PORSCHE 718 GTS

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

ALEX INWOOD

TURBO FOUR IS OUT, SCREAMING SIX IS BACK!

CRIKEY, IT’S another six-pot Cayman/Boxster. Just months after whetting our appetite by debuting a box-fresh 4.0-litre flat-six in the Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder, Porsche has democratised its new donk by wedging it into the ‘regular’ 718 range.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, a reality check: this doesn’t mean the end of the four-cylinder powerplants. “The regular Cayman and Boxster will keep the turbo engines,” says the man in charge of Porsche’s boxer engines, Markus Baumann.

“There are a lot of customers that want a turbo because of the torque. They still sell very well.”

Still, consider this facelifted GTS a win for the enthusiast. While the 4.0-litre six might not have the low-end muscle of the 2.5-litre force-fed unit it replaces, it takes two minutes at the international launch in Portugal to confirm this is the better sports car engine. It sounds purposeful at idle, revs cleanly and eagerly to the 7800rpm cut-out, is surprisingly tractable and delivers a level of response and tactility that’s been missing from the regular 718 range for years.

Sounds good too. GTS models score the same twin-exit sports exhaust as the GT4, and the way the timbre transforms from a guttural growl to a hard-edged howl will have you chasing every last rev. And don’t get us started on the linearity of the power delivery; delayed gratification is a GTS calling card.

The engine itself is mechanically identical to the GT4’s, meaning it’s a bored and stroked development of the 911 Carrera’s 9A2 3.0-litre with the turbos removed. Peak torque is the same as the GT4, at a healthy 420Nm, while a slightly different ECU tune sees peak power drop by 15kW to 294. Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 4.5sec, which is a tenth quicker than the outgoing model, and a top speed of 293km/h.

Completing the refreshingly old-school recipe is a sweet-shifting six-speed manual, currently the only transmission available. A version with a seven-speed dual-clutch will start production at the end of 2020.

This is a near-perfect sports car to pedal hard. On-track the overriding sensation is one of balance and forgiveness, yet it’s on sweeping backroads where the GTS really excels.

GTS variants sit 20mm lower than lesser 718s and run marginally stiffer spring and damper rates, though this remains a surprisingly comfortable car on poor roads.

Unique 20-inch wheels shod with Pirelli P Zeros measuring 235/35R20 up front and 265/35R20 out back are standard, as are three-stage adaptive dampers and beefier brakes (350mm cross-drilled front discs, clamped by six-piston monobloc calipers).

Torque vectoring and a mechanical limited-slip diff are also included, as is a rev-matching function that activates automatically in Sport and Sport Plus.

Ah yes, that manual. This is one of the sweetest and slickest gearboxes around, which makes the realisation that the majority of sales will be the PDK kind of a downer.

There are only two options worth considering: carbon-ceramic brakes for an eyewatering $15,370, and the no-cost option of a softer suspension set-up that drops the ride height by 10mm rather than 20. This does bring a welcome dose of additional compliance, though it doesn’t feel as sharp on-track. Whether it’s for you will depend on your priorities.

The rest of the package is typically fastidious. The cabin is trimmed in a rich mix of leather and Alcantara, the driving position is nigh on perfect, and Aussie cars are equipped with goodies like a rear camera, cruise control (not active, sadly) and Porsche’s Track Precision app, which logs real-time data and video.

A pity the warranty remains only three years.

Still, think of this new GTS as a car that delivers 90 percent of the GT4/Boxster Spyder’s brilliance in a package that’s more comfortable and $35K more affordable and you’re most of the way there. Like we said, a win for the enthusiast.

ALEX INWOOD

Model Porsche Boxster GTS 

Engine 3995cc 6cyl, dohc, 32v

Power 294kW @ 7000rpm 

Torque 420Nm @ 5000-6500rpm

Transmission 6-speed manual 

Weight 1405kg

0-100km/h 4.5sec (claimed) 

Economy 10.8L/100km

Price $175,200 

On sale Now

PLUS

Fizzy atmo six; sweet-shifting ’box; chassis balance; ergonomics; resale

MINUS

Long gear ratios; PDK will be more popular; heavier than old GTS; warranty