Review: 2010 Porsche Cayman S PDK

There's an issue, but it isn't light. Or sound. The Porsche's turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder comes alive with a pop through its two sizable center-mounted exhaust pipes and quickly settles into a rhythmic thrum as it shakes off the overnight cold. Its tires thump over the cobblestones of the hotel's drive.

It's warmth we need. And coffee. Summer Pirellis need heat to work, and still on California time, we are desperate for a double espresso. Until they come, this 2018 Porsche Boxster GTS and Spain's cold, and in some cases ancient, asphalt are a dicey combination. Just a few corners into the narrow and twisting two-lane winding through the coastal hills, and it becomes obvious that grip on is a real problem. Incidentally, it seems that the Spanish have a love of off-camber corners, because they all are.

PSM officially stands for "Porsche Stability Management," but the system is earning its nickname: "Please Save Me." Without its intervention, our turquoise two-seater would have already kissed the hillside at least twice, or worse, it would have smashed through the spindly looking rail that lines this trail and smashed its mid-engine self to bits on the rocks below. The good news is that our caffeine jones has been replaced with a flood of endorphins triggered by the instinctual desire to live.

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With more sunlight comes more grip, and more speed. By 7:30 a.m., the road and the tires have gained temperature and we're flat out in one of the world's greatest sports cars on an epic, undulating motorway that climbs toward the hillside village of Algatocin, a picturesque oasis of white stucco within these dark green hills. When the 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS arrive at dealers in March, they will be the most powerful and the best-performing machines in the company's mid-engine lineup. Remember, the Cayman GT4 is no longer available.

Here are the numbers: The flat 2.5-liter has been pumped up to 365 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. That's 15 hp more than you get in 718 S models, although it's 20 hp less than in the GT4, which was powered by a naturally aspirated six that peaked up at 7,400 rpm.

Torque is also improved. The engine is rated 309 lb-ft at 1,900 rpm with the six-speed manual transmission, and 317 lb-ft with the PDK dual-clutch automatic. That's 8 lb-ft more than on the S Models. The Cayman GT4, which was only available with a six-speed manual, made 309 lb-ft at a lofty 4,750 rpm.

Powertrain project manager Fabian Zink, a seven-year Porsche veteran who was also responsible for the engine in the GT4, tells us that the additional power comes in part from added baffles to the intake runners to improve pulsation between the cylinder banks and eliminate power-robbing turbulence inside the runners. Now the combustion chambers are filled more efficiently and more completely. The rest of the plastic intake manifold is unchanged.

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Zink also worked with Porsche's turbo supplier, Borg-Warner, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., to develop a larger compressor wheel to create more boost. The hot side of the turbo is the same, but the compressor wheel has grown from 64 mm to 67 mm, and boost has increased from 16.7 psi to 18.1 psi. The unit remains very similar to the turbo used on the S models, but it's unique enough to have its own part number.

Anyone worried about torque, turbo lag or having just four cylinders shouldn't be. The flat four pulls off idle and sprints for its 7,500-rpm redline, and there isn't a stumble or even a momentary hesitation along the way. Throttle response is telepathic, and the transmissions are geared short, which keeps the engine up over 3,000 rpm, even if you enter a second-gear corner in third.

Acceleration isn't going to rip your face off – that's what 911 Turbos and Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s are for – but the Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS are more than quick enough to keep you entertained and to impress your friends. Porsche says manual models hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and PDK cars, which have launch control, hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. That's quicker than the GT4.

Porsche also quotes a top speed of 180 mph and says the cars have lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife two seconds quicker than the 718 S model and 13 seconds faster than the 2014 Cayman GTS. Its 7:40 lap time also matches the performance of the GT4, as well as that of the 2011 911 GT3.

Yeah, it's fast.

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And light. Manual models weigh just 3,032 pounds, with PDK cars weighing just 66 pounds more. That being said, the featherweight carbon-fiber seats, similar to the units used in the 918 Spyder but different from the seats in the new 911 T, will not be available in the United States. Four wheel designs are offered, but the lightest is the standard Carrera S at just 21.8 pounds for the front (20x9) and 23.8 pounds for the rear (20x10). The others are heavier, but they're also a half inch wider in the rear.

Every 718 GTS wears a set of Pirelli PZeros with the N1 designation, which means it's a tire created to Porsche's exact specifications. The ultra-high-performance summer tires are sized 235/35ZR20 front and 265/35ZR20 rear. Ride height is 10 mm lower than S models, and a Sport Suspension option can drop it another 10 mm.

Prices start at $81,300 for a manual Cayman GTS and $83,400 for a manual Boxster GTS. The PDK adds $3,730. Both are bargains compared with loading up an S model with much of the same equipment.

In the hills and on Ascari, Spain's longest racetrack, both the Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS benefit from standard performance hardware such as Porsche Torque Vectoring, PASM Suspension with more aggressive anti-roll bars, a selectable damping rate and the Sport Chrono Package. The last bit includes the Porsche Active Drivetrain Mount system, which adds stiffer electromagnetic powertrain mounts to the transmission, essentially making the engine and transmission stressed chassis members while increasing the overall strength of the structure. Handling and stability are also improved because the powertrain's mass (a 412-pound engine with catalytic converter, a 154-pound manual transmission or the 243-pound PDK) is better controlled.

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Sport Chrono also adds a knob to the steering wheel so the driver can quickly choose from Normal, Sport or Sport+ driving modes, as in the 911 GTS. There's also an Individual setting, which is a customizable choosing of your favorites to tune the response of the Porsche's powertrain and suspension. Even in Normal, the ride is firm, but there is an impressive amount of refinement. It soaks up larger impacts without crashing or feeling crude. It's comfortable enough to be driven every day.

Joachim Meyer, the chassis project manager for the 718 line, is proud of the 718's communicative, quick steering rack. And rightly so. Its 15:1 steering ratio is perfect on the racetrack, especially through Ascari's Piff Paff chicane, and in the tighter confines of the public road it translates into an awesome athleticism few cars can match. You feel as if the Porsche 718 will never run out of grip.

It will, of course, but the quickness in which this little sports car changes direction and the precision with which it can be placed by a skilled driver is remarkable. It makes you wish Meyer and his team would share their secrets, their genius, with the rest of the industry.

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On faster sections of track, such as Ascari's banked left-hander called Daytona, and Brundle—which we were told can only be taken flat out once—the GTS is well balanced, and it's easily set into a four-wheel drift. And through The Kink, a flat and fast right-hander at the top of third gear, it showed impressive stability partly due to its 55 percent rear weight bias.

The sport exhaust with black tailpipes is also standard, and hearing the boxer four is never an issue, especially in the soft-topped Boxster. It really starts to howl over 4,000 rpm. But Porsche insists there's no funny business going on, no artificial enhancement through the speakers of the audio system.

After a long day of driving, and seat time in three 718s, we finally get that coffee, sit back and watch the sun sink behind the sea. With the day's last light, it's clear Porsche's new Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS are exactly what this German automaker has always been about—the continuous refinement and endless improvement of the machine.

Sadly, America's sports-car market is decelerating as if it's fitted with carbon Brembos, and few will choose to experience the joy of owning and driving these extraordinary machines. But the 718 GTS twins are engineering as art. Sure, the Cayenne and Macan pay most of the bills, but it's cars such as these that will forever define the brand.

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