BRILLIANCE! Porsche Cayman GTS & Porsche Boxster

Words  by Sirish Chandran

Photography by Gaurav S Thombre

One of the  joys of  owning a Porsche is going through the whole optioning process. I’ve yet to order my own (one day…) but many moons ago I had the Porsche crest on my business card and the press cars were my babies. It was my job to decide how much of the budget to spend on which car; it’s colour, trim, options, wheels, even the colour of the seatbelts and whether to have monogrammed headrests or not. And to top it all, I had to ensure that the spec would find a ready customer after all the media drives were done and the car handed back to the sales team. Oh it used to take forever, and the back and forth as to which colour would look best on magazine covers was the least of it. You see Porsche can drive you mad (and broke!) with options. Do you want that cool-looking stopwatch on the dash? Sure, but you can only have the sport chrono pack if you’ve already checked the option for active dampers. You want torque vectoring? Sure, but first you need the active suspension mounts. The list, I kid you not, is mind-bending, and by the end of it the cost of the car would have shot up by 50 per cent. And you’d go back to the start.

Except now, if you’re in the market for a Boxster or Cayman you could save yourself the trouble and just tick the box marked GTS. All the options you would have ticked (and paid for) are standard on the GTS – sport chrono pack (that stop watch on the dash with a built-in lap timer for Sriperumbudur lap times), dynamic engine mounts, launch control, 20-inch wheels, sports exhaust (were you really going to buy a sports car without a sports exhaust?), adaptive dampers with a 10mm lower ride height (doesn’t touch anywhere, don’t worry), sport seats and an Alcantara-wrapped sport design steering wheel (with lovely paddle-shifters and no steering mounted controls for anything) are all part of the package.

Tick all these options and your Boxster S would already be more expensive than the GTS. But your rupee goes farther, as the GTS also gets a unique styling kit including a more aggressive front bumper with black intakes and a black spoiler running across its chin (which also makes the GTS longer by 30mm), blacked-out headlights, blackened wheels, restyled rear bumper, smoked taillamps and black GTS badging on the boot. And on the inside there’s more leather and Alcantara trim and a big red tacho. The earlier generation Boxster/Cayman was rightfully criticized as being rather too feminine – with the GTS spec there’s no danger of that. It looks absolutely fan-bloody-tastic. And of course, this being Porsche, you can still splurge on options. Metallic paint? Rs.3.71lakh. Torque vectoring? Rs.2 lakh. The media interface with navigation? Rs.5 lakh (gulp!). Bose sound? Rs.1.8 lakh. Illuminated sill guards? Rs.1 lakh. Aluminium pedals? Rs.40,000. It takes the base Boxster GTS price from Rs.1.15 crore to Rs.1.32 crore; the Cayman GTS from Rs.1.17 to Rs.1.35 crore. Dare I say it, it’s not bad value

 With the rain having eased off, I drop the top on the Boxster (you can do it while standing outside by keeping the button pressed on the key), drop into the car (it sits impossibly low) and fire her up. Hit the sport exhaust button and you get a deep throaty snarl that fills the cabin; hit the accelerator and you literally jump out of your pants – it’s that loud! Of course there’s a bit of trickery here. The GTS gets what Porsche calls sound symposer along with the regular butterfly valves in the tailpipe that everybody else uses (which opens at a set rpm and ups the decibel count). The symposer isn’t like the M5 that plays and pipes intake and exhaust music through the audio system; Porsche’s is more authentic; in that it routes sound from the engine intakes to a grate behind the seat. Hit the sport button and all the mechanical sounds in the intakes are amplified and piped through the acoustic channel into the cabin, in such a way that everything comes from the back, where the engine is. The harder you push the deeper the growl, let off the accelerator and it pops, bangs and crackles, and with the top down on the Boxster, the exhaust ricocheting off the trees and reverberating in the woods, it sounds absolutely incredible.

