Porsche presents yet another difficult question for buyers of its entry-level sports car range, the 718 Cayman and Boxster, by adding another variant to the range in the form of more finely honed GTS variants.
Certainly it’s hard to argue with the potential of the existing 718 Boxster S, a monstrously capable sportscar already capable of accelerating from 0 to 100km/h in a very solid 4.6 seconds.
The GTS package can shave around 0.1 seconds of that time, and in the process asks an extra $27,600 but also plays a game that’s more than just raw numbers, with balance and appeal intrinsically woven into the uprated variants which go on sale in Australia from March 2018.
Vehicle Style: Performance coupe and roadster
Price: $173,100-$181,880 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 269kW/420Nm 2.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd manual, 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.2-9.0 l/100km
Starting from $173,080 plus on-roads for the for the 718 Cayman GTS coupe or $175,900 for the 718 Boxster GTS roadster, the uprated twins bring a bump in performance thanks to a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engine featuring a reworked air intake and electronic tweaks.
Turbo boost pressure rises from 1.1 to 1.3 bar, and peak power output climbs by 11kW compared with the S, to 269kW.
As with the rest of the 718 range, the standard transmission is a six-speed manual but opting for the dual-clutch PDK auto for another $5980 doesn’t just negate the need for a clutch pedal, it also bring the 0-100km/h sprint, down to 4.1 seconds - a half-second improvement.
There’s more to the 718 GTS range than horsepower and acceleration times however.
GTS visuals mean a new front air dam with black spoiler lip, darkened headlamps, black 20-inch alloy wheels, GTS logos on the flanks, and black inserts on the rear bumper.
It all looks meaner and more purposeful than the standard 718 models and especially in the primary red, yellow and blue colour schemes available, also bright, extroverted and attention-grabbing.
ON THE ROAD
As a starting point Porsche’s active suspension management (PASM) is included as standard equipment and on the GTS lowers the ride height by 10mm.
With greater suspension control, and the potential for seriously firmer settings in ‘sport’ or ‘sport-plus’ modes, it’s part of the reason the Cayman GTS laps the Nurburgring’s 20.8km Nordschleife circuit two seconds quicker than the S, or a significant 16 seconds faster than the previous, naturally aspirated GTS.
If it sounds like the 718 GTS is all about hard-core performance, the good news for those who don’t necessarily want to act like a race driver all the time will still find normal levels of comfort.
Fire up the Boxster’s horizontally opposed four cylinder engine and it settles down to a gentle burble; the manual gearchange is light in action and virtually foolproof in practice, the engine pulls strongly from low revs and the suspension in the calmer driving modes gives a pleasant and comfortable ride.
Power the roof back on the Boxster to improve the view and airflow, and you could be forgiven for thinking the Boxster GTS is a particularly lovely Friday evening boulevard cruiser.
With a goodly amount more throttle and holding on to the lower gears, the GTS rapidly demonstrates its more animalistic character. On damp roads the rear tyres start to battle the electronic traction control for grip, and the engine’s gruff exhaust bellows from the rear and can be increased in volume by the centre console-mounted loudness button.
On an open, flowing road there is every temptation to explore the capabilities of the GTS and it never fails to disappoint. The power delivery is fluid with bottom end torque transferring to ample top-end punch as revs rise, the rearward weight bias of the mid-mounted engine negates any thought of understeer from the handling balance, the standard brakes haul it all down from speed and it’s all at once vastly competent and very good fun.
In fact, it almost takes a race track to really explore the limits of the GTS and at the car’s launch Porsche provided just that. Plus, the chance to swap a manual Boxster for a Cayman with the PDK dual-clutch auto.
Historically the Cayman has been the racier of the two models thanks to being granted a little more horsepower and a less flexible, fixed-roof body but that gap has narrowed thanks to identical engine outputs and advances in the torsional rigidity of the Boxster.
The electronically controlled gearbox offers advantages other than mere convenience: in Sport Plus mode for instance, you not only get launch control software for maximum acceleration getaways, but a ‘sport response’ function also primes the turbocharger and drivetrain for greater activity and engine torque outputs peaks 10 Newton metres higher at 430Nm.
So while the conventional manual gearbox is hardly tiresome to operate, simply toggling the paddles on the PDK leaves the driver to enjoy other aspects of the GTS on the track.
That includes the straight line performance which is bounteous without being scarily overwhelming, and the sheer levels of grip that allow pin-sharp turn in from the grippy front end, while the rear is equally sticky or telegraphs its intention to slide wide if the driver plays hard on the throttle.
The GTS’s standard four-calliper brakes seem plenty good enough for the job of hauling down for speed, but opt for the six-calliper ceramic composite stoppers with bigger discs and you have a car that slows every bit as hard as it goes.
Porsche trainspotters will easily pick the subtle visual upgrades to the new GTS twins at a glance, and while it must be tempting for Porsche to simply leave it at that, the GTS tells a more thorough engineering story.
The 718 GTS, isn’t a car that has been beefed up in any one particular dimension but has been heavily massaged in all.
That the GTS retains the Boxster or Cayman’s inherent balance and usability with incremental advances is no mean feat. As ever, it is an easy car to drive fast but rewarding and entertaining as well.
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