Porsche methodically targets a specific audience for each of its high-performance vehicles that ranges from those seeking a sporty daily driver for their family to competitive drivers chasing the top spot on the podium. The 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0, a two-seater with a high-revving flat-6 engine mid-mounted within its chassis, falls on the track-ready side of the spectrum — yet it has been engineered with an adaptive demeanor to keep owners reaching for the coupe’s keys seven days a week.
Four years ago, with the introduction of the 718 lineup, Porsche replaced the naturally aspirated flat-6 engines in the standard Boxster and Cayman with turbocharged flat-4 engines. It was the correct move, despite the vocal outcry from enthusiasts loyal to the brand, as the new engines provided more useable torque, better alignment with the transmission, and stronger fuel efficiency to match the driving style of most owners.
“Most” was the keyword that Porsche focused on when it subsequently released the GT4, a high-performance variant of the Cayman with a flat-6 — it’s high-revving engine, manual gearbox, and firm suspension satisfied the weekend racers who preferred a naturally-aspirated engine for its predictable power output at elevated rpms.
The hardened GT4 quenched the thirst of those seeking a track vehicle, but Porsche realized that there was yet another subset of enthusiasts — those who want to comfortably drive their sports car to work during the week and hit the track on the weekends. Thus was born the 2021 718 Cayman GTS 4.0.
Differentiating the GTS from its standard 718 siblings, which both feature the aforementioned turbocharged flat-4 engines, is a naturally-aspirated 4.0-liter flat-6 engine. While it is shared with the higher-end GT4, the powerplant has been slightly detuned to develop 394 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, but Porsche also offers its excellent 7-speed dual-clutch “PDK” automatic — an option not offered on the GT4.
The GTS will eventually find itself smack in the middle of the Cayman lineup (once Porsche decides to officially announce the upcoming GT4 RS), but for now let’s think of the GTS as a friendlier variant of the GT4, rather than a souped-up version of the Cayman or Cayman S. While the two models below it are offered with plenty of performance upgrades, Porsche bestows the GTS with a full complement of standard enthusiast goodies to elevate performance and simultaneously check off all the boxes with those passionate about driving.
Compared to the GT4, the suspension on the GTS is a bit more yielding. That goes a long way towards eliminating most of the harshness. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is standard, which further allows the driver to select between two firmnesses, and the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are swapped for a set of Michelin’s exceptional Pilot Sport 4S tires (the standard wheel/tire package includes 20-inch alloys wrapped in 235/35- 20 and 265/35-20 tires). The more forgiving suspension and tire package may cost you an extra second per lap, but it’s a welcomed trade-off for 90 percent of those shopping for a sports coupe.
As expected, the GTS is also chock-full of other differentiating goodies that include tinted lenses on the exterior lenses, blackened exterior accents, and special badging galore. But despite its rather attractive appearance package, the best part about the GTS is its driving dynamics.
Being a driver’s car, the GTS has been engineered to be engaging and visceral. The naturally aspirated engine lacks the low-end punch of its turbocharged siblings, but it’s anything but a slouch. Rev it past 3,000 rpm and it comes alive with the distinctive wail of a well-honed flat-6 as passengers are pressed into their seatbacks. Redline is a stratospheric 7,800 rpm, and the engine will merrily spin to that speed all day long.
Around town, the GTS strikes the near-perfect balance of sport and comfort. The two-door is agile and it darts through traffic effortlessly. Although the GTS is a low-slung sports car, it’s easy to approach steep driveways at an angle to prevent the Cayman’s nose from scraping. Like all Cayman models, the GTS has a “frunk” (front-mounted trunk) in the nose and additional luggage space in the rear, which increases its utility significantly — few sports cars can match its cargo carrying capacity.
In the canyons, the Cayman GTS comes alive. Standard performance equipment — again targeting the driving enthusiast — includes the Sport Chrono Package, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with mechanical rear differential lock, and Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts (PADM). There’s also a mechanical limited-slip rear differential to ensure power goes to the ground.
Handling in the twisties is nothing short of epic. The balance of the sports car is best described as near neutral — credit the mid-engine chassis with predictable turn-in and spectacular balance. It’s easy to induce both understeer and oversteer with precise throttle and brake inputs. The GTS makes a novice driver look good, while someone with skills will find the Porsche playful, accurate, and stable. All drivers will be left smiling. Of course the hardened GT4 is still a bit quicker… but you will need a stopwatch to tell the difference.
Do enough research on the GTS and you may find people complaining that the GTS with a manual gearbox is “geared too tall.” Those naysayers are incorrect. The standard 718 and GTS share the same gearbox — yes, it is identical. The additional speed in each gear is simply a result of the increased redline, not a taller set of ratios. Ignore those who are misinformed (even professional publications make mistakes) as the GTS is equally as wonderful with the manual gearbox as it is with the PDK.
Porsche’s entire lineup of Cayman models is strong. Yet the $87,000 GTS is the perfectly placed middle child that delivers everything an engaged driver wants in a sports car without being overbearing, harsh, or intolerable (in others words, your significant other in the passenger seat will enjoy the journey as much as you do from behind the wheel).
If you are a genuine automotive enthusiast seeking one of the world’s finest sports cars comfortable enough to be driven daily, the 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 is the benchmark that you have been pursuing.