The Porsche Cayman GTS further helps change a common perception in the sports car world: that the all-conquering 911 has no rivals. Irony is that it’s from within Stuttgart’s own walls the strongest contenders to the ultimate sports car throne lies.
Added as a new flagship over the regular S version of the 981 generation, the Porsche Cayman GTS (and its soft-top Boxster near-twin) gets more power, kit and panache in what’s easily the best value Porsche – and therefore arguably one of the best value performance cars, period.
The GTS name – which Porsche talks about with its 1963 904 GTS model, quite literally a racecar for the road of which only 105 were made – was resurrected back in 2010 when the 997-generation Porsche 911 was ending its life cycle. The GTS kit was a way of maintaining interested in the 997 before it was replaced in 2011 by the 991 model.
The formula was so successful that it applied to the Cayenne SUV, which quickly became the hottest-selling version in the SUV line-up, and subsequently spawned the Panamera GTS.
All of these were limited edition runs, where now, however, GTS is a full-time model line, here early in the Porsche Cayman and Boxster lifecycle.
Porsche says that owners of the Cayman and Boxster were looking for a little more. We’re not talking about the next, hardcore Cayman R here, but a sharpened, better-equipped version of the Boxster S and Cayman S. That means the larger 3.4-litre flat-six, but for the both GTS models, there’s an 11kW power-bump: that translates to 250kW for the Cayman GTS tested here (243kW for the Boxster GTS). The extra shove sees the Cayman GTS shave 0.3sec from the S model’s 0-100km/h claim, now 4.6 seconds, which is also a tenth faster than if you choose your compact GTS Porsche with a roof that lowers in nine seconds.
The power upgrade, and the front bumper, are all that’s actually unique to the GTS. The remainder of the GTS goodies are already options, yet add them to the Cayman S and you’ll be quickly beyond the GTS’s $161,400 – despite this being a sizeable $20K jump over the S. (Things get confusing in that you can now have a Boxster GTS for $5K more than a Cayman S, the former of which maintains a $15K price gap to this Cayman GTS.)
That gear, then, starts with the blacked-out front apron, black badges and smoked headlamps. There are swivelling bi-xenon headlamps, and the ride height has been dropped 10mm and sits on standard 20in alloys. Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) is responsible for the lower ride height, and comes with adaptive dampers offering Sport and Sport Plus modes. You can also delete these and, for no extra cost, choose the Sports chassis that has fixed dampers, but a firmer ride that’s 20mm lower than that of a regular Boxster S and Cayman S.
Inside, it’s a dream. Porsche’s fit and finish is exemplary: there are no gaps, mis-aligned materials or forgotten areas in the cabin, with supportive yet comfortable sports seats that, with that GTS-specific Alcantara-clad steering wheel and race pedals, set up a near-perfect driving position. Visibility is good – whether you’re in the hard-top Cayman or the fabric-roofed Boxster we briefly sampled late in the day.
There are other small clues that you’re in the Porsche Cayman GTS: the coloured fringes of the seat belts, for instance, and the GTS logo on the instrument cluster, but Porsche hasn’t gone all-out hot-hatch boy racer, thankfully.
Fire up the flat six of the Cayman GTS, and the bassy note will have you itching to take it down a winding road. It’s a tough, strong and meaty tune, and unmistakably Porsche. Then, as you dip the clutch and push the silver gear knob into first gear, you’ll start experiencing just how well weighted every touch-point is. Dab the throttle as you ease the clutch out and the GTS takes off smoothly, efficiently – almost serenely – proving that this is a car that doesn’t need to have it’s neck wrung to be satisfying.
Yet when you push it, the response is stunning: the manual is better bet than the optional swift-changing PDK if you’re after the highest level of involvement, but either way the 3.4-litre flat six-cylinder lusts after revs, pushing quickly to its 7800rpm redline with a superb metallic shriek. Lift off, and there’s a delicious pap and gurgle as the sound dribbles away, morphing back into previous, calm timbre – but it’s so addictive, you’ll want to do it again.
All the while, the Porsche Cayman GTS remains clinically composed. That doesn’t mean it’s numb, but instead is so easy to drive quickly. At maximum attack, you don’t have to hold on for your life, as it goes and stays exactly where you want it to, with no distractions from the direct, communicative electro-mechanical steering (once away from a dull centre patch). You won’t break a sweat as it sits flat, poised and ready to go, and even in the softest damper setting, it’s no soggy couch. In Sport Plus, where the dampers are at their stiffest, it dismisses bumps quickly with little crash-through so as to be perfectly livable around town. Go for the Sports chassis, and you’ll trade a little of that comfort – only a little, mind you – for a slightly more planted, firmer experience.
Switching quickly into the Boxster GTS revealed that this Cayman GTS is a little more composed on the limit. Of course, the Cayman also wins in terms of refinement, even if the Boxster is impressive for a soft-top. And while both are stable under brakes – with the odd skip over a bumpy surface when you’re braking wildly late – it’s the Cayman GTS that has the edge around corners in terms of roadholding and exit traction from the Pirelli tyres.
Indeed, the Porsche Cayman GTS is plain ridiculous, and it is able to push an inch further than its soft-top sibling before breaking away an inch earlier than the Boxster. Nerither are wieldly or unpredictable, though, and you have to push to make them slide their rear-ends around. That’s the joy of these cars.
To find a machine that performs better than the Cayman GTS is difficult … Ferrari 458 Italia kinda difficult. For its $160K ask, it’s impossible: nothing comes close. Porsche and bargain aren’t often uttered in the same breath, but just when one comes along, two appear. All hail the Porsche Cayman GTS.