by Mark Smyth
We often wonder whether car companies are really paying attention. Occasionally it seems that they are and while they don't generally admit their mistakes, sometimes they actually give us what we want. That's certainly the case with the new Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 and Cayman 4.0 GTS models which go on sale in the US in the summer.
One of the biggest criticisms of the existing 718 models is the lack of sound from the turbocharged four-cylinder. The GTS changes that. It uses the same four-liter flat-six from the GT4 and Spyder, albeit slightly detuned but crucially, it sounds better, much much better.
There's more to the GTS than just the sound though and CarBuzz travelled to Lisbon in Portugal to put them through their paces on the famous Estoril grand prix circuit and in the hills around the capital city.
Porsche first used the Gran Turismo Sport (GTS) badge on the Targa Florio winning 904 Carrera GTS in 1963. It appeared a few times after that but then Porsche decided to make it more of a thing when it introduced the Cayenne GTS in 2007. Since then, GTS models have featured unique styling attributes and the same is true of the latest 718 versions.
The front apron has been tailored for the model with components in black and at the rear, it has its own dif-fuser, darkened taillights and the sports exhaust from the GT4. There's a range of wheel choices including black painted ones and black GTS badging on the sides and at the back. Inside there's black brushed aluminum and GTS leather and Alcantara seats.
It all looks sporty, darker even than the regular 718 models, which is appropriate because there's definitely a more intense character to the GTS.
Much of that darker character comes from the engine, a 4.0 liter, flat-six that is still based on the 3.0 liter from the Porsche 911. It's normally aspirated, no turbocharging here and provides its peak power of 394 hp at 7,000 rpm and 309 lb-ft of torque between 5,000-6,500 rpm. That's 29 hp more than the last generation and only 20 hp less than in the GT4. In fact, the only real changes are software-based according to Porsche engine boss, Markus Baumann, who told us that "the character is very similar."
Power goes through a six-speed manual transmission and Baumann told us that they are working on a PDK dual-clutch option that will be released towards the end of the year. "We need more time to develop it," he says, adding that there needs to be more calibration and homologation work done.
Purists are not going to complain of course and the manual 'box does have a very nice blip to it as you change up the gears. As you do, Porsche claims the GTS will hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and go on to a top speed of 182 mph. Cruise in a 718 GTS and Porsche claims you'll get a combined 21 mpg, but in all honesty, you probably won't.
Inside it's all proper sports car territory, with superb build quality and great materials. There are GTS seats with Alcantara inserts that are comfortable on the road and hold you well if you venture on to the track. Alcantara also covers the steering wheel and is used for other trim parts around the interior where you'll find the GTS emblem dotted about. You'll also find it on the start-up screen of the Porsche Communication Management touchscreen infotainment system. It's a great balance between comfort and the feel of a true sports car, something that can be said of most GTS models.
It's always tricky to discuss boot space in a sports car, but many people use their 718 as a daily driver and it'll handle the office bag or grocery shop without any problem. Both the Boxster and Cayman provide 5.3 cubic feet in the front trunk and another 4.2 in the rear. It's not going to take a holiday suitcase but you'll squeeze in a holdall easily enough.
Elsewhere you get the usual cupholders that pop out of the dash, a bit of space between the seats and the tiniest of door pockets, useful really for only putting your candy wrappers in.
There are all sorts of systems in both the Boxster and Cayman GTS models. These include a mechanical limited slip differential, Porsche Active Suspension Management that lower the chassis 0.8 inches (0.39 in you choose the optional comfort chassis) and Porsche Stability Management.
We took to the track in the Cayman GTS first, where after a couple of corners to settle in, it was time to go play in the power band. It responds really well, the manual gearbox delivering the power effortlessly. It sounds great too, a major bonus of the GTS over other 718 models, with the flat-six roaring away behind you. It tucks in to the corners with true sports car grip, only becoming a little twitchy under very late braking. Speaking of brakes, there's Porsche Torque Vectoring as standard as well as the option of carbon ceramics which really impressed us on the track.
We stayed off the circuit for the Boxster, heading up into the hills above Lisbon. Here the drop-top showed its more relaxed side, at least until the narrow roads opened up. It's a proper dual-character machine, comfortable when you want to chill, but willing to respond to your demands when the road allows. The steering is as precise as you would expect of a Porsche and the chassis coped with ten a few bumpy bits of tarmac. The blip on gear changes sounds great without being a bit silly and all the while the engine delivers that vastly improved soundtrack over regular 718 models.
Porsche hasn't officially released pricing for the US yet, but when deliveries start in the fall it's likely to be around $90,000. There's lots of standard equipment but the options list is also worth exploring, particularly if you want to decide between comfort and track readiness. For the former there's the optional comfort sus-pension and chassis set-up and if you want things a little more hardcore then you can go for the carbon ceramic brakes. There's also an optional GTS interior package with contrasting colours and a number of driver assistance systems.
It's easy to criticize Porsche over the latest generation 718 models. They're extremely well built, handle bril-liantly and are comfortable and sporty in equal measure. But they lack the real involvement that enthusiasts seek, particularly when it comes to the sound. The GTS versions correct this, with a great flat-six boxer en-gine that not only delivers plenty of power but makes all the right noises too. The Cayman is a true sports coupe, the Boxster providing proper open-top GT driving. Isn't it great when you know someone's been paying attention.