Audi TT RS vs 718 Porsche Cayman S vs BMW M2

Time, then, for the neatly restyled Porsche and its impossibly crisp panel pressings, which must make manufacturing engineers everywhere flush with excitement. We talk so much in these pages about ‘feel’, about how a car flows down a road, and of control weights. And guess what? We’re about to go on about that touchy-feely stuff again.

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Drive the same section of road in the Cayman and the nervousness, the busyness of the M2 is immediately notable by its absence. That doesn’t make the Porsche dull, but it does have the effect of putting the driver immediately on the offensive.

“The Cayman’s disarming poise will make you grin wickedly while driving it”

No longer are you mopping up mini-dramas, rather you’re picking a line, adjusting it mid-corner, willing there to be more corners just so you can take them on. Push really hard over a bumpy stretch of road and the 718 finally starts to get busy controlling those 20-inch rims, but 90 per cent of the chassis’ efforts are expended into nothing more than background noise, and it never alters your chosen line. The steering is brilliant in its accuracy – more so than ever – and good in its communication, but it’s all about being sat deep within the wheelbase, centre of gravity on the deck. It’s this disarming poise that will make you grin wickedly while driving this car.

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What will make you grimace grotesquely is the engine. The kindest thing you can say about the new motor is that it makes the Cayman S a seriously fast car. The arrival of boost swells the torque in that recognisable variable-vane manner, making the Porsche feel even lighter than it already is. Driven in isolation its performance is certainly impressive, although it’s a shock to drive in convoy with a TT RS and be left gasping in a straight line. In such a situation it’s necessary to use all of the four-cylinder engine’s performance, and that means hanging on to gears, which is where the engine’s issues intensify. The 718’s gearing is long: it’ll pull an indicated 130km/h in second gear, and this exaggerates the surprising lethargy at low revs, because the engine does very little below 2500rpm.

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It also means a lot of time spent in the upper reaches of the rev range, and here this engine is belligerently harsh, uncomfortably loud and almost completely devoid of charm. Do you get used to it overtime? Maybe. It’s certainly different; it undeniably has character.

‘What’s going on here?’ says the road-test editor in bemusement after a stint in the 718. “There’s lots of performance and it’s very muscular through the mid-range, but I hate the soundtrack and there’s no drama or excitement in the delivery.” He’s right. After the beauty and unique qualities of the old naturally aspirated sixes, this should start a riot.

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