The 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS is a return to form for a car that is often undeservingly unloved in the face of the iconic 911.
As it stands, the new six-cylinder 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 is what every purist Porsche lover had asked for and the brand has delivered a solid package over its previous… well, missteps.
Porsche as a car company has done a lot of strange things. At one stage it decided to create paddle shifters that defied the logical convention of ‘left is down, right is up’ and created a universally disliked system nobody had asked for.
The German brand fixed that in later iterations but then just as we all got to love the 911 again in all its glory, it created a gear shifter in the new 992-generation 911 that looks like a Braun shaver. No-one had said to Porsche the previous gear shifter was ‘too big’ and ‘can you please make it so small that I can barely get a hold of it’.
Somewhere along the line, Porsche also decided to introduce small-capacity four-cylinder turbocharged engines for the Cayman and Boxster range, a 2.0-litre for the base models and 2.5-litre engines for the S and GTS variants. But while they are amazing works of engineering, they are not what most purist buyers would consider a ‘proper’ Porsche.
The two Subaru WRX-sounding engines remain in the base Cayman and Boxster as well as their respective S variants, but the GTS name is getting what the GTS name deserves, a large-capacity naturally-aspirated engine pretty much stolen straight from the race-going Cayman GT4. Welcome back to the party, Porsche.
To review the latest from Porsche, we took the manual versions of the new 718 GTS Cayman and Boxster from Brisbane to Warwick and then on to Morgan Park raceway to see if the switch from turbo to naturally-aspirated engines has been worth the wait.
You can find yourself in a base Porsche 718 Cayman for $113,100 before on-roads, but as you step up through the range and things get a bit more serious, the new Porsche 718 GTS 4.0 will cost you $172,000 before on-road costs. That’s a huge $36,500 price increase on the Cayman S.
That price differential gets you the naturally-aspirated and larger-capacity engine, but it’s also worth nothing that it’s about the same price as the previous Cayman GTS, which had a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine rather than the new 4.0-litre.
So the new car is far better value and more unique than any previous 718 GTS variant.
What you get is the engine from the Porsche Cayman GT4.
While it misses out on the GT4’s shortened gear lever and track-focused rev-matching for downshifts, the GTS actually weighs less (1405kg vs 1420kg) than its more track-focused brother.
The GTS gets Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) Sport Suspension (instead of variable like the GT4) which sees its ride height lowered by 20mm (30mm for the GT4).
However it borrows the GT4’s impressive brake calipers, with six-piston front and four-piston rear setup. It gets slightly smaller discs than the GT4 measuring 350mm/330mm front and rear (380/380mm for GT4).
Other features such as the Sports Chrono Package, Porsche track precision app, drive mode switches, and tinted bi-xenon headlights are all standard. The GTS rides on 235/35 R20 front and 265/35 R20 rear wheels.
The easiest way to tell the new GTS apart is the massive ‘GTS 4.0’ sticker on the side, but there are also sports seats shared with the GT4, a GT sport steering wheel, and a few other unique features.
Despite the high level of standard features (for a Porsche), the Cayman GTS 4.0 we tested here is actually relatively well optioned, enough to bring it to a total of $198,330 before on-road costs. Things like keyless entry should really not be an option on a car this expensive, but such is Porsche.
Options fitted to our test vehicle:
- GTS interior package Carmine Red: $9910
- Bose Surround Sound system: $2470
- LED main headlights incl. Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS+): $2320
- Keyless entry and start: $1470
- Carmine Red exterior colour: $4920
- Adaptive sports seats plus (18-way, electric) incl. memory package: $2850
- Lane Change Assist: $1220
- Electrically folding exterior mirrors including courtesy lighting: $620
- Power steering plus: $550
There are no official crash ratings for the Porsche 718 Cayman or Boxster.
Porsche also doesn’t offer features like autonomous emergency braking which are becoming commonplace across the new car market, which we feel is a bit of a cop-out even for a sports car.
We are a big fan of the Cayman’s interior. The Cayman GTS 4.0 is nothing fancy and is very typical of Porsche in that it’s function over form. Nonetheless, the seats are beautifully made and feel very supportive, while the general ambience of the cabin is top-notch.
