With a battery-electric version of the 718 Series promised for 2025, and the wickedly fast Mission R concept showing how wild a track-ready electric vehicle (EV) can be, Porsche is clearly amping itself up for the future.
But it knows its fans still have plenty of love for the naturally aspirated flat six-cylinder engines that the Porsche brand was built on. In the 911 range, old-fashioned naturally aspirated power delivery is reserved for the mighty (and costly) 911 GT3. The smaller Cayman and Boxster twins that constitute the 718 Series have track-focused models, too – the GT4 and Spyder, respectively – but the sweet spot is right in the middle.
The 2023 Porsche Cayman GTS trim is only 10 per cent more expensive than the lesser S model, but comes with a characterful 4.0L flat-six instead of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Thus, there’s still time to get your combustion-engine thrills in one of the most compelling packages to ever come out of Stuttgart.
In the world of Porsche, “GTS” might as well stand for Get This Spec. The engine is the headline, but the GTS gets a few tweaks over standard 718s that sharpen up both the performance and looks. Riding 20 mm (0.8 in) lower than an ordinary Cayman, and with a relatively subtle GTS 4.0 script on the rocker panels, this is just that little bit more special.
The first Boxster-based Cayman had a few odd angles, but this current version is a thoroughly modern Porsche sports car. And precisely because it’s not a 911, it doesn’t need to include design elements that pay homage to those drawn in the 1960s. This tester’s Python Green paint isn’t subtle, but the little duckbill spoiler on the back is.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engines in lesser Caymans aren’t far down on peak power compared to this 4.0L, and they provide more torque lower down in the rev range. What those models can’t come close to touching is the experience of a big, responsive flat-six engine howling towards redline.
The 4.0L has plenty of grunt, and slightly more peak power than an entry-level 911. To be blunt, the numbers don’t really matter. The GTS could have 50 hp less than it does and it’d still be a thrill to use the paddle shifters to drop a few gears and then punch the throttle. With nearly 400 hp at peak, it’s got all the pace you could reasonably use, but what you’re really paying for here is a soundtrack that’s not long for this world.
Driving Feel: 10/10
Porsche fans love to argue over which of Stuttgart’s two sports cars is best, with the 718 faction pointing out that a mid-engine layout is better dynamically than the 911’s flat-six hanging out back. Again, number-crunching and paper-racing is a bit misplaced here, because the Cayman GTS’s advantage is more in its feel. It is smaller than the 911, and thus feels more agile and nimble.
It’s long been felt that Porsche’s engineers have been careful to preserve the 911’s status by holding the Cayman and Boxster back a bit. Not so here: the 718 Cayman GTS is a delight in every metric, from steering feel to braking to power delivery. If anything, it’s even more fun on winter tires. Put a rack on it and be the envy of everyone at the ski hill.
It’s also possible to turn the on-track performance levels up even further with the GT4 models. The GTS is just as quick in the real world, and is really just about as fast as you could reasonably want a road car to be. The only difficulty with how well this little car drives is in deciding which transmission to choose. It’s hard to beat the appeal of a manual for maximum engagement, but the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic here is brilliant, offering up lightning quick shifts when called upon, yet it’s also pleasantly invisible in traffic.
Porsche often gets a bit of criticism for the way optional extras can really inflate pricing. Here, the options added 20 per cent over and above the base GTS 4.0L pricing – and still no heated steering wheel.
A more forgiving way to look at Porsche’s pricing structure is to play around with the online configurator yourself. No optional tech package is required to get the Apple CarPlay connectivity most owners will use, and that heated steering wheel could be optioned for a fraction of the price of the impractical fixed-back seats.
Porsche’s approach to designing a sports car’s interior is function-first. With this 718, that means a small-ish touchscreen, real buttons for most functions, an uncluttered steering wheel, and simple menus. However, because it wasn’t optioned, this tester didn’t have keyless entry or push-button start. And finding a USB connection for a phone required opening the glovebox.
Happily, navigating through driving-related functions on the go is straightforward, with selectable modes right on the wheel. Particularly useful is the single button that briefly activates a performance mode to allow for something like quickly passing a truck when otherwise loafing along on a road trip.
Despite being a mid-engine two-seater, the 718 Cayman is surprisingly useful. The rear hatch has both more capacity and flexibility than expected, and the 150 L of upfront storage is a boon; the latter is also nicely sized for keeping groceries in place so you don’t arrive home with a bag full of scrambled eggs.
Further, while not equipped with the all-wheel drive system you can option on your 911, a Cayman on proper winter tires is emphatically an all-year-round car. Why store something that’s this good to drive away only for summer track days?
However, simply because it’s a small two-seater, there’s not a lot of storage in the Cayman’s cabin. And if you want a 400-hp Porsche but also decent cup holders, you’re probably better off checking out the Cayenne range.
For a sports car, the Cayman GTS is surprisingly well mannered even on a bumpier road. While it’s been lowered versus a standard Cayman, Porsche really understands how to properly set up its dampers. There’s nothing about the driving experience that wouldn’t make you want to drive it every single day.
Except, that is, for the optional bucket seats. While these fixed-back carbon-fibre confections are both functional and beautiful, they make the experience of climbing in and out of the Cayman into an impromptu yoga class. They’d be fine for a GT4 track day, but not for a GTS on the morning coffee run.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Thanks to slippery aerodynamics and relatively long gearing, the Cayman GTS has very reasonable consumption at highway speeds. The 4.0L is thirstier on a winding backroad, but not painfully so.
As standard, the Cayman GTS comes with the same driver assists as all Caymans/Boxsters, including stability and traction control. Porsche’s stability systems are among the best in the business. Blind-spot monitoring is optional, as is adaptive cruise control.
While it’s probably the most satisfying variant of the Cayman range, the GTS 4.0L is also not a 911 despite costing nearly as much as one. Any buyer is going to want to consider making the stretch to something like a 911 Carrera T.
Further, it’s nearly twice the cost of competitors like the Toyota Supra or Nissan Z. These rivals don’t quite have the polish and the poise of the little Porsche, but do offer excellent performance – and manual transmissions.
An electrified Cayman or Boxster will doubtless offer performance to pin your ears back; the Taycan has already proven this. But batteries are heavy and electric motors don’t sing.
As a potential answer to the question, “What would you put that last gallon of gas into?,” the 2023 Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0L is a heck of a candidate. It drives with a more lively feel than more-expensive 911 models, and it has a combustion-engine heart that beats with Porsche heritage. And at the same time as it feels so special, it’s entirely livable as a year-round prospect. If you were making a long list of all the great cars to come out of Stuttgart, this GTS would be pretty high up.
The only real downside is that its price tag and not-a-911 badge mean that it will be a niche vehicle for only a few owners. But those few owners may consider themselves very fortunate to experience one last flame before Porsche flips on the electric switch.
|Peak Horsepower||394 hp|
|Peak Torque||317 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||12.3 / 9.8 / 11.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||270 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0|
|Price as Tested||$123,800|
$23,150 – Python Green paint, $2,950; Leather/Race-Tex Interior, $2,470; GTS Interior Package, $4,200; 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, $4,200; wheel-locks, $70; Satin Black Porsche logo, $250; Fixed-back bucket seats, $6,740; 20” Carrera sport wheels, $1,430; Satin Platinum wheel finish, $690; Dash cam pre-wiring, $150