The racing-inspired Porsche Boxster GTS serves as the pinnacle variant within the company’s mid-engined roadster range.
It sure wears an evocative nameplate – the Gran Turismo Sport moniker harking to the likes of the 904 Carrera GTS of the 1960s. But a grand tourer in the traditional sense this is not. Quite the contrary…
Revealed in March last year and available in Australia for a number of months now, the boss Boxster gets more power, specific chassis and suspension tuning and some cabin upgrades.
It’s the fastest and most powerful Boxster you can buy, and we’ve finally had a test drive.
Priced at $151,790 plus on-road costs when fitted with Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch automatic (as tested here), the open-topped hero thereby comes in at $17,900 more than the PDK Boxster S and $44,000 more than the entry self-shifting ‘regular’ Boxster.
Now, before we so much as turn the car-shaped key fob — no keyless starter button here, and that’s the way Porsche likes it — we have to pose a few questions.
First, given the pure brilliance of the regular Boxster and the Boxster S, is the GTS worth the up-spend? And, at the other end of the spectrum, could this car make you think twice about shelling out an extra $83,500 on a 911 Carrera cabriolet?
Probably not the latter, given 911 buyers as often as not just have to have the prototypical Porsche, but the former is food for thought. The question certainly isn’t about whether the GTS is any good — it’s a hot Porsche, and quite bluntly that almost goes without saying.
Let’s delve a little further into what makes a Boxster GTS a Boxster GTS.
First, the engine. The familiar 3.4-litre naturally aspirated flat six has been tuned to produce an extra 11kW of power (now 243kW at 6700rpm) and 10Nm of torque (370Nm between 4500 and 5800rpm) over the the Boxster S.
This engine, mounted amidships, was in our test car paired to the company’s Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) seven-speed double-clutch transmission, which costs $6290 over the manual gearbox fitted otherwise and adds 30kg.
Fitted as standard to the GTS is Porsche’s Sport Chrono Package, which would set you back $3890 extra on the Boxster S.
This brings to the table dynamic transmission and engine mounts, which stiffen automatically under acceleration, cornering or braking to reduce effects from the transfer of mass.
It also includes a Sport Plus mode that adds yet more edge to the throttle response, adds resistance to the electric-assisted steering and includes a Launch Control function for lightning getaways. The 0-100km/h sprint time is 4.7 seconds, 0.3s faster than a standard Boxster S with the PDK.
It also puts the PDK into a pseudo-race mode and gives the exhaust note a savage bark with a properly nasty — good nasty, not bad nasty — crackle and burble on the overrun, and adds a classy digital/analogue lap-time stopwatch.
You also get Active Suspension Management (PASM), which on a Boxster S would cost $2710. This electronically variable active damping system gives you the ability to stiffen the dampers and lower the ride height by up to 10mm.
Already, with the Sport Chrono and the PASM, we’ve accounted for $6600 of the GTS’s $17,900 premium over the Boxster S. And that isn’t factoring in the illusory and intangible appeal of the GTS moniker.
But the GTS also brings to the table 20-inch black-finish Carrera S alloy wheels shod with 235/35 rubber at the front and wider 265/35 tyres at the rear, a unique front spoiler, and black-finish Bi-Xenon headlights with standard Porsche Dynamic Light System (adding auto-levelling, speed-sensitivity and dynamic cornering) — a $1350 option on Boxster S.
Finishing the package is the copious use of Alcantara in the cabin, notably on the steering wheels and door inlays. The dollar discrepancy doesn’t quite add up then, but for some, only the top-of-the-line will do…
The cabin, like all Porsche sportscar interiors, sets the benchmark for quality and tactility. Everything is put together with precision to rival a Swiss watchmaker, even if the design plays it rather safe.
The bucket seats hold on tight, the gorgeous chunky steel, leather and suede wheel is mercifully free of buttons and dials (though shows what driving mode you’re in on a small screen embedded in the spoke), and the driving position adjustment is perfect. You can add the buttons for $350 extra.
