While they’re not the most potent in Porsche’s line-up, the Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS are arguably the best.
The Boxster GTS goes hard, sounds the business and clings to tarmac with the tenacity of a bulldog
Porsche Boxster GTS
Perfection. That might be giving the game away right from the outset but, to my mind, Porsche’s new Boxster GTS is so close to motorised nirvana that it’s hard to fathom how it could possibly be improved upon.
The Boxster GTS – short for Gran Turismo Sport – is the first mid-engined Porsche since 1963 to wear these three letters on its rump (the last one was the 904 Carrera GTS), and it follows similarly suffixed versions of the 911, Panamera and Cayenne.
It’s not just a badge-engineering job, as the latest Boxster variant scores an uprated engine and some of the tastiest bits from the Porsche performance catalogue to make it a faster, more focused offering than the already entertaining Boxster S. The best part is the price tag – at Dh254,900, it’s only Dh28,100 more expensive than the ‘S’.
So, what does the Boxster GTS get? For starters, the 3.4-litre flat-six is uprated to put out 326bhp and 370Nm, which is sufficient to make the GTS virtually match its 911 Cabrio big brother in a straight-line joust.
Porsche quotes a 0-100kph split of 4.7 seconds for the PDK-equipped Boxster GTS with Sport Plus button (included as part of the standard Sport Chrono package) activated. It’s also capable of hitting 278kph, so the GTS has the legs not only to give the 911 a fright, but also worry the likes of the imminent new BMW M4.
Offsetting the extra grunt is Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, enabling you to firm up the damper settings at the press of a button. The GTS also sits 10mm lower than the ‘S’ and rides on 20in Carrera S rims shod with 235/35 rubber at the front and 265/35 gumballs at the rear. The lower centre of gravity and beefy footprint mean it’s an even sharper and more grippy device than its sibling, making it an enjoyable roadster to hustle across roads with abundant corners.
Apart from putting out slightly more power and torque, the flat-six motor is also more vocal than before, thanks to a free-flow exhaust (with black tailpipes) that belts out a crackling note in Sport Plus mode. Although more restrained in normal mode, you can unleash its full sonic repertoire via the exhaust-logoed button on the centre console.
So here’s the deal: the Boxster GTS goes hard, sounds the business and clings to tarmac with the tenacity of a bulldog attached to your trouser leg. More than the actual grip, it’s the sublime balance and tactility of the car that encourages you to push harder. Even when you do venture beyond the grip available, it happens so progressively you never feel as though you’re going to end up as part of the scenery. The GTS is a brilliantly usable sportscar that leaves even moderately competent drivers with the impression they’re Walter Röhrls in the making. Part of the handling precision stems from dynamic transmission mounts that alter their stiffness and damping according to the situation. In their firmer settings, rear body roll is minimised under cornering loads, mimicking the set-up of racing cars.
The PDK-equipped Boxster is obviously quicker than the six-speed manual but the latter is also an agreeable gearbox, with short, snappy throws and a nice meaty feel. In Sport Plus mode with the manual there’s also an automatic throttle blip function on downshifts, but it’s easy enough to generate your own throttle blips as the pedals are well positioned for heel-toe rev-matching – should you happen to be skilled in this art.
Even in normal mode the car’s responses are sharp and direct, and the vast majority of road-surface imperfections are soaked up without breaking a sweat. Sport mode firms everything up discernibly, but even in this setting the car is acceptably refined in most conditions.
Visually, the GTS stands apart from its lesser siblings via unique front and rear fascias, blacked out Bi-Xenon headlights with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), those 20in Carrera wheels and black tailpipes.
The cabin also gets a stylish makeover, with Alcantara trim on the steering wheel, headliner, centre console and well-sculpted sports seats. Other tweaks include GTS lettering embroidered on the headrests, with the same graphic on the tachometer that dominates the clustered dials.
At just under Dh255K, Boxster GTS is a certified performance bargain. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more fun-to-drive roadster… at any price.
