New Toyota GR Supra vs Porsche 718 Cayman
If power corrupts, having less of it isn’t a bad thing, right? To find out, we're pitting the new four-cylinder Toyota Supra against its main sports car rival from Porsche...
NEW Toyota GR Supra 2.0 Pro
List price £45,995
Target Price £45,325
Toyota’s traditional sports car impresses in six-cylinder form, and this new, smaller-engined version will cost much less to buy and run
Porsche 718 Cayman 2.0 PDK
List price £48,150
Target Price £48,150
Cheapest Cayman is one of the very best sports cars from a handling point of view, but its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine has its problems
The word ‘Supra’ means ‘transcending’: to go above and beyond. That’s a neat way of introducing this test; after all, it involves a Toyota GR Supra, and we want to know if it’s above and beyond our favourite sports car, the Porsche 718 Cayman. But before we address that little conundrum, we need to qualify something first.
Our favourite Cayman is the GTS model. It comes with a fabulous 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine that plays a tune which, to sports car fans, is like Plácido Domingo belting out Nessun Dorma straight into the soul.
We’re not testing that one, though. Nope, what we have here is the entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged flat four model, which, by comparison, some might say sounds like a bunch of inebriated home fans at Wembley chanting “Come on England”.
There’s a Supra with a sumptuous-sounding 3.0-litre six-cylinder motor, too. And no, we haven’t got that one here, either; our attention is focused on the new, cheaper, entry-level Supra instead. And guess what? It, too, has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.
While these two lose some tonal beauty, they’re still fast, rear-wheel-drive sports cars with list prices that start on the right side of £50,000. Loosely speaking, then, we’re about to embark on a celebration of democratised fun.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Let’s address the soundtracks first. The 2.0-litre Cayman doesn’t sound great if you compare it with the Cayman GTS, but, whether time has been the healer or Porsche has been fettling (or both, perhaps), it’s sounding less offensive than it once did. Hard-edged, yes. Aggressive. Even a little rough at points in the rev range. But, worked hard, it sounds interesting and highly tuned, which it is; 296bhp is a lot of power from 2.0 litres.
It’s also a lot more than the 254bhp the Supra produces, and this in-line four-cylinder motor doesn’t sound as full-voiced as its six-cylinder stablemate, either. There’s a purposeful parp when you ‘give it some’, though, and it’s smoother and quieter overall than the Cayman’s engine. In fact, the Supra is quieter in every respect. Inside, there’s far less wind noise than there is in the Cayman. Less road noise, too, although its tyres still generate a bit of a rumble.
Sadly, the Supra’s brakes are disappointing. They stop you quickly, as do the Cayman’s, but while the latter’s brake pedal is firm and progressive, the Supra’s pedal sinks about 2cm with next to no pressure applied. At that point you’ve already summoned a fair degree of braking effort, making the Supra a difficult car to drive smoothly, especially in traffic.
‘Overly sensitive’ describes its steering, too. It’s mega-quick and relatively light, so you dart into turns with unexpected vigour and inevitably find yourself making corrections because of that. This flightiness isn’t helped by the Supra’s keenness to follow any cambers and grooves that happen to be worn into the road.
That doesn’t happen in the Cayman. It’s lithe and sporty but so natural, with steering weighting and reactions that are perfectly judged. As a result, you can pick your line and carve it out gracefully, in the manner of an expert downhill skier.
The Cayman’s conventional suspension is firmer than the Supra’s standard adjustable suspension (switched to its softer setting) but totally acceptable to live with. The difference isn’t night and day; it’s just that the Supra is slightly more forgiving over bigger potholes and ridges.
As you gather speed on a bumpy country road, though, something extraordinary happens: the Cayman, despite its firmer setup, finds something akin to double-jointedness. It has an uncanny ability to absorb mid-corner disturbances and is utterly stable and surefooted, with tremendous grip to boot. Once again, you’re not thinking about how to drive it but naturally drift into a rhythm. That’s the hallmark of a truly great sports car.
Getting yourself in the zone is harder in the Supra. Yes, it’s softer when you hit an imperfection, but it’s less quick to settle, even if you pop the suspension into Sport mode. It almost hops off crests and feels less planted at the rear because of it – more inclined to slide, especially if you’re accelerating at the time. That said, it’s easier to catch a slide than it is in the slightly spikier Cayman.
There’s an appeal to the Supra’s lower, more approachable limits that keeps you entertained at lower speeds, but be in no doubt: the Cayman is more capable and offers a transparency and purity that few cars can match.
Speaking of speed, the Supra’s engine delivers more oomph at lower revs, while the Cayman’s is a bit limp until 2500-3000rpm. But once it has breached that barrier, it pulls much harder, the engine spinning really enthusiastically to maximum revs at a peaky 7500rpm. The Supra calls for an upshift at a less heady 6500rpm.
The Cayman gets off the line more predictably and, on a damp and only just thawing track, set a blistering 0-60mph time of 4.6sec. The Supra is much more prone to spinning its wheels, but after a few attempts it eventually hit 60mph in a highly respectable 5.2sec.
Part of the Cayman’s advantage comes from its PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s just so immediate when you call for a gear, up or down. The Supra’s regular automatic ’box is impressive enough but doesn’t ping from one gear to another with quite the same rapidity.
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