First Drive: Porsche Cayman 718 GTS 4.0
Porsche has given its Cayman GTS model a detuned version of the GT4 engine. Darren Cassey finds out if this is as exciting as it sounds…
What is it?
They say variety is the spice of life, and if that’s the case, Porsche’s 718 range is spicier than a vindaloo. That nomenclature refers to the Cayman and Boxster, Porsche’s ‘entry level’ sports car coupe and convertible.
The range mixes and matches engines and equipment so you can get everything from a (relatively) slow, more affordable model, to a hardcore, track-focused GT4. In between, there’s a little pick ‘n’ mix so you have options whatever your needs, in theory.
So what we have here is the new 718 Cayman GTS 4.0. It gets the GT4’s engine but in a more road-focused package. Disappointing compromise on performance, or the sweet spot in the range? There’s only one way to find out.
On paper, it’s an intoxicating recipe. The engine is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox – Porsche is great at these – and a sports exhaust system so the soundtrack matches the pace.
Then you get Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which also drops the ride height by 20mm, as well as Porsche Torque Vectoring, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, stability control, and active drivetrain mounts. It all sounds impressively performance-focused.
What’s under the bonnet?
This being a 718, the engine actually sits in the middle of the chassis, just behind the driver. The 4.0-litre unit has been detuned compared with its use in the GT4, but it still makes a heady 394bhp.
It’s a six-cylinder boxer engine and it sounds utterly fantastic through the sports exhaust. In the mid-range there’s a guttural bark that gives the GTS an aggressive character, but spin round to the 7,800rpm and this gives way to a more refined roar that makes you want to hit the redline on every shift.
What’s it like to drive?
The first thing that hits you is that, in a straight line, it doesn’t feel particularly fast. In the modern era, 394bhp isn’t gut-punch-quick, but that’s almost a relief. It falls under the headline of ‘more than fast enough’ and allows you to truly make the most of the GTS’s handling abilities.
The control weights are all perfectly judged. Every shift is satisfying to slot home and the clutch bites with smooth accuracy even when pressing on, but the highlight is the throttle pedal which has enough resistance to make minute adjustments mid-corner easy.
The gearing is still a little too long – you’ll hit licence-bothering speeds long before you need to shift up from third – but at this performance level it’s less frustrating than in some other 718 models. In Sport mode, downshift auto blips are perfect every time and contribute to the feeling that this car is beautifully judged for road driving.
How does it look?
The latest Cayman continues the sleek styling of its predecessors, but now has a little more character and stylistic stand out points. It’s particularly good looking from the rear, with the smoky lights and full width bar beneath the spoiler.
The GTS also goes without the lairy spoilers that adorn full GT models. It makes it much more subdued and almost a sleeper, if any Cayman can be called that. However, this does mean it works better in more subtle colours. Our test car was painted in look-at-me Python Green, which would have worked better on a car with wings, vents and aero-inspired flicks.
What’s it like inside?
Drop into the cabin and it’s typical Porsche quality. There’s an unmistakable air of subtle class – nothing too fancy, just great materials and subtle design. There are no digital dials yet, just an old-school tachometer in the centre of the instrument binnacle that makes it easy to know when to upshift.
The wheel is the perfect size, too, and the driving position is spot on. However, taller drivers might find longer distances a little uncomfortable. That being said, it’s far from claustrophobic, with two passengers able to travel without constantly bumping elbows.
What’s the spec like?
Performance equipment on top of that already mentioned includes six-piston aluminium brake calipers at the front and four-piston ones at the rear, Sport Chrono Package with drive mode selection, and dynamic gearbox mounts.
Styling-wise there are 20-inch alloy wheels, an automatically extending rear spoiler, bi-xenon headlights and LED headlights. Inside, you get Porsche’s infotainment system with navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Alcantara upholstery, heated sports seats and a GT sports steering wheel.
The Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 looks great on paper, but it’s even better from behind the wheel. Losing a few of the GT4’s mechanical upgrades and aero trickery do nothing to dull the experience on the road.
It’s one of the most perfectly judged performance road cars we’ve ever driven, resisting the urge to go overboard with the power so you get usable pace coupled with unrivalled composure in the corners.
If you’re not planning to drive on the track too often where the extra cash for a GT4 is arguably justified, the GTS might just be the best sports car on the market right now.
Facts at a glance
Model as tested: Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
Engine: 4.0-litre six-cylinder boxer
Max speed: 182mph
0-60mph: 4.3 seconds