Car reviews - Porsche - 718 - GTS 4.0
Proper old-school Porsche power delivery and soundtrack, sweet-shifting manual box, pure pleasure on road and track
Room for improvement
Sweet engine note not that audible from inside the cabin
Joy of six returns to mainstream Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman with ripper GTS 4.0
5 Nov 2020
HERE’S one for the enthusiasts. A mid-mounted 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat six engine with 7800rpm redline pushing a rasping 294kW and 418Nm through six manual gears and a limited-slip differential on its way to the rear wheels.
Sounds like a recipe for success and one that was, until now, only available as part of the hardcore track-focused package of Porsche’s 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 twins.
Priced from $172,000 plus on-roads for in Cayman coupe format and $2800 more for the Boxster drop-top, the 718 GTS 4.0 now represent the most accessible pathways into a brand-new screaming atmo flat-six Porsche.
They’re more real-world usable than the Spyder and GT4, too, which is great news if you want to daily what we reckon are among the sweetest driving sportscars on the planet right now. At any price.
This could be the end of the line. The last chance. A fond farewell to big-bore naturally aspirated six-cylinder sportscars – at least those not so expensive or so rare as to be filed under ‘exotic’.
But what a swansong, a fitting tribute to an era to which we’ll soon say goodbye. It’s easy to get misty-eyed as we thread both Boxster and Cayman variants of the Porsche 718 GTS 4.0 through achingly beautiful landscapes between Queensland’s Scenic Rim region and Warwick on the edge of the Darling Downs.
With excruciating memories of last summer’s devastating bushfire season still smouldering at the back of our minds – a patch of rainforest that would never normally burn was incinerated on the property near Maryvale that provided our overnight accommodation –we resolve to simply appreciate just how good we had it for so long.
No doubt about it, we’ll find ways of continuing to burn rubber without burning other stuff – deliberately or otherwise – in the process, so let’s live in the moment and savour what Porsche’s engineers put together for us before they began focusing their attention on turning electricity into enjoyment.
As if over-compensating for the backlash against its controversial if well-intentioned decision to give the entire 982-generation Boxster and Cayman a four-cylinder turbo engine line-up back in 2016, Porsche has now shoehorned a 4.0-litre flat six into the top two tiers of the updated 718.
Initially exclusive to the hardcore 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4, a slightly detuned version of the 4.0 has now trickled down to more accessible and usable GTS variants of both ragtop and coupe body styles – along with a number of other goodies such as a limited-slip differential and a version of the beefed-up brakes.
Developing 294kW of peak power at 7000rpm and 420Nm of torque from 5000-6500rpm, this is a lot of engine for a small, light car (both body styles weigh 1405kg for a manual and 35kg more for the yet-to-be-launched PDK dual-clutch auto that liberates a further 10Nm of torque).
Smooth and tractable enough to trickle along in sixth when you aren’t fanging it, the engine also gathers noticeable extra intensity from around 5500rpm. Porsche claims 0-100km/h comes up in 4.5 seconds for the manual (half a second less for the PDK) and a top speed of 293km/h (288km/h for the PDK).
Yet neither 718 we drove felt overwhelmed by its new-found potency. Plenty of torque is on tap all through the rev range and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in zinging this free-spinning and wonderful sounding flat six all the way out to its 7800rpm redline.
It is every bit the Porsche you always dreamed of in that sense.
The manual transmission is both user-friendly and satisfying, with a slick, short throw, perfect clutch pedal weight and useful throttle-blip function on downshifts when either of the Sport driving modes are engaged. Yes, it contributes to the dying art of heel-and-toe but we’d argue it also reserves precious mental capacity for better-executed corners.
Overall, a pleasure to use and we’ll admit to making unnecessary shifts for the sheer joy of it. No wonder GTS 4.0 buyers are expected to opt as much for the manual as the PDK.
When left in the normal setting, the two-mode adaptive dampers provided a better ride comfort than we expected on the varying quality of rural roads that made up our launch drive program.
This also enabled the suspension to breathe over mid-corner lumps and ridges, the car’s keen, communicative steering combining with its lithe agility and compact dimensions to enable precise placement through turns and avoid the worst excesses of neglected surface maintenance, mud sloshed about by farm vehicles or livestock and occasional evidence of storm damage.
Ascending and descending through the Southern Downs, it was easy to get into a flow with our Python Green Boxster and discover that, despite its newfound potency, the GTS could deliver driver satisfaction without relying on antisocial velocities.
Upon arrival at Morgan Park Raceway for some laps chasing Porsche Track Experience instructor and Bathurst winner Luke Youlden in his 911 GT2 RS, we hit the button to firm up the suspension for reduced roll and helpful extra control on the several off-camber turns that make up this fun little circuit.
The chassis and driveline felt beautifully matched and truly alive when unleashed from considerations of surface quality and road-rule compliance.
We found the optional adaptive steering fitted to our test cars to feel more natural and intuitive on track, with the beefed-up GTS brakes also having a great pedal feel and reassuring performance, although we did notice smoke drifting from behind the wheels of one car after a few laps of Morgan Park.
In isolation this was a mega experience, Youlden’s expert guidance over the walkie-talkie enabling us to build confidence and speed on the drying surface.
But consider that we’d spent the morning monstering around this track in a 911 Turbo S costing more than twice the price and dispatching supercar-slaying power and torque, it is all the more impressive that we found the 718 GTS 4.0 experience at Morgan Park to be just as – if not slightly more – enjoyable.
To us, this makes these Boxster and Cayman variants great value for money. Especially as they cost almost exactly the same as their four-cylinder predecessors did.
Yes, the new engine augments rather than overwhelms the already peachy 718 driving experience, which has been astutely upgraded where it matters to compliment the extra grunt without resulting in the sense of aloof over-competence that can dissolve the driver appeal of some high-performance variants.
In fact, we’d argue that the fact these GTS models are more usable than their Spyder and GT4 engine donors – especially the Boxster that does away with the Spyder’s awkward roof – makes them even more of a purist’s proposition as they will be used more and suited to deliver thrills more regularly, whether on road or track.
Whether Porsche can top this with the next generation of Cayman and Boxster – tipped to introduce some form of electrification or even go fully electric – remains to be seen.
But the brand has built a reputation on consistently being able to outdo itself, so let’s live in the moment and savour having it this good for a little while longer.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
Model release date: 1 November 2020
All car reviews
Click to share