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First Drive: 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster GTS

MALAGA, Spain — Porsche is famous for deriving new variants from existing models. The 911 Carrera, the most obvious example of this hair splitting, now comes in 24 flavours — one to satisfy the performance-car steward’s every conceivable taste. The smaller, mid-engine Cayman and Boxster have also been developed over the years, from the base, 300-horsepower car to the track-focused GT4, and for the first time in 2014, two GTS models.

Now come the bottling of new ones — the 718 Cayman GTS coupe and Boxster GTS convertible. Neither of these cars are meant for those who simply want an attractive Porsche for commuting or pleasure because the base car, at $63,000, will be plenty enough, as will the S models that get 350 horsepower.

GTS models, on the other hand, are for those who find the S just a wee bit wanting and prefer something that can hold its head high at weekend track meets. The GTS is also for those who want a bit of bargain with their Porsche, if such a thing exists, because optioning up a lower tier S model with the GTS’s standard features would end up costing roughly $10,000 more than the $90,600 718 Cayman GTS or $93,000 718 Boxster GTS. The GTS models look better, too, with a front apron that hints of Ferrari’s 458, as well as blackened Bi-Xenon headlamps, black central tailpipes and black taillights.

And, really, as they come off the factory floor, the new GTS 718s don’t need much in the way of options unless you prefer bling. GTS cars come standard with features that usually the most serious drivers demand: Porsche torque vectoring, sport exhaust, a six-speed manual, limited slip differential, sport seats plus, Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM, which works on rough roads as well as the track), a 10-mm lower suspension, 20-inch wheels, and Sport Chrono that includes unique gearbox mounts that limit vibration and movement to improve handling. GTS cars also get an interior that wears Alcantara on the headliner (Cayman), seats, steering wheel and shift knob as proudly as Burt Reynolds flouts leather. The electrics now work with a unique track app on your phone. More importantly, the GTS gets 317 lb.-ft. of torque (with the PDK, 309 with the manual) and 15 more horsepower the 350-hp S. That’s 35 more horsepower than the last generation GTS — and those cars had flat-six engines.

The 718 Cayman and Boxster, of course, have shifted to turbocharged four cylinder engines, although dropping two cylinders is not as immediately obvious as their displacements suggest. The engines are still loud enough at startup and idle to scare away starlings, and decently raunchy under hard acceleration and redline. They’re fast too. Though the forced fours are not as crisp or as deep or soul satisfying as the naturally-aspirated sixes, they are stellar replacements nonetheless. Power arrives quickly yet controllably, peak torque is ready to serve as early as 1,900 rpm, so the engine no longer needs to hang out at a 4,000 rpm base camp.

dsc 6949 First Drive: 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster GTSdsc 6949 First Drive: 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster GTS

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS

There’s fractionally more speed too, zero to 100 km/h falling to 4.1 seconds in automatic (PDK) equipped Cayman and Boxster GTS cars, 4.6 seconds with the manual. Top speed is 290 km/h. If you never drove the flat six, you might not recognize the downsizing. Fuel consumption drops too, to a combined average of 8.2L/100km.

At Circuito Ascari in southern Spain, a tight, 5.4-km race track that’s busy with 26 corners and, as such, demands focus instead of outright speed, the Cayman is perfectly at home. With the engine in the middle of the chassis, the balance of the car is felt immediately. And it is such a delight. Lean, pitch and roll are virtually absent. Exit too quickly and there’s hardly any tendency for the rear to swing out; but even when it does, the hip wagging comes with clear warning to the driver who can easily correct. Brake hard in less than a straight line and there’s no tail movement or anxious steering corruption, just a sure and confident elimination of speed.

Less angry than the old sixes, the 2.5-litre flat-fours engage a single turbo with a variable vane turbine to eliminate turbo lag. None was evident. The engine is tuned to keep the turbo spinning when lifting off the throttle, in anticipation for more, by keeping the wastegate closed and retarding the timing. And while there were moments when more horsepower would have been welcome, on a track with lots of turns and bends, the GTS is a thoroughly willing partner, its downshift rev matching allowing the driver to concentrate more on the correct line than the correct rpm.

Shifts are mechanically perfect, falling exactly into place with just the right touch. Clutch and throttle response is excellent. Driving fast in the GTS is far more fun than fearsome. It’s a car that seems to have, at its core, a mission to please at speed rather than pamper at the curb, making the difficult job of accelerating and cornering easier than they should be. Sure, the GTS will understeer slightly when carrying too much speed into a hard corner, but the brakes will simply scrub it off should patience be at hand.

Losing those cylinders may have been Porsche’s way of demarcating the 718s from the venerable 911, but the GTS narrows the performance gap between the base 911 and this car considerably. No doubt, the 718 GTS will find its proper place in the pantheon of great Porsche cars. But against a less-skilled 911 pilot, an experienced 718 GTS driver will not stay behind for long.

Article source: http://driving.ca/porsche/boxster/reviews/road-test/first-drive-2018-718-porsche-cayman-and-boxster-gts

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