• Updated looks, more power
  • 6-speed manual still offered
  • Boxster GTS: $81,950
  • Cayman GTS: $80,850

 

Some losing sports franchises are of the mind that a new luxury stadium will put derrières in seats. While that strategy might be good for a game or two, there’s only so much money one is willing to spend at the foie gras/sushi/tapas vendor if the home team’s always losing. Porsche has a different philosophy, one that stingy billionaire sports team owners might want to emulate–put a spectacular winning product on the field and those rear ends will keeping returning to the seats.

Case in point, there’s not much of anything to improve upon with the 718 or 718 S Boxster and Cayman, but Porsche isn’t one to go too long without adding more letters onto their alphabet soup badges. Thus, enter the 718 GTS Boxster and Cayman, the faster, sportier older brothers to the S models. Those two additional letters come thanks to a handful of noteworthy changes in both the engineering and styling of Porsche’s entry-level fare.

Under the hood a new air intake system, which boasts greater capacity and better optimizes airflow into the same 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four engine that powers the S model, allows more air to get into the engine faster, and more air equals more combustible magic.

More turbo boost means more power

Add to that a larger-diameter compressor wheel in the turbocharger from which Porsche engineers have managed to conjure 18.1-psi of turbo boost pressure over the previous 16.7-psi on the S and…BAM! These two improvements alone are responsible for now endowing both GTS models with 365 horsepower. That’s 15 more horsepower than the S and 65 horses more than the base 718–one big reason why Porsche always makes the playoffs!

Mated to Porsche’s superb PDK automatic transmission (the manual six-speed is also available for die-hards, purists or non-commuters) the 718 GTS’s 317 lb-ft of torque catapults these lightweight mid-engine sports rockets past the faux-Tuscan wine cellars of Napa Valley where we drove the Cayman some 300 miles all the way to the northwestern coast of Mendocino County and back again. That same world-class automatic dual clutch launches you from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, just a shade faster than it takes to drive to the next winery and sip another peppery shiraz.
 
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If you’ve ever been inclined to know what a rollercoaster whirling around a track feels like without the track part, then the GTS might be something to consider. Porsche’s Torque Vectoring system and a mechanical limited slip differential feed copious amounts of grip to the rear wheels. Confidence inspiring? Sort of.

While both the 718 and 911 are almost identical in weight at around 3,000 pounds and have a similar wheelbase of about 96 to 97 inches, they act completely different on the road because of their varied engine positions. Without the stalwart 911’s rear engine, and hence its aft rotational axis firmly planting the tail, driving the GTS offers an entirely different experience in the seat of your pants.

Thanks to its mid-engine weight squatting directly behind the driver, both the Cayman and Boxster rotate around a more central axis, like a top twirling around itself, skittish and tempestuous, which might feel, to an entry-level driver, like more car than they can handle. But because of that mid-engine position, the weight balance of the car is holistic and righteous and even if you’re not pushing it to 10/10ths–like an experienced driver needs to in a 911 to get the same feeling--you’re still getting a pure driving fun experience out of the deal. More bang for your mega bucks? Depends on what you’re after as a driver. Next to the more mature 911, the 718 GTS feels like a boisterous nephew dying to keep your attention.

Throaty exhaust

With a sport exhaust standard, that same engine that breathes down your neck, screaming sweet engine everthings into your ears (this may, or may not, be a good thing depending on whether you’re a fan of the flat four’s peculiar sound). In the Boxster it’s even more pronounced because, well, it’s a drop top. Either way you can amplify the cacophony with the push of a button on the center console and sport and sport plus modes both augment the tell-tale whap, whap, whap, whap of that flat four. 

Throttle response and chassis settings range from subdued sports cruise in comfort mode to stupidly stiff when adjusted to the firmest sport plus setting, which while good for a smooth track, on uneven asphalt will have you begging for a spinal adjustment afterward. Like Goldilocks would have discovered had she not wasted time with all those bears, the sports setting has just the right amount of give, with enough gnarly to make for a raucous afternoon excursion through northern California roads that serpentine between Redwood trees tall enough to kiss the sun.

Pricing

As for style, the new 718 GTS gives good face with a new Sport Design front fascia and a black lip spoiler. So, if an owner opts out of the telltale GTS badging, you’ll still be able to identify it. Porsche’s sport buckets make sure you stay put but not like some medieval torture device, and nor should it be with an asking price of $80,850 for the Cayman and $81,950 for the Boxster including a $1,050 destination charge. Porsche’s Maharaja-worthy option sheet can quickly turn either purchase into a six-figure proposition. Alcantara seat inlays, leather-covered everything, seats with 14- or 18-way power adjustments, carbon fiber trim bits and a scant $7,410 for ceramic composite brakes, the works are available for your pleasure.

On what we’d consider one of the best infotainment systems in the business, Apple CarPlay doesn’t come for free, and neither does navigation, that will cost you $2,320 extra. The Porsche Track Precision app comes with the optional Sport Chrono Package, which allows you to record lap times and performance around 130 pre-programmed race tracks to help you improve those times (no, your highway commute to the office isn’t one of them). You can also document your heartbeat through a SmartWatch app while driving, so you can see how excited you get when you’re behind the wheel. We know but calm down.

For anyone who still believes that the mid-engine Cayman or Boxster remains nothing but a mere flash with zero credentials, it’s time to get your aft end into the seat of the all-new 718 GTS – with it Porsche appears to be fielding yet another champion. 

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