Porsche’s Flat-Six-Powered Boxster and Cayman GTS are a Return to Form

It would be easy to fill pages with moon-eyed poetry praising the intoxicating zing of the new 718 GTS’s 4.0-liter flat-six engine. Oh, the noises it makes hunting down the glory of 7800 rpm, all the while electrifying scalps, tingling spines, and purpling prose.


Yet perhaps the most telling change over its four-cylinder turbocharged predecessor is a much smaller one and the first thing you notice when you start the car: The sewing-machine idle of the flat-four—that busy, not-quite-full-enough ticking reminiscent of an air-cooled Volks­wagen Beetle—is gone. Fired up, the GTS 4.0 makes the full mechanical chatter that comes from having 50 percent more cylinders and valves. They sound like proper Porsches again.

The new engine is proof that the company has ­listened to its customers—specifically those who said they loved every part of the 718 experience besides its downsized engine. Or perhaps it’s merely a grand “screw it, let’s go out in style” from Porsche’s senior engineers, who will now have to focus on the brand’s inevitable electrically propelled future. Either way, we’ll take it gladly.

To describe the Cayman GTS 4.0 as nearly a GT4 would be unfair to the latter car, but the two do share a close relationship. The GTS’s naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six is effectively the GT4 and Spyder’s engine, detuned by 20 horsepower to make 394. That is 29 horses more than the old GTS models. The new car shares the last manual-equipped GTS’s 309 pound-feet of torque, but while the old car hits its torque peak at just 1900 rpm, this one does it at 5000 rpm.

The GTS comes standard with nearly all the good stuff you’d want to maximize the way a Cayman handles and sounds. It gets the same two-mode Sport exhaust as the GT4, plus—to give you an indication of where Porsche’s priorities lie with this car—the company will offer only a six-speed manual when the car launches this summer. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is coming eventually. Compared with the base Cayman, the GTS gets larger brake rotors; a sportier suspension that drops it 0.8 inch; standard PASM adaptive dampers; and the Sport Chrono pack that brings a limited-slip differential, brake-based torque vectoring, and the big clock atop the dashboard.

Porsche restricted our time in the Cayman GTS to laps of the Estoril racetrack near Lisbon, Portugal. Fortunately, we did get to sample the mechanically identical BoxsterGTS 4.0 on the road, and the new engine proved to be at least as wonderful on the street as it is on the track. The 4.0-liter is sweet and tractable, pulling cleanly from little more than idle. Throttle response is so good that the engine seems to respond to your thoughts. It’s muted under gentle use but snarly when it’s worked hard.

On rough roads, the GTS’s suspension tune proved barely edgier than that of the base 718 and more compliant than the GT4’s. Grip levels are high and the brakes are strong. In a car with such precise gearshifts and chatty steering, where every action yields an instant and proportionate reaction, you don’t really have to push the limits to find true joy.

Driving on a track in a Cayman GTS 4.0 is more intense but no scarier. The GTS encourages you to trail-brake deep and to get on the throttle as early as possible. It tolerates being overdriven in a way that will turn its pilot into the sort of person who fills pit lane with opposite-lock gestures. Yet it’s better suited to a more cerebral approach, one where precision and smoothness allow the available grip to be better exploited.

The GT4 has a steelier soul and a connection to Porsche Motorsport, but the GTS doesn’t feel like its poorer relative. If you’re looking for a Cayman that skews toward daily use over track play, it’s the better choice, and not just because it costs less. This is a car for those seeking a deep relationship with a sports car based on more than just speed.

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