New Zealand Classic Car’s first meeting with Porsche’s mid-engined Cayman was back in March 2006. At that time the Cayman — effectively a Boxster with a tin top — was powered by a water-cooled 3386cc flat-six engine delivering 217kW. Our second Cayman encounter arrived in 2010, when we road tested the more powerful Cayman S. With engine capacity lifted to 3426cc, the S pumped out 235kW with an appropriately larger helping of torque — enough to propel the sportster from rest to 100kph in 5.2 seconds before nailing down a top speed of 277kph.
While it seemingly employs the laziest stylists in the world, when it comes to engineering development, Porsche has never been a company to rest on its laurels, and so it introduced the second-generation Cayman models in 2012 with the top-of-the-line GTS arriving in 2014. Packing more power and more torque, the GTS shrugs off the benchmark 0–100kph dash in 4.8 seconds with maximum speed elevated to 283kph, making this stylish coupé the fastest and most powerful of the breed yet (unless you count the Cayman GT4, a car that’s almost as much 911 as Cayman). The GTS is even a tad quicker than the stripped out, now discontinued Cayman R track-day special.
Indeed, if you really want to crunch numbers, the GTS has pushed the Cayman’s performance statistics firmly into 911 territory — and for a significantly lesser price.
As with the first-generation cars, those with a preference for open-top motoring can opt for the new Boxster GTS that, on paper, offers similar performance to the fixed-head Cayman GTS — although the majority of overseas road-testers mark out the coupé’s dynamics as being rather better than those of the rag-top roadster.
Completing its overall specifications, the GTS gains a set of good-looking 20-inch alloy wheels, and a retuned PASM adaptively-damped suspension with a lower ride height, while the Sport Chrono package adds dynamic engine mounts, sports exhaust and seats, plus bi-xenon cornering headlights. More noticeable is the new rear spoiler, while a revised bumper adds an extra 30.48mm to the car’s overall length.
Standard transmission is an old-school six-speed manual, although our test car came fitted with Porsche’s seven-speed Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) flappy-paddle set-up — a $6600 option.
Well, that’s something I’m not normally inclined to put on paper, although truth be known, while I’ve never been imbued with an overbearing passion for the cars from Zuffenhausen, my motoring past does include a few memorable Porsche moments.
Up at the top would be a week spent in a genuine 356 Speedster, a car that almost made up for the time that I ditched a Super 90 through a hedge (backwards, of course) — a disastrous driving experience from my youth. Indeed, the only downside to a week of delightful Speedster motoring was that, whenever I stopped, passers-by always asked the same question — “Is it a replica?”
However, either I’m mellowing with age, or going soft in the head, but I have to say that I enjoyed our day with the all-new 911 Targa late last year (New Zealand Classic Car, October 2014) and now, despite the fact that I was rather underwhelmed by the Cayman S we drove a few years ago, I found myself fully in approval of the GTS.
Sure, I’ve always been prepared — albeit somewhat reluctantly — to acknowledge the Cayman’s impressive on-road capabilities, and you really can’t fault a Porsche that doesn’t have that iconic flat-six motor dangling out beyond its rear axle. After the previously-mentioned very-pleasurable 911 Targa experience, I shouldn’t really have been taken aback by the realization that the GTS turned out to be such a impressive car to drive — but it still caught me by surprise.
One thing that didn’t take me by surprise was the PDK transmission fitted to our test car. I’d already sampled this seven-speeder in the 911 Targa, so I knew what to expect — absolute precision.
Although the GTS can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, I’d suspect that most GTS buyers would front up the extra cash for the PDK transmission — a flappy-paddle set-up that really works well, and provides the best of both worlds. Puttering around town in auto mode, the unit shifts gears smoothly without even the merest hint of jerkiness, while on the open road, it’s an absolute pleasure switching to manual selection for really clean, fast changes both up and down the box — actions that are aided by sensible location of the flappy paddles, not something Porsche has always got right. Anyway, you know you’re having fun when you find yourself swapping cogs simply for the sheer joy of listening to the flat six sing.
And the GTS isn’t just storm und drang — on the blacktop, the Cayman performs its sports car duties with skill and precision. Although it has a firm ride, the Porsche never becomes too harsh and, as a result, body control is top of the class and it exhibits very little lateral body roll. Allied to bags of grip, excellent steering response and dependable brakes, the GTS loves to be given its head through a series of demanding corners, yet still offers relaxed motorway cruising. As well, with its engine mounted in a sensible position, the GTS maintains iron control over dive and pitch.
Aiding the car’s roadability is the combination of Porsche’s PASM adaptively damped suspension and the standard fitment of its Sport Chrono package, allowing keen drivers to toggle between a progressive sport mode on the one hand and long-distance comfort on the other at the simple press of a button. As you’d expect, all this works with exemplary Teutonic efficiency.
New Zealand Classic Car’s hard-working deputy editor, Ashley Webb, has previously dipped his toes into porcine waters, having owned a few air-cooled 911s in the past. Although he’s since reverted to type and now owns a classic Mustang, Ashley was certainly on the side of the Cayman GTS, and reckoned that one would look rather good in his home garage.
As for me — well, for instance, would I choose the Cayman over a similarly priced, supercharged V6 F-Type Jaguar? Probably not — the British car possesses certain desirable qualities that, for me, Porsche has always lacked. However, having said that, the German automaker is getting awfully close to providing me with a tempting option if I should ever win Lotto.
The Cayman GTS also brings another interesting aspect to the surface. Once upon a time many would have suggested that Cayman — or, indeed, Boxster — owners were simply Porschephiles who aspired to but couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ Porsche, a 911.
I don’t know if that’s a valid argument any longer. For myself, I’d always opt for a mid-engined sports car rather than one with a rear engine — especially when it’s as well balanced as the Cayman GTS. And as I don’t normally carry around a briefcase or have small children, I have no need for the 911’s token rear seats. As well, there’s really not a massive difference between the overall performance of the GTS and a 911.
Of course, Porsche purists (are there any of those left now that Porsche has discontinued its decades-long affair with clattery air-cooled engines?) will undoubtedly disagree with that sentiment, sticking resolutely to the hoary old opinion that the only Porsche truly worth owning is the (now water-cooled) 911.
Everyone else should probably save a shed-load of cash and opt for the Cayman GTS.
2015 Porsche Cayman GTS
- Engine: Flat six, mid mounted
- Capacity: 3436cc
- Bore/stroke: 97x77.5mm
- Comp ratio: 12.5:1
- Valves: Quad overhead cam / four valves per cylinder
- Max power: 250kW at 7400rpm
- Max torque: 380Nm at 4750rpm
- Fuel system: Direct injection (DFI)
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, or seven-speed PDK (as tested)
- Suspension F/R: Independent via MacPherson struts, transverse and longitudinal control arms, twin-tube dampers
- Steering: Electro-mechanical power steering
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated, cross-drilled discs
- Wheels: 20-inch Carrera S alloy, F/R: 8J/9.5J
- Tyres: Front: 235/35 Rear: 265/35
- Overall length: 4404mm
- Width: 1801mm
- Height: 1284mm
- Wheelbase: 2475mm
- Kerb weight: 1345kg
- Max speed: 283kph
- 0–100kph: 4.8 seconds
- New Zealand price: $169,000 (six-speed manual), $175,600 (PDK transmission), $180,690 (as tested)