Porsche’s current roster is impressively strong. The 911 remains an icon, and the Motor1.com Star Award–winning Taycan Cross Turismo is well on its way to becoming one, as it takes the German luxury brand into the EV age. But neither of those excellent products quite so perfectly encapsulates everything that makes Porsche one of the world’s premiere sports car manufacturers like the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0.
In fact, the only things holding the Cayman GTS' score back in our rating system are its aging technology and lackluster active safety suite, things we judge every vehicle on regardless of purpose. But forget those shortcomings, because this is a sublime driving instrument and one of the most compelling, involving, and entertaining cars on sale today.
A vehicle's ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
|Quick Stats||2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0|
|Output:||394 Horsepower / 306 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||4.3 Seconds|
|Trim Base Price:||$88,750|
Gallery: 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0: Review
- Exterior Color: GT Silver Metallic
- Interior Color: Jet Black/Carmine Red
- Wheel Diameter: 20-inch
The subdued aesthetic touches on this Cayman are straight from Porsche's GTS playbook. The low-key tweaks include black 20-inch wheels, GTS decals on the doors, black headlight housings, clear taillights, and a Sport Design body kit that replaces the front and rear fascias with more aggressive units.
The GTS adds a standard GT Sport steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara. The Race-Tex microfiber upholstery is a more sustainable alternative that looks and feels good – it's standard on the base two-way sport seats. Our tester adds the GTS Interior pack, scattering bits of black leather and red contrast stitching throughout the interior, while also swapping in a Carmine Red tachometer.
Most of this stuff is available on a regular 718 Cayman. That's the trick to Porsche's treat – it rolls all these items into the GTS' base price rather than forcing consumers to order them individually. But the automaker sprinkles in smaller details exclusive to the GTS that serve as subtle reminders about the car's specialness.
Things like the 0.4-inch ride height reduction, the single slat in the black side intakes, and twin center-exit(ish) exhaust pipes present a muscular look, and the standard GTS-specific wheels are slightly different from the four-cylinder 718's optional Carrera S wheels. And that GTS Interior pack adds some pizzaz to the cabin. There's just enough to remind the driver they're in something other than a run-of-the-mill 718 Cayman.
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- Seating Capacity: 2
- Seating Configuration: 2
- Cargo Capacity: 4.4 / 5.3 Cubic Feet (Trunk/Frunk)
Porsche sells four different seat options on every GTS 4.0, from a no-cost two-way chair with manual fore-aft adjustment to a $5,900 racing bucket made of carbon-reinforced plastic and wearing an exposed carbon weave. The latter is tantalizing, but our tester carried the Goldilocks option.
The 18-way adjustable sport seats carry a $3,030 price tag but match a memory function with a perfect balance of support and comfort. The side bolsters are firm but forgiving enough, so you won't bruise your kidneys while sliding in or out of the cabin even if you're a larger fellow. They hold you and one lucky passenger in place perfectly in aggressive cornering, while the range of adjustment is excellent.
And like every Cayman, this is a roomy interior. Your author is 6-foot-2 and a pudgy 220 pounds, but it's easy to imagine larger or wider folks feeling at home. Speaking of Cayman standards, cargo space is plentiful for a mid-engined sports car, with a rear liftgate granting access to 4.4 cubic feet of space behind the engine. The frunk has 5.3 cubes and it swallowed a large-ish Away carry-on suitcase with enough space left for a backpack.
The Cayman GTS 4.0 packs standard adaptive dampers and skinny 35-series tires at all four corners, but despite the car's mission as a high-performing corner carver, the ride is civilized and poised. The Cayman will not rattle you to bits or rearrange your spine on normal roads, and even Detroit's decimated surfaces proved little match for this suspension's balanced ride/handling approach. You could drive this car daily without requiring chiropractic care.
It should go without saying, but the Cayman's engine note is delicious and smooth. The 4.0-liter flat-six sings through a standard two-setting sport exhaust – in the quieter default mode, the note is unobtrusive around town or at highway speeds. Even the louder exhaust mode, which was our go-to for obvious reasons, produces a tolerable volume. The Cayman has a solid handle on wind noise at and above highway speeds, although the sticky Pirelli PZero N1 tires (235/35 front and 265/35 rear) produce a fair amount of roar. They also pick up small pebbles and road detritus, which then bounces around the wheel wells at low speeds.
