New Porsche 718 Cayman S vs BMW M2 vs Jaguar F-Type
Is the turbocharged Cayman S the best sports car you can buy, or would you have more fun in a BMW M2 or Jaguar F-Type?...
BMW M2 3.0 manual
List price £45,750
Target Price £43,124
BMW's smallest and cheapest M car packs 365bhp and undercuts its rivals on price by a big margin
Jaguar F-Type Coupé 3.0 V6 340 auto
List price £51,705
Target Price £49,571
The entry-level F-Type Coupé is more of a grand tourer than a hardcore sports car
Porsche 718 Cayman 2.5 S manual
OTR price £49,689
Target Price £49,689
Facelifted Cayman gets a new turbocharged engine. Is it still one of the world's finest driver's cars?
Imagine separating Jimi Hendrix from his Fender and giving him a ukulele to pluck at instead. Or asking Chris Froome to enter next year’s Tour de France on a Raleigh Chopper. It might sound melodramatic, but to some sports car fans that’s the level of sacrilege Porsche has gone to by robbing the Cayman of its glorious flat-six engine and replacing it with a smaller, four-cylinder turbo.
The reasoning is worthy: cutting CO2 emissions and improving fuel economy. Is the sort of engine you’d usually expect to find in a Golf GTI really fit for a £45k sports car, though?
To find out if four cylinders can really be a match for six, we’ve lined up two formidable rivals: the cheaper, yet more powerful, BMW M2 and the pricier, but arguably more exotic, Jaguar F-Type Coupé. A large proportion of Cayman and M2 buyers choose a manual gearbox whereas the majority of F-Type customers pick an auto, so that’s what we’ve done here.
What are they like to drive?
More cylinders don’t always mean more power and the new Cayman is proof of that. Its 2.5-litre turbo engine pumps out 10bhp more than the F-Type’s V6 can muster, and when you consider that the F-Type also weighs more, it doesn’t take an expert to guess which car is faster. The Cayman is a little sluggish away from the line, but once rolling it convincingly pulls away from its British rival.
The M2 packs the biggest punch, though, and launches off the mark most effectively, pipping the Cayman to 60mph. Both German cars build speed in an eye-widening manner above 30mph and, unless you’re careful, will quickly put you in licence-losing territory.
The thing is, sports cars are about more than how rabidly they rocket you up to speed. How they sound and make you feel are equally vital, and on these fronts the Cayman disappoints. The glorious howl of the old model’s flat-six has been replaced by a monotonous drone. There’s also a coarseness to the engine at low revs. Adding the (£1328) sports exhaust is a bit like turning up the volume when a song comes on the radio you don’t like; we’d save our money.
It’s worth finding an extra £360 for the F-Type’s switchable exhaust, though. The engine sounds fairly fruity without this option, but with it the exhausts spit and pop even when you’re just pootling around town. Put your foot down and there’s an almighty roar. The M2 can’t quite match the F-Type for aural delights, but it comes close. Its engine sounds suitably meaty at low revs and wails away loudly as the revs rise.
'Both German cars build speed in an eye-widening manner above 30mph'
However, come to some corners and the Cayman stands out; the fact it’s the lightest helps. The way it changes direction is jaw-dropping, and the light but wonderfully precise steering lets you enjoy the experience. BMW deserves credit for transforming what’s effectively a 1 Series hatchback into a fine handling sports car, although the M2’s higher centre of gravity counts against it during quick direction changes and its steering doesn’t send as much feedback to your fingers as the Cayman’s.
In this company, the F-Type feels more like a boulevard cruiser than a focused sports car. It rolls the most through corners and has the least grip. That would be easier to forgive if the pay-off was a cushy ride, but the F-Type is the least comfy. The Cayman rides bumps best, although our test car had optional 20mm lowered adaptive suspension.