ONE CAR, TWO OPINIONS: Porsche’s two-seater Cayman GTS
PORSCHE'S 718 Cayman GTS, the current halo car of the marque's mid-engine sportster range, is bristling with engine, chassis, styling and specification enhancements.
More focused and raw than its Cayman and Cayman S stablemates, the lower-riding, more powerful and faster GTS ups the cost of entry, too. It starts from $172,700 or nearly $210,000 as tested here, before on-roads.
It would be a sacrilege to punt the 269kW two-seater in traffic or go posing to the shops. This couple of critics had a baptism of fire instead on the closed roads of Tropical North Queensland as part of the Porsche Tour at the Targa Great Barrier Reef.
Iain: We've been smuggled into the heady world of Porsche enthusiasts, who actually use their cars as the maker intended.
Jules: We'll get away with it. I've brought my knock-off Tag Heuer watch and you talk to them about GT2s, GT3s, rear-wheel steering and all that interesting stuff.
Iain: I'm ready to blend in. The 718 Cayman GTS is a fine weapon of choice for a Targa rally. It sits squatter than normal Caymans and it has aggressive black 20-inch wheels, detailing and light tints.
Jules: A proper motorsport colour too.
Iain: It's called Carmine red, an option adding $5K to the bill. It's darker than Porsche's normal Guards red, and isn't dissimilar to Ferrari's Rosso Corsa. Racy.
Jules: Porsche's 911 shape is timeless sports car elegance but the smaller Cayman runs it close. Those flared rear arches, subtle lip spoiler, side air intakes and 911-esque front end are so pure.
Iain: Unlike many modern sports cars, it retains curves rather than resorting to endless edges and ugly stick-on bits in the pursuit of aerodynamics.
The living space
Jules: Great, two seats only, no kids allowed.
Iain: And blessedly bling-free inside. The Cayman GTS displays nothing garish, favouring wall-to-wall Alcantara for the seats, steering wheel, doors, glove box, windscreen pillars and headlining. Subtle raciness and perfect proportions.
Jules: Red stitching, seat belts and rev counter are less subtle but it'd be black overkill without them.
Iain: All those are cost options, incidentally. As are the decorative carbon-fibre inserts. The reversing camera in ours is an extra charge too, which is unforgivable.
Jules: I know toys add weight but Apple CarPlay, optional
18-way electric heated seats, heated steering wheel and park sensors make the GTS practical to use every day. The bucket seats are firm but infinitely adjustable to get a comfy position for long drives.
Iain: Key controls are close to hand. A centre console button adjusts the suspension's firmness, the rotary dial on the steering wheel shifts between sporty drive modes and there's a little button for the bi-modal exhaust.
Jules: That's the fun button. The engine sounds far meatier with it on.
Iain: It can't rival Porsche's flat six-cylinder note but having a mid-mounted engine right behind you is a wonderful sports car experience.
The tour stages
Jules: There are few cars I'd trust on closed skinny Targa roads at such speeds but the Cayman GTS is almost impossibly confidence-inspiring. So very planted in corners. How does it do it?
Iain: The driver's unrecognised talent, mainly.
Jules: Last I checked Porsche hadn't offered you a factory drive, so let's put some of it down to the car.
Iain: Fair enough. There's serious hardware here. Porsche's torque vectoring plus a mechanical locking rear differential equals incredible agility and stability. Brakes are massive 330mm discs upfront and the fat 20-inch wheels are shod with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber. Being mid-engined, balance is practically perfect and tail-out moments are effortlessly controlled.
Jules: Good, as I hate snap oversteer. This felt so safe. I don't know why you'd want to go any quicker. I can't believe the speed you get from a four-cylinder.
Iain: The GTS has a redeveloped intake duct and turbocharger and from rest hits 100km/h in 4.1 seconds in Sport Plus mode with this dual-clutch auto. It's a screamer and the cog-swapping via paddle-shifters is lightning fast.
Jules: Those little exhaust pops when you lift off ... the surge and noise when you get in the high revs ... delicious.
Iain: We're surrounded by atmo six-cylinders on this Targa. I have to say in the GTS the four-cylinder turbo's note is a minor let-down. I'll respectfully overlook this as I've driven few cars in attack mode that have proved so agile, responsive, communicative and forgiving. You can Targa stage it - hard - driving with your right foot and fingertips, all with a massive grin on your face.
Jules: Thanks for letting me do the Targa transport stages, with what brakes and tyres you'd left.
Iain: Harsh. Incredibly, there was only a bit of extra brake pedal travel after a 12km downhill.
Jules: No overheating, no squeaks. Put it back into comfort mode and the GTS is a pretty neat cruiser.
Iain: There was an annoying rattle from the back of the cabin at times but a fair return for the flogging this car got.
Jules: Its personality changes when you adjust the drive mode and suspension. My complaint would be it's so hard to keep within the speed limit but it's so tempting to move into sport mode. A head-up speed display would be handy.
Iain: No point in having a Cayman GTS unless you use it like this, revelling in the reams of low-down torque, lightning steering and gear changes with thrilling chassis balance. A fabulous sports coupe with the looks, speed and engineering talent to make the ordinary driver feel extraordinary.
Jules: Over 200km of full-tilt closed road stages and the car never complained, except about all the stone chips and cracked windscreen you managed. It somehow makes $200,000 look great value.
Porsche Cayman GTS vitals
Price: $208,890 as tested
Warranty/servicing 3 years/unlimited km; annual oil service $695, inspection $1068
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 269kW/430Nm
Not tested, 6 airbags, ample driver assist
Spare: Repair kit
Boot: 275L rear, 150L front