Stuttgart's Most Affordable Cars Add Power, Luxury to Make Decision Harder
The tunnel carved through the ancient mountain on Mallorca seemed to stretch for miles. The smooth concrete sides gave way to raw stone at the top of the arch, a true modern marvel.
It was the only place on the Spanish island that seemed to be free of the bicycle riders with whom we shared the twisty roads during a two-day test drive of the 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS and 2015 Porsche Boxster GTS.
“Do it again,” I told my driving partner, who pushed the exhaust button on the center stack and mashed the accelerator to the floor. The Boxster GTS lunged forward and screamed with a guttural noise and energy that cut to the bone as the sound bounced off the rock and cement and then back onto me. People looked into their rearview mirrors to see what monster was growling with such fury. We just laughed.
Even without the aid of a tunnel, the exhaust button opens a flap to create a maximum sound that pops and snaps and turns heads – especially those of out-of-breath bicyclists attempting to clear another mountain peak.
The all-new GTS versions of the Boxster and Cayman are more than howling mid-engine two-seaters. They are the sum total of what a small Porsche can be, and could make the decision between a fully loaded Cayman GTS and a base 911 much more difficult for those concerned about the less-than-$10,000 price difference.
Of course, Porsche might suggest getting both, but few garages have that kind of space, and few paychecks have that many extra zeros. Even the least expensive Boxster GTS starts at $73,000. But as much as I like the 911, these two GTS models offer a lot to consider.
They are lighter, more nimble, and have great power-to-weight ratios. Coming in around 3000 pounds, the Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS provide lots of performance.
Porsche adds 15 horsepower to its 3.4L flat-six engine for a total of 340 hp for the Cayman GTS and 330 hp for the Boxster GTS. That’s only a few ponies shy of the 911’s 350 horsepower. Torque also increases to 280 lb-ft for the Cayman GTS and 273 lb-ft for the Boxster GTS. Better yet, Porsche found that power in its current engine instead of bolting on a turbocharger of some sort.
Add to that power Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system, which is standard on GTS models, and the car’s performance continues to improve. Porsche says the Cayman GTS cracked the eight-minute mark on the Nurburgring with a time of 7 minutes, 53 seconds. I surely could have gotten under 10 minutes. Replace the six-speed manual transmission with the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK and you’ll get launch control, which will trim 0.2 seconds off of your 0-60 time. The Cayman GTS can do it in 4.3 seconds, the automaker claims.
Both cars also come with selectable drive modes, including Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus. Each system is noticeably different in throttle inputs, shifting, and handling. These cars quickly go from weekend track racer to cross-country touring model with the push of a single button.
During our testing, we got the chance to run a few hot laps at Circuito Mallorca, which provides plenty of twists and off-camber turns. The Cayman GTS was phenomenal, with stable handling and excellent power out of the turns. From time to time the back end would slide around, but I attribute that more to my lack of racing chops than poor performance. When driving in Sport Plus mode the car cannot correct for bad driving, and its extremely sensitive throttle and crisp steering can make a bad driver look and feel even worse.
The GTS models sit 10mm lower than the S models, making them even more stable. Porsche also includes torque vectoring as part of the PASM suspension. Really, this is brake vectoring that’s activated when the wheel is turned, and it only works through the rear axle but still keeps the front end pointing forward. Mostly, all of these systems make the driver feel more confident. That confidence can translate to faster lap times. While I have never considered myself much of a track driver, the Cayman GTS will make most people feel like a good one.
On the open road, both cars provide excellent performance with a quiet interior and lots of leather, Alcantara, and GTS logos.
The center stack is simple and the center console has been decluttered compared to bigger Porsches such as the 911 or Panamera, though it has the same setup. The optional sport seats are extremely comfortable for long hauls and are electronically adjustable in 18 ways. On the highway you’ll notice all of the Grand Touring aspects. They glide along without any road noise seeping into the cabin. (Of course if the top is down on the Boxster, there’s that al fresco feeling.) When you need additional power to pass someone, it’s there with the press of your foot. The car drops a gear or two and zooms past its target without hesitation.
For the GTS models, Porsche offers black leather with two contrasting colors, Carmine Red or Rhodium Silver. All of the stitching is done in the contrasting color, as are the seat belts. It is the little details, such as the stopwatch at the top of the center stack, or the digital display in the instrument panel that can show the navigation maps, that remind drivers that luxury and sportiness need not be separate.
For those looking for exterior differences, the front end was changed slightly to make the intakes bigger, and the bi-xenon headlamps as well as the taillights now rest under smoked glass. Both cars ride on 20-inch wheels that fill the wells nicely.
The differences are subtle but still noticeable, creating a Porsche that even a layman might notice is special without knowing exactly why.
But if they don’t, it’s easy enough to tell them. Both are cars that carry on the GTS tradition that Porsche began 50 years ago when it created the 904 GTS to tear up tracks across Europe.
These cars will do the same, though they’ll also make the everyday commute nearly as enjoyable as crossing the mountains in Mallorca.
And if you’re ever in a tunnel, rev the engine until that exhaust note makes you giggle. It will.
|2015 Porsche Boxster GTS, Cayman GTS|
|BASE PRICE||$74,495 – $76,195|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible, coupe|
|ENGINE||3.4L/330-340-hp/273-280-lb-ft 24-valve, flat-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual, 7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3000-3200 lb (mfr est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||173.4 x 70.9 x 50.1-50.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.3-4.7 sec (mfr est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||June 2014|