Drop tops are a pleasure in India – our conditions are too polluted, too dirty, too hot, too muggy and there’s the ever-present danger that somebody from the bus ahead is going to hoick out a projectile. But when everything comes together, when the weather is perfect, the road runs through some spectacularly windy scenery, your arse is inches from tarmac, and the car talks to you … it all adds up to motoring nirvana. More than any other car I’ve ever driven the Boxster talks to you from the seat of the pants. At first you feel like you’re sitting way too low, you’re constantly craning your neck to get a better view, but as you settle in the car tells you everything you want to know. You get plugged into her, like as if there’s a USB port in the seat and your arse has clicked into it. Telepathic is a horrible automotive cliché but there’s no better way to describe how immersive and intuitive the GTS is. You steer with the tip of your fingers, feeling the grip at the front and play with the delectable balance of the chassis on the throttle getting the rear to precisely swing around. Every single control is finely honed and precisely weighted – I know I’m labouring the point here but nothing is too light or too heavy; everything is just perfect. The brake pedal is full of feel, you know exactly what you’re asking of  each tyre and then there’s the steering – electric steering at that – but so transparent and communicative that the entire  team working on it must have got honorary doctorates and job offers from every other car company in the world.

Half an hour later the clouds brust and I get the top up on the Boxster. If you’re going to drive a Boxster with the top up you’d rather drive a Cayman, won’t you? And in any case I think the Cayman is a much better looking car than the Boxster; my successor at Porsche India, doing it an added favour by spec’ing it in carmine red that contrasts wonderfully with the black GTS addenda. It looks meaner, more hard core, and with a roof over your head you’re encouraged to punch the throttle harder.

Porsche now makes the 3.4-litre flat-six motor in five power ratings starting at 310bhp in the Boxster going up to 345bhp in the 911. In the Boxster GTS it makes 326bhp while the Cayman GTS gets a healthier 336bhp – that’s 14bhp up on the Boxster S and Cayman S respectively. Torque similarly is up to 370Nm on the Boxster GTS and 380Nm on the Cayman GTS. And I’d be lying if I said I felt the difference in performance between the two. In either car, the motor feels mega with a fantastic linearity to the rise in power, incredible elasticity and with that sports exhaust it sounds mental as you pile on the revs from 5000rpm all the way to its  800rpm cut off. As for the specs, the Cayman GTS claims a 4.6 second 0-100kmph time and 285kmph top speed, 0.1 second and 5kmph faster than the Boxster GTS.

What you can make out on these twisty roads is the Cayman feels a little tighter than the Boxster, a little more eager. The roof gives the body added rigidity and combined with the low centre of gravity, exceptional rear grip and incredible balance afforded by the mid-engined layout, the Cayman GTS can cut through corners at a pace that blows your mind. And these are wet roads we are talking about! It inspires so much confidence that we switch off traction control and slide the tail around, the chassis remaining poised over the limit, the steering so precise you know just how much corrective lock to apply.And you never feel like you (or the car) have run out of talent; the car doesn’t scare you, you don’t sigh in relief at bagging that sideways picture and then turn all the electronic nannies back on. The car we are driving gets the optional torque vectoring and mechanically locking rear differential that lets you oversteer on the throttle, but testing that is best left to a dry racetrack. For something so focussed on sportiness, the GTS has another trick up its sleeve – ride quality. Switch the PASM dampers to normal and the dampers slacken enough to deliver ride quality that is remarkably comfortable, despite riding on 20-inch tyres with an ultra-low 35 profile. Doctorates are in order for all the engineers in the ride and handling department as well.

Porsche is probably the most engineering-led car company in the world. Some cars take your breath away  with decadent luxury, some major on  craftsmanship, some make a deliberate attempt at brutal aggression. In the GTS you get this overwhelming sense of engineered perfection. An absolutely perfect driving position. Perfectly supportive seats – not too much bolstering, not too little. Perfect thickness and diameter to the steering wheel. Perfect weighting of every control – steering, brake, throttle pedal. An individual button for every function, no trawling through menus and sub-menus to find launch control. In any other car, the clutch overheats after just a handful of launch control runs. Between Ouseph and myself we did over a dozen launch control runs and not one warning light  flickered on the dash. We did a dozen runs because neither of us could believe how much grip it could generate on a wet road. Overly engineered cars can be cold, yet the engine has soul and the exhaust note is barking mad. There are faster cars at cheaper prices but once you’ve driven a Boxster GTS – or even better the Cayman GTS – you will not want a cheaper car. Greatness, as you will find out, is worth paying for.

I’m always wary of using the words ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ but the GTS twins are the best sporting machines in their respective classes.

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