Porsche has shoehorned the fabulous 4.0-litre flat-six from the Cayman GT4 into its beautifully rounded GTS models. Could this be a match made in heaven?

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It’s the new 718 Boxster GTS and it essentially marks the return of a naturally aspirated flat-six to the more mainstream versions of Porsche’s mid-engined models. 

Porsche hasn’t totally abandoned its four-cylinder philosophy (the turbocharged units remain in the standard and S versions), but after developing a bespoke flat-six motor for Porsche the Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 it was felt that it would be a shame to restrict its use to just these limited run specials. So now we have that 4.0-litre in the Boxster and Cayman GTS, the models that have traditionally danced the delicate line between hardcore driving fun and everday usability to brilliant effect. 

But first, that engine. What’s important here is that this isn’t some decontented version of the Motorsport unit, but is instead exactly the same unit. The rev limit has been lowered to 7,700rpm, reducing maximum power to 395bhp (19bhp less than the GT4), but that’s about it. It delivers the same 310lb ft at 5,000rpm and exhales through the same twin exit exhaust system. 

Even the six-speed manual gearbox is the same, although it has a slightly longer throw for easier day-to-day use. A seven-speed PDK will also be made available, but not until late 2020 at the earliest.

There’s less carry over in the chassis, but then the Motorsport cars had fewer bespoke parts than you’d think. The GTS does without rose-joints and some stiffening components, while its less steamroller-section rubber (235 front and 265 rear) results in a fractionally narrower track. Oh, and it’s got smaller brakes, with 350mm front discs compared to 380mm for the motorsport car. What remains are the active engine mounts, adaptive dampers and torque vectoring limited slip differential.

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Elsewhere it’s much as before. There are some subtle visual tweaks, the most obvious being the addition of GTS 4.0 badges to the bottoms of the doors, but that’s about it. Inside there’s a smattering of Alcantara, plus some more GTS logos. The standard seats don’t look as all-embracing as the optional fixed-back buckets, but they’re supportive enough and more comfortable day to day. 

Simply turning the key is all it takes to realise that you and the new Porsche 718 Boxster GTS are going to get along just fine. Where once your ears would have been assailed by a chuntering, sub-Subaru soundtrack there’s now real mechanical muscality, the engine sited just over your shoulder once again emitting a familiar hollow bark as it fires into life. 

On the move it’s an absolute joy. Not only does it sound fantastic as it yelps and howls its way around to 7000rpm (it’s even better in the Boxster, where you can drop the roof and get even closer to the action), it punches hard, with a thick band of muscular torque firing the GTS down the road with real conviction. And the throttle response is spot on, each twitch of your toe resulting in precisely proportional increase in acceleration. In the real world it feels every bit as quick as the Spyder.

With less aggressive damping the GTS breathes more easily with the road than a GT4, while the subtle increase in softness means that what you lose in ultimate sharpness you gain in an ability to more confidently work up to and over the limit of grip and exploit that perfect natural balance and feel the car rotating around your hips. And because all-out adhesion is a little lower, you can more frequently use that glorious motor’s muscle to subtly alter your line with the throttle. 

The steering is excellent, too. It’s not scalpel sharp, but it allows you to load up the suspension precisely and it’s chatty enough to let you know what’s going on without becoming a distraction. The brakes are exceptional, biting hard and featuring one of the best-weighted and most progressive pedals in the business. And like all Boxster models, the shell is stiff, pretty much matching the Cayman for rigidity.

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What the GTS does really well, however, is combining this near Spyder performance and handling virtuosity with an easy-going everyday mien. The more rounded damping means a more forgiving ride, while the narrower tyres and softer bushing eradicates the Spyder’s occasional games of hunt the camber and results in fewer noises-off from the suspension. The interior is more comfortable too, both in terms of its standard seats and long list of standard kit. 

But the real kicker is that both the Cayman and Boxster cost a healthy £10,000 less than than their hardcore suiblings.

If you have the means and desire for this type of car, then the answer is a resounding yes. The combination of that pure-bred flat-six and the GTS’s beautifully judged blend of driving thrills and everyday habitability mean this Boxster (and its Cayman sibling) could be the sportscar bargain of the decade.

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James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping Autocar.co.uk topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 First drives