Furthermore, the Alcantara touches add an upmarket feel. But there’s nothing ostentatious or boy-racer here, mercifully.
Want to spice it up? Porsche will sting you a rather steep $7490 to add the GTS Communication Package, which gives you seams and seatbelt edges in a contrasting colour, a GTS logo stitched to the headrest in contrasting colour, floor mats with a black surround and with the seams and Porsche logo in contrasting colours. The trim on the switch panel, door panel and centre console is also finished in carbonfibre.
The seven-inch touchscreen with integrated reversing camera is generally intuitive to grasp and glitch-free, though the screen itself is mounted a little low for some. Some menus are a little more than a piece of (Black Forest) cake to operate, too.
We loved the instruments ahead of the driver more, particularly the digital screen situated within the right-hand circular dial that can be adjusted to display all manner of functions, including navigation.
The lack of cabin storage, notably the flimsy pop-out cupholders ahead of the driver and the small flip out cubbies in the doors, take away from the regular ease of commuting, and the gearstick obscures some of the lower-mounted buttons.
Small gripes you might say, but gripes nonetheless. On a muggy Melbourne night, the vents atop the dash were also widely surrounded after a time by condensation from the air-conditioning, which we’d cranked to maximum cool. Not necessarily a bad thing…
Cabin storage isn’t a highlight, but then again the placement of the engine does make this car more practical for a weekend getaway than a Jaguar F-Type, given it has 150 litres of storage in the front (under the bonnet in a deep recess) and 130L in the rear.
And if the rain suddenly erupts out of the blue — typical bloody Melbourne — you can close to canvas roof via button at speeds of 60km/h, from go to whoa in fewer than 10 seconds. That’s quick.
It’s also quick everywhere else.
Around town, the flat-six with its burbling note — great in Sport and over the top in Sport Plus given the propensity to hold lower gears for longer — has a kind of ominous promise, but is quite content pottering about should you want to.
Plant the right foot, though, and you’re greeted by a kind of metallic shriek to accompany the linear and instantaneous delivery power as it hunts for its redline. Lift off and angry crackles and pops burst from the pipes, a sound in Sport Plus that will spook passersby.
It’s not about raw speed or the thump in the back of a supercar, the GTS, rather its about driver involvement and a kind of clinical and yet somehow also visceral, interaction of man and machine. The sound of the engine and the delivery of its power is emblematic of this.
Throw it at some corners and neither it, nor you, will break a proverbial bead of sweat, though it’s anything but sanitised.
Rather, the electric-assisted steering points the nose exactly where you want it to go, the chassis balance and weight distribution give it supreme composure mid-corner, and its damping keeps it flat and poised for whatever comes next.
You’ve got to push hard to get the rear end to step out, and off what feel like the rails on the road made just for the Porsche.
Sport mode is great, Sport Plus positively vicious in its application of the PDK, which hunts and finds the perfect ratio with clinical effectiveness, changing down with rifle-bolt speed at just the moment to maximise your exit speed and slamming through the gears as you build momentum in order to do it all again. We scarcely touched the paddles.
A manual gearbox may be more involving (I'd have a manual if I could), but the PDK is as efficient and as clever as autos get.
The adjustable dampers naturally make things firmer as you progress to a sportier setting, though you’re hard-pressed to make it crash over corrugations, and little throws it off line. Testament here also goes to the body stiffness, given even the hardest ride didn’t yield any wobbliness. The racier tyres do add a little noise, with regular freeway commutes likely to be better spent in the 'regular' Boxster, we suspect.
The question of whether the GTS is worth the extra money is a tough one, though given the additions you could justify it over a Boxster S with options. Whether you actually need the GTS over the S, unless you want it for track time, is debatable.
But it’s nice to know that the GTS doesn’t really lose much of that car’s famous liveability at the expense of its even sharper dynamics and punchier engine. And make no mistake, there are precious few cars that can touch it in the latter department.
Performance cars rarely offer such involvement alongside such raw ability as the Porsche Boxster GTS. It’s not a price-leader like the regular car, but in its own way it remains just about perfect.