Porsche gives the Cayman and Boxster a little more power and precision
Not complicated, not showy, just pure fun: the 718 GTS models are Porsche, undiluted
The Porsche Boxster GTS’s acceleration is fantastic: 100km/h from standing start in 4.6secs
Model: Boxster S
Date Reviewed: December 5, 2017
That first taste of sharp, crisp sorbet at the end of a hefty, stodgy meal: that’s what it’s like getting into either a Cayman or Boxster GTS having spent weeks and months driving dreary diesel family metal. While hardly spartan, they are the stripped-down, distilled essence of what makes both Porsche, and motoring in general, so great.
It would be tempting to conclude, ahead of the fact, that these GTS models are an exercise in mere marketing, or simply an accessories catalogue special. There is some truth to that prejudice – the GTS upgrade includes a power gain of only 15hp compared with the standard 2.5-litre 718 Boxster or Cayman S models, and only a little more torque too. If you can actually objectively tell the difference in straightline speed speed between S and GTS on the road, then you are Walter Rohrl and I claim my €20…
However, there is more to these GTS editions than initially meets the eye. There’s nothing here, mechanically speaking, that you couldn’t achieve with a standard Boxster or Cayman and a judicious perusal of the options list. The “Sport Chrono” package, which includes launch control and a gorgeous analogue/digital clock in the centre of the dash, comes as standard as does Porsche Active Suspension Management which gives you adaptive dampers. You can spec them with the staggeringly expensive ceramic-composite brakes, but our test cars had good old iron discs.
All of which can be yours, for a price that’s surprisingly low. In fact, these GTS models start at £61,000 (Irish prices are not yet confirmed) which is pretty impressive considering both the performance on offer and the fact that not so long ago, a bog-standard Boxster would have set you back similar money. The only drawback, really, is a chunky 205g/km Co2 figure for the manual model which means pricey annual motor tax. A hinderance to the traditional Porsche buyer? Probably not.
Depending on how traditional they are, the engine noise might be. Much has been said and many has been the debate over the 718’s engine noise. Purists, those who still worship at the alter the old, iconic flat-six engine, deride this flat-four turbo and I can sympathise. The old engine made a wonderful noise, a mechanical symphony that thrashed and wailed with operatic intent as you approached the redline.
This new engine sounds like a tuned VW Beetle. Or a 1990s Subaru Impreza Turbo. Not unappealing, but certainly not as musical. I do think that the purists are shooting themselves in the foot though because this engine is an engineering marvel. From its 2.5-litres it develops 365hp, which is what one might call a lot. Certainly for a car tipping the scales at a little more than 1,300kg it is and if you want to travel appreciably faster over ground than this car can manage, then you need to upgrade to something with wings, not wheels.
Acceleration is fantastic, not quite the dropped-down-a-lift-shaft feeling of the big-banger 911 Turbo, but getting to 100km/h from standing start in 4.6secs is bloody fast in anyone’s book. Better yet, the 2.5 flat-four is amazingly flexible, rarely if ever displaying any turbo lag, and in most on-road situations, in most gears, you’ll never need to pull more than 4,000rpm.
Zipping up and down through the six-speeds of the manual gearbox (the PDK dual-clutch automatic is more efficient, but less enjoyable) is an event for the fingertips and wrists, and once the weather cleared up enough to get the roof down, the Boxster GTS (which we tested on the road; the Cayman GTS was reserved for the track) was nothing other than delightful.
That three-spoke steering wheel, its outer rim wrapped in grip-friendly Alcantara suede feels fabulous, nestling just so in the palms of your hands. It connects to the front wheels with a minimum of interference from the electric power assistance, so here is a car in which one can genuinely sense and feel what the front wheels are doing. That constant sensation of communication is vital, as it makes the GTS feel as enjoyable and engaging at low, legal speeds as it does when throwing one around a race track.
Sporty and fast it may be, and aimed at those enthusiasts who regularly indulge in track days, but the GTS is also refined and usable on the road. There’s ample luggage space in the front and rear compartments, the seats are comfy, the cabin beautifully made, the soft-top insulating and cocooning. Even that lower, stiffer sportier suspension refuses to misbehave, the Boxster GTS flexing and flowing with the worst that the Spanish tarmac could throw at us.
The worst of the weather too. With nary a plain in sight, the rain in Spain was concentrated over our heads for most of the day, and the twisting roads running through the mountains near Ronda were slick with a nasty combination of water and fine dust. It was slippy enough to be analogous to ice in places, but the GTS coped admirably.
The brakes were reassuringly tireless, and the chassis balance such that when the tyres did cry no more and the car began to slither, we welcomed, rather than feared it – it’s just such a joyously fun car to chuck about that no matter how slippery things got, the GTS was up to the task of both entertaining and keeping us safe at the same time.
Okay, so a mid-engined two-seater costing twice as much as a family saloon, and with a hefty Co2 figure, is hardly the most relevant car in the world. It’s not an SUV, there’s no hybrid nor electric element, and the only concession to cutting-edge modernity is the big touchscreen, which we never played with because the Andalusian roads were too twisty and tricky for us to take our eyes off them for long enough. All of which is rather brilliant.
Porsche recently asserted that it wants to be the last carmaker to succumb to fully autonomous driving, the last carmaker to offer a steering wheel and pedals and god bless it for that. The Boxster GTS may lack for relevance, or for zeitgeist, and it may well be the case that the more affordable, more frugal 2.0-litre Boxster is actually still the better all-rounder.
Who cares? The GTS is a reminder, a reminder of why those of us of a petrol-head persuasion fell in love with cars in the first place. It’s fun. It’s fantastic. It’s a crisp, delicious sorbet after too many years of stodge.
The lowdown: Porsche Boxster GTS
Price: TBA as tested. Boxster range starts from €67,963.
Top speed: 290km/h.
Claimed economy: 31.3mpg (9.0 litres/100km). CO2 emissions: 205g/km. Motor tax: €1,250. Verdict: If you really, really love driving then this is the best car of the year. Our rating: 4/5