- Center Display: X.X-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 4.6-inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
The Porsche 718 line debuted in 2016 and it feels like not much has changed with its aging tech suite in the intervening years. The standard 7.0-inch touchscreen is small and slow to respond to inputs, and it lacks the graphical fidelity we expect in 2021. Technophiles will be far happier in the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the outgoing Audi TT RS, or the BMW-backed Toyota Supra.
While the display is touch-capacitive, the 718 relies on numerous physical buttons and knobs to get where you want to go in the infotainment system. They all have delightfully clicky actions, but the limited real estate on the Cayman's center stack means they're also tiny and difficult to parse. The knob at the bottom left of the screen is for the volume, but the one at the bottom right is a redundant selector for the display rather than a tuning knob. The only time we grew frustrated in the 718 was when we'd attempt to change the radio station with this knob, only to cycle the selection box on some part of the touchscreen.
Apple CarPlay is standard, but it requires a wired connection. Android Auto is totally unavailable. Combined with the lack of places to safely stow your phone aside from the glovebox and the tiny center console, the Cayman is the rare case where using CarPlay is an undesirable option unless you're okay with your phone being out of sight. Come to think of it, that might've been Porsche's goal.
Along with the 7.0-inch center display, Porsche fitted a 4.6-inch display to the right of the center-mounted analog tachometer. Cycling through the different information pages is easy, but the display's resolution is poor, rendering a grainy image that feels unsuitable for a high-dollar German car.
In the 718's favor, it is available with the usual litany of Porsche options. Our tester's Bose audio system was a pleasant complement to the 4.0-liter flat-six's song (the optional Burmester unit would have been better, but it might have been overkill in such a small cabin), automatic dual-zone climate control is standard, and heated/ventilated seats are available.
- Engine: 4.0-liter H6
- Output: 394 Horsepower / 309 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Six-Speed Manual
Peek at the Cayman GTS' spec sheets and the numbers aren’t immediately impressive. It weighs 3,166 pounds, which is neither featherweight nor hefty in 2021. There's 394 horsepower, which is less than a Chevrolet Corvette and equal to a TT RS, while the 309 pound-feet of torque is down substantially on both. The sprint to 60 takes a leisurely 4.3 seconds. None of this seems impressive. And that's the point. It's not impressive. This is not a fast car. If you're buying it to wow your friends at the drag strip or show off in traffic, you're missing the point. The Cayman GTS 4.0 and its fantastic powertrain are about the experience, not the results.
That experience starts the moment you twist the knob to the left of the steering wheel. There's a brief whir and the flat-six engine fires into life with a soothing bark from the same sport exhaust found on the Cayman GT4. Like the Mazda MX-5, Porsche didn't insulate the cabin from the engine's vibrations, and it feels alive because of that. Blip the throttle and you feel it through your foot, through your hands resting on the wheel and gear lever, and most importantly in your gut. And if that simple act doesn't stand the hairs on the back of your neck up, find a doctor and ask for an EKG, because you're probably dead.
Accelerating in a car like the Cayman GTS 4.0 feels alien if all you've done lately is drive turbocharged vehicles. With peak twist only arriving at 5,000 and ceasing at 6,500 rpm, torque swells rather than explodes. The 4.0-liter overcomes this with an exceptional willingness to rev – keeping the Cayman on the boil is easy enough because of this, but it's a car that demands the driver's attention, with long gears that beg the driver to wind the engine out. Keep your foot down, though, and building speed in the GTS becomes addicting.
The standard six-speed manual is complicit in forming that addiction – the seven-speed PDK is quicker, getting the 718 GTS to 60 in 3.8 seconds, but it wouldn't be our choice. The throws on the manual are longish, but the action of the gear lever is crisp. Each gate is easy to find, while the clutch pedal has a near perfect weight and a broad catchpoint. While we struggled at times with the seven-speed manual in the twin-turbocharged 911, the Cayman's clutch and throttle response are more conducive to smooth operation without sacrificing any off-the-line responsiveness.
