In this era of rapid technological change, we aspire to analog experiences. We love unplugged instrumental music. Or relax with a novel that turns the pages rather than a digital Kindle. In the automotive world, the normally aspirated rear-wheel-drive manual sports car is the choice of purists. MX-5 Miata, Mustang GT, Subaru BRZ.
The apex of the art form is the Porsche Cayman GTS.
With its screaming 394 horsepower flat-6 engine amidships, six-speed manual shifter and tight chassis, this is the Stradivarius of pure automotive instruments. On the winding roads west of Hell, Michigan, the Cayman has proven why you need to get this thoroughbred out of town to realize its full potential.
Hadley Road swells and plunges like a roller coaster with blind turns and long straights. The Cayman GTS stuck to every ripple like a fly fly. Its direction is telepathic, hitting my marks – front and back end in a symphony of balance. Speaking of symphonies, the six-cylinder chambers breathe natural air as God intended – no turbos or compressors here – then exhale through twin pipes with a passionate moan.
As if I was listening to Springsteen singing the chorus to âBorn to Run,â I kept the volume at a high level – usually driving at a lower gear so I could maintain revs above 3000 RPM.
Yet even though the Cayman GTS has achieved iconic status, it is under attack on several fronts.
The biggest threat is the government’s killjoys that aim to strangle the vocal cords of the flat-6. In order to meet increasingly restrictive global emissions rules, Cayman (and its sister Boxster convertible) had to downsize to four pistons in 2017 – relying on the turbocharger to maintain power.
Stolen from the siren call of the Six, customers went elsewhere, and Cayman’s sales in the United States fell by half in 2019. Under the strict mandates of Communist China, the 4-banger is all that is. available, but in the US, Porsche has heard customer demand and rallied to offer the -6 apartment if possible (paired with a manual to sweeten the deal).
The result is the GTS and Cayman GT4 models, which represent the rebellious soul of mid-engined terror.
At the M1 Concourse Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac, I pulled up to the pit exit to engage in launch control. WAAUUUUGGHHH! The engine peaked at 5,500 rpm before I let go of the clutch and jump into the first corner, clicking through the overpasses with short, precise throws.
The tour is an exciting carnival race with multiple thrills: exhausting G loads for the neck, powerful slides, breathtaking brakes. The sonic highlight comes on the back straight where I come out of the hairpin in first gear, then open the throttle at 8,000 rpm as I row the gearbox – BAM, BAM, BAM – in fourth speed. Some people like Carmen, I’ll take the Cayman opera notes.
But as European nannies turn the screws more, Car and Driver reports that the next-gen Cayman-Boxer will be electric – a sweeping move that could fundamentally change this legendary athlete. Battery weight (the Cayman GTS weighs only 3,042 pounds) is the enemy of sports cars, not to mention the lack of sonic sensations.
Porsche has let it be known that it will not play with its iconic 911, which will remain on gas. Perhaps they learned the lesson from the Mustang, which compromised its own sports car halo with a weak four-cylinder in response to Federal nannies in the 1970s. It was vilified by purists.
But if the reports are true, Porsche seems ready to experiment with its mid-engined icon. It’s âThat ’70s Showâ again and the automakers are in a tough spot. Who do you anger, the bureaucrats or the customers?
Cayman is no longer alone in the space of mid-engined supercars under $ 100,000.
The Chevrolet Corvette also went mid-engine, putting its own Heavenly Naturally Aspirated V8 soundtrack right behind your right ear. The V-8 is no less addicting than the Cayman’s flat-6, and the designers nailed the car’s proportions on their first try, bringing the sharp design cues of the Vette’s signature in contrast to the shape. Cayman’s replacement bullet.
The ‘Vette dropped a rung on the purists’ wishlist when it sacrificed its manual transmission for its eighth-gen car. But that’s not a big loss, as the last generation of the manual Corvette C7 was a three-door 7-speed gearbox that often left drivers with a bag of neutrals. The Porsche is crisp, jagged – gearshifting requires nothing more than a flick of the wrist.
It’s a pure sports car.
But interior technology matters, and the Cayman lags behind the ‘Vette. The Porsche is tidy, ergonomic, especially when it comes to performance, where the brand pioneered a steering wheel-mounted mode selector so you can switch to SPORT PLUS without taking your eyes off the road. Corvette has learned its lesson with tools like Z mode.
Still, the Cayman’s interior sits on flimsy cup holders that retract from the dashboard (hold on to your drink before you go through hell!). The ‘Vette has access to GM’s full toolbox and brings Apple Carplay / Android Auto and a range of digital instrument displays – even an optional head-up display – that do well on long journeys.
Cayman is more accommodating in the luggage compartment. There’s ample trunk space for carry-on luggage (or a helmet if you’re heading for a track), and the rear hatch can swallow a lot, including a golf bag. As a supporter of the Golf GTIs and Mazda 3s, the hot hatchback of the Porsche warms my heart.
Just like the style.
With the regulatory upheaval of the 1970s underway today, many customers will keep their Cayman / Boxsters flat-6s for years to come. Cayman helps with its timeless look. It’s a German thing (my son’s 2012 Golf GTI still looks hot even though the V-dub has evolved over two generations since), and the Cayman should do well just like the 911 and 928 before. him.
For Cayman fans who need even more speed, Porsche offers a winged GT4 with sticky Sport Cup 2 tires. The Cayman GTS – in the tradition of performance “tweeners” like the Corvette Grand Sport or the Cadillac V-series – is a happy medium between the track rat and the base car.
Base is a relevant term and the Cayman starts at $ 61,850 Corvette type. Fill it up with the glorious flat-6 from the GTS and the price jumps to $ 88,750. Don’t expect this number to drop much in the years to come.
Porsche has designed an icon, a classic that will become increasingly appreciated over time as a benchmark in handling and gasoline performance.
Dancing on the edge of grip around turn 10A at hall M1, I shifted the Cayman’s stick into third gear and the Cayman sang. Simple, reproducible, exciting. What purists dream of.
The 2021 Porsche Cayman GTS (Porsche / TNS)