Porsche’s new 718 Cayman GTS makes huge emotional progress by going ‘backward’, replacing a turbo 2.5-litre with a screaming 4.0 flat six engine
Purists never quite came to terms with the turbocharged flat-four 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines introduced with the launch of the 718 Boxster /Cayman, especially after a thrilling run of naturally-aspirated flat six engines from the the first Boxster, the 986, right up to the 981 that preceded the 718. In fact, the 918 Boxster GTS remains one CarBuyer’s favourite modern Porsche with its screaming 3.5-litre flat six.
This meant that the first crop of 718 base, S, T and GTS models were served by the mundane-sounding, burbly turbo flat fours, with only the harder-edged Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder models animated by a bespoke naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat six, which gave the two models a cool top-dog status within the ranks of the 718.
However, Porsche has clearly been listening to its fans, because the GTS drops the 2.5-litre turbo from its mid-ship position and ‘drops in’ a lightly detuned version of the nat-asp 4.0-litre flat six found in its more sporty siblings.
With its gambit of mixed flat four and flat six engine offerings, Porsche now bridges the two groups of owners, with the first served by the base, S and T models, and the GTS and GT4/Spyder pandering to die-hards who appreciate and are more familiar with the ‘correctness’ of a non-turbo flat six in a Porsche.
You can’t understate the emotional element playing a large role in the brand’s appeal, and it doesn’t get more emotional than wringing a flat six to its redline.
A stirring soundtrack can make or break a movie, and it’s the same for sports cars because it can elevate ‘hot’ to truly heroic. Under the Porsche umbrella, the GTS (for Gran Turismo Sport) models are a sweet-spot for those in search of a compliant daily-drive steed that also acquits itself well for fast-road use and occasional track foray.
Apart from the tweaks to handling and engine performance, the GTS models are also packaged with all the sporty trim and equipment bells and whistles that the driving enthusiast will appreciate.
The Cayman GTS that was at our disposal for the laps around the Estoril circuit had snug 918 Spyder carbon fibre bucket seats and PCCB (Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes) brakes for stupendous braking prowess. Like before, the GTS 4.0 is also packaged with the Sport Chrono Package as standard, so this adds Porsche Torque Vectoring (and mechanical rear limited slip differential) and new to this iteration, the Track Precision App.
Like the other GTS models in Porsche’s line-up, the 718 Cayman GTS features ample carbon fibre and alcantara materials in the cabin, as well as racy contrast stitching and seat-belts for that motorsports ambience. From the outside, there’s the familiar darkened aesthetics to differentiate GTS from its lesser brethren, which span the model emblem to the smoked head-/tail-lights and body elements.
At present, the GTS is available with a six-speed manual, but dual-clutch automatic PDK variants are on the horizon. As standard, the GTS is 20mm lower than the S, but there’s the option of just 10mm lower for owners who don’t want something too low. Don’t forget, the GTS isn’t a top-shelf Porsche Motorsports model like the GT4/Spyder, but a regular model that happens to be the happy recipient of a heart transplant.
Compared to the 8,000rpm revving GT4/Spyder, the 4.0-litre in the GTS has been detuned and sees ‘just’ a 7,800rpm redline. The rev-happy nat-asp engine’s personality is more urgent and frenetic than the turbocharged 2.5-litre flat four, which delivers stupendous shove in the mid-range (420Nm between 1900-5500rpm versus the 4.0’s 420Nm between 5000-6500rpm).
Despite the tuning and eco-measures, the GTS 4.0 is rated at 10.8L/100km and 246g/km (versus the 2.5-litre’s 9.2l/100km and 210g/km), but sportscar purchases are more emotional than rational, so we scarcely think such figures will make-or-break a purchase like this.
The turbo torque of the 2.5-litre GTS is great for real-world use and lends the car a point-and-squirt feel, but on the track, harder drivers felt it gave up its intimate secrets too easily. The GTS 4.0’s intensely manoeuvrable chassis is now rightly paired to an intensely vocal, rev-happy engine that needs committed coaxing and cajoling from the slick-shifting manual before it’ll share its sweet delights, and that’s part of the thrill of this chase in the race against the clock.
On the limit, the Cayman GTS 4.0 is a real live-wire that lets itself be driven sensibly… or sideways, depending on how naughty your right foot is feeling. Like all Porsches, there’s great communication through seat-of-pants and steering that lets you know where the grip of the 20-inch rubber is at, so you can instinctively apply corrective measures before things get out of hand.
Its winning combination of tidy 1.4-tonne kerbweight and sweetly-balanced chassis results in an engaging drive that provides an invigorating blood rush of euphoria, yet is never too taxing that it’ll fall into hardcore crossfit territory, and this is exactly the sweet spot the GTS 4.0 is designed to operate in.
For sports car drivers that have only enjoyed modern turbo experience so far, the new Cayman GTS with its thrilling analog Porsche driving experience is something to aspire to.
Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
|Engine||3,995cc, flat 6|
|Power||400hp at 7000rpm|
|Torque||420Nm at 1900-5500rpm|