Llucmajor, Mallorca -- Enthusiasts are faced with an increasingly tough decision when selecting a Porsche sports car. The 911 has always been the go-to choice. But Porsche's "entry-level" models -- the Boxster convertible and its hardtop Cayman sibling -- cannot be taken lightly. In fact, many enthusiasts prefer the balanced driving character of the mid-engine Cayman/Boxster duo to that of the 911, with its engine mounted in the rear.
Now, the decision is even harder. Porsche is launching more powerful, more track-capable GTS versions of the Cayman and the Boxster this summer. The output of their 3.4-liter six-cylinder boxer engines swells by 15 hp, to 340 hp in the Cayman and 330 hp in the Boxster. There's more standard equipment, including the Sport Chrono package with launch control and electrically controlled transmission mounts; and the Porsche Active Suspension Management system, which allows the operator to choose different driving settings and lowers the car by 0.4 inch. This means a Boxster GTS or Cayman GTS treads intriguingly close to the base 350-hp 911 while undercutting the flagship model by some $9000 or more.
The GTS label has a noteworthy history at Porsche, having originated on the 904 Carrera GTS race car (which was barely road legal) in 1963. It was used on the 924 and 928 in the 1980s and 1990s and more recently on the 997-generation 911. It's also seen today on the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan. Regardless of the car, or the era, GTS means something to Porsche. "We're trying to translate the GTS, which is comfortable but performance oriented," says Porsche vice president Stefan Weckbach, who's in charge of the Boxster and Cayman line.
We're pondering all of this as we approach a group of red, yellow, blue, and gray Boxsters and Caymans waiting outside our hotel on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It's quite a sight: the cars are literally sparkling in the morning sun. Yes, they're colorful, but the GTS trim gives them a more sinister vibe. "The contrasting color is always black," Weckbach says, and it's used effectively on the air inlets and the front spoilers, which are larger and give the noses of the cars an angrier look. Black gives the bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights a smoky appearance, and the Carrera S wheels can -- and in our opinion should -- be ordered in glossy black as well.
We slip behind the wheel of a gray Boxster, put the top down, and set off. Even though this color is more suitable for a naval vessel, its subtlety allows you to notice the attractive curves of the Boxster.
"Nice car," a local remarks as we cautiously maneuver past him and his canine companion on a narrow road.
"Nice dog," we reply. As we accelerate away, the sport exhaust, which is standard on GTS models, sounds great. It starts at a low rumble, builds to a growl, and culminates with a high-pitched scream as we modulate the throttle and grab the paddle shifters, which respond with satisfying clacks. The exhaust note underscores the energetic feel of the 3.4-liter flat six engine as we blast through tunnels and ascend into the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. The roads are tricky, and we encounter bicyclists, stones, trees, and steep drop-offs around seemingly every corner. Still, it's easy to press on, and the precise steering and strong, predictable brakes bolster our confidence.
At a lower velocity, we notice the interior surroundings. The GTS trim provides soft Alcantara suede on the steering wheel, the headliner, the center console, and the seat inserts. It is plush and gives the high-spirited car a luxurious feel.
As much fun as the open-air Boxster is, the Cayman feels even more pure. The fixed roof gracefully blends into the tail of the car over the engine. It has a little more power, it's a little quicker (though you'd be hard-pressed to notice) and it is priced $1700 higher than the Boxster. The Cayman is an excellent track car, too, and we push it through several laps on the Circuito Mallorca. The two-mile track is used mostly for motorcycle racing and has many tight corners. The lithe Cayman, with a curb weight as low as 2965 pounds depending on equipment, is perfect for this setting. It tackles the close quarters with poise and agility, and on the short straight we make use of every one of the 340 available horses.
Coasting into the pit area, it's hard to imagine having much more fun in any Porsche. Sure, you can option out a 911 to near supercar territory, but besides Hurley Haywood or Walter Röhrl, who can really make effective use of all of that power? If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Porsche traditionalist, and only a 911 will do, we're not going to tell you that you're wrong. Still, if you want a modern Porsche that remains true to the history of the brand, the Boxster GTS and the Cayman GTS are both excellent choices.
2015 Porsche Boxster GTS/Cayman GTS
|Base Price||$74,495/$76,195 (Boxster/Cayman)|
|Engine||3.4L horizontally opposed six-cylinder|
|Power||330 hp @ 6700 rpm (Boxster), 340 hp @ 7400 rpm (Cayman)|
|Torque||273 lb-ft @4500–5800 rpm (Boxster), 280 lb-ft @4750–5800 rpm (Cayman)|
|Transmissions||7-speed PDK, 6-speed manual|
|L x W x H||173.4 in x 77.9 in x 50.1–50.6 in|
|Weight||2965–3164 lb (Boxster), 2965–3175 lb (Cayman)|
|Cargo volume||5.3 cu. ft. front/4.6 cu. ft. rear (Boxster), 5.3 cu. ft. front/9.7 cu. ft. rear (Cayman)|
|0-60 mph||4.4s (Boxster), 4.3s (Cayman)|
|Top speed||174 mph (Boxster), 177 mph (Cayman)|