Porsche Caymans.. Made for country roads..
A British country road and a Porsche. Some would say they were made for each other.
But we’re at an interesting crossroad in history as far as cars go. You see, in days past, There simply wouldn’t have been a question as to what ‘P-car’ I’d choose for the job. It’d have to be a 911, preferably in a meaty spec most likely including a 6-speed manual.
But the brand has diversified – and now, rather than various entry points to the market, Porsche simply provides varied levels of excellence in my humble opinion.
The Cayman, once upon a time was reprised as a somewhat ‘poor man’s 911’. The Boxster; a hairdresser’s choice of chariot. A cheaper entry point with some pretty significant compromises. However in and of themselves, the Boxster and Cayman have become independent performers in their own right. Not to mention the GT4RS levels that have arrived with a fanfare, the Cayman platform brings a slightly different flavour to the party. Being mid-engine, affords it a level of balance that simply has become more refined with time.
Then the 718 came out with a 4 cylinder motor, I was somewhat distraught if I’m honest. It sounds ridiculous, especially in a world where we’re expected to adopt hybrid technology in lieu of dinosaur-burning relics. But a wailing six-cylinder is part of the DNA of a modern Porsche that is just intrinsic to part of the deep seated love that the fans hold dear.
I took it personally. It was very much a backwards step as far as the platform went in my opinion; so I see the 4.0 as somewhat of an ”I’m sorry, I was wrong”.
So I jumped in to a brand new GTS 4.0 not quite being sure what to expect. When you jump in it feels a satisfying blend of old and new school, something that as a petrolhead I instantly appreciate. OK the key for some time has been replaced by the silhouette of a Porsche, but keyless entry and go are still options. So unless you’ve ticked that box on the enormous list of customisations, you still have to slip the car shaped key into the ignition ‘barrel’ and turn to go with a satisfying snort. Naturally, you instantly follow that with a press of the exhaust and suspension buttons to enable a more visceral snort.
It sounds somewhat crisp in a way that all new cars tend to, but still somewhat old-school. So you grip the rather small but chunky, in this case Alcantara adorned steering wheel and pull away.
On the road you instantly start to feel the feedback typical love language that the platform has become known to communicate in. OK the GTS even with PDK hits the 0-100 sprint in 4 seconds which isn’t record braking, but it does it in such a visceral way. I don’t want to overuse the world but it simply sums up the car in so many ways. The GTS; or Gran Turismo Sports is intended to be a blend of sports with grand touring capabilities, meaning it is a nicer place to sit for those longer drives. And the Cayman certainly achieves that in a unique way.
The seats are grippy, yet supple and adjustable (not to mention have quick-activating heating). Visibility is surprisingly generous, the cup holders functional and the Bose sound system is fantastic, owing partly due to the coccoonous cabin.
Carrying on the comfort over performance attitude is the fact that you get actual door handles rather than a strap as found in the GT4.
But, with the sports chrono back, 20mm suspension drop and active suspension mounts; the sentiment was never fully focussed on comfort. What’s better, the GTS actually sounds better than the typical 911 of the same vintage. Find a tunnel, drop the windows and the grizzling motor sat behind your head, intake noise next to your ear and free-flowing exhaust with the internal flaps set to sport all make an intoxicating ramble as you rocket up to the 8.000 rpm redline.
The 4.0 is an absolute peach. A smidge under 400bhp and over 300 lbs/ft of torque means it is no slouch, but it’s only a part of the story. I found myself heading for the closest B-road and the ballet is intoxicating. Hit a straight, driving mode selected to sport, squeeze the throttle, a couple of stabs at the flappy paddles (which – I hated the base Caymans/Boxsters for not coming equipped with as standard – including the S’), screaming towards the redline, a firm dab on the brakes which not only have oodles of feel but are also very punchy stoppers, turn in with a feel that starts to become second nature, feel every part of the car’s movement as it rotates around you, squeeze the throttle introducing a little lateral movement as you perform the perfect exit..
From the moment you rotate the steering mounted mode dial to sport, everything becomes sharper. Throttle response, steering feel, suspension. The mechanically locking rear differential combined with the sophisticated PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) makes the car an utter joy to behold. Rarely do you find the body control lacking on the road and the engine is as good a pairing as a Sauvignon with a choice cut of steak.
The interior is perhaps starting to age. It hasn’t changed – which isn’t a bad thing. But it also feels very similar to my old Boxster S which met an untimely demise. What that does mean however, is rock-solid build quality and and extremely haptic feeling from buttons and switches – all embedded in familiar premium materials such as the soft touch dash covering. OK the buttons are starting to look a little messy; but it’s all simply laid out. The clocks are still organised in an analogue manor with a tacho taking prominence in centre stage, adorned either side by a customizable digital display and traditional speedo. I’m unconvinced by the completely digital revolution that see’s purely glass displays so it lets you simply deal with the business of driving.
As I pull up at my destination to watch several F35 Lightning’s rocket into the airways above south-eastern England, I can’t help but look back at the Shark Blue Cayman behind me, I couldn’t help but grin.
Whilst I haven’t had the GTS on the track; but I feel that it isn’t the point here. It’s not meant to be a track monster; the GT4RS is reserved for that. But for sheer road going pleasure, in a world increasingly geared away from larger capacity combustion engines with over 4 cylinders, I can’t help but feel that it’s a gem in an otherwise changing environment.
And I quite love it.