THE PROS & CONS
Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0/Boxster GTS 4.0
- What’s Good: Brilliant acceleration; brilliant handling; brilliant brakes.
- What’s Bad: A bit snug inside; beyond adding 718 to the names, not much else.
Porsche Macan GTS
- What’s Good: GTS version adds a dollop of sport to the Sport Utility field; ... while still offering a modicum of utility; car seems to shrink around you.
- What's Bad: AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, I STILL HAVE ISSUES WITH A PORSCHE TRUCK ...
ESTORIL, PORTUGAL—Porsche’s Boxster roadster and its coupe cousin Cayman have been tremendous successes if for no other reason than that they provide proof Porsche can still build the lightweight, nimble sports cars that created the company in the first place.
(Note here that Porsche is trying to get us to call these cars “718 Boxster” and “718 Cayman,” the 718 being a reference to a Porsche race car of the late ’50s to early ’60s. I’ll stay with Boxster and Cayman because that’s what everybody I know who doesn’t work for Porsche calls them.)
The GTS — Gran Turismo Sport — models of these cars get a new engine this year, a slightly detuned version of the four-litre flat six that powers the 911, and also the Cayman GT4 and 718 (Boxster) Spyder, which were introduced last year.
No, you really can’t tell the players without a program.
Prices have not been announced, but the previous 2.5-litre Turbo GTS models started at $90,600 for the Cayman GTS and $93,000 for the Boxster GTS a couple of years ago, so don’t expect much change from a $100,000 bill.
Meanwhile, the mid-size Macan is proof Porsche can also build the too-big/too-heavy SUVs today’s market inexplicably demands, and make them work surprisingly well.
The Macan GTS has already been priced — it starts at $77,100.
Using German specs — all we have at the moment — the Boxster/Cayman GTS flat six produces 400 PS (German horsepower; about 394 of ours) at 7,000 r.p.m., 420 Newton-metres (310 lb.-ft.) of torque from 5,000 to 6,500 r.p.m., with a red line of 7,800 r.p.m.
Initially, all GTS models will be available only with a six-speed manual transmission; a PDK autobox is expected to join the party later in the year.
The cars do zero to 100 km/h in the mid-four-second range. That’s actually slower than the 2.5-litre turbo four in the previous GTS models.
As compensation, you get even better throttle response — obviously, no turbo lag — and despite the lofty peak torque r.p.m., they get off the line briskly and never leave you feeling under-gunned.
They also sound way better.
Fuel consumption normally isn’t top of mind for Porsche drivers. Still, the engine has selective cylinder deactivation to save few thimblefuls. Under light load between 1,600 and 2,500 r.p.m., one bank of three cylinders is shut off. The “deactivated” bank is switched left to right every 20 seconds to ensure even engine wear and to keep the catalytic converters for both banks hot enough to function properly.
The transition from three- to six-cylinder operation is seamless; listen carefully and you’ll hear a slight change in the exhaust note.
Porsche’s drive mode selector dial on the steering wheel has three settings — Normal, Sport and Sport Plus — with preset values for throttle response, the ride comfort/sportier handling tradeoff, exhaust sound, the auto stop/start function and retractable rear spoiler position.
An “Individual” setting allows you to choose your own combination of parameters.
The Sport Plus setting also invokes Porsche’s rev-matching function, which automatically matches the engine r.p.m. to whichever gear ratio you are in the process of selecting.
This feature can make anyone rev match as well as my co-driver, Marc Lachapelle from Montreal.
The suspension is lowered by 20 millimetres, and combined with Porsche’s Active Suspension Management System (PASM), assures sporty handling.
A mechanical limited-slip differential and torque vectoring, whereby slight brake pressure is automatically applied to the inside rear wheel in a corner to help nudge the car around the bend, helps everybody become a better driver.
Upgraded interior trim and sportier bits on the outside identify the GTS models.
To show us how this works, Porsche brought us to this lovely spot just west of Lisbon, partly because Circuito Estoril, the former Formula 1 race track, would allow us to wring out the sports cars (not the SUVs) with less threat to life and limb (not to mention passersby and their automobiles).
