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By Nicholas Hodgson
The Porsche 911 GTS was quite simply the best car I’ve ever had on test. Not the most expensive, or the most exclusive, or even the fastest. But the best. What it did so well was to combine mind bending speed with comfort. Face melting cornering with every modern creature comfort. Build quality and style. In essence it was the complete package and now we have the GTS badge adorning the 718 range, commonly known to you and I as the Cayman and Boxster.
Gran Turismo Sport. Difficult to live up to as the implication being not only should the car have the ability to do hundreds of stress free kilometres without batting an eyelash, but it should also be able to set a blistering lap time round the race track of your choice at the end. Our choice was the ever impressive Kyalami, without a doubt a proving ground fit for the best and one that only the best can conquer.
First we start on the road and behind the wheel of the new 718 GTS. Immediately I’m surrounded once again by one of my very favourite interiors. Everything is laid out with a purpose, where you’d expect it and gives off a timeless style. What I like most about sitting inside the 718, and indeed the 911, is that you get the sense that every single button, label and stitch has been thought about, designed to the nth degree and implemented with a dedication and passion without equal. I can quite honestly say that the folks in Stuttgart care about the customer and giving them the best experience possible when behind the wheel.
Engineering also seems to be pretty switched on as the ride of the 718 is almost unparalleled. I’m going to get ahead of myself here, but the ability to produce a vehicle that can stick to the tarmac as well as the 718, yet also be wonderfully damped and controlled over the bumps and potholes that litter our Johannesburg roads is quite remarkable. Now I’m not going to lie, the 911 GTS does do this better, but the margins we’re talking about are so incredibly fine.
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Time for the track and here is where the 718 shines. I’m not going to do the usual thing of quoting performance stats as quite frankly the 718 GTS deserves better. The phrase, “greater than the sum of its parts” gets bandied about in this industry, yet here it really does apply without any need for theatricals or tortured metaphors. It’s more than fast enough in a straight line for all but the most seasoned of track day veterans. Through the corners you get more communication through the electronically assisted steering than should strictly be possible and despite being on standard road tyres, the grip seems almost never ending. Turn in is sharp and responsive and the mid-engine layout provides an exceptionally balanced experience through the corners. Just do yourself a favour and put the car into sport plus as the traction control at least provides some play and the double clutch gear changes are rapid in this mode.
So what exactly is the difference between the Boxster and Cayman variants? Well not a huge amount is the short answer. Let’s not forget it’s the same platform with just a few tweaks here and there that differentiate the experience. For those of you who want the wind in your hair the Boxster is for you. It’s also slightly more supple and forgiving when it comes to everyday driving, however don’t go thinking the Cayman is a crazy track day only machine. The remarkable thing is that the differences between the two are so slight that only driving them back to back are you going to really notice. I would genuinely say that the deciding factor for most would be based on looks and the desire to get the absolute most out of their driving experience on track.
With prices for the Cayman GTS starting at R1,122,000 and the Boxster GTS at R1,137,000, it makes the two significantly cheaper than the 911 GTS brother. Downsides are limited to the 718’s looks not being to everyone’s taste, the lack of rear seats for those of you with children and an engine note that is somewhat disappointing unless you have the sports exhaust and your foot hard down. So quite frankly the new 718 GTS ticks as many boxes as you could ever realistically hope for. Its stunning to drive, both with your hair on fire and stuck in traffic and I can quite confidently say that Porsche has done it once again. It’s a peach.
Second opinion (by Miles Downard)
Nick has largely summed up the Porsche’s strong points. This really is a sports car that can handle anything you throw at it – there’s even a decent amount of luggage space for a couple overnight bags. For me the interior of the 718 range is impressive, swathed in alcantara for all the touchy-feely bits and supple plastics for the hard wearing bits. That said, the general layout is in my books a bit bland. That has the benefit of being timeless but I’d like a touch of flamboyance in my Porsche that extends beyond a red instrument cluster. The drive is as Nick said, impeccable. Only on the very limit (or slightly over it) might you experience a twitchy side from the Cayman variant. The additional rigidity of the solid roof, combined with the inherent characteristics of a mid-engined layout, makes the car pointy on mid-to-exit of a corner rather than progressive. Or perhaps it’s my rubbish driving. But I did find the Boxster (less rigid thanks in part to no solid roof) more communicative of weight transfer and therefore more progressive by comparison.