An auto rev-matching system activates automatically with Sport Plus, but the pedal placement makes old-fashioned heel-toeing on downshifts a breeze too. That did mean spending more time in the less aggressive Sport mode, though. But aside from some small tweaks to the throttle response and automatically setting the PASM dampers to their firmest mode (which you can do manually), there's not a lot between the two sportiest drive modes.
The GTS may share plenty with the Cayman GT4, but its status between that track-focused car and the standard Cayman S is obvious in the bends. This is a remarkably entertaining car to throw about, but it lacks the super-high limits of its sportier big brother. Still, the steering weight is excellent, with the front end offering up near limitless feedback. What body motions the taut suspension allows are progressive and well mannered, doing more to inform the driver than disrupt the experience. And as is the case with the broader Cayman range, this mid-engine car is exceptionally well balanced.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 0
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
As an elemental sports car that's also due for a redesign, the 718 Cayman is light on active safety gear. Automatic emergency braking is unavailable, and adding adaptive cruise control requires customers ditch the snickety-snack six-speed manual for a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Our tester did add blind-spot monitoring, but there's no lane-keeping system or rear cross-traffic alert to speak of. The standard LED headlights are excellent, though, and the Cayman's sightlines are good for a low-slung thing.
If active safety in your sports car is important to you (and no shame if that's the case), consider the BMW Z4 M40i, which is quicker and better equipped than the Cayman. Charging $1,900 for the Driver Assistance pack and full-speed adaptive cruise control, the Z4 reduces driver fatigue on highway journeys, but it’s an exception among sports cars – none of the Cayman GTS 4.0's real competitors are strong on this front.
- City: 19 MPG
- Highway: 24 MPG
- Combined: 21 MPG
The EPA rates the Cayman GTS 4.0 at 19 miles per gallon city, 24 highway, and 21 combined. As with every other Porsche engine, the flat-six requires premium fuel, which cost the Cayman a point. It performs admirably in real-world conditions. After 150 miles of vigorous driving, our test model showed a computer-indicated fuel economy of 20.7 mpg.
But like so many naturally aspirated cars, the Cayman's fuel economy is weak relative to the turbocharged competition. The TT RS produces more torque and returns an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city, 30 highway, and 24 combined. The Chevy Corvette and its 6.2-liter V8 excel on the highway with 27 mpg and disappoints in the city at just 15. Its 19-mpg combined rating lags behind the Porsche, but owners who plan on plenty of highway commuting might be happier witht he Chevy's fuel economy.
- Base Price: $60,500 + $1,350 Destination Charge
- Trim Base Price: $88,750
- As-Tested Price: $100,990
A base Cayman will set you back $61,850 (including a $1,350 destination charge), and a convincing GTS 4.0 clone (sans flat-six) won't cost too much extra by adding Sport Design exterior styling, black accents, and bigger wheels. If you want the whole 4.0 enchilada, though, you'll need $88,750. And for the car featured here, withdraw $100,990 and head to your local Porsche dealer.
Porsche's infamously rich and complex options sheet can drive the price up well beyond that sum, though. Still, there wasn't much of our tester's $12,000 in options that felt wasted, nor was there much we missed. The $3,030 18-way seats are great, but we'd entertain an argument for the $5,000 racing buckets. The $2,320 navigation setup is a bit rich, especially in a world with Apple CarPlay, and if you're really pinching pennies you can pass on the $2,160 GTS Interior pack or the $650 GT Silver paint. Ultimately, the strongest thing going for the Cayman GTS is that Porsche rolls everything that makes it great into the base price.
Of course, there are more affordable alternatives. The closest match to the Cayman GTS 4.0's character comes from within the Volkswagen Group, with the Audi TT RS. Starting at $73,545 (with $1,045 destination), it dramatically undercuts our six-cylinder Cayman, has an equally distinctive powertrain, and is quicker to 60 mph thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and abundant torque output.
Similarly, the best value in sports cars is the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, which is far quicker to 60 and equally entertaining in the corners. Ignore the $62,195 starting price (with destination), because a lavishly equipped 3LT with the Z51 package and magnetic ride control still manages to undercut the Cayman's starting price by a few hundred bucks.
718 Cayman GTS 4.0 Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0: Review
2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0