There wasn't anything wrong with the old Cayman GTS, really. But from the moment I start the engine, this new one just feels ... right. Something about the sound of a naturally aspirated flat-six coming to life behind me reflexively releases extra serotonin into my brain. It's an almost Pavlovian reminder that life's about to get a little better.
Porsche's 718 GTS 4.0 models are kind of a mea culpa, a righting of past wrongs. The old GTS used a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4, and while it was a perfectly strong engine with lots of low-end torque, it lacked the personality and linear power delivery of a free-breathing flat-six. It didn't sound half as good, either.
The new 4.0-liter engine is borrowed from the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4, detuned to produce 394 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. Porsche's PDK dual-clutch transmission is available, but I can't imagine driving one of these without the standard six-speed stick. Yeah, the manual GTS is half a second slower in the 0-to-60-mph dash, but I genuinely don't care.
This car is just. So. Good. The clutch pedal is perfectly weighted and there's great tactile feedback when I engage each gear. The 4.0-liter is happy revving in its middle range but comes alive above 6,500 rpm, and you can almost touch 8,000 rpm before a quick upshift to the next gear. The power, the sound, the all-encompassing experience. ... Yeah, that turbo-four was fine and all, but this 4.0-liter is a peach.
Porsche's GTS models are great because they come standard with all the performance options you really want. That starts with the adaptive PASM Sport dampers (for Porsche Active Suspension Management), which are more stiffly sprung and position the car 20 millimeters lower to the ground. The GTS gets Porsche's torque-vectoring, mechanically locking differential, for better power distribution between the rear wheels. Larger brakes sit behind standard 20-inch wheels, and the GTS' sport exhaust is the same one you'll find on the GT4.
All these upgrades only enhance the already brilliant 718 chassis. The Cayman hunkers down as it dives into a turn, and I can feel exactly what's happening at road level through the beautifully communicative steering. Quick reflexes are matched with unflappable poise, and the predictable power delivery of the 4.0-liter flat-6 keeps me pushing harder.
Yet despite the common engine, I hesitate to call the GTS a GT4 Touring. Where the 911 GT3 Touring is a more livable take on the full-fat GT3, the 718 GTS feels like a standard Cayman with an extra shot of espresso. It's the difference between "good" and "almost great." The GTS is truly a step up rather than an exercise in delicate restraint.
Just like all good Caymans, driving the GTS day to day isn't a chore. Even with the PASM Sport suspension, it's compliant enough for running errands in the city and it's a respectable highway cruiser, too. The EPA says the Cayman GTS 4.0 will return 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg highway with the manual transmission, which falls somewhere between "meh" and "ugh." But it's not like anyone buys these for their fuel economy, anyway.
Other GTS goodies include tinted front and rear lights, black exterior accents and the Sport Design exterior package, all of which are pretty subtle tweaks. For $3,690, you can grab the GTS Interior Package, with either carmine red or chalk contrast stitching, as well as a matching tachometer and seat belts. Beyond that, this pack includes GTS logos on the headrests, different floor mats and carbon fiber trim. Personally, I'd rather spend that money on other things, but hey, you do you. My test car also has leather upholstery ($2,160), a Bose sound system ($990), 18-way sport seats ($3,030) and embedded navigation ($2,320).
Sit inside a Cayman and you'll remember it's one of Porsche's older models, with physical buttons along the center stack instead of that fancy backlit panel. The 7-inch multimedia touchscreen is also showing its age, especially with the continued lack of Android Auto, but if you're an iPhone user like me, Apple CarPlay will work just fine. Don't forget, the Cayman GTS is also surprisingly functional, with enough room in the hatch for a couple of duffel bags and a decently sized frunk for an extra backpack or two.
It's a Porsche, so none of this goodness comes cheap, but the 718 GTS 4.0 isn't as ludicrous as you might expect. This Cayman kicks off at $88,150 including $1,350 for destination, and you can keep the as-tested price to five figures while still getting a few frivolous add-ons.
I'm not going to try to convince you that $90K is in any way a bargain, but this is all the Porsche I'd ever need. There aren't many sports cars I'd take over a Cayman -- the 911 included -- and with flat-six power, it's a package that's seriously hard to beat.©2021 Roadshow. Visit at cnet.com/roadshow. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.