Catch it if you can

Doctor on the Road: Porsche Cayman

This Cayman may be one of the last of its breed. If you can get one before it is too late, you won’t regret it, says Dr Tony Rimmer.

Some of our most satisfying career moments happen when all our learning, experience and clinical acumen converge and we make correct decisions with the appropriate actions for the best outcome possible for the patient. 

Like playing a musical instrument well, it is inordinately satisfying. It often happens without the influence of sophisticated high-tech investigations and tests. Somehow it makes us feel very fulfilled, joyful and human.

Driving used to be much like that. It was a visceral experience where our connection with the cars we drove was very raw and very direct. 

Technological advances have brought us greater safety and greater convenience, but they have mostly blunted the involvement levels we have with the machines we drive. 

The extra weight from batteries in the profusion of new hybrid and all-electric cars only compounds the issue.

Fortunately, we still have manufacturers like Porsche. Despite being at the forefront of electric car development – its Taycan is the most enjoyable EV to drive – it understands the needs of keen drivers who still want to experience the best of lightweight sports cars powered by efficient internal combustion engines before they disappear altogether. So welcome to the latest Cayman GTS 4.0 

When the latest 718 model Cayman and Boxster appeared in 2017, Porsche swapped the naturally aspirated flat-six-cylinder engines with smaller 2.0 litre turbocharger units. The power and torque increased but the character and lovely engine sounds almost disappeared. 

Allied to Porsche’s albeit impressive automatic dual clutch PDK gearbox, the Cayman was still quick and handled brilliantly, but lacked any real soul. As a result, Porsche’s image and sales suffered. 

There was a 4.0litre six-cylinder Cayman available, but it was the expensive and rare track-focused GT4 model. Without admitting it, Porsche has thankfully listened to its loyal followers and introduced the same 4.0 litre engine from the GT4 in a mainstream road-focused Cayman and called it the GTS.

Purposeful look 

To satisfy keen purists like myself, it is also available with a six-speed manual gearbox which is great news. So, what is it like to drive?

The latest 718 Cayman is a good-looking car. The updated styling still looks fresh and, particularly finished in the bright Python Green paint of my test car, has a sporty and purposeful look. 

Narrower than the latest 911, it is a perfect size for our UK B-roads where many of our most interesting driving routes can be explored.

As I slipped behind the wheel and settled into the perfect driving position, all the familiar Porsche dials and controls were within easy reach. Not as up to date as the latest 911 or Taycan, they still give you all the information you need. 

As soon as I turned the key, the sound of the brilliant six-cylinder engine brought a smile to my face. With 400bhp – only 20bhp down on the GT4 – this was going to be a fun drive.

While gently getting into the groove, first impressions signal a firm but comfortable and compliant ride. The gear lever has a short throw and the steering is nicely weighted and super-sharp. 

As I picked up the pace, the GTS responded brilliantly. This is a thoroughbred sports car and is built to cover distances on our twisty roads swiftly and safely while giving the driver great satisfaction.

As good as it gets 

Weighing less than 1.5 tons, the mid-engined Cayman shrugs off any changes of direction and so the handling and roadholding are as good as it gets in any car; Ferraris and McLarens included.

Without the added complication of turbochargers or superchargers, acceleration is linear, very strong and the engine loves to rev up to the red line. The manual gearbox is a joy; it may not be as lightning-quick as the PDK box, but I prefer the greater control. 

The brakes, in typical Porsche tradition, are impressively effective and fade-free. I had so much fun punting the GTS down my favourite roads, I just did not want to go home.

Despite all this performance, the Cayman also has a softer side to its character. Although strictly a two-seater, there is a surprising amount of luggage space in the front boot and under the rear glass hatch. 

It is easy to drive in traffic and is quiet and refined on the motorway. You could easily live with the GTS as a daily driver and I would guarantee that you would arrive home after a long day in a better mood than when you left work.

Priced from £65,390, the GTS is about £20,000 less than the most basic 911, the Carrera. This makes it look like a bit of a bargain. Also, if you prefer open-air motoring, the mechanically identical Boxster GTS is only £2,000 more.

I think that as a relatively affordable example of a truly analogue sports car utilising all the modern developments of normally aspirated petrol power, the GTS is a tour de force. 

With an increasing focus on electrification from all manufacturers, Porsche included, this Cayman may be one of the last of its breed. If you can get one before it is too late, you wont regret it.

Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practising in Guildford, Surrey