Porsche 718 Cayman GTS (2017-2020) review
Even with lots of suspension and drivetrain trickery, you can’t quite ignore the noise from the 718’s unlovable engine
The 718 Cayman is the entry-level Porsche; the basic non-S car is cheaper than its drop-top relative, the Boxster, and comes in at less than the Porsche’s baby SUV, the Macan. One of the benefits of the relatively small starting price is that, not only can you get into a Porsche sports car for less than £43,000, even this, the top of the range Cayman, the GTS, comes for the reasonable price of £59,866.
Now nearly £60,000 might not seem all that cheap for a four-cylinder sports car, but when compared to the most basic 911, a simple Carrera, it starts to look like remarkable value. Yes, the Cayman has two few seats and cylinders, but with 360bhp and a top speed of 183mph, the GTS is just 5bhp and 3mph shy of the 911’s equivalent figures. What’s more, both cars can accelerate to 62mph in exactly the same time, 4.6sec. But, the GTS does all that and costs £18,025 less than the 911.
Of course, it isn’t all about numbers. The GTS might be faster and more powerful than the basic 718 Cayman and S, but the added performance when combined with a bunch of chassis upgrades makes it an incredibly natural and entertaining car. As such, the 718 GTS is capable of challenging the 911 as a true sports car.
What with it being the top of the current Cayman tree, the 718 GTS has a raft of high-tech features as standard. The chassis is treated to PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) that includes adaptive dampers and new springs that lower the car 10mm. The GTS also has PVT (Porsche Torque Vectoring) and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential as standard.
On top of all that the GTS comes with Porsche’s Sport Chrono. More than just a dash-mounted stopwatch, Sport Chrono includes dynamic transmission mounts and a driving mode dial located on the steering wheel. This dial allows you to switch between four driving modes (Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual) that alter the characteristics of the throttle, chassis and the stability control. If you opt for the PDK transmission, Porsche’s dual-clutch gearbox, Sport Chrono includes launch control.
Engine, transmission and 0-60 time
The engine in the middle of the Cayman GTS is mechanically identical to the one in the 718 S – it’s the same 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four, but thanks to a few software tweaks, it produces 15bhp more than the S with 360bhp. Torque, for the manual GTS at least, is the same as the S at 310lb ft. All this results in a 0-62mph time of 4.6sec.
The standard transmission is a six-speed manual gearbox, but a dual-clutch transmission with seven forward ratios is available. As well as an extra gear, the PDK gearbox allows the engine’s torque to be 7lb ft greater. The snappier gearchanges of the semi-auto, the extra torque from the engine and the all-important launch control allow the PDK GTS to trim 0.5sec off the 0-62mph time and it completes the dash in 4.1sec.
What’s it like to drive?
There’s no denying it, the noise that fills the GTS’s cabin from its turbo four-cylinder is dreadful. Thrummy and breathy, there’s very little to love as it idles away. A curious blip of the throttle to see if the note develops into anything more enticing produces more of the same tuneless drivel. And that’s not just comparing the noise to the old GTS’s sharp and musical flat-six – the depth and sophistication to that engine’s sound, the way it sang through an entire scale of notes as the revs rose, means the two are simply beyond comparison. The only redeeming feature of the 718 GTS sonically is that this is probably the quietest iteration of this motor, so whatever racket it does make is at least partially muted.
From here on out though, the GTS just gets better. One of the benefits of the turbocharged engine is a heap of torque that instantly excites and awakens the Cayman every time you use a significant amount of throttle. Out of long bends or tight corners the GTS leaps forward when you accelerate, no matter what your corner speed is.
The chassis is just as impulsive as the engine, reacting instantly like an archetypal mid-engined car; it changes direction so effortlessly it’s clear the majority of its weight is nestled well within its wheelbase. Its direct steering, that’s so well-suited to the GTS’s set-up – not so fast as to make the car feel nervous, but quick enough to let you confidently react to anything the road might throw up – allows you to make the most of the car’s inherent agility.
Many of these traits are shared with the regular 718 Cayman and the S, yes, but what the GTS achieves over and above is a greater sense of fun. The extra power and the chassis changes allow you to access the Cayman’s full potential more easily, more of the time. What’s really impressive is that in the pursuit of this approachability, Porsche hasn’t traded any of the Cayman’s proficiency.
However, the 718 version of the GTS doesn’t really achieve anything more than the Cayman GTS it replaces. What with its more desirable engine, it’s the previous model that feels more exotic and like a much higher quality product.
Price and rivals
Although the £59,866 718 Cayman GTS is significantly cheaper than a Carrera S, there are many reasons why, in some people’s eyes, the Cayman will never really rival the 911. The two extra seats in the 911 play a part in that but, for aficionados of the Stuttgart marque, it’s the more expensive car’s rear-engined layout and the individual characteristics that generates, that create clear air between the two in the Porsche range.
At this price, the 718 GTS is far more expensive than the Cayman’s usual rivals. BMW M2’s is only £44,080, the most expensive Alpine A110, the Legende, is £50,805 and even Audi’s TT RS is cheaper at £51,800.
That puts the GTS right in the firing line of the £59,105 Jaguar F-type and the £60,465 BMW M4. The Cayman fends off the Jag with ease; the Porsche has an extra 25bhp and can accelerate to 62mph 1.1sec faster. However, compared to the BMW, the Cayman is a little outgunned – the M4 has 65bhp more power, 94lb ft more torque, is 0.3sec faster to 62mph, has two extra seats and a far nicer engine. Yet, the Cayman is still the better sports car.