It was only a matter of time before the recently redesigned Porsche 718 Boxster convertible and 718 Cayman coupe offered even more performance. We didn't have to wait very long; just a year it turns out. New for model-year 2018, the 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS are now the most powerful cars in the 718 lineup.
I tested both the base and S versions of the 718 last year and somewhat surprisingly, I preferred the 718 Cayman S to the 911 Carrera. Its supreme balance and responsive powertrain won me over against the classic styling and rear-engine layout in the 911. To say I was excited to get behind the wheel of the GTS would be putting it mildly.
I headed to Napa Valley in Northern California to sample the new vintages of the 718. Per company policy, Cars.com pays for its own lodging and transportation to such automaker events.
What Does the 718 GTS Get You?
The GTS badge comes with some cosmetic updates that set it apart from other versions of the 718, including a unique front apron, dark tinted headlights and taillights, 20-inch Carrera S wheels in black and black tailpipes. Inside, "GTS" is stitched into the head restraints, the gauges are finished in black, and the steering wheel, shift knob and parts of the door panel/center console bin are all covered in Alcantara.
That's all potatoes. What enthusiasts will care about are the changes underneath the skin. The Porsche Active Suspension Management comes standard; it lowers the GTS by 0.39 inch over the standard 718 suspension. Want to go even lower? PASM Sport is optional ($290) and lowers the car another 0.39 inch to a 0.78-inch total and offers even more stiffness for greater response. Porsche Torque Vectoring also comes standard — it uses dynamic braking at the rear wheels and a rear differential lock to increase the car's lateral dynamics and stability, as well as offer a sharper turn-in.
The engine's upgrades including new intake manifolds for improved airflow and changes to the turbocharger, such as a larger compressor wheel diameter. The turbocharger also has variable turbine geometry (shared with S versions) that allows the guide blades that feed exhaust gases into the turbine of the turbocharger to open and close, depending on conditions. The larger compressor wheel allows the GTS to produce 18.1 pounds of boost pressure versus 16.7 pounds for S models.
This bumps engine output to 365 horsepower and 317 pounds-feet of torque, improvements of 15 hp and 8 pounds-feet of torque over S models. Transmission options are the same: a six-speed manual or a seven-speed PDK system, Porsche's dual-clutch automatic transmission. The GTS gets the Sport Chrono Package standard, another feature that's an option on the S - this adds a Sport plus driving mode and launch control on PDK models.
The GTS doesn't translate to vastly different acceleration and top speed figures. The GTS has a slightly higher top-speed than S models, 180 versus 177 mph. But with the manual transmission, the GTS actually matches the zero-to-60-mph time of the S models (4.4 seconds). PDK models see the slightest of improvements; they are 0.1 second faster than a comparable S model (with Sport Chrono Package optioned) at 3.9 seconds from zero-to-60 mph.
Tell Your Significant Other It's a Value Buy
Believe it or not, Porsche says the GTS does have some value if you stack it up against S models: If you were to outfit a Boxster S or Cayman S with all of the available styling options that made it look like a GTS and added PASM, PTV and Sport Chrono, than the S models would cost roughly 6 to 8 percent more than the GTS' starting price - and that's without the engine power gains and improvements.
The GTS models start at $23,800 more than the respective base models for each car. That prices the 2018 718 Cayman GTS at $80,850 (including destination charges) and the 2018 718 Boxster GTS at $82,950 (both models come standard with the six-speed manual).
If you wanted to add only the performance parts? Taking a Cayman S and adding PASM, PTV and Sport Chrono pushes the price to $75,550, which is within about $5,000 of the GTS. That car comes with smaller wheels, however, and without that perfectly sized GT sport steering wheel.
Can You Feel the Difference?
Slap all the cosmetics you want on it. To justify the GTS' price increase, there needs to be a commensurate gain in performance.
The 718 Cayman S I last reviewed came with the PASM sport suspension, PTV and Sport Chrono, making it closely equipped to a GTS from a suspension perspective, and the two cars ended up handling close to the same. That's a good thing; both vehicles are superbly balanced, and things that would normally unsettle the car (such as heavy braking) are swallowed up instantly. The 718 Cayman GTS is a car you can brake very late into a corner and it will almost immediately return to neutral balance to get through the corner swiftly.
This is especially true with the optional carbon ceramic brake package, a $7,410 mark-up over the standard brakes and easily identifiable by yellow brake calipers. The carbon ceramics offer some weight savings (15 pounds worth) and greater stopping power, but the price tag is tough to swallow. The standard brakes are identical to those found on the Boxster/Cayman S and will be plenty for those who will be driving the car on the street. Opting for the carbon ceramics is more justifiable if you plan to track or autocross the vehicle.
With the PASM Sport suspension box checked (which I definitely would), there is a stark difference between Normal and Sport suspension modes, so much so that I'd be swapping through the two constantly. Normal is much more pliant and suitable for day-to-day driving, albeit with a stiffer suspension than most other vehicles - this is still a sports car after all. But Sport really firms things up for an aggressive setup that gives the 718 Cayman GTS its trademark handling edge.
There's more distinction with the engine changes than in the suspension. Though the published figures don't offer much separation, I thought the GTS engine felt more responsive and quicker to get into the power than the Cayman S. It's impressive how much response Porsche has built into the GTS throttle and engine; the gas pedal is nearly as telepathic as the steering is.
Another benefit of the new intake manifolds and larger turbocharger is more engine noise. Thankfully, it's a pleasant noise because the sound is with you at all times. The cabin is noticeably louder, whether you have sport exhaust activated or not. I like that it gives the GTS more of an edge, and it's even better in the Boxster GTS where you can drop the top to really hear it sing.
718 Boxster GTS or 718 Cayman GTS?
The 718 Boxster/Cayman GTS isn't a sea change. The GTS doesn't broach any new ground but rather serves to enhance the strengths of the 718 Boxster and Cayman, giving them a bit more edge. Shoppers considering adding suspension and powertrain upgrades to an S model might find that jumping up to the GTS, which includes many of those same options as standard, makes a lot of sense.
The Cayman GTS I tested stickered at $92,580 thanks in large part to those ceramic brakes. And the Boxster GTS was even more, adding mostly cosmetic touches (that Chalk paint job by itself was $2,580) and a GTS Interior Package ($3,690) for a final price of $95,700.
I'll take the Cayman GTS of the two I tested - I'd rather spend more on the sharper driving car, not the sharper looking one.
I said before I preferred the 718 Cayman S to the 911 Carrera, and the same holds true for the GTS, even if you factor in the 911 Carrera T that I also tested on this trip. There's something about mid-engine cars that speaks to me on a visceral level, and though I concede that the 911 will always be the more quintessential Porsche, I'm a bit new school in my approach. In fact, I find that the GTS offers the most bang for your performance buck and I'd take it over most 911 varieties, up to the GT3 (at that point give me the GT3 because it's insane).
Those who want a 911 are not making a wrong choice — it's still a great driver's car and some want the cachet, the tradition and the chance to say, "I drive a 911." But not me dear reader, no, no, no. You and I, we don't get caught up on such pretenses.
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