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Head to head: Porsche Cayman 2.7 Coupe vs. Toyota GT86 TRD

Porsche Cayman Coupe

Porsche Cayman Coupe

 

On the face of it, the Porsche Cayman Coupe and Toyota GT86 are worlds apart - the Porsche rolls in at £39,695 on the road whilst the most expensive Toyota GT86 costs just £31,495. Yet, both cars are coupes, and both have been meticulously designed to offer the ultimate driving experience. The question, of course, is whether the Porsche can justify its higher price tag?

As if to claim its crown almost instantly, on paper, the Porsche smashes the GT86 in every way. It has a 2.7-litre engine versus the GT86's 2.0-litre engine, it will go from 0 - 62 mph in 5.7 seconds versus the GT86's 7.6 seconds, it has 271 bhp and 214 lb /ft of torque versus the GT86's 197 bhp and 151 lb /ft of torque, and the Cayman will top out a whole 25 mph higher than the GT86 at 165 mph.

Out on the road, both cars fire up with immediacy. Toyota has done a great job with producing a nice engine note at idle with the GT86, but the Cayman has more purpose, burbling away as you'd expect a Porsche to. Blip the throttle and both cars growl as if to assert their road pedigree. Launch either car at 4000 rpm and you're greeted with mild wheel spin on a damp road, and heavy wheel spin with the traction control turned off on a wet road. Smash the cars in to second and you immediately feel the extra pull of the Cayman - it feels much faster than the 70 bhp advantage sounds. Make no mistake that in a straight line the Cayman even in 2.7-litre guise is a quick car. It's by no means a quarter mile behemoth, but it'll see off the majority of cars you come across on the roads.

Yet for all of its speed, and for the engines lovely noise, the Cayman is one of the least involving Porsches I've ever driven. Before you even start the engine you're completely secluded from the world, with the doors providing an extremely good level of noise isolation. I was pulled up on the hard shoulder of the motorway at one point, and I could barely hear the cars passing by. This refinement is great for an executive saloon - but the Cayman is not that. It's supposed to be a harder, faster Boxster, and a bridge before Porsche lovers get the 911 they've always dreamed of.

On the move, this lack of involvement continues. It's hard to describe what's wrong with this car but I'll give it a go - you feel at all points of a journey, even with the traction control turned off, that there's two little men behind each rear tyre keeping you on the road.

To its credit, though, at least the Cayman handles well - near-perfect 46/54 front/rear weight distribution is fantastic and it wills you on to push harder and harder. The 271 bhp of the Cayman is easy to exploit and you can't help but rag the engine to its limits. What's more, the long gearing ensures that running costs stay admirable - we got 31 mpg on a combined run (we ragged it most of the time).

So, the Cayman - for around £40k you get a fast coupe that's a riot in the corners. With 271 bhp on tap the car sprints off the line like a Porsche should, but unless you're driving the car hard, it's in no way involving. The Cayman, to us, is the perfect car for anybody who seeks comfort, quality and refinement 80% of the time, and power and handling 20% of the time.

For drivers seeking the opposite, well...

Toyota GT86 TRD

Toyota GT86 TRD

 

When Toyota announced the GT86, the motoring press went wild. For too long UK motorists have had little option other than a front wheel drive hot hatch to put 200 bhp down on the road at a reasonable price. When the GT86 was launched and reviewers got their mitts on one, well, let's just say it became one of the hottest cars of 2012.

Other than the Mazda MX-5, which is an underpowered yet fine handling machine, nothing really comes close to what the GT86 offers. You can pick them up second hand now for a good price, making them the ideal 'drivers car' for bargain hunting motorists.

For sure, the Cayman is faster than the GT86 in a straight line, and it's probably faster in the corners too, but the Toyota is by far and away more fun to drive. The latest version which I've been testing, the TRD, commands a £6,500 premium over the regular model. This is a limited edition version and the changes include a new sports exhaust system with quad tail-pipes and, perhaps more importantly, bigger and wider 18-inch alloy wheels with sticky Yokohama Advan rubber. What does this mean?

The base GT86 has skinny tyres, a low center of gravity, and rear wheel drive. This makes it an incredibly fun tail-happy coupe that's more show than go. With fatter tyres the TRD GT86 grips hard in to corners and it'll only lose its back end if you want it to. It is, therefore, a much better-rounded car.

Out on the road, this is obvious from the start. The TRD has the same 0 - 62 mph time as the base car at 7.6 seconds but in the damp and on wet roads it grips harder, making it the 'better weathered' machine. The standard tyres on the base GT86 are actually the same - albeit larger versions - as on the Toyota Prius. They are, naturally, not performance orientated, and this was one of the gripes many reviewers had with the original. The TRD has addressed that concern. The car features the same six-speed manual gearbox as before which is pleasant to use - the gear ratios are shorter than on the Cayman and it's therefore, surprisingly, less frustrating in traffic.

As noted, the 2.7-litre unit is faster than the GT86's flat-four boxer engine, but both are pleasant to drive at the limit. The GT86 is actually surprisingly spritely in a straight line and so long as you're above 4,000 rpm, it'll whisk you along at respectable pace. It is in fact very close to the outgoing naturally aspirated Renault Clio 200, but with rear wheel drive, and a much more desirable form.

So, the GT86 - it's faster than you might think, the new 18-inch rubber has changed the characteristics of the car for the better, and it's very reasonably priced. It does not offer the comfort, outright speed or refinement of the Cayman, but for what it's worth, that's what we like about the Toyota. It knows what it wants to be and Toyota haven't attempted to appeal to the business crowd.

The 2.7 Cayman Coupe is the best version of the car, and the TRD GT86 is the best version of the car. Both these models boast serious driver appeal yet ultimately, we recommend the GT86 above the Cayman if you're after a great looking bargain of a car. However, we also recommend you test both because when it comes down to it, the Cayman is going to have better residuals and it's got the more desirable badge. Are they worth an extra £8k+ though? As Dacia likes to say, you do the math.

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