Despite the gains in engine output and highway fuel economy, Porsche-philes were in an uproar when the mid-engine Cayman (and Boxster) turned away from the stalwart flat-six engines in favor of two new turbocharged flat-fours in 2017. Even the Cayman GTS came with one. The only way to get a naturally aspirated six-cylinder Cayman was with the pricey Cayman GT4. The GT4 was and is widely praised for its track-focused demeanor and trick bits—but also has diminished livability and limited availability. Add to that a modicum of conspiracy theorizing that Porsche wouldn’t allow any Cayman to outperform its halo car, the 911 Carrera. The theory went that the GT4’s “artificially” lower engine output, manual-only transmission (then), and too-tall gears were how Porsche hid the true potential of the Cayman. It came close but never did make the numbers of a base 911.
With the recent addition of the benchmark PDK dual-clutch automated manual, that performance delta has flipped the other way with the Cayman GT4 slightly ahead of a current base Carrera (but still trailing the Carrera S). Still, the Cayman GT4, boasting some suspension components from the even more racy 911 GT3, remains a track-oriented car with resulting tire noise roar and a busy ride on the street.
Enter the 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
The Cayman GTS recipe: Take the GT4’s 4.0-liter flat-six that effortlessly revs to 7,800 rpm, de-tuned to a mere 394 horsepower (a 20 hp loss) but with an additional 8 lb-ft of twisting force. Add to this active engine mounts, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (a $3,730 option), standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Sport Chrono package, and a torque-vectoring limited-slip differential, and voilà. But is the GTS really a GT4 at a $13,400 discount (base price to base price)?
Our evaluation loop with uneven pavement, peaks, valleys, a serpentine hill climb, city streets, and a highway blast was a true revelation of the breadth of talent the Cayman GTS has. No matter the situation, easily switching among driving modes with the thumbwheel on the steering wheel was second nature. The dampers seemed to read the pavement, the steering was telepathic, and the brakes unflappable. The hard knocks and jitters of the GT4 were banished, and the classic crescendo of a high-revving Porsche flat-six remained. The inherent balance of the mid-engine layout was on full display. The car always felt settled and confident, relaxed and ready. This version of the Cayman is so livable and simultaneously so thrilling that it really does approach the greatness of the eminently talented 911. The GTS is lovely, simply a pleasure to drive.
Testing the Cayman GTS
We were curious if the Cayman GTS would disappoint—compared to the GT4—when we hooked up our test gear. Compared to the last GT4 we tested, the GTS is down on power but is also 36 pounds lighter. Whereas the GT4 comes with super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, the GTS rides on more streetable Pilot Sport 4S tires. The GT4 boasts carbon-ceramic discs to the GTS’s cast iron rotors. How do they compare?
From his notes, associate road test editor Erick Ayapana was impressed: “Launch control holds revs at 6,000 rpm! This car seems to really ride the clutch longer than recent PDKs we’ve tested. But it works, delivering consistent launches and times, run after run.” The GTS’s best 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds exactly matches that of the GT4. An 11.8-second quarter-mile time is also a dead heat, and at 118.6 mph, the GTS was going 1.1 mph faster than the GT4 as it crossed the finish line. Ayapana continued, “Brakes give me loads of confidence. Great pedal feel, feedback, and bite. The tires like some heat and my last run was 100-0 mph. Still very consistent. Stopping distances from 60 mph: 108, 107, 100, 101, 100, 101, 98, 101, 98, and 106 feet.” The best we could manage from the GT4 was 100 feet. Is this really happening?
Over on our figure-eight course, we wrung its neck and came back awestruck. “Another masterpiece from Porsche. The way that you wear this car instead of driving it is so encouraging. The way a driver can easily find the car’s limits, dangle it over and back again, commanding either under- or over-steer with confidence is very rewarding. Steering weight and precision are ‘Porsche perfect.’ And the way I can go very hard on the brakes and stay out of the ABS while I trail them deep into the skid pad is another hallmark of Porsche. Overall, this might be the sportiest AND most livable Porsche I can remember.”
The results? A 23.6-second lap time and a two-way average maximum lateral-acceleration figure of 1.03 g. That’s a 0.5 second and 0.02 g deficit to the hardcore GT4. You know what, we’ll take that in favor of all the other advantages the GTS enjoys. The 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 really is a discounted GT4 with the ragged edges refined and polished to near perfection.
|SPECIFICATIONS||2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$94,200|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||4.0L/394-hp/317-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-6|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,211 lb (43/57%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||173.4 x 70.9 x 50.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.8 sec @ 118.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||98 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.03 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.6 sec @ 0.85 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/24/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/140 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.93 lb/mile|