There’s not much to gripe about in Porsche’s sublimely balanced 718 Cayman and Boxster. Actually, there’s just one thing: those four-cylinder turbo engines serve up a healthy wallop, but they sound a bit insipid. The vocals doesn’t do justice to what is otherwise one of the finest driver’s cars south of Dh500k, and a Porsche that doesn’t fill your ears with a sweet exhaust note is like a burger that’s missing ketchup, mustard and those all-important pickles.
The folks at Zuffenhausen have obviously heard the call, because the 718 range has just been expanded via the tantalising new GTS 4.0 variants of the Cayman and Boxster. As that suffix suggests, the latest GTS duo ditches four-pot turbo power in favour of the barrel-chested 4.0-litre flat-six that we first sampled six months ago in the flagship Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder. The engine is detuned slightly for the GTS (shorthand for Gran Turismo Sport), but outputs of 394bhp at 7,000rpm and 420Nm at 5,000-6,500rpm are still decidedly healthy. A 0-100kph split of 4.5sec and v-max of 293kph are pretty sharp numbers too.
The newcomers land in our market from May onwards, with the Cayman GTS 4.0 starting at Dh321,200, and the Boxster GTS 4.0 kicking off at Dh333,500, which positions them comfortably below the hardcore Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder. Both models will be offered initially only in six-speed manual form, which is just fine by me but, for those allergic to a clutch pedal, a PDK paddle-shift transmission will also be available over the coming months.
The GTS 4.0’s chassis has been sharpened up to complement the brawny flat-six motor, with the upgrades including the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive damper system, two-stage adjustable Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and a mechanical limited-slip differential. The GTS 4.0 also sits 20mm lower than the standard 718 variants, while the wheelarches are nicely filled out by 20in rims shod with 235/35 ZR20 rubber at the front and chunky 265/25 ZR20 boots at the back.
Porsche execs say the GTS 4.0 was conceived to be better suited as an everyday car than the overtly track-focused Cayman GT4, and its suspension offers a lot more compliance than the latter away from the billiard-table surface of a racetrack. The GT4 and Boxster Spyder are brilliant within the confines of a circuit but point them at a stretch of lumpy tarmac and you’ll feel every road surface imperfection jarring through each of your vertebrae. By comparison, the GTS 4.0 models offer much more give in real-world conditions.
Our only taste of the Cayman GTS 4.0 was via a handful of laps at Portugal’s Circuit do Estoril (more on that shortly), but a subsequent road loop in its Boxster counterpart provided proof that this is indeed a car you could comfortably pedal every day. Neither your torso nor your eardrums will be pounded into submission, and the six-speed manual gearbox is a supremely user-friendly device. It’s a shame that three-pedal cars appear to be going the same way as the dinosaur, but that’s another story.
The 4.0-litre motor might only generate its peak torque quota of 420Nm from 5,000rpm onwards, but there’s enough grunt even at low revs to enable overtaking manoeuvres without needing to pluck a low gear. It’s a big-hearted engine but — just to be clear — this isn’t the same 4.0-litre unit that propels the 911 GT3. This powerplant is, in fact, a bored and stroked version of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo motor used by regular 911 models — but obviously minus the turbos. The engine’s naturally aspirated format means it revs cleanly to its lofty 7,800rpm redline, making some pleasing noises in the process.
The brief four-lap session at Estoril in the Cayman GTS 4.0 provided proof it’s a handy track car, even though it pitches, rolls and slides noticeably more than the superbly taut Cayman GT4, which also benefits from sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. Nevertheless, there’s still enough pace and grip to satisfy keen drivers, and the GTS had no problem keeping up with the instructor-driven 992-gen 911 Carrera S that was serving as our pace car around the 4.36km circuit. The Carrera S scooted away slightly on the straights, but the Cayman CTS 4.0 matched — or even eclipsed — its rear-engined brother under braking and through corners. In short, it strikes a nice balance as a daily-driveable car in which you can clock tidy lap times at track days.
The GTS models don’t outwardly scream their performance credentials like the bewinged Cayman GT4 does, but Porschephiles will doubtless pick up on the bespoke front and rear fascias, side skirts, blackened trim elements, darkened light clusters and black tailpipes. Just in case you missed all that, there’s also ‘GTS 4.0’ decals on the doors. To my eye, this is the right degree of visual fettling, as many prospective owners are likely to shy away from something that looks too boy-racerish.
The cabin is trimmed predominantly in Alcantara, which works well from a look/feel perspective, while that grippy aluminium-spoked steering is a delight to hold. There are optional fixed-back race seats on the menu, but the standard pews are more comfortable and offer greater adjustability. If it were my car, I’d stick with these. The GTS’s standard kit list includes Porsche Communication Management (PCM) with a high-resolution seven-inch touch display and the Sport Chrono package, and these goodies help justify the roughly Dh50k premium the GTS 4.0 models command over their lesser ‘S’ counterparts.
The doubters among you may point out that the Cayman/Boxster GTS 4.0 aren’t massively cheaper than an entry-level 911, but that would be missing the point. The venerable tail-gunner might be Zuffenhausen’s poster child, yet the Cayman and Boxster are in many ways purer driver’s cars. The new 4.0-litre GTS derivative only enhances what was already a supremely accomplished sportster — be it in coupe or roadster form — and I certainly wouldn’t dissuade you from buying one, if you were leaning that way.