2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS

Huge change for new Porsche twins

Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.

That was the route taken for the updated GTS versions of the Porsche 718 Boxster (convertible) and Cayman (coupe).

Following a short-lived experiment with the 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine still available on lesser 718 models, the GTS variants are reverting to their 911 roots with a horizontally opposed six-cylinder, albeit one now displacing 4.0 litres - the largest ever fitted to Porsche's entry-level sports car.

Porsche has gone back to a six-cylinder engine in its Cayman and Boxster.
Porsche has gone back to a six-cylinder engine in its Cayman and Boxster.

From start-up it's clear the latest GTS 718s are different beasts.

The hard-edged clatter of the 4.0-litre restores the appeal of Porsche's longstanding layout. The German sports car specialist has answered a primary complaint about the former four-cylinder GTS: its uninspiring sound.

The new engine is the largest fitted to a Cayman to date.
The new engine is the largest fitted to a Cayman to date.

Rev it and there's a howling top-end as it surges towards its 7800rpm cutout. Porsche hasn't abandoned that non-turbo magic and there is a crispness in its response to every brush of the accelerator.

For all the enthusiast appeal, the raw numbers are nothing special. The six's 294kW outpunches the previous 718 GTS (by 25kW) but its 420Nm only matches the predecessor's torque peak - and it's produced much higher in the rev range.

Owners will be delighted by the Cayman’s exhaust sound.
Owners will be delighted by the Cayman’s exhaust sound.

There are times the old four-cylinder 718 GTS will feel gruntier than its replacement, especially trundling around town and rolling on the throttle at low revs, where the turbo swells torque sweetly.

But it's a rare bloody nose in a battle in which victory goes to old-school aural delights - and outright performance.

The latest 718 GTS shaves its 0-100km/h time by one-tenth of a second. It's a tiny margin but it ensures the Porsche faithful they are investing in more than sound and engine response.

As before, the GTS slots between the S models and the flagship Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4, each of which uses a higher-output version of the 4.0-litre.

The Cayman GTS is priced from $172,000.
The Cayman GTS is priced from $172,000.

Prices are from $172,400 (before on-road costs) for the Cayman or another $2800 for the Boxster convertible. Porsche has even shaved $1400 from the asking price, although autonomous emergency braking is still not available.

There are requisite tweaks to the look, many achieved through black highlights, from the badging and wheels to the new rear diffuser proudly supporting twin exhausts.

Sure, the 4.0-litre engine is brisk. Fast, even, scampering from rest to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds.

What it lacks in the outright pace of the legendary 911 Carreras it makes up for with that alluring non-turbo engine.

The six-speed manual gearbox is a mechanical delight in the way it snicks between ratios.

Porsche's twin-clutch automatic arrives later in the year, promising further leaps in performance. Expect the auto to cut its sprint time to about 4.0 seconds.

The Cayman does not have auto emergency braking.
The Cayman does not have auto emergency braking.

As before, the dynamic poise and pace of the mid-engine 718 layout adds to the delight of the engine. Steering is beautifully weighted and alert yet forgiving and, at city speeds, uncannily user-friendly.

Wind up the pace on a snaking road or during a race track blast and there's serious speed, delivered in a thoroughly accessible and forgiving way.

Suspension tweaks focus on accounting for the 30kg added by the engine and larger brakes. Porsche has also fitted the 20mm-lower sports suspension as standard.

Those wanting marginally more compliance can select suspension just 10mm lower than the tune used on regular 718s, albeit with a corresponding drop off in sharpness and high-speed composure. In a brief track session that softer suspension took the edge off the GTS.

It's a matter of degrees, because the 718 is among the more accomplished and engaging sports cars around.

That it slots into traffic and daily duties so adeptly - down to luggage areas front and rear - reinforces its depth of talent.

More than ever the 718 GTS provides a more affordable alternative to Porsche's big-boy 911.

In some ways it's a back-to-the-future exercise but those lining up for a 718 GTS should be thankful for Porsche addressing something it didn't quite get right.

Porsche 718 Cayman GTS vitals

Price: From $172,400 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km, $6400 for 5 years/75,000km

Safety: Not rated, 6 airbags, rear camera, optional blind spot monitoring

Engine: 4.0-litre 6-cyl boxer, 294kW/420Nm

Thirst: 10.8L/100km

Spare: None; repair kit

Boot: 150L (front), 120L (rear)