The New Porsche Cayman GTS is the Antidote to Overkill

The Cayman (and its cousin, the Boxster) are built to for pure driving, not brute force.

Porsche’s Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe perform a valuable public service: Reminding sports car fans that you don’t need 500 or 600 horsepower to have a good time. With today’s supercars increasingly running out of room or regulatory cover for their 200-mph excursions, the new Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS offer a sharp riposte to the current age of overkill.

We drove a showroom’s worth of Porsche’s latest GTS models – 911’s, Cayenne, Panamera – in Andalusia, Spain, from movie-chase mountain roads to the rollicking Ascari Race Resort. These Gran Turismo Sport versions do bring 15 to 50 more horsepower than Porsche S models. But they’re more about pure driver sensation and a lusty soundtrack, not overpowering force.

Generating a respective 330 and 340 horsepower from their 3.4-liter flat-six, the GTS-enhanced Boxster and Cayman are the most lightly powered and affordable cars in the expanding GTS universe. Nosing up to the starting line at Ascari with 430-horsepower 911 GTS models—Coupe, Cabriolet and the centerfold-worthy Targa—the Boxster and Cayman might have seemed out of their league.

That assumption lasts barely two minutes, or the time it takes for the Boxster and Cayman to twirl around this bucolic Spanish track.

All lean muscle wrapped around a classic bone structure, the Cayman and Boxster bear the closest kinship to the company’s first GTS: The Carrera 904 of the early ‘60s, the street-legal, mid-engine racer whose comfortable, easeful performance gave its drivers an edge in the era’s most treacherous endurance races. Those included the Targa Florio, a notoriously tangled pasta of public roads in Sicily, which the 904 won in 1964.

The Boxster/Cayman GTS makeover begins with formal black for both the painted 20-inch Carrera S wheels and the tailpipes. Black Alcantara wraps key interior bits, including the steering wheel, gear lever, seat inserts and center console. A central, Carmine Red tachometer testifies to your GTS purchase, as do GTS imprints on headrests.

Porsche’s best go-fast gear is all standard, from the driver-adjustable dampers of Porsche Active Stability Management to the Sport Chrono package whose settings  man up the engine, steering, throttle and a seven-speed PDK automatic transmission with dynamic mounts. Purists can choose a seven-speed, rev-matching manual transmission that’s one of the silkiest in the business.

The GTS bodies hunker 0.4 inches closer to the ground.

The sound symposer, another hand-me-down from the 911, is the pied piper, sending natural engine sound into the cabin via a tuned tube.  A standard Sport Exhaust plays its own adjustable tune: Pressing a console button coaxes an urgent rasp from the overachieving six as it charges to a 7,900 rpm peak. 

The Cayman may not be supercar-quick, but a 4.3-second burst to 60 mph is nothing to scoff at, trailing the 911 GTS’ marks by just a few tenths of a second. The Boxster clicks off 60 in 4.4, with both runs achieved with the eye-blink-fast PDK automatic. Top speed is 177 mph for the Cayman, or 174 for the softtop Boxster.

Chasing a 911 Targa 4 GTS around Ascari, the much-stronger 911 stretches to a lead on straightways. But the Cayman, with its mid-engine balance and slender 2,959-pound curb weight – nearly 450 fewer than the Targa GTS – can brake noticeably later into turns. The result? The Cayman, despite 90 fewer horses, easily reels the 911 back in through tighter sections of the course.

On the return trip to Malaga, we skirt Ronda, the cliff-hung, formerly Islamic town that’s one of the prettiest sights in all of Europe. Here, the Cayman GTS improves on what was already one of the world’s best driver’s cars, describing lines on the pavement with the precision and artistry of a master calligrapher. The steering, eager and sensitive, proves that electric racks aren’t a death knell for driving feel. On road or track, the Cayman and Boxster do feel twitchier than a dead-stable 911, but in a good way, at least for drivers who love the pure immediacy of a mid-engine design.

Braking hard into downhill curves, the PDK automatically blips the throttle for smoother gear changes, keeping the Cayman nice and settled through the twisties – a good thing considering the white stucco towns looming far below, like sugar cubes floating in deep green valleys.

Back in the real world of America, these GTS’s will assuredly boost the fun factor for owners, whether it’s a local track day or the daily commute. And while some of their extra features are aesthetic frou-frou, the GTS models do deliver on a promise rarely heard from Porsche: More sports car for less money.

The Boxster GTS starts from $75,595, or $76,295 for the hardtop Cayman GTS. That’s a roughly $11,000 jump over their lesser-performing S versions, or in Porsche terms, the price of an ashtray and a commemorative key chain. But if you tallied the value of all the GTS’ added features, you’d be talking closer to $16,000 or $17,000.

As the lightest, purest performers in the expanding GTS universe, this Boxster and Cayman aren’t just for clipping apexes. They’re the closest thing to coupon clippers in today’s Porsche dealership.

Follow Lawrence  on Twitter at @LawrenceUlrich