We drove a $95,000 Porsche Cayman to see if the sports car lives up to the hype - here's the verdict

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Porsche 718 Cayman SBenjamin Zhang/Business InsiderOur Porsche 718 Cayman S test car at Porsche Cars North America headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Porsche 718 Cayman and the 718 Boxster makes up the company's mid-engine lineup.
  • In 2017, Porsche debuted the third generation Cayman sports car with a pair of new turbocharged, flat-four-cylinder engines.
  • The new engines proved to be controversial as they delivered great performance, but lackluster sound.
  • Our Porsche 718 Cayman S was powered by a 350 horsepower, 2.5-liter, turbocharged flat-four.

The Porsche 718 Cayman is arguably one of the most overlooked cars on the market today. And it's not because it isn't a good car. It's actually a great car. A world-class sports car of the highest order if I may be so bold. But it also lacks the superlatives that have been heaped on its corporate siblings.

Here's what I mean by that.

The 911 is Porsche's heart and soul. While the 718 Boxster is the car that saved Porsche from financial ruin in the late 1990s. The money it made from the Boxster paid for the Cayenne which revolutionized the luxury SUV market while the Macan is the best selling Porsche in the world. And then there's the Panamera, the critically acclaimed luxury sedan has been the darling of the automotive industry over the past year. It's also Business Insider's reigning car of the year.

That brings us back the to Cayman. For many, it was simply seen as the Boxster with a fixed roof. (Technically, that's true and Porsche recent decision to move the both the Boxster and the Cayman under the 718 moniker only serves to reinforce that notion.)

But the reality is that the Cayman is a mid-engined, built-from-the-ground-up, pure-bred, Porsche sports car with a personality of its own.

For years, the rumor has been that Porsche restricted the Cayman's performance, preventing it from realizing its true potential in order to protect the iconic 911. Well, they aren't anymore. With the introduction of the Cayman GT4 in 2016 and the new turbo 718s, Porsche seems to have loosed the reins on its pint-sized sports cars.

Business Insider had a chance to experience the new 718 Cayman S first hand in December on the roads in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

Our 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman S test car started $66,300. The Cayman S carries over for the 2018 model year with no mechanical changes. However, the base has been raised slightly to $67,700 to account for inflation and Porsche's new standard maintenance plan. Options and fees tacked on $28,625 to our 2017 test car and pushed the as-tested price to $94,925. An identically optioned 2018 Cayman S would cost $96,890.

Here's a closer look at the Porsche 718 Cayman S:
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These days, nearly 2/3 of Porsche's annual sales come from its Macan and...

These days, nearly 2/3 of Porsche's annual sales come from its Macan and...

... Cayenne SUVs.

... Cayenne SUVs.

While Panamera sedan has been both a sales and critical success.

While Panamera sedan has been both a sales and critical success.

The company is even going all in on electric propulsion with the Mission E.

The company is even going all in on electric propulsion with the Mission E.

But the soul of the brand is still its sports cars like the 911 and ...

But the soul of the brand is still its sports cars like the 911 and  ...

... 718 Boxster as well as the...

... 718 Boxster as well as the...

... 718 Cayman.

... 718 Cayman.

Even though the Boxster concept debuted in 1993 and...

Even though the Boxster concept debuted in 1993 and...

... The first production Boxster (model code 986) in 1996, ...

... The first production Boxster (model code 986) in 1996, ...

... The hardtop Cayman didn't arrive until 2006 with the second generation 987 model.

... The hardtop Cayman didn't arrive until 2006 with the second generation 987 model.

For 2013, Porsche rolled out the second generation Cayman, model code 981. That model lasted until 2016 when...

For 2013, Porsche rolled out the second generation Cayman, model code 981. That model lasted until 2016 when...

... The third generation Cayman 982 arrived with a new name, the 718 Cayman.

... The third generation Cayman 982 arrived with a new name, the 718 Cayman.

The 718 designation is in honor of the four-cylinder Porsche 718 racecars the company campaigned in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The 718 designation is in honor of the four-cylinder Porsche 718 racecars the company campaigned in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This hints at the biggest change to the hit the Boxster and Cayman in its history. Since the beginning, the duo had always been powered by Porsche's signature naturally aspirated flat-six-cylinder engines.

This hints at the biggest change to the hit the Boxster and Cayman in its history. Since the beginning, the duo had always been powered by Porsche's signature naturally aspirated flat-six-cylinder engines.

For 2017, there would be two brand-new turbocharged four-cylinder engines in place of the six banger. Standard Boxster and Caymans would get a 2.0-liter, 300 horsepower unit while the uplevel Boxster S and Cayman S models would get a 350 horsepower, 2.5-liter motor.

For 2017, there would be two brand-new turbocharged four-cylinder engines in place of the six banger. Standard Boxster and Caymans would get a 2.0-liter, 300 horsepower unit while the uplevel Boxster S and Cayman S models would get a 350 horsepower, 2.5-liter motor.

The 718's new four-cylinder engines are bespoke for the model. Which means you won't find them in any other cars in the world. They replaced the Boxster/Cayman's traditional flat-six engines.