This region also has some lovely country roads, some pretty ocean views and, as we found out, some small towns with teeny-weeny lanes, which, once you get into them, are almost impossible to get out of.
One of the challenges of laying out a route for journos to follow is that between the time they plan the route and the time we get there, the municipality might have changed the road layout.
In this case, we thought the young woman waving at us was just trying to get the attention of two handsome dudes in a pretty green Boxster.
Hey — we can dream, can’t we?
Turns out, she was with Porsche and was trying to keep us from going onto a newly designated one-way street that brought us into the centre of the village of Sintra, with streets so narrow, it made our Boxster feel like a Mack truck.
When you have to do a three-point turn in a lithe sports car like this, you know you’re lost.
The SatNav was of no help because it had not been updated with the new road layout; it kept trying to lead us down the path to a conversation with the local constabulary.
We eventually found a couple of road workers who spoke excellent English and were able to direct us to the correct route.
Once on the open road, we were able to enjoy the latest generation of this iconic sports car.
And it is a treat.
Not as stiffly sprung as the Spyder/GT4, and hence more comfortable, it is more a dual-purpose car.
I have long believed these midengined cars are the purest driving machines in Porsche’s stable, and this drive reinforced that belief.
As did a couple of sessions on the race track in Caymans. As usual, we went two cars at a time with a pace car leading the way. And as usual, that pace car would only go as fast as the slowest driver in the pairing, so you want to go with a guy who’s faster than you.
Re-enter Lachapelle. I’m never going to be held up by him.
And if I can stay close to him, as I was more or less able to do, I know I’m doing OK.
The purity of the car’s handling was doubly reinforced on the track. We were required to leave the stability-control system on, albeit in its least limiting setting.
Porsche probably does this better than anyone. You can hang the cars out enough to have fun, but it’s there to catch you if you overdo it.
Lachapelle had told me he preferred to leave the rev-matching feature off because he’d rather be smooth without the benefit of the technology. I get that — he is the best at this, and doesn’t need the help.
I tried it both ways. This gearbox is among the slickest you’ll find anywhere, and even without the rev-matching feature, it’s not difficult to do a pretty good job, both up- and downshifting.
It still didn’t make me as consistent as my friend.
How about more practice, Porsche?
The GTS 4.0 versions of the Boxster and Cayman are probably the best versions of these cars for those who buy Porsches for pure handling prowess, but also have to drive them to the office every day.
Not as intense or expensive as the Spyder/GT4, but with better handling than the lesser models.
And with the added exclusivity, which, let’s be honest, is part of the appeal of buying any Porsche.
As for the Macan GTS, well, pretty much the same can be said about this version of Porsche’s compact SUV.
Power from the 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 is now 380 PS (375 horsepower) at 5,200 — 6,700 r.p.m., with torque peaking at 520 Nm (382 lb.-ft.) from 1,750 r.p.m. all the way to five grand.
It is fed to all four wheels through a seven-speed PDK double-clutch automatic, which you can paddle-shift for yourself if you think you can beat it.
Hint — you can’t.
This gives a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.9 seconds, 4.7 if you opt for the Sport Chrono package, which has the mode switch on the steering wheel like the Boxster/Cayman GTS, offering Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual settings.
This also brings a Sport Response button in the middle of this dial, which gives you 20 seconds of peak turbo boost for those do-or-die passing manoeuvres.
Suspension and tires are upgraded for better handling. Yes, you can actually use the word “handling” when it comes to an SUV — with this one, at least.
I’ve said this before about this vehicle; it seems to shrink around you as you get used to it.
Sure, it is taller and weighs more than you’d think a Porsche should, but given all that, it still is a decently satisfying drive.
And like its two-seat cousins, the GTS trim level provides a nice upgrade from the Macan and Macan S without having to go a price-of-a-subcompact-car more to the Macan Turbo.
As always with Porsche, you will have to sit down with your sales consultant at your friendly local Porsche store and go through the massive order book to choose exactly the right GTS Boxster, Cayman or Macan that’s right for you.
If you’re the right kind of Porsche customer, it will be worth the effort.
Jim Kenzie is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star.