Porsche goes back to the future with the latest 718 Boxter and Cayman

GTS are three letters that prick the ears of Porsche enthusiasts, adding track-influenced focus with everyday liveability.

And the latest GTS version of the 718 Boxster and Cayman will capture the attention of Porsche fans more than ever.

That's because both the Boxster (convertible) and Cayman (coupe) have taken a huge leap towards the world of the iconic 911.

Size matters

In some ways it's a back-to-the-future moment.

Whereas the previous 718 GTS used a more powerful version of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine still employed in regular Boxsters and Caymans, the new car goes back to its 911 roots with a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder.

Since the original in 1997 the Boxster has used a smaller, less powerful version of the six-cylinder used in the 911.

But when the 911 shifted to smaller turbocharged six-cylinders, the Boxster and Cayman downsized to a four-cylinder.

Smaller, lighter and more affordable than the iconic 911 the 718 is always carefully positioned not to tread on the toes of The King.

Return to form

But with the latest addition to the Boxster lineup Porsche has taken a bold leap into 911 territory.

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It all comes down to the engine.

For the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS Porsche has unleashed a 4.0-litre engine. Think of it as redemption for a car that never quite lived up to its promise.

Sure, the previous 718 GTS was suitably fast and had that effortless turbo pull low in the rev range. But it lacked spark and the crispness that comes with the new 4.0-litre.

Performance is only marginally better – it takes 4.5 seconds to reach 100km/h, just one tenth less than before – but the way it does it is infinitely better. 

Aural pleasures

The 4.0-litre engine has that beautiful six-cylinder clatter that is typical of a Porsche. Without being muffled by a turbo it arguably sounds better than a regular 911.

And it lacks little for punch, albeit without the luscious low-rev pull turbos do so well. There's terrific responsiveness to any prod of the throttle and it builds momentum beautifully.

And it pays to keep things revving.

This is an engine that produces its best higher in the rev range, lurching towards its 7800rpm cutout with a delicate balance of enthusiasm and expertise.

Changing gears

When it arrives mid-2020 there will initially only be a six-speed manual gearbox.

It's one of the sharpest, cleanest-shifting of a dying breed. The manual also suits the engine's old school character – albeit with some modern smarts.

Select Sport mode and it rev-matches down changes to make you look like a pro.

By the end of the year the 718 GTS models will come with a PDK automatic, which is expected to lower the 0-100km/h time to around four seconds.

At that sort of pace it'll be similar to the base model 911.

Quite the balancing act

The 718 is in some ways easier to drive than the 911 – and it all comes down to balance.

The 718 Cayman and Boxster differ from the 911 in having the engine mounted between the front and rear wheels, for a mid-engine layout.

The 911 has a rear-mounted engine, where it hangs out behind the rear axle.

While Porsche has made the 911 work – and work beautifully in its own characterful way – engineers typically prefer to work with a mid-engine layout because it more evenly distributes weight between the front and rear wheels.

For the 718 it shows in the drive.

Power on

The Boxster and Cayman are very forgiving if you're aggressive on the accelerator.

Whereas the 911 likes to lift its nose, in turn making it easier for the front wheels to run wide around a corner, the Boxster/Cayman are better behaved.

They're also among the most athletic sports cars on the market, with a lovely fluidity but serious pace.

The suspension on the GTS sits 20mm lower than regular models, reducing unwanted leaning and helping keep the centre of gravity lower. 

Backing off

Despite having one eye on the race track, the 718 is refreshingly compliant over bumps, albeit with noticeable tyre noise to intrude on the cabin ambience.

It's also strangely practical for a two-seater.

Space in the cabin is accommodating for larger humans, although you're sitting quite low to the ground.

There are also two luggage areas: a deep 150-litre cavity under the bonnet and a smaller, broader 120-litre space in the boot.

A numbers game

Priced from $172,400 Porsche has also shaved $1400 off the price compared with the outgoing four-cylinder. The Boxster convertible is a few grand more, at $175,200.

Yet at that price they're also about $55K more affordable than a 911 – albeit without the delicious 911 styling and rear seats that add to its practicality.

As well as the mechanical changes the GTS gets myriad styling and trim upgrades – all of which also ensure slicker looks.

There are black highlights throughout, including classy black aluminium panelling inside. Black wheels suit the revised look well. 

Hitting the bullseye

Whereas the previous GTS was missing something the new one smashes its target.

It's fast, ludicrously fun and engaging.

And it's closer than ever to that 911 specialness, all while allowing just enough room for the king to thrive.

The perfect antidote for those wanting non-turbo fun in a modern sports car.

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