Porsche’s junior sports cars, the 718 Boxster and Cayman, remain the entry point into the company’s sports car range, a rite of passage to upgrade to the perennial 911.
That is not to take anything away from the Boxster and Cayman because they boast the best handling in their segment, thanks to their mid-engine layout, which lends them a balanced handling disposition.
The 718 range may have lost the flat-six charms of the previous generations, but they remain quicker and considerably more frugal with their flat-four turbocharged engines.
Now the Stuttgart outfit has launched the sportiest models yet of the duo in the form of the GTS. The moniker brings darker headlight surrounds, a new front apron, black 20-inch alloy wheels, GTS lettering at the bottom of the doors, tinted rear lights, black model designation lettering on the boot lid and black sports exhaust tips.
The cabin gets a touch of sportiness with an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and centre tunnel, aluminium pedals and a tachometer festooned with the GTS logo.
Under the engine lid of both models resides the 2.5l flat-four turbo from the S versions, but deep-tissue massaged here for better performance, thanks to a new engine intake and turbo charger that increases power to 269kW (11kW more than the S model and 26kW more than its GTS predecessor), while torque is 430Nm with PDK-equipped models (420Nm with the six-speed manual).
The suspension is 10mm lower than the S, thanks to active suspension management while torque vectoring and a mechanical differential ensure maximum traction.
Thanks to the spicier performance, the Boxster and Cayman GTS can sprint to 100km/h from standstill in a claimed 4.4 seconds with PDK and Sport Chrono Package (4.6sec for the manual) and on to a top speed of supercar-baiting 290km/h.
Now available in SA, we drove the duo on the road and on the Kyalami racetrack to see if those three letters are worth the R1,122m for the Cayman and R1,137m for the Boxster.
The road assessment took us to Tshwane where the Boxster GTS felt easily at home on the N1 even with the suspension set to its hardest mode. It remained fairly composed to the point of being benign.
The engine still sounds similar to the S variant with a sports exhaust, which creates a turbo-induced whoosh on acceleration and some crackles on the overrun, but the note takes getting used to.
The seven-speed PDK gearbox remains a peach and is intuitive in traffic and when you pin the throttle to the floorboard.
There was little scuttle permeating through the steering or rear-view mirror, a sign of a stiff body that translates to better handling. The Cayman GTS delivered on the promise of a pukka sports car experience, something that was even more apparent on the track.
The Kyalami track is perfect for testing a performance vehicle. The Boxster and Cayman did about 205km/h down the main straight before the Crowthorne hairpin, but the models’ forte remains their handling prowess. Mostly neutral, they performed admirably around the track, but the Cayman was the slightly more sharper tool, particularly through the Esses where the vehicle’s weight transitions from right to left as you power up towards Leeukop. While you could easily flick the Cayman through here and get on the power sooner, the Boxster required more finesse and waiting for the vehicle to settle before jumping on the power.
The Cayman is about 5% - 6% better around the track, which speaks volumes about how competent the Boxster is, despite losing a solid roof.
The brakes, despite punishment from the previous day’s media activities, still imparted confidence and bit well when the pedal was depressed.
All considered and at the price, the Boxster and Cayman GTS are competent junior sports cars, but they do miss out against the Audi TT-RS on sheer grunt and theatrical drama, courtesy of the latter’s vociferous five-cylinder turbo engine.
At R971,500 for the Audi you will have to dig much deeper to go quicker, but in terms of sheer dynamics, the Cayman GTS has no peers.