Porsche transposes the 'T' formula it last used on the '991' 911 Carrera over to the 2.0-litre examples of the 718 Boxster and Cayman. The resulting models are so good that you might wonder why you'd look at any other type of 718, if road-going prowess is your priority.
In the Metal:
Take the familiar shape and interior of a Porsche 718 Cayman and treat it to some subtle visual upgrades, such as side decals, different boot badging, Agate Grey door mirror caps, the 20-inch Carrera S alloys and a GT Sports steering wheel clad in Alcantara, plus the marque's Sport-Tex cloth upholstery, fabric loops for the door pulls and 'T'-bespoke motifs dotted around and about the cabin. Then throw in a few more updates, like the physically shorter gear lever, which results in a tighter throw action and which is emblazoned with red numerals, plus the possibility of specifying an option pack that will finish the door pulls, the '718' logos embroidered on the head restraints and all the contrast stitching in a nice, bright colour, like Racing Yellow. Incidentally, the exterior also comes in some pleasingly eye-catching hues, such as Guards Red, Lava Orange, Racing Yellow and - our own personal favourite - Miami Blue; fear not, more sedate 718 T buyers, a selection of blacks, whites and silvers are also offered.
So, is that it, then? The 718 Cayman T is just a 718 Cayman with some styling gewgaws? Ah, no. The list goes on when it comes to mechanicals. Like the aforementioned 991 Carrera T, this is a slightly stripped out, slightly more driver-focused version of what is already a very capable sports coupe. Now, on the 991, there was the option of removing the rear seats, which of course is not possible in the two-seat-only Cayman. But, like its bigger, flat-six brother, the 718 Cayman T can be specified without the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment, meaning no satnav and no stereo. The T also gains Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a mechanical differential lock on the driven rear axle, as well as the Sport Chrono Package, Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts (PADM) to keep the engine and gearbox from moving around too much, a Sports exhaust system and the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) two-stage adjustable dampers with a 20mm lower chassis. It's this last feature where the 718 Cayman T really earns its spurs, because you can't even specify the lowered underpinnings as a cost option on the 718 Cayman - while the rest of the bundle of upgrades would cost you more than the price walk Porsche is expected to ask for the T, over and above a 'regular' Cayman.
Oh, and a final note: the PCM can be specified back into the car, at no extra cost, so you don't have to put up with the double-shelving unit in the centre console.
The 718 Cayman T is to the standard 718 Cayman what the 718 Cayman GTS is to the 718 Cayman S. Which is to say, the 718 Cayman T might very well be the best road-going Cayman with a four-cylinder engine yet. It really is THAT good.
Yes, you can spec the PCM back in and have electric seats and cruise control and a seven-speed PDK gearbox and all that malarkey, but we drove a pared-back, manual, Guards Red 718 Cayman T - complete with centre shelves and do-it-yourself chairs and no cruise control - and we adored it. Honestly, it's hard to know why you'd want more from a car, for fast-road use at any rate, than this. Sure, the main drawback of the T is the same one that has afflicted all 718s, be they the 2.0-litre, 300hp models or the 2.5-litre, 350hp variants, and that's the soundtrack. It's not mesmeric. It's fine, in its own way, and there are times where you're stretching the 718 Cayman T out to 7,500rpm where you don't even think about its boxer-four burble at all (heck, you might even admire the noise it's making in these instances...), but for anyone that has even briefly sampled the old 'pre-718' Caymans, with their naturally aspirated flat-sixes, it will sound anodyne and buzzy and like it is lacking a certain sparkle.
Other than that, though, this thing is magnificent. Certainly, for all its aural deficiencies, the 2.0-litre engine remains ridiculously lusty in a car that weighs 1,350kg. Wring the Porsche's neck through the first three or four gears in the sweet manual gearbox and you'll be going at speeds that are mightily frowned upon on public roads. The torque-rich delivery and long gearing does mean that it is sometimes possible to keep the 718 T in, say, third and demolish a twisting road without touching the clutch pedal, but in truth it's hard to argue with the sheer, rabid urgency the T can summon up from pretty much anywhere on the rev counter.
Hard, also, to fault the beautiful steering, which feeds back crystal-clear messages to its driver through that tactile Alcantara wheel, or the rock-solid body control the 20mm-lower T has on its PASM chassis - this thing corners as flat as flat can be for a road car, holding its composure even when you hurl it into bends at high speed. The PTV is also a real boon, as you can feel it working its magic in higher-speed bends - get on the power when you think you've got the 718 Cayman T completely loaded up on its outside tyres and it will push torque out to the relevant rear wheel, tightening its cornering line as it goes. The brakes are faultless, the gearbox a gem, the levels of day-to-day usability are good enough that you can do without a stereo system and a map screen glowing in your face to get the absolute best from the 718 Cayman T. It is, as you would expect of a more honed, more focused Porsche (even if it is only marginally improved over the base material) absolutely sublime.
What you get for your Money:
Porsche hasn't confirmed the prices of the Boxster T and Cayman T models in Ireland, but they have to fit in between the regular 718s and the S variants that sit a little further up the tree. We're expecting the 718 Cayman T to come in at around €84,000, which should be usefully less than even a base-spec 718 Cayman S. Not cheap, sure, but when you're getting a sports car of this quality for such cash, we reckon it actually seems to be something of a bargain.
With no extra power, no real weight losses and an inflated price tag, it would be easy to criticise the new Porsche 718 Cayman T as an evolutionary dead-end in the four-cylinder sports car's line-up. It's also clear to see that it is engineered to snuggle its way into a very small gap, between regular 718 and the 718 S, in the manufacturer's showroom. But to overlook the Cayman T on these prejudices would be cutting off your own nose to spite your face - because this is a mid-engined masterpiece, with exquisite balance, a thumping drivetrain and handling from the highest echelons. It could only be better with a flat-six engine in its midriff, but as that's dreaming an impossible dream, we're happy to say that - unless you go on track on a regular basis - this is the best 718 Cayman of the lot, so far. And that is quite some accolade.