Road Tests

Pure Sport: 2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS

Brand’s latest two-seaters are set loose in Southern Spain

CIRCUITO ASCARI, Spain — As it left the pits, the chalky-gray 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS set its lip like a schoolboy in a fistfight and made a dive for The Screw, a wicked downhill left. From here, Ascari uncoiled itself in all its fascinating glory: banked sweepers, tight esses, and slow, patience-testing hairpins. More than halfway through the 3.3-mile circuit, Bathhurst—a tight left-hander—enjoyed the shade of an oak. We hurtled by without skidding, and under hard acceleration the GTS’s 365-hp, 2.5-liter turbo four barked about the acorns.

Inside the car, the two-way radio crackled. “Do a better job of linking the turns—look at the last cone,” urged driving master Matthias Hoffsümmer, leading the way in a 911. Hoffsümmer had seen our big wiggle in the esses, a moment that first suggested going off the track backwards. Instead, though, without any heroic counter-steering, things sorted themselves right out, just as if this brilliant coupe had already memorized the circuit.

Not that autonomy is a boast of the 718 Cayman GTS—or Boxster GTS. Far from it—driver involvement is everything. Earlier, we had had chosen the latter to come up to Ascari from Estepona, a town on the heavily developed Costa del Sol. We wriggled over the steep Sierra Bermeja in Peñas Blancas pass, the engine’s gruff Joe Cocker croon echoing against the eponymous white cliffs. The choice to keep the roadster’s top up was not because of the autumn morning’s crispness but to protect—wink, wink—against rockslides. The canopy no doubt prevented our seeing any examples of Abies pinsapo, the endangered pine of this part of Spain, the tree that had inspired Federico García Lorca to ask if they were “arrows fallen from the blue.”

The carmine paint of our Boxster GTS stood out in Ronda, the market town on the Guadalevín River. The Boxster GTS looks a bit different from the Boxster S, having blackened headlight modules, black wheels, and black tailpipes. It also sits 10 millimeters lower. (The 718 Cayman GTS adopts a similar scheme.) In case one misses these cues, a bold script spells out the name over the tail. A six-speed manual is standard, but we had the optional PDK dual-clutch automatic, which is wondrously smooth and efficient. In fact, the GTS with the Porsche Doppelkupplung transmission happens to be quicker from 0 to 60 mph (3.9 seconds versus 4.4 seconds) and gets 1 mpg better (20 city/26 highway versus 19 city/25 highway) than with the manual. So much for the claims of local ace Bobby Elbowspeed.

Compared to the 718 Cayman S and Boxster S, the 718 GTS cars come with a bit of extra boost (1.3 bar compared to 1.1 bar) and make 365 hp, an increase of 15 hp. The extra urge helps the GTS to scoot .5 second faster to 60 mph, and the Cayman GTS lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife 2.0 seconds faster than the S. Not very much, is it, especially considering that the Cayman GTS costs $80,850 including shipping charges—some $12,100 more than the Cayman S.

What you’re getting are special features and trim that together would be more expensive as individual options on the S. Is it worth it? Depends on whether you want to label yourself Serious Porsche Driver.

Serious at Ascari means dipping and bending, braking soon after cresting, and flying off apexes. In the chalky Cayman GTS, the exhilarating throttle response made it seem as if the car had downed plenty of gazpacho for breakfast. Profound stability (it will hit 180 mph), delicious steering, and steadfast and cool ceramic brakes also characterized the performance. It was such a pleasure to drive that it raised the question why anyone would want a 911 GTS. (But then, having more recently driven one, we know the answer is because the 911 GTS is even faster.) Hooked up on 20-inch Carrera S wheels, with torque vectoring and the standard active suspension, the Cayman GTS was one of Lorca’s arrows from the blue, as natural to drive as if it flowed on a current.

There were a couple of moments when we realized, yes, the car weighs 3,097 lb. But with the selector on the 14.1-inch Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel—part of the included Sport Chrono package—dialed to Sport Plus, we let the GTS decide about downshifts and just enjoyed a snug seat against the physical torrents. One’s view ends at the cowl as the nose drops away, so the rushing grain of the track surface was immediate. And with the midengine layout giving the chassis a seeming fulcrum point, balance was easy to maintain.

On the cool-down lap, we had a shivery moment, feeling the privilege of testing this great car on such a wonderful track. And what about our conclusions? Automobile Magazine has said the 718 Cayman is “even better than the near-perfect old (pre-2017 model year) Cayman.” Both the 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS have the tailored looks, meaty punch, and deft maneuvers that make them such desirable sports cars. We wouldn’t bet against the determined schoolboy emerging victorious from any fistfight.

2018 Porsche Boxster GTS Specifications

ON SALE March 2018
PRICE $82,950/$109,300 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve flat-4/365 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 317 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 172.4 x 70.9 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE 97.4 in
WEIGHT 3,098 lb
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec
TOP SPEED 180 mph

2018 Porsche Cayman GTS Specifications

ON SALE March 2018
PRICE $80,850 (base)
ENGINE 2.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve flat-4/365 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 317 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 172.4 x 70.9 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE 97.4 in
WEIGHT 3,098 lb
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec
TOP SPEED 180 mph

 

Buying Guide
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EPA MPG:

21 City / 28 Hwy

Horse Power:

300 @ 6500

Torque:

280 @ 1950