The Porsche 718 series started life as the Boxster way back in early 1996, the first of which arrived at the Geneva auto salon in March before going on sale as a 1997 model later that year. The Cayman came much later, showing up in 2005 as a 2006 model along with the second-generation Boxster.
Fast forward to 2016, which saw Porsche add the 718 prefix in honour of the classic 1957-1962 racing car of the same name for the completely redesigned 2017 model, and along with the new moniker and much improved styling the Zuffenhausen brand’s engineering team replaced an outgoing line of naturally aspirated flat sixes for a new lighter weight, more potent and more efficient horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder.
The updated 718 models use a 2.0-litre turbo for base trims, good for a robust 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and resultant 5.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h with its standard six-speed manual, or 4.9 seconds to 100km/h with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, finalizing in a top speed of 275 km/h. When fitted with the automatic, both base cars offer an available Sport Chrono Package that reduces zero to 100km/h times to just 4.7 seconds.
Even the entry-level 718 is a formidable sports car thanks its reasonably small 4,379 mm by 1,801 mm dimensions, hardly heavy 1,335 kilos of unladen weight, ideally balanced mid-engine layout, quick reacting electromechanical power steering with variable steering ratio, well sorted MacPherson strut front and long-short arm multi-link rear suspension setup, standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, capable 330-mm front and 299-mm rear internally vented and cross-drilled rotors clamped down on by four-piston calipers, enhanced Porsche Stability Management featuring ABS, ASR, ABD, and an MSR pre-filling brake system with brake assist, plus amply sized 18-inch standard alloys on 235/45 and 265/45 ZR rated rubber front to rear.
Those wanting more performance can opt for the 718 Boxster S or 718 Cayman S, which ups engine displacement to 2.5-litres and bumps output to 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a new zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.6 seconds with the manual, 4.4 seconds with the automated PDK, and 4.2 seconds with the latter transmission and Sport Chrono Package, while terminal velocity gets pushed up to 285 km/h.
This was the car Porsche introduced for 2017, and for the most part it’s still the same model being offered for the 2018 model year. Then again, Porsche never stands still. For 2018 the GTS trim line has been added back to the lineup, upping straight-line performance with an extra 15 horsepower over the 718 S for a total of 365 ponies, which is 35 horsepower more than the previous Boxster and Cayman GTS line. Likewise, torque is up by 8 lb-ft to 317, but only when mated to the PDK. The off-the-line result is the same 4.6 seconds from standstill to 100km/h for the manual, but the GTS PDK sprints to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, and a mere 4.1 seconds when upgraded with the Sport Chrono package, whereas the GTS model’s top-speed is 290 km/h no matter the modifications.
Along with the extra go-power the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS get a number of features from the lesser models’ options menu as standard equipment, including a mechanical-locking rear differential, Porsche Torque Vectoring, a 10-mm lower sport suspension system with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/35 front and 265/35 rear ZR-rated rubber. Additionally, 718 GTS models feature unique black exterior trim, a red on black interior theme with suede-like Alcantara trim, and more unique styling.
As you might imagine the GTS isn’t the most fuel-efficient 718 on the block, but at 12.3 L/100km in the city, 9.4 on the highway and 11.0 combined for the manual, or 11.8, 9.2 and 10.6 respectively for the PDK, it’s hardly a gas-guzzler either. The base model is the thriftiest with a claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 11.0 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.8 combined when mated to the manual, or 10.5 city, 8.0 highway and 9.4 combined for the PDK, whereas 718 S models bridge the gap with a rating of 12.1 city, 9.0 highway and 10.7 combined with the manual, or 11.0, 8.4 and 9.9 respectively with the PDK. Aiding fuel economy is standard auto start/stop that temporarily shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and then automatically restarts it when ready to go.
As is the case with most brands and model lineups the two-door coupe 718 Cayman is the more affordable of the two, starting at just $63,700 plus freight and fees (see CarCostCanada.com for all 718 Cayman pricing, plus dealer invoice pricing and money-saving rebate info), while a 718 Boxster (click this CarCostCanada.com link for 2018 718 Boxster pricing in detail) can be had for only $66,100. The PDK adds $3,660 no matter the trim. After that the 718 Cayman S starts at $78,600 and 718 Boxster S at $81,000, while a 718 Cayman GTS can be had for $92,600 and 718 Boxster GTS for $95,000.
As with all Porsche models even the base 718 comes well equipped with features like a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel (inspired by the 918 Spyder supercar), a 4.6-inch high-resolution colour TFT multi-info display, a state-of-the-art infotainment touchscreen and interface with stylish graphics, a backup camera with active guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-speaker 150-watt audio, sport seats with partial leather upholstery, an electromechanical parking brake, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a deep and roomy 150-litre cargo compartment up front and an even larger 275-litre trunk in the back, plus much more.
Above this, Porsche offers HID headlights with dynamic cornering capability for better nighttime visibility, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, heatable seats, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation, 14-way powered sport seats with memory, and much, much more, plus you can personalize your 718 with one of 21 unique interiors, and that doesn’t include your ability to pick and choose through various inlay trims. Porsche offers four different types of seats, and four Premium packages, with the list of extras seeming to go on infinitum.
The biggest question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’re a coupe or convertible person, because each 718 body type has its advantages. The 718 Boxster can lower its roof and allow true wind-in-the-hair freedom, whereas the 718 Cayman provides a slightly more rigid body structure for some minor performance gains.
Either way you’ll get brilliantly sharp handling, nearly perfect balance and handling characteristics, superb ergonomics, excellent comfort, and plenty of practical storage. If Porsche didn’t already build the 911, the 718 might be the ideal sports car, and considering its mid-engine performance and exceptional value proposition that point could still be reasonably argued.