With fewer cylinders, the engines are smaller and take up less space. This allowed Porsche to introduce turbocharging to the sports cars. As a result, the smaller engines deliver 25 more horsepower than the units they replaced.

According to Porsche, the standard Cayman has a top speed of 170 mph and sprint to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds while cars equipped with an optional Seven-speed PDK transmission can do it in 4.7 seconds. The Cayman S bumped the top speed up to 177 mph while bringing the 0-60 mph time down to 4.4 seconds. PDK equipped Cayman S's can make the run in just 4.2 seconds. Our test car came with the standard six-speed manual.

According to Porsche, the standard Cayman has a top speed of 170 mph and sprint to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds while cars equipped with an optional Seven-speed PDK transmission can do it in 4.7 seconds. The Cayman S bumped the top speed up to 177 mph while bringing the 0-60 mph time down to 4.4 seconds. PDK equipped Cayman S's can make the run in just 4.2 seconds. Our test car came with the standard six-speed manual.

Aesthetically, the 982 generation Cayman S is based heavily upon its predecessor. It's highly evolutionary and unless you have well-trained eye, it'll be difficult to tell the two apart. With that said, the Cayman actually looks pretty. It no longer looks like a Boxster with roof bolted on as an afterthought.

Aesthetically, the 982 generation Cayman S is based heavily upon its predecessor.  It's highly evolutionary and unless you have well-trained eye, it'll be difficult to tell the two apart. With that said, the Cayman actually looks pretty. It no longer looks like a Boxster with roof bolted on as an afterthought.

At high speed, this little spoiler actuates automatically.

At high speed, this little spoiler actuates automatically.

Inside, the Cayman's interior is virtually identical to that of the Boxster. With its button-heavy layout, the overall feel is more functional than luxurious. Interior build quality is top notch with no rattles or squeaks to be found.

Inside, the Cayman's interior is virtually identical to that of the Boxster. With its button-heavy layout, the overall feel is more functional than luxurious. Interior build quality is top notch with no rattles or squeaks to be found.

Everything is easily within reach of the driver. A design feature that's really useful when the driving gets dynamic.

Everything is easily within reach of the driver. A design feature that's really useful when the driving gets dynamic.

Like the Boxster and the 911, the Cayman is running an less advanced version of the company's PCM infotainment system found on the new Panamera sedan. PCM is solid, but not spectacular. It's not fancy or pretty to look at, but it is easy to use and well organized. PCM is also available with Apple CarPlay integration.

Like the Boxster and the 911, the Cayman is running an less advanced version of the company's PCM infotainment system found on the new Panamera sedan. PCM is solid, but not spectacular. It's not fancy or pretty to look at, but it is easy to use and well organized. PCM is also available with Apple CarPlay integration.

The major difference between Boxster and the Cayman is the roof. With a rear hatch, the Cayman has significantly more cargo space.

The major difference between Boxster and the Cayman is the roof. With a rear hatch, the Cayman has significantly more cargo space.

With the engine located in behind the driver and in front of the rear axle, the Cayman comes with a 5.2 cubic feet frunk. It's large enough to swallow up a 24-inch suitcase.

With the engine located in behind the driver and in front of the rear axle, the Cayman comes with a 5.2 cubic feet frunk. It's large enough to swallow up a 24-inch suitcase.

Lift up the rear hatch and you'll find a 9.7 cubic feet rear cargo area. More than enough room to fit a week's worth of groceries.

Lift up the rear hatch and you'll find a 9.7 cubic feet rear cargo area. More than enough room to fit a week's worth of groceries.

The Verdict.

The Verdict.

The Porsche 718 Cayman S is ready for the big time. It's also time to end the misconception that the Cayman driver is someone who is either not man enough or wealthy enough for a 911.

It's much more than the hardtop counterpart to its more famous convertible sibling and is certainly a vastly different experience than the rear-engined 911.

In the Cayman, you'll find all of the technology and engineering know-how gleaned for decades of developing the 911 in a balanced mid-engined design.

As a result, you get a beautifully engineered sports car with a lightning quick steering, telepathic handling, and a comfortable ride. With the Cayman's engine located low and in center of the car, you could actually feel it turning along a central axis as you progress through a corner. It's a sensation I've felt before in cars like the Mazda MX-5, but never in a car with this much power.

Speaking of power, the new turbo engines are terrific. With forced induction, the potential for more powerful versions of the Cayman is virtually limitless. In our test car, power delivery proved to be potent and reliable.

The 2.5-liter motor did exhibit a little turbo lag, especially at low revs, but it's something that's easily overcome by downshifting and a generous dab of throttle.

However, it's not perfect. I've said this before and I'll say it again. The new engines sound like a Subaru WRX. That's great if bought a Subaru WRX. It's less of a good time when you've just spent $94k on a brand new Porsche.

Then there's the matter of fuel economy. You would think that a smaller engine with fewer cylinder would mean better fuel economy. But that's not what happened. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the four-cylinder Cayman S does one MPG worse on the highway than the outgoing model.

But I'm just nitpicking here. The reality is that the Porsche 718 Cayman S is an amazing car.

The Cayman that we experienced felt special. It felt pure and adulterated. It was just fun.

At $94,000, the Porsche 718 Cayman S is certainly pricey. But excellence is never cheap.

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