The greatest pleasure to be found in Porsche’s 982-chassis 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman exists between the edge of grip and the edge of control. It’s a place of pure joy thanks to the sweetest stability-control system in existence—one that lets you look over the edge without actually jumping, but which also never punishes you for doing so. These are machines we’ve appreciated for years now, approving enough of Porsche’s least costly sports car in either its roadster or coupe forms (or both) to award them 19 10Best Cars awards—including a 2018 honor. The newest version of the cars, the GTS, makes the experience even more enlightening.
The GTS designation isn’t new, having first appeared on the 904 Carrera GTS in 1963. The modern formula for GTS models is to add the performance features available elsewhere as options and package them with a modest bump in power for an all-in price better than it would cost to piece everything together. And that’s exactly what the Boxster and Cayman GTS models accomplish once again, their starting prices of $82,950 and $80,850 representing a value over comparably equipped S models.
Standard equipment includes all the hardware a serious driver would order anyway: the Sport Chrono package, Sport exhaust, PASM adaptive dampers, Sport Seats Plus, brake-based Porsche Torque Vectoring, 20-inch wheels, and an interior with microsuede applied strategically for both function and beauty. Plus, the turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four has an additional 15 horsepower relative to the S model Boxster and Cayman, bumping the total up to 365 horsepower at 6500 rpm. Torque remains the same 309 lb-ft when paired with the base six-speed manual transmission. Spring for the $3730 seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission and an additional 8 lb-ft of torque come with it. The GTS models share their S counterparts’ gearing.
The source of the extra power is twofold. A turbocharger with an enlarged compressor wheel relative to the S models being the first. Bumped in diameter from 64 to 67 millimeters, the cold side of the turbo is capable of efficiently making more peak boost, and it does: 18.1 psi versus 16.7. The hot side uses the same variable-geometry turbine design as the S models. There’s also a redesigned, higher-volume intake manifold that incorporates four baffles to optimize airflow. The baffles look like restrictors at the intersection of the plenum and intake runners, and they allow proper filling of each cylinder’s combustion chamber at the higher boost the engine achieves. Without them the added boost wouldn’t yield the full 15 horsepower, according to Fabian Zink, powertrain manager for the 718 and the 911.
The Extra Goods
We drove both GTS models through the unrelenting hills and valleys of southern Spain as well as on the 26-turn Circuito Ascari racetrack. On dry roads, with the temperature barely above freezing, the GTS spoke clearly about its limits, a slight brush of stability control intervening when needed but never punishing with intrusive consequences. The standard Sport Chrono pack includes PSM Sport mode, a more lenient level of stability control that allows greater slip angles and more wheelspin. Think of it as a hero-maker. Still, with so little grip and being on cold rubber, the limits were low until we found the right surface and drove heat into the tires. Then, whether equipped with a top or not, the GTS became the mid-engine Porsche we’ve come to love, plus a little more. The four familiar driving modes (Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual) controlled by a knob between the steering wheel spokes are here, too, allowing drivers to rapidly toggle to their desired setup.
The standard Porsche Active Suspension Management lowers the car 0.4 inch relative to a base model fitted with the passive suspension. PASM constantly adjusts the damping rate over two overlapping ranges depending on the driving mode selected. It can also be decoupled from the selected mode via a button on the center console. The optional PASM Sport suspension lowers the GTS a further 0.4 inch. Ride quality is firm even in the softest setting, jostling occupants when the road turns rough. But control is sublime, and the trade-off is both worthwhile and among the best in the industry. Sport Plus was our preferred driving mode at the track, but on the road we regularly dialed the suspension back to its softer setting to allow better compliance. The anti-roll bars in the GTS are stiffened about 10 percent relative to the S, and body roll is never disruptive or, honestly, even noticeable.
Steering, as ever, is quick enough to direct the GTS prudently while speaking a language we understand. The S models’ variable-ratio rack is shared here as well. Both the Boxster and the Cayman have always lacked the pitch/dive dance that many mid-engine cars exhibit under heavy braking or acceleration, and that remains the case in GTS. As a result, the steering weight and feedback are consistent, giving the driver a trustworthy place to go about the business of driving hard.
The Double Extra Goods
Few cars do this as well as either the Boxster or Cayman. Every control, in fact, offers steadfast feedback and confident response. Even cars that had been beaten on track for days prior by other waves of journalists offered a brake pedal with drop-the-anchors stopping power, though we did notice a difference between individual cars. That was with the standard iron-rotor brakes, however, which consist of 13.0-inch front and 11.8-inch rear rotors with four-piston calipers at both ends. Carbon-ceramic brake rotors—with 13.8-inch discs all around, plus six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers—are optional and would likely shrug off the challenge of stopping a dump truck, let alone a 718.
Only a direct back-to-back drive or instrumented tests—which we will perform as soon as GTS models are available—will definitively reveal the effect of the power increase. Weight is a wash between the two body styles, with equipment differences affecting the total more than your choice between a coupe or a convertible (Porsche quotes the same weight for both). Expect a 3100-to-3200-pound car. Porsche says both models are good for a 3.9-second run to 60 mph when equipped with the PDK and 4.4 seconds with the manual. But we’ve already measured a 3.6-second pass in a Boxster S equipped with the PDK and a 4.3-second run with the manual.
Subjectively, the GTS is not obviously quicker than an S model. In fact, Porsche claims only a 2.0-second-quicker lap time around the Nürburgring for the GTS—7:40 versus 7:42. But, like the S model, the GTS will produce pure stoke when it goes on sale early next spring. Finding its rhythm on a track or deserted road is a pinnacle experience among any of today’s sports cars. These Porsches are cars that talk, cars that listen, and cars that dance confidently across the edge of grip and back—top or no top.
VEHICLE TYPE: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door hatchback or convertible
BASE PRICES: 718 Cayman GTS, $80,850;
718 Boxster GTS, $82,950
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve flat-4, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 152 cu in, 2497 cc
Power: 365 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 309 or 317 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 97.4 in
Length: 172.9 in
Width: 70.9 in Height: 50.1–50.6 in
Passenger volume: 49 cu ft
Cargo volume (Boxster/Cayman, total): 9/15 cu ft
Curb weight (C/D est): 3100–3200 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 3.5–4.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 8.6–9.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 11.9–12.5 sec
Top speed: 180 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 21–22/19–20/25–26 mpg