Building sport cars in a world of strict regulations and an ever angrier war on speed is no easy task. Downsizing, particulate filters, turbochargers and more, mean the purity of drivers cars has been diluted. As time passes, cars have become more homogenous and drained of feel and feedback.
In 2016 I was one of the first people in the world outside of Porsche to drive the 718 Cayman. The car was great, it felt fantastic but it was different. The previous generation 981 model featured a naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine that burbled and bristled with its own personality that I felt had been lost. I relayed this feedback to the Porsche staff when asked for my thoughts.
Back to 2020 and I am rubbing my hands with glee speaking with the very same Porsche employees stood in front of a Cayman and Boxster. The reason for my smirk? The 6-cylinder is back, there’s not a turbo in sight and there is a manual gearbox to play with. They listened.
The engine is a good one, it has been borrowed from the GT4 and Spyder and is now nested in the middle of the Cayman & Boxster GTS 4.0 models. I had my suspicions this would happen, developing an engine specifically for the two aforementioned GT products would not have made financial sense, even if it is a reworked 992 engine.
What is the difference in this application? Well, not much, the hardware is the same but the wick has been turned down a tad. 395bhp is 20bhp less than the GT cars, the redline is also down to 7,800. The gearing is still long, but you will be rewarded for chasing the top of each gear with maximum torque (309lb ft) coming in between 5,000 and 6,500. Boxster & Cayman GTS 4.0 manage 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds on their way to a top speed of 293 km/h. These stats may not seem that potent, but the cars feel lively and a tad quicker than the numbers suggest.
They both sound good too, particulate filters still mute them somewhat, but the turbos have been banished and the addition of two cylinders is far more exciting to my ears.
I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal for my drive of the GTS 4.0 models. I haven’t been this excited for a drive since the Speedster event on my birthday back in May ’19. It felt like my birthday again when strapping into a Cayman GTS 4.0 on the Estoril Circuit. The four pot cars felt great on track, mid-engined Porsche models always do. But there is something different with a naturally aspirated engine, the response is razor sharp, a trait that even the best forced induction cars struggle to emulate. Out on track the long gearing is still in the back of my mind, you only really need to use second and third with a quick shift into fourth on long straight.
The shifts themselves are a joy, as is the steering, optional ceramic brakes and the monumental traction. Finding a rhythm is remarkably easy and my smile grows and grows. Everything is easy, friendly and well weighted. Too easy? Perhaps, though that is like complaining that chocolate tastes too good or that your partner is too good looking. The acceleration and speed are not ferocious, but it means you can push the limits of the car without needing huge speeds. The chassis never feels that it is being overwhelmed.
Being good on track is great, but the vast majority of owners will rarely track their GTS 4.0s, exploring and enjoying their favourite roads is far more likely to be a real world scenario. Porsche let me loose in the Boxster 4.0 to see if the GTS could be just as impressive on the public highways. The answer is a predictable yes.
With the roof down on familiar tarmac, the friendly balance and chassis mean that confidence levels are high. The car is always on your side. If you’re looking for drama and oversteer out of every corner, a BMW M2 Competition is a better option, but the GTS 4.0 wins in every other driving and handling department, the engine position is a defining factor of the driving experience. As standard the GTS models are equipped with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) sports suspension, a 20 millimetre lower ride height and Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) as standard. This minimises role and further sharpens handling and turn in. Sport Chrono is also standard. Despite having a reduced ride height, the GTS models are still not too harsh on the road but this is by no means a Panamera and the ride is ‘sporty’. A PDK gearbox will be offered in the near future…but opt for the manual, it is a peach.
The interior is simple, analogue and one of my favourites of any car. The 992 911 features a many more digital elements and I suspect the next generation of Caymans and Boxsters will be very similar. I feel that the paired back minimalism will be missed, by me at least. Black contrasting design elements and a dark Alcantara interior have become typical of Porsche’s GTS models. Porsche fit Sport Seats Plus and the optional GTS interior package adds another contrasting colour: either Carmine Red or Chalk.
It is difficult not to recommend either the Cayman or Boxster GTS 4.0 that anyone that is looking for a two seat sports car in this price range. Many dream of the GT4 or Spyder, but those are limited in production, more expensive and less usable this the GTS 4.0 options. If you want a sports car the you were not afraid of driving everyday without a second thought, but one that could also feel special and come alive on your favourite road the GTS 4.0 is the car to have. The step back to natural aspiration and 6-cylinders is to be celebrated and these GTS models are a fabulous way to do just that.
Photos by our friend, Rossen Gargalov