Like a wristwatch, a manual gearbox is an irrational choice, a decision of the heart not the head. But you can debate all you want the performance merits of a modern automatic versus three pedals because the new Porsche Cayman GTS is a car that’s all about the experience.
The Cayman puts the driver at the nexus of sight, sound and feel. The driving position is Goldilocks right down to pedal placement and feel. The steering weighting and the way it loads up to match the front-end stress is a sensory feast perfectly matched to the feedback flowing from the rear end.
The 4.0-litre flat six’s sound is superb as it chases the 7800rpm cutout, and the way it responds to the tiniest throttle inputs speaks to the purity and willingness of its atmo engine.
Even at the limits of adhesion there is nothing ‘knife edge’ about the Cayman; it is progressive and communicative in a way that builds the driver’s confidence further.
That unflappable composure and willingness to dance is one of the reasons the GTS sets a Winton lap time within a couple of seconds of the Audi R8. The Cayman’s brakes are another. They’re 20mm bigger on this model and with two extra pistons grabbing the disc, which means that despite being one of the least powerful vehicles in the field, it carries speed longer and brakes much later.
But there are flaws that leave the Cayman short of perfection. As potent as the GTS’s new 4.0-litre engine is, in-gear response below its 5000-6500rpm torque peak is not strong despite the coupe’s relatively light weight (1405kg). The engine note down there is far less glorious, too. Perhaps this is Porsche’s way of forcing engagement with the manual transmission. It’s also not helped by a wide gear spread that drops too many revs between shifts.
This wasn’t so much of a problem on track where the Cayman’s traction and tactility meant you could easily keep it on the limit. On the road it was a challenge to be driven around, a flaw that forced you into a more frenetic driving style than the conditions might otherwise warrant. If this car is the grand tourer alter ego to the GT4, then the drivetrain needs more shove down low.
The Cayman GTS’s ageing cabin came in for some criticism, too, although in this area it wasn’t helped by the presence of the vastly more expensive 911 Turbo S.
Ultimately, the record books will show the Cayman GTS did not win PCOTY in 2021. What they should also show is that the Cayman was one of the better driver’s cars in the field. In fact, looking just at the judges’ scores for Dynamics, it came second only to the eventual winner. And that deserves recognition. – GB
0-100km/h: 4.68 sec
0-400m: 12.67 sec @ 181.43km/h
Lap Time: 1:35.4
Pure and purposeful. My choice for a Sunday morning blast
Who cares if it’s probably slower than the old turbocharged Cayman GTS? This is bliss
The most organic contender of the field. Some get it, some don’t. I could easily hot lap the GTS nonstop until the tank runs dry
So sweetly balanced, yet so compromised by its gearing and, as a result, its discordant off-cam acoustics
Lovely to drive but the gearing kills the fun. The PDK will be better