Porsche Cayman GTS
The Porsche Boxster GTS is already a sublime all-weather sportscar, so where does that leave the Cayman GTS? Think of it as a harder, faster version of its topless brother – and there are a couple of numbers that reflect this fact.
Firstly, the Cayman is about twoand-a-half times as torsionally rigid as the Boxster (42,000Nm/degree versus 17,000Nm/degree). It sounds like a huge disparity, and it stems from the fact that the chassis strengthening applied to the Boxster to compensate for the lack of a roof has been retained for the Cayman. Consequently, the Cayman is stiffer even than the pricier and more potent 991 Series 911 Coupé (30,400Nm/degree).
The tautness of the Cayman translates to razor-sharp dynamics, and Porsche says the GTS is capable of lapping the daunting 20.8km Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes 53 seconds (versus 7 minutes 56 seconds for the Boxster GTS). Anything that can circulate The Green Hell in under eight minutes is a seriously quick device, so these are impressive lap times.
All the other stats bode well too. The GTS’s 3.4-litre flat-six has been uprated to put out 335bhp (15bhp more than the Cayman S), while torque is bumped up to a robust 380Nm. With the PDK transmission and the Sport Plus button pressed, this adds up to a 0-100kph dash of 4.6 seconds and top whack of 283kph (285kph for the six-speed manual). Also notable is the 80-120kph split of 2.9 seconds – arguably the most relevant figure as far as real-world driving is concerned.
The second-generation Cayman that launched a couple of years ago was already a highly capable and desirable package in standard or ‘S’ form, but the GTS upgrades have made it even more tantalising, inching it that little bit closer to being a legitimate 911 chaser.
Porsche execs will argue until the cows come home about how the Cayman and 911 are targeted at different customers and that the former will never be in danger of cannibalising sales of the rear-engined offering. However, if I was the one doing the buying, I’d have to say the Cayman GTS stacks up as the far more compelling proposition. It’s better balanced, more entertaining… and it even sounds better.
As per its similarly suffixed Boxster sibling, the Cayman GTS features Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, which broadens the car’s dynamic repertoire by enabling the suspension to be tailored to cruise-friendly or maximum-attack settings. Similarly, the Cayman GTS also sits 10mm lower than the lesser ‘S’ variant and scores 20in Carrera S rims, enhancing an already sound donor package.
Our first taste of the Cayman GTS is at the Circuito Mallorca, which comprises a succession of hairpins, as well as a couple of faster sweepers that can be attacked in third and fourth gears respectively. First impressions are of how playful yet non-threatening the car feels as you begin to get it dancing from one corner to the next.
The steering is crisp and communicative, and the car has a nimbleness that makes it supremely easy to place on corner entry. In Sport Plus mode the on-board nannies allow some leeway for sideways hooliganism, should you be so inclined. Road cars often feel soft and underpowered on racetracks, but the Cayman GTS has enough reserves to make it an entertaining companion for track-day enthusiasts. The GTS is even more impressive in real-world conditions, where the accessibility and usability of its performance make it a fantastic point-to-point device.
The flat-six is smooth and tractable, and the bespoke sports exhaust spits out a cracking bark when allowed to belt out its full repertoire in Sport Plus mode or via the exhaust button on the centre console.
As with the Boxster GTS, the lashings of Alcantara and GTS logos in the cabin endow it with a suitably sporty ambience, and the exterior tweaks – new front fascia, restyled rear apron, blacked-out trim and smoked daytime running lights/tail lights – also hit the mark. The 10-spoke alloys add further visual contrast to lesser Caymans (or should that be Caymen?) without appearing as though the car is trying too hard to look different.
Ride and refinement levels are never less than comfortable, and you could easily clock up several hundred kilometres in a day without winding up with a backache or jangled nerves. And should a twisty road present itself along the way, you’re in for a treat.
The Cayman GTS is the complete sportscar and – at Dh258,400 – you’d have a very hard time convincing me to buy a 911 instead. Make mine Carmine Red with black rims, please…
The cabin gets a stylish makeover with Alcantara trim
The PDK version is quicker than the manual, but the latter is arguably more satisfying