Vor­wärts on per­for­mance en­gi­neer­ing

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To cel­e­brate an il­lus­tri­ous her­itage of 70 sporty years, Porsche has re­turned to its ori­gins with the four-cylin­der 718 Boxster and Spy­der GTS mod­els. Ferdi de Vos ex­pe­ri­enced the gi­ant-slay­ing per­for­mance of the small­est Porsches on and off the race track.

My first Porsche driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was nearly thirty years ago when, as a young jour­nal­ist, I was kindly al­lowed to sam­ple a 944 S2, pow­ered by what was at the time the largest pro­duc­tion four­cylin­der en­gine in the world.

I re­mem­ber how I some­what grudg­ingly ac­cepted the of­fer, as back then, to my mind, the only “real” Porsches were the po­tent, os­ten­ta­tious and rau­cous 911 Car­reras. How wrong I was; and nowa­days I am grate­ful my first taste of Zuf­fen­hausen magic was in a four-cylin­der model — as it was small, light­weight cars with rigid con­struc­tion and pow­er­ful four-pot en­gines that es­tab­lished Porsche’s cre­den­tials in the sports car world.

What I do re­mem­ber of the 944 was the sur­pris­ing rev flex­i­bil­ity of its big four-cylin­der lump (good for 155 kW of power), and its un­pleas­antly harsh ride qual­ity. In­ter­est­ingly, over 163,000 of the 944 fam­ily mod­els were pro­duced un­til 1991, mak­ing it the most suc­cess­ful car model in Porsche’s his­tory un­til the in­tro­duc­tion of the Boxster.


The blood­line of the newly re­leased 718 Boxster and Cay­man GTS mod­els ex­tends back to the ori­gins of the mar­que as they are di­rect de­scen­dants of Type 356 “Num­ber One”, the orig­i­nal Porsche, reg­is­tered in Aus­tria in June 1948.

This small alu­minium-bod­ied twoseater open road­ster had a mid­mounted, air-cooled flat-four en­gine — the same con­fig­u­ra­tion used in the lat­est 718 GTS mod­els, but with the ad­di­tion of a turbo to make it the most pow­er­ful four­cylin­der pro­duc­tion en­gine now pro­duced by Porsche.

The 356 was su­per­seded by the iconic 550 Spy­der — the orig­i­nal gi­ant-killer — while the 718 was a race track-de­vel­oped im­prove­ment of the 550. The lat­est 718 Boxster has a di­rect con­nec­tion to the leg­endary 718 RS61 Spy­der race car of the 1960s, while the 718 Cay­man is a de­scen­dant of the equally suc­cess­ful 718 GTR Coupe.


Even with two cylin­ders less, the 2.5-litre, four-cylin­der turbo flat en­gine in the GTS new­com­ers de­liv­ers 269 kW — up to 26 kW more (and with 70 Nm more torque) than their pre­de­ces­sor mod­els with nat­u­rally as­pi­rated six-cylin­der en­gines. With a re­de­vel­oped in­take duct and op­ti­mised tur­bocharger, the en­gine also de­liv­ers 11 kW more power com­pared to the S model.

Both GTS mod­els are avail­able with a man­ual six-speed trans­mis­sion or PDK, and while max­i­mum torque for the man­ual ver­sion is set at 420 Nm, the PDK mod­els are rated for 430 Nm. This en­ables the PDK model with stan­dard Sport Chrono pack­age to charge from stand­still to 100 km/h in just 4.1 sec­onds (4.3 sec­onds ac­cord­ing to Porsche’s web­site, while a time of 4.6 sec­onds is in­di­cated for the man­ual de­riv­a­tives) and reach a top speed of 290 km/h.

It is still not as quick as the Audi TT RS (3.7 sec­onds from 0-100 km/h) but com­pares favourably with the ac­cel­er­a­tion times claimed for the Jaguar F-Type V8 and Mercedes-SMG SLC43 road­ster.

The new Boxster GTS also set a time of 7 min­utes 40 sec­onds on stan­dard road tyres around the 20.83 km Nord­schleife of the Nür­bur­gring — 16 sec­onds quicker than the pre­vi­ous Boxster GTS, 13 sec­onds quicker than its Cay­man coun­ter­part, and 2 sec­onds faster than the cur­rent 718 Cay­man S.


Vis­ually, the GTS is dis­tin­guished from lesser vari­ants by a new 911-es­que Sport De­sign front apron with a black spoiler lip, as well as dark­ened Bi-Xenon head­lights and black­ened front light mod­ules. Porsche’s Dy­namic Light Sys­tem (PDLS) is avail­able as an op­tion.

