Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS

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After several failed attempts, I came to the conclusion that there was no way to write this lede without sounding like a pretentious (insert favourite rude insult here). But anyone who wouldn’t feel just a little giddy self-satisfaction at reaching this level of automotive nirvana is either lying, or hates cars. And so it was that after a lifetime of wistful lust and longing, my partner and I finally took possession of our very own Porsche; a 2008 Cayman S with only 60,000 fair-weather kilometres on the odometer. But in the time-honoured manner of divas everywhere, we’d no sooner brought it home than it rolled over dead – victim of a blown ignition module. The good news? While the Cayman went “bon voyage” on a flatbed to Pfaff Automotive (drumroll, here comes the highfaluting part) we actually had one to spare.

About as close to telepathy that you’re going to get while behind the wheel of an automobile.

Fortunately, my press car that week was a 2018 Porsche Cayman GTS, and while we wouldn’t be able to do a back-to-back comparison test or spend hours posing them artfully for photos, we could console ourselves that at “least” we had a Porsche to drive.

Now in its third generation, the newest Cayman looks much like the first unless viewed side-by-side. Which obviously, we couldn’t. Outwardly, the new Cayman is just a little more sophisticated than the earlier models. And at slightly more than twice the cost of our lightly used model, it had better be. As enamoured as I am of the first gen’s bulbous curves, I have to admit that the new, sleeker profile is an upscale departure from those almost cartoonish lines, bringing it closer in style to the iconic 911.

A decade is a lifetime in car years, and the GTS is a technological era ahead of our simple S. Aside from heated seats and a 12.3-inch touchscreen interface, the GTS also boasts navigation, an adjustable information screen showing track and driving data, Apple CarPlay, and 18-way adjustable seats with memory settings.

The newest model Cayman has been dubbed the “718” in homage to the classic LeMans and Targa Florio-winning 2.0L classic from 1950–1960. Like the Boxster before it, the Cayman loses its familiar flat-six boxer engine and gains a new turbocharged four-cylinder – or more precisely, three of them.

The base Cayman has a 2.0-litre flat-four producing 300 hp, the Cayman S gets a 2.5L flat-four, and in the GTS, a 2.5L flat-four producing 365 horsepower. The two larger engines benefit from the same variable-vane turbocharging once found only on the 911. There’s been a lot of dirt slung about the new engines, both by automotive publications and purists who denounce the departure of the traditional flat-six. However, all three engines are fine performers, although the Cayman S and GTS show less lag thanks to their turbocharging technology and larger displacement.

The four-cylinders each boast a wide power band, making them instantly responsive and with enough power to scoot regardless of what gear you’re in. (Speaking of which, the Cayman comes with either a six-speed manual transmission, or the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK, a $4,250 option. The Porsche Doppelkupplung (double clutch) is a brilliant bit of kit, but nonetheless our tester’s standard six-speed is the gearbox of choice for the enthusiast. Despite the PDK being faster and more fuel efficient, the six-speed’s clutch take-up is so perfectly weighted, and the short-shifter “snicks” into its gates so satisfactorily – from a driver’s standpoint it’s quite possibly the best gearbox across the automotive spectrum. With 309 lb-ft. of torque (317 with the PDK) available between 1,900 to 5,500 rpm, you don’t have to downshift uphill or when passing – but you’ll probably want to.

In Sport and Sport Plus mode the engine automatically rev-matches when downshifting, and the exhaust produces a saucy snap-crackle-pop when you lift off the gas. But this, however, brings us to the most criticized aspect of the 718 – its sound. Purists, used to the full-bodied song of the flat-six, just cannot accept the four-cylinder as a worthy successor. As far as turbocharged fours go, this is a very good one, but it does tend to drone and there’s no comparing its harsh blatt to the throaty burble of the boxer six.

The GTS comes standard with PASM – Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system that adjusts damping according to drive mode, and shaves 10 mm off the ride height. My tester also came with PASM’s optional sport suspension, lowering it a further 10 mm. GTS models also come with rear torque-vectoring, which selectively brakes the inside wheels while cornering for greater stability, and larger 13-inch front brakes.

The result is a car that’s so beautifully balanced that driving becomes a near-spiritual experience. The taut chassis is in perfect harmony with the GTS’s power output, the steering weighted just right. It’s about as close to telepathy that you’re going to get while behind the wheel of an automobile.

When the Cayman first debuted, there were those who wondered why Porsche would introduce something that could in all possibility, cannibalize sales from the 911. And indeed, as it continues to grow ever more powerful and athletic, there are many renowned drivers who prefer its more agreeable, mid-engined neutrality to Porsche’s most celebrated sports car.

The Cayman GTS stickers at a fairly reasonable (as far as high-end German performance cars go) $90,600. But in typical Porsche fashion, the price can leap sky-high once you start adding on the options. The blazing Carmine Red paint is an extra $2,950; the LED and dynamic lighting system, a cool $2,450. Opt for navigation and it will set you back $2,030; the Connect Plus system another $1,960. The 18-way adaptive sports seats are an astonishing $3,460 – and if you want the “Guard’s Red” seatbelts to go with them? That’s another $410. For $1,110, the Premium Package will add heat to those seats, as well as two-zone climate control, automatically dimming mirrors, and integrated rain sensor. Looking on the bright side, Porsche’s Active Suspension Management System, or PASM, is a relative bargain at only $320. You could probably forget all of those options and still enjoy the GTS just as much.

I suppose I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but it did go down so very smoothly. In my opinion, the Cayman GTS is one of the finest sports cars you can buy – and a more-than-acceptable stand-in for ours.

Engine Displacement 2.5L
Engine Cylinders H4
Peak Horsepower 365 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Peak Torque 309 lb-ft @ 1,900–5,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 12.3/9.4/11.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 425L
Model Tested 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
Base Price $90,600
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,250
Price as Tested $106,630
Optional Equipment
$14,680 – Carmine Red Paint $2,950; PASM sport suspension $320; Dynamic Light system w LEDs $2,450; Navigation $2,030; Connect Plus $1,960; 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats with Memory $3,460; Guard Red seat belts $410; Premium Package $1,100