn't sound like a 911 - if only it did).

As the 2.5 boxer is warming, and with the car in reverse, the touchscreen will show you a terrific view of steam coming out of the two centrally positioned tail pipes. Put a child in the passenger seat, or me in the driver's seat and there's a minute or so of free entertainment for winter mornings.

Once the temperature gauge shows it's safe to do so, you can extend the engine up above 7,000rpm. That's when the noise becomes pure Porsche, not Subaru-a-like. It's an addictive sound, even from 3,000rpm and is a melodic bark, not gruff. Urgent, and full of bass. No audible turbo whine and definitely no WRX-style whistling and sucking of air.

It's hard to imagine that the handling could have been improved over the previous Cayman but somehow it has been. There is a ridiculous amount of grip too - is it even possible to unsettle this car's balance? Empty, damp roundabouts will bring out the 17 year old in you. Given the performance available even in the base forty grand Cayman, need you pay for more Porsche than this?

In shirt, is the S worth the extra money over the Cayman? Yes, for sure. The weight penalty is just 20kg (1,365kg DIN unladen for the cheaper Cayman and 1,385kg for the Cayman S) and the 2.5-litre model whisks you to 60mph half a second quicker. There isn't even much of a price to pay in CO2 averages, with the more powerful car emitting an official 167g/km versus 158. That makes either a tempting proposition for a lot of business users.

Will the flat six return to the Cayman and Boxster?

These cars should have another three years of production ahead of them, so after an expected worldwide sales rise in 2017 following the recent updates, expected a steady dip until the successors go on sale in early 2020. These should share the same basic architecture as that of the next generation 911 which is due in showrooms at the end of 2018 or early 2019.

Porsche surely won't leave the 718 series cars untouched for the next three years; that's not the company's style. Six-cylinder engines may reappear in new, more powerful yet also more efficient forms though this may not be until a fresh H6 appears first in the (992 project code) next generation 911. There will surely also be GTS versions of the 718 cars and these would in all likelihood have their extra oomph provided by retuned versions of the H4 engines. Perhaps the legendary GT4 will also be replaced by a 718 Cayman with a new flat six or a bigger-bore H4. Porsche once did a 3.0-litre in-line four, remember and this company loves reminding us of its cars' heritage.