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Auto review: Porsche Cayman GTS sings sweet music for the sports car purist

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

In this age of rapid technological change, we crave analog experiences. We enjoy unplugged instrumental music. Or cozying up with a page-turning novel rather than a digital Kindle. In the auto world, the normally aspirated, rear-wheel-drive manual sports car is the purist's choice. MX-5 Miata, Mustang GT, Subaru BRZ.

The summit of the art form is the Porsche Cayman GTS.

With its howling 394-horsepower flat-6 engine amidships, six-speed manual shifter and tight chassis, it is the Stradivarius of pure automotive instruments. On the writhing roads west of Hell, Michigan, the Cayman proved why you have to take this thoroughbred out of the city to fully realize its potential.

Hadley Road swells and dips like a roller-coaster with blind turns and long straightaways. The Cayman GTS stuck to every undulation like a fly to flypaper. Its steering is telepathic, hitting my marks — the front and rear ends a symphony of balance. Speaking of symphonies, the six-cylinder chambers breathe in natural air like God intended — no turbos or superchargers here — then exhale through twin pipes with a passionate wail.

Like listening to Springsteen belt the chorus of "Born to Run," I kept the volume on high — habitually driving a gear lower so I could maintain revs over 3,000 RPM.

Yet even as the Cayman GTS has achieved iconic status, it is under assault on multiple fronts.

 

The greatest threat are government killjoys who aim to strangle the flat-6's vocal chords. In order to meet increasingly restrictive global emissions rules, Cayman (and sister Boxster convertible) had to downsize to four pistons in 2017 — resorting to the turbocharger to maintain power.

Robbed of the six's siren call, customers went elsewhere and U.S. Cayman sales dropped by half in 2019. Under Communist China's strict mandates, the 4-banger is all that's available, but in the USA, Porsche heard customer demand and rallied to offer the flat-6 where possible (matched with a manual to sweeten the deal).

The result is the GTS and Cayman GT4 models, which represent the mid-engine terror's rebel soul.

At M1 Concourse's Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac, I paused at pit exit to engage launch control. WAAUUUUGGHHH! The engine spiked at 5500 RPM before I dumped the clutch and leapt into Turn One, clicking off upshifts with short, precise throws.

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