2021 Porsche 718 Cayman
- Around $57,000-$88,000
- Summer 2020
What to expect
- New GTS 4.0 trim with a 4.0-liter non-turbo six-cylinder engine
- GTS 4.0 makes 394 horsepower
- Turbocharged four-cylinder Cayman (base, S and T trims) will still be available
- Part of the third 718 Cayman generation introduced for 2017
What is it?
When Porsche renamed its Cayman the 718 Cayman back in 2017 and replaced the car's six-cylinder engine with a turbocharged four-cylinder, part of the connection to the 911 — something so intrinsic to the Porsche experience — was lost. There's nothing wrong with the four-cylinder 718's performance certainly, but the driving experience is all a bit soulless.
Last year, Porsche moved to rectify the discrepancy with the introduction of the six-cylinder-powered 2020 Cayman GT4. But with a price close to $100,000, and reduced comfort and practicality, the GT4 has narrow appeal. Solution? For 2021, Porsche is releasing the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0.
It has the same naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine as the GT4, albeit with a bit less horsepower (394 horsepower compared to 414 hp in the GT4). You do, however, get all the comfort and accoutrements you'd expect from the GTS model line. Notably, Porsche is making the six-speed manual transmission standard equipment. For now, the Cayman's PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission isn't offered in the GTS.
What does it compete with?
The usual suspects are all here, such as the Audi RS 5, the BMW M2 and M4, the Chevrolet Corvette and the Jaguar F-Type. The new GTS 4.0 certainly ups the Cayman's desirability factor among this group. Should you want a more visceral but just as engaging experience, Ford has the Shelby GT350. It undercuts the Cayman GTS 4.0 by around $20,000 but also falls far short of the Porsche's high levels of refinement.
How does the new GTS 4.0 drive?
Sublime is very nearly an overused word when it comes to describing the handling of the 718 Cayman, but it's still the most accurate one that comes to mind. This new GTS has a standard adaptive sport suspension (PASM), which lowers the ride height by 20 millimeters (about 0.8 inch). It also gets torque vectoring (PTV) and a mechanical limited-slip differential as standard.
The standard 718 Cayman is already a very reactive and communicative thing, but it's even more so in GTS trim. Its considerable limits are approachable, and the GTS encourages you to explore them. The GTS is fast but forgiving. It's also amazingly light and quick for a modern car. The Cayman feels ready to change direction at a moment's notice without ever feeling darty. Even if you brake hard and deep into a tight corner, the GTS moves as a whole. Whatever rotation there might be seems to happen in slow motion.
Powering out of those tight corners can be done sooner than with other cars in this class because of the six-cylinder's relative lack of low-end torque. True, it has the same 309 lb-ft of torque as the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but it peaks at a higher rpm. This sounds counterintuitive (wouldn't you want more torque sooner?), but an experienced driver can use it to his or her advantage, picking up the power earlier without having to worry about a giant wallop of torque breaking the rear tires loose. You can then wind the car all the way up to its 7,800 rpm redline and revel in the snarl that should always accompany a Porsche sports car.
Shifts from the standard six-speed manual transmission are light but mechanically satisfying, and the automatic rev-matching feature is as precise as you'd expect. As with previous versions of the Cayman, first and second gear feel a bit too tall, but third, fourth and fifth are closer together and make for some deeply satisfying upshifts. The brakes on the GTS are larger than the ones offered on the S model and provide excellent feel and stopping power. More robust ceramic-composite brakes (PCCB) are available should track duty take a higher priority than your daily commute.
What's the GTS' interior like?
The GTS 4.0 retains the familiar layout of other 718 Caymans albeit with an extra dose of simulated suede upholstery. The fuzzy stuff covers the seat centers, door panels, armrests, shift lever, steering wheel and headliner. As with any Porsche, you can further tailor the interior to suit any whim or taste (or lack thereof). The GTS' standard sport seats are well shaped and supportive. The optional Full Bucket race-style seats hold you in even more snugly, but they're primarily meant for track driving, not daily commuting.
How practical is it?
The 718 Cayman offers 14.9 cubic feet of total cargo capacity, but it's split between two trunks: one in the front and one in the back. That means larger bags will likely stay at home, but there's still enough room in the front cargo area to hold a decent amount of groceries or a couple of soft-sided bags. Competitors such as the M4 and the Shelby GT350 offer less overall capacity, but do so with a more traditional trunk capable of holding larger bags. Those cars also offer more small-item storage as well as incidental storage by way of their small back seats — something the Cayman lacks.
What else should I know?
Should you not want the full sport experience of the 20 mm lower suspension on the GTS 4.0, Porsche offers a middle ground with a 10 mm lower ride height, which promises a bit more ground clearance and a slightly softer spring rate. There's also a form of cylinder deactivation, alternating between cylinder banks every 20 seconds, to improve fuel efficiency. The changeover isn't something you can feel, but you can certainly hear it. Thankfully, it's easy to disengage.
While the 718 Cayman is undeniably one of the best-handling sports cars on the market, you could previously point to the car's lackluster turbocharged four-cylinder engine as a reason for a compromised résumé. Porsche has fixed this for 2021, however, with the introduction of the GTS 4.0 trim and its 394-horsepower 4.0-liter flat six-cylinder engine and six-speed manual. The new GTS has reignited our enthusiasm for the mid-engine Porsche.