From the side, the GTS is eas­ily recog­nised by black GTS lo­gos and black 20” wheels, while the rear also has dark-tinted rear lights, a matt black rear apron with GTS logo, and cen­trally-po­si­tioned black sports tailpipes.

In­side, you are wel­comed by a plethora of GTS lo­gos in the lux­u­ri­ous Al­can­tara be­decked in­te­rior. It is em­bossed on the black door en­try guards, the tachome­ter and head­rests, while


the TFT screen also greets pas­sen­gers with the GTS logo upon launch.

Sports seats Plus with two-way elec­tric con­trol is stan­dard, and be­sides the high­res­o­lu­tion touch­screen dis­play for the Porsche Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Man­age­ment (PCM) sys­tem, a Sport Chrono Pack­age is also stan­dard. This in­cludes an ana­logue stop­watch on the dash, and a dig­i­tal one in the in­stru­ment dis­play. If this is not enough, Porsche’s Track Pre­ci­sion app is now also avail­able for the 718 GTS. This al­lows driv­ers to record their laps from 130 pre­de­fined cir­cuits around the world, and au­to­mat­i­cally records and dis­plays de­tailed analy­ses of this in­for­ma­tion, even on your Ap­ple Watch.


All these ap­pli­ca­tions em­pha­sise the track­o­ri­ented bias of the GTS mod­els. Porsche Ac­tive Sus­pen­sion Man­age­ment (PASM) that low­ers the GTS mod­els by 10 mm com­pared to the S model is also stan­dard, while Torque Vec­tor­ing (PTV) and a rear me­chan­i­cal dif­flock en­sure even more agility and sta­bil­ity.

Push the starter but­ton and the twin ex­hausts of the GTS emit a sound that’s dif­fi­cult to de­fine: It’s not a rum­ble, nor a growl… more like a reverberating grum­ble. It is not as sonorous as the noise of the old six-cylin­der, but still dis­tinc­tive, sporty and punchy; es­pe­cially with the ex­haust flap wide open.

With Sport mode Plus (which in­cludes launch con­trol) en­gaged on the small steer­ing wheel, the en­gine and PDK trans­mis­sion re­sponds in­stan­ta­neous and vir­tu­ally seam­lessly, while the Porsche Sta­bil­ity Man­age­ment (PSM) sys­tem en­ables more side slip an­gle, al­low­ing for sportier driv­ing.

Even with­out the op­tional PASM sports chas­sis, low­er­ing the car an­other 10 mm, the Porsche Torque Vec­tor­ing (PTV) sys­tem and me­chan­i­cal rear diff lock both 718 GTS mod­els stuck to the flat asphalt like leeches, but in the twists — with throt­tle blip au­to­mat­i­cally ac­ti­vated on down­shifts — the tin-top Cay­man just felt a touch more se­cure than its drop top twin.

Oh, and the “Sport Re­sponse” func­tion (that primes the en­gine and trans­mis­sion for the fastest pos­si­ble un­leash­ing of power, guar­an­tee­ing max­i­mum re­spon­sive­ness for about 20 sec­onds) came in very handy at the start of the long Kyalami straights where the Cay­man and Boxster were launched… and helped keep the Porsche in­struc­tors lead­ing in 911 Car­rera T mod­els hon­est.

The sharp de­cel­er­a­tion pro­vided by the grey cast iron brakes with red cal­lipers (a Porsche Ce­ramic Com­pos­ite Brake sys­tem is op­tion­ally avail­able), also con­trib­uted to the lighter Boxster and Cay­man GTS mod­els catch­ing the heav­ier 911’s while brak­ing into the cor­ners.

Also im­pres­sive was the pli­ant damp­ing and un­ex­pected sup­ple ride qual­ity of the 718s over bumpy and rut­ted roads (when in Nor­mal driv­ing mode), and in this re­gard, the Porsches are more than a match for their RS ri­vals from In­gol­stadt.


The lat­est Porsche 718 GTS mod­els again sig­nify Porsche’s res­o­lute ad­her­ence to the core val­ues that made the brand fa­mous over the last seven decades. And with their new­found four-cylin­der iden­tity, they’re not liv­ing in the shadow of their 911 Car­rera sib­lings any­more. On the con­trary, they are now pace­set­ters in defin­ing the fu­ture of the Porsche tra­di­tion.

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