The steering wheel feels nice to hold and the manual gear-shifter is nicely presented, though we feel it could be a little more glamorous.
The 718 Cayman’s interior can feel a bit cramped if you’re on the taller end of the scale but this car is made to fit Americans, so most Australians should have no issue.
There’s not an awful lot of places to put things in the car, but if you want practical, go buy a Macan.
There is a 150L front storage space backed up by a 270L rear storage area right behind the engine. Together they provide enough storage space for the supermarket run but you may find yourself struggling with medium to large hard suitcases.
We found Porsche’s infotainment system pretty spot on with decent load times and a responsive screen that is laminated nicely to the glass, reducing sun glare.
The holy grail of naturally-aspirated engines available for the Cayman, the 4.0-litre six-cylinder unit taken directly from the Cayman GT4.
It has 294kW of power and 420Nm of torque (430Nm in PDK versions arriving soon), meaning it’s down 15kW on the GT4 but we can assure you that’s almost entirely down to software, with the engines in the two cars being practically identical.
Porsche claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds for the manual (4.0 for the PDK), which compares favourably to the GT4 which is only 0.1 seconds quicker.
The official fuel economy figure is 11.0L/100km, but that figure was probably achieved by your grandmother rather than the person who actually buys a GTS.
The engine has the same type of character as the GT4, in that you really need to rev it all the way out to 7800rpm to get the most out of it. It’s best just to stay in second most of the time, as that seems to be the ideal gear for getting around town.
Though I complain endlessly about the boring nature of turbocharged engines in proper sports cars, this GTS is so damn pure in its power and torque delivery it demands you rev each gear out in to feel alive.
That makes for a hell of a car on track when you seldom drop below 5000rpm, but less so on the road where it feels like there is a bit of a torque hole lower down in the rev range.
Nonetheless, it has plenty of power and torque to get it going in stop-start traffic and the transmission is smooth enough (though not as smooth as the short-shifting GT4) to be daily driven.
Don’t want a manual? First, shame on you. Second, there is a PDK version coming in a few months so it’s probably worth the wait for the extra $6000 cost.
What we love about the Cayman GTS is that it feels like a 997-generation 911 Carrera S. It’s basic and super predictable in how it handles. Any oversteer is fixed with a minor correction even if you get your line or braking point wrong.
It doesn’t have all the trickery of the new 911s and as such, you feel far more connected to the car and can really see your inputs having direct results.
It’s truly the purest Porsche you can buy right now apart from the Cayman GT4, 911 GT3 and GT3 RS, all of which set you back considerably more coin. If you think about it that way, it’s actually a bit of a bargain.
The Cayman misses out on things like rear-wheel steering and other active driver aids, but as a result you’re presented with a car that begs to be driven hard and is well within reach of most decent drivers for 10/10 performance extraction.
We had a dozen or so laps around Morgan Park and found the balance very rewarding and highly encouraging to push more and more.
It’s awfully well-planted and the steering, despite being electromechanical, is arguably better than what you will get in the current 911 Carrera S in terms of feedback.
It also rides beautifully on the poorest roads despite the lower ride height, making it a great daily.
If it just had that tiny bit more torque lower down in the rev range it would be a more accessible car – the PDK will fix that as it will allow for rapid drop in gear ratios – but in the manual, you will potentially find yourself needing to drop down numerous gears in succession to really get up and going.
Something else to note is that despite being naturally-aspirated, the Cayman GTS 4.0 isn’t all that loud unless you’re at full noise.
Porsche will charge you a flat $695 fee to service your car, almost regardless of what it is.
It’s a pretty reasonable asking price given the cost of purchase and compares very favourably to some other high-end brands.
Ultimately, there has never been a better Porsche Cayman GTS.
You are buying a car that is arguably the best value-for-money in Porsche’s range when compared to the Cayman GT4 or 911 GT3 line-up.
That 4.0-litre atmo six is magnificent and the feel from the car is unrivalled in its price range. The only question really, is whether you wait for the PDK or grow a pair and pick the manual.