Porsche's best car? The Cayman GTS might well have a solid claim. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Porsche Cayman range didn't need a great deal of polishing, but the GTS model takes the S and adds a further level of burnish with another 15bhp, Porsche's Sport Chrono package and Active Suspension Management (PASM), active engine mounts, 20-inch wheels and sports seats for a £7,200 mark up.
Buying a Porsche can be like choosing a music album. There are some customers who want the rarest thing, the special editions and will happily pay the price, putting up with the quirks and basking in the smug sense that they're true fans. Then there's the other end of the spectrum; those who wait for the Greatest Hits album to appear. These people tend to wait for a Porsche with a GTS badge on its rear end. If you like your music 'all killer and no filler' and want your car to shamelessly cherrypick the highlights of the range to date, you need the GTS. These three iconic letters first appeared way back on the brand's 904 Carrera GTS way back in 1963 and since then, have been a regular feature of Porsche nomenclature. More recently, we've seen the badge attached to the back of some of the loveliest normally-aspirated models sold. Now it's available on the latest Cayman and further burnishes an already brilliant sports coupe.
There's been a suspicion for a number of years that the Porsche Cayman's talents have been purposefully reined in to prevent it eroding sales from the brand's pricier 911 models. That's less the case with the current generation version. Indeed, get out of the latest Cayman S after a fast drive and you'll find it hard to believe it's been reined in at all. It feels sublime. The GTS version adds another 15bhp, lifting peak power to 335bhp and trimming the sprint to 62mph to just 4.6 seconds. Top speed is rated at 177mph, which should be adequate for most requirements. The ride height is dropped by 10mm and you also get Porsche's Sport Chrono package and Active Suspension Management (PASM). Here you can alter the damper stiffness and throttle response when you want even sharper response. Dynamic engine mounts are also included and these firm up automatically under hard cornering, acceleration and braking. It means that handling is perceptibly more stable under load change conditions and in fast corners. Whenever a less assertive driving style is adopted, the engine mounts provide a higher level of comfort with less harshness entering the cabin.
Design and Build
Porsche has been relatively restrained when it comes to visually differentiating this GTS version of the Cayman. There's an elegance to this generation design, its wheelbase now longer than a 911's. It now uses its own doors rather than 911 items too and they've been sculpted to add plenty of shape to the Cayman's flanks. Almost half the bodyshell is now made from lightweight aluminium, bringing the kerb weight down by around 30kg model for model, despite the car getting noticeably bigger. The GTS gets darker bumper inserts, bigger 20-inch high gloss ten-spoke alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights as standard. There is some subtle GTS badging on the leading edge of the doors as well as gloss black GTS badging on the boot lid. Drop inside and you'll spot leather sports seats and Alcantara cabin trim as standard. The extended silhouette of the Cayman also increases the practical virtues of the car: the larger rear boot-lid offers better access to that cargo area, and luggage capacity of the two-seater has been increased by 15-litres to 425-litres when loaded to the roof.
Market and Model
The big choice with the Cayman GTS is whether you opt for the six-speed manual model (at around £56,000) or drop nearly £58,000 on a car with the seven-speed PDK transmission. That's if you've already discounted similarly-priced talent like the Lotus Exige S and the BMW M4 coupe. The other question you need to ask yourself is whether you're really getting £7,200-odd of value over the regular Cayman S. As long as you would have chosen most, if not all, of the extras in any case, the answer is yes, as to option them onto an S would turn out very expensive. One thing that's buried away in the fine print with the GTS is the fact that you can forgo PASM and instead opt for the sports chassis at no cost. This does away with the adaptive damping, drops the ride height by 20mm and gives you the ultimate trackday-ready Cayman. For the time being at least. Other standard kit includes auto stop/start and sports mode, audio CD with 7-inch colour touch-screen control, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity and a three year warranty.
Cost of Ownership
The Cayman has always been a car that once purchased, doesn't cost an exorbitant amount to run. Porsche's latest model reduces weight and increases engine efficiency, combining that with clever fuel-saving techniques. Combined fuel economy for this GTS with the seven-speed PDK transmission is 34.3mpg - or 31.3mpg for the six-speed manual. The PDK transmission features a 'sailing' mode whereby the engine is decoupled during periods of trailing throttle or on longer downhill sections, dropping the engine revs to a mere 700rpm, further saving fuel. Prod the throttle and it will instantly resume duty. Residual values are one area where the Cayman GTS will score much better over an optioned-up Cayman S, with used buyers prepared to pay more for the flagship model.
The Porsche Cayman S is a tough act to follow, but the GTS betters it by a small but appreciable margin. The question Porsche probably wouldn't want asked is whether the Cayman GTS is a better sports coupe than a base 911 Carrera. You'll have to make your own mind up on that one, because it's a hugely subjective thing, but were I paying my own money, without hesitation I'd buy the one with the engine in the middle instead of slung out back. Perhaps it's time for the 911 to adopt a new role as a more refined GT car. Sure, keep the banzai GT3 and Turbo models for those who like to go all-out, but with big Cayenne and Macan profits rolling in, perhaps the 911's margins no longer need to be protected quite so neurotically. The Cayman has served its apprenticeship and now needs to be let off the leash. The GTS gives us a taste of what this car is capable of but there's a whole lot more potential still locked away. Porsche should be the best it can be and give customers what they want. If this fantastic GTS is any guide, the results could be spectacular.