Can you make as pure a sports car as the new 718 Cayman/Boxster and an electric four-door at the same time without losing the notion of what your brand means?
I arrive at the Estoril Circuit at 8.30 in the morning and simply cannot get out of the car. The car park is a good 150 metres from the pits – where Porsche have set up their logistics centre – and if I get out now, I will need a warm bath and a new set of clothes.
It is raining. A lot. Although I have driven around Estoril several times before, I have never done it with this much standing water. The idea of hustling a 400 horsepower mid-engine car around a soaking wet track is not exactly my idea of fun. I mean, it could be, if the Porsche people would hand me the car and look the other way, but that’s not exactly how things go down here.
Porsche came to Portugal to show the world press the new version of the 718 Cayman GTS and 718 Boxster GTS. I say “the new” because this generation of cars, dubbed 982 in Porsche-code speak, had already had a GTS version a mere two years ago, so maybe a little context is in order.
When Porsche decided to abandon the naturally aspirated six-cylinder engines that had been a fixture of the Cayman and Boxster since the beginning, right when they started calling them the 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, and replace them with a turbocharged 2.0 and 2.5 litre four-cylinder units, they did it to improve the overall CO2 emissions of the whole brand.
Logically, a turbo-four can never be as enticing as a naturally aspirated six cylinder and the Cayman and Boxster lost some of their magic. Dynamically, they were better than ever, but the engine no longer stirred the hearts of petrolheads. Porsche tried to instil some soul into the cars with the first GTS versions back in 2018, but the result was more pragmatic than emotional.
Soon, some rumours started circulating that the six-cylinder engine could make its way back to the mid-engine Porsche sports cars. And then came a few YouTube videos with a camouflaged prototype Cayman GT4 (the sportiest Cayman of all, developed by Porsche Motorsport), sounding just like a six-cylinder does.
The rumour proved to be right. The latest Cayman GT4 did come out with a new 4-litre, naturally aspirated six, based, curiously enough, on the 3-litre block of the 911 Carrera. That being a turbocharged unit, I can’t begin to fathom the engineering required to turn it into a 4-litre with no help beyond gravity, but that’s what Porsche did. They’re a smart bunch, I tell you.
Also, they implemented a new particulate filter system in order to achieve the necessary CO2 emissions levels that are absolutely vital these days if you want your car homologated.
Now, it would never be financially viable to develop such an engine and not use it in more than one car. Yes, the Boxster Spyder (basically a roofless Cayman GT4) also put it to good use, but those two cars do not sell in the numbers required to make the math add up in the end.
And so, enter the solution: make a new GTS version of the normal Cayman and Boxster and give them the same 4-litre engine. Because the GTS is the steppingstone between the standard models and the Motorsport cars, its use is perfectly justified. From an enthusiast’s point of view, it is also a return to a configuration that never should have been abandoned.
So back to Estoril and I am following a Porsche instructor. I am in the 718 Cayman GTS, he’s in a 911 Carrera S. He drives cars around tracks for a living and I, well, don’t. So, we get out of the pits and the track is so wet I don’t even go for Sport Plus mode immediately. I start in Sport and build up my confidence. The rhythm increases and, by Lap 3, I am pretty certain I won’t make a fool of myself. The car is so good I know exactly what it’s doing.
The Cayman GTS has 400 horsepower, a manual gearbox and what is very likely one of the best five chassis in the automotive world. From behind the wheel, you feel at one with the car, it talks to you and lets you know what is happening at each given moment. I loved every minute and the challenge of the wet track only heightened my senses.
Next up: two hours driving the 718 Boxster GTS on some roads around Estoril, Sintra and Cascais. Roads I know very, very well. The sun decided to make an appearance, so I lower the roof, find the perfect driving position and just enjoy. These cars are absolutely brilliant. As damn near perfect as they come.
The only problem, really, is the price. Mind you, this is not Porsche’s fault. In England, the Cayman GTS starts at £64,000. In Germany, €82,000. In Portugal?
€120,000. Why? Because we tax cars according to their cubic capacity and CO2 emissions and although these GTS versions have impressive emission levels for such a sporty car, the 4-litre capacity makes this a very “taxable” car – which is a shame, because these cars are a tremendous experience behind the wheel. They are also a tremendous engineering achievement – which is my segue for the next car I am talking about in this text.
The Taycan. The electric Porsche
I haven’t driven that one yet, but I have sat through a technical presentation and I know what they want to do with it. It’s actually pretty clear: they want it to be the best electric car in the world.
The Taycan is a five-door hatchback, a bit smaller than the Panamera, built on a completely new platform, where the batteries sit below the floor of the car.
Together, they add up to 93.4 kWh, which means 412km of range in the top-of-the-line Turbo S version, 450km for the Turbo and 463km for the 4S.
There is one motor at the front powering the front wheels, another one at the back doing the same. The rear motor has a two-speed transmission, with the lower ration used only for the sportiest driving mode; in normal driving conditions, the Taycan will always use second gear.
Differences between the Turbo and Turbo S are not that great; the S gets active rear steer, carbon ceramic brakes and bigger wheels, but not much else. The range is completed by the Taycan 4S and they all come with a near-800V electrical system, which is twice what you usually get in an EV.
Why? Because by doubling the voltage, you can halve the running through the cables, making them thinner and easier to thread. Porsche can thus save 40kg over a 400V system. Find a 270kW charger and the Taycan will show an 80% battery charge in just 20 minutes.
This being a Porsche, performance is key. The Turbo S produces an astonishing 761 horsepower and dispatches the 0-100km/h in a mind-boggling 2.8 seconds. The Turbo numbers are 680 horsepower and 3.2 seconds, whereas the 4S is still mighty at 530 horsepower, doing the launch to 100km/h in four seconds dead.
Inside, the Taycan seats four adults in perfect comfort and offers a range of technologically advanced solutions as great as the options list. It’s not hard to spec a car that ends up being unique. Again, this is not a range of cars for everyone. Prices start at €110,000 for the 4S, €155,000 for the Turbo and (gulp) €192,000 for the Turbo S. And taxes are not exactly to blame here.
I drive the 718 GTS 4.0 sports cars and I look at the Taycan, and I have to say I am a little less worried about the future of the automobile. Then again, Porsche is pretty much alone in this ability to make the best cars in the world, whatever that means, and prices are not what you’d call attainable. I guess it’s time to start planning the perfect bank heist.