For most car enthusiasts, the Porsche Cayman is the high-water mark for sweet driving sports cars. With its mid-engine balance, razor sharp steering and chassis dynamics that could actually be the benchmark for the entire industry, the Cayman is one of the very best sports cars in the world. It’s nearly untouchable in the segment. However, chinks in its armor are starting to form, as the new 718 Cayman swaps its glorious flat-six for a less charismatic turbo-four. So with the Cayman losing some of its DNA, could it fall victim to a young and promising newcomer like the Audi TT RS? Car and Driver finds out.
The Audi TT RS may not seem like much, especially because it comes from such humble roots (its chassis is the same one that underpins the VW Golf). But underneath that typical TT bodywork is a seriously capable sports car, one that’s thrilling and fun. Its 2.5 liter turbocharged five-pot makes 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, while making the most brilliant noise. That engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive. When launched properly, it can get from 0-60 mph in a scant 3.2 seconds (as per C&D). That’s seriously quick.
On the other hand, the Porsche 718 Cayman S uses a 2.5 liter turbocharged flat-four engine that makes 350 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. In this test, that little turbo-four is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch unit is optional) and powers only its rear wheels. That means it’s much slower to 60 mph, doing the sprint in 4.1 seconds. Its engine also doesn’t make the best of noises, although C&D became fans of it after many hours of use.
So how do these two incredibly capable sports cars compete on twisty mountain roads? Well, the Audi TT RS seriously makes a case for itself. Its steering is sharp, if a bit too numb, its engine is thrilling and its dynamic capability are impressive. Though, there are a bit too many drawbacks. That numb steering, while accurate, is too lifeless to indicate limits of grip, so it can feel a bit sketchy in bad weather. Also, its suspension is too stiff, making it far too uncomfortable for long stretches.
As for the Porsche, its steering is near perfect and its chassis balance is perfect. While its rear-wheel drive/manual layout hinder it in the 0-60 mph sprint, they both aid it in driver engagement. It’s not only the more fun car to drive but its manual gearbox gets you more involved in the process, even if its gearing is simultaneously too tall (low gears) and too short (high gears). But it’s undoubtedly the more fun car of the two to drive and it’s the one enthusiasts will want on a canyon road.
However, Audi is closer than ever. This new TT RS is fast, fun, good looking and impressively capable. It also has a superb cabin and is much quieter on the inside than the Cayman. So the Audi TT RS earns the right to hang with the Porsche, even if it can’t beat it. And that’s about good enough for us.