First Drive: 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman

– Austin, Texas

The best Hill Country roads dig deeply into the terrain, the topographical features that name the place rising around you like seemingly engineered bulwarks of dry, loose soil. In the deepest trenches of ribboned asphalt, the sound from the Cayman’s exhaust rockets off hillsides, echoing a punchy, high-decibel riot behind me as I careen over the Texas expanse. The sound is loud and gets louder as I get braver with the throttle – and I was pretty brave to start.

People don’t seem to like the song of turbo-four engines, or boxer engines; nor do car people tend to love when a model that historically used a naturally aspirated unit moves to forced induction. There are some opinions along those lines amongst the writers in attendance at this launch of the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman, too. They can all hang, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s true that the noise coming from the twin center pipes of the Cayman S isn’t sweet – but it’s edgy. More importantly, it hints broadly at galloping power and torque available from the new, turbocharged, 2.5-liter flat-four engine behind my right ear. That’ll be 350 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque, or 25 hp and 72 lb-ft more than last year’s S. Porsche tells me that the variable turbine geometry of the Cayman S turbocharger has been derived from the 911 Turbo, which I appreciate, but not as much as the eye-watering pull of the coupe when I downshift from fourth to third gear, damn the torpedoes, and pass some dusty ranch truck lik...