► Heart transplant for 718 GTS
► New 4.0 derived from GT4
► Our first drive of latest model
We’ve been here before, and it wasn’t that long ago. Porsche’s 718 Cayman GTS looks as it always has done. Pick up the keys to it and climb behind the wheel of the two-seater and it already feels like home.
But this time around the Cayman is sporting an intriguing combination of engine and transmission: a detuned version of the 4.0-litre flat-six engine from the Cayman GT4 and its six-speed manual gearbox. It’s like the turbo flat-four never happened…
Is anything else different about the new GTS?
Isn’t the heart transplant dramatic enough? No? Well, Porsche has made its PASM, PTV, PADM (that’s adaptive damping and a 10mm lower ride height, torque vectoring and active engine mounts to everyone outside Stuttgart) standard fare, along with a sports exhaust. Our test car is equipped with the pricey PCCB carbon-composite brakes.
How is that 4.0-litre engine?
For many of the rural ones in our Portuguese test location, second gear is the ratio of choice. While first is too busy and third is too relaxed, second is ideally paced for swift acceleration out of hairpins, monstering opportunist overtakes and exploiting to the full the 4.0-litre engine’s eagerness to rev.
Unlike its turbocharged rivals, the naturally aspirated boxer needs plenty of throttle. It takes 5000rpm to summon the full 310lb ft, which flatlines to 6500rpm before dropping again towards the 7800rpm redline. Or you can take it a bit easier, enjoying the 266lb ft it offers at a leisurely 3000rpm.
Glorious as the engine is, it’s not perfect. The idle is lumpy, the part-throttle smoothness can only be described as ho-hum, there is a subdued grinding background noise to be heard throughout the rev range, and at 17mpg our average thirst on test exactly matched the claimed city consumption. It’s also fast but not stunningly so.
Let’s get busy!
On the road, the new GTS handles a bit like a 911 Carrera with a heavy suitcase on the back seats, its responses to tip-in and lift-off action benign, and its toned-down soundtrack so neighbour-friendly that even pushing the exhaust button no longer creates acoustic havoc. It feels entirely at home on motorways, on open secondary roads and on the racetrack (the lattermost we’ll get to in a moment).
A deserted stretch of A2 feels like an open invitation to put the chassis to the test. Unlike the all-singing, all-dancing 992-generation 911, the 718 is an old-school back-to-basics sports coupe. You can’t have it with all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering or electronic roll control. And there’s no need for any of it. Intuitive and inspiring, this Porsche impresses without artificial colouring or added preservatives.
There are only two interfaces worth playing with inside. One is the mode switch on the steering wheel which automatically starts the journey in Normal, blips the throttle before shifting down like a robot boy racer in Sport, stiffens the dampers by another notch in Sport Plus, selects a more lenient PSM response when required and lets you lock in your own setting in Individual.
You feel imminent understeer first in your palms and then in the seat of the pants, still with ample time to respond, and sense the subtle difference in cornering balance between a rear-engined 911 and this mid-engined Cayman. Honour the tactile clarity of the suspension set-up, steering calibration and brake performance. And marvel at the surprisingly small difference of attitude on road and track. As long as the driver acts within reason, the GTS won’t play foul.
When grip is varying between carve and slide within the same set of esses, when two lanes become none without warning or when oncoming locals claim two-thirds of the narrow road as their constitutional right, the GTS shines. Aided by torque vectoring and traction control, it combines poise and dynamic flexibility. It leaves room for trial and error, to execute nano-second corrections, to neutralise misjudgement.
What about on track?
It’s a track dedicated to third, fourth and fifth gears. The speed limit on Portuguese highways is 75mph, although you’d be unlucky to get pulled for anything below 90 on the open road. But here on the track, an indicated 153mph pops up regularly in the tiny digital read-out at the very end of the long straight – that’s merely 29mph shy of the claimed top speed. Beyond showcasing the Cayman’s usable power, the track also gives me a taste of the glorious Porsche-ness that runs through the whole car: brisk handling, strong grip, compliant ride and absolute confidence all the way to the limit.
Even switching off DSC does not provoke that typical change from gentleman to cannibal. At ten-tenths, the gap between triumph and tragedy remains wide. Through the ultra-fast, third-then-fourth-gear right-hander leading onto the start-finish straight, you could set up the car any way you want from apex-hugging near-understeer to a mild 100-yard slide vectoring towards the virginal gravel trap.
Porsche 718 GTS 4.0: verdict
The GTS doesn’t have all-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering or a twin-clutch ’box – and it’s better off without them. It’s a sharp handling car, and yet it minimises the risk of getting it badly wrong. It’s involving rather than threatening, nicely balanced with a sporty touch, always a friend and never a foe. Relish the totally transparent feedback, which talks you through the difficult stuff like a professional co-driver.
Whether this will be your first Cayman or your last, you really should do everything you can to get these keys in your hand – just add fuel and enjoy.
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