My week with the 911-rivalling Porsche Cayman GTS – part 3

The time has come to say goodbye to the Porsche Cayman GTS; I’ve lost count of the number of times this mid-engined wonder from Zuffenhausen has made me smile. It’s certainly going to be hard to part with the keys when I return the car to Porsche GB HQ in Reading.

For over 400 miles, the 3.4-litre sports car has ferried me cross-country via numerous incredible roads, all of which have tested the car’s handling to the extreme. Wet or dry, the Cayman GTS has excelled every time.

It’s handling is so benevolent, remarkable given that this is one of a rare few cars that naturally prefers to oversteer rather than understeer. What this means is, even at legal road speeds, the Cayman GTS is always entertaining to drive.

The 918-inspired headlights lend the 981-generation Cayman more presence, and give it a distinct identity.
The 918-inspired headlights lend the 981-generation Cayman more presence, and give it a distinct identity.

Intuitive and engaging were the order of the day every time I lowered myself into the hard-backed Sports seats. It’s certainly true what Le Mans-winner, Richard Attwood once said to me: “For 99 per cent of people, the Cayman is a faster car”.

Point-to-point, on Dorset B-roads, I don’t think there is a better car out there. You still have to know how to drive, don’t get me wrong, but the Cayman GTS is so easy to get along with, driving fast comes naturally from mile one of every journey.

As I said on Friday, the amount of front-end grip is astonishing, breeding huge amounts of confidence within you. With that confidence, it allows you to play around with the rear end in a way that no Porsche 991 would let you do (on the roads at least).

However, the dead-rear view is still slightly awkward, lacking the elegance of a 911.
However, the dead-rear view is still slightly awkward, lacking the elegance of a 911.

Having the 340hp engine from the 991 Carrera mounted directly behind you creates a hugely visceral aural experience from the cabin, especially with the standard Sport Exhaust system switched on.

While the 9A1 engine has been criticised for being too refined in the acoustic department, you would never guess in the Cayman as your ears pick up much more the mechanics at work.

Slightly lighter than a 991 Carrera, the Cayman GTS’ chassis makes the flat six feel torquier than the former, while the six-speed gearbox is a stunner. Smooth, precise and quick, its still better than the revised seven-speeder in the 991 GTS.

Interior will feel familiar to 991 drivers, although it is more claustrophobic.
Interior will feel familiar to 991 drivers, although it is more claustrophobic.

Combined with the £18,000 saving over buying a base 991 Carrera, you would think that buying a Cayman GTS would be – as Kevin Bacon loves to point out in those dreadful EE adverts – a ‘no brainer’. Yet, Porsche’s little sports car still suffers from one inherent problem.

It’s not a 911. Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool neunelfer fan, my head tells me that I would, given the financial resources, walk into a Porsche Centre and order a Cayman GTS.

Yet, my heart knows that the badge on the back is comprised of nine letters rather than those iconic three numbers. It doesn’t look like a 911 and it doesn’t drive like a 911 because it simply isn’t a 911.

The rear wing assembly on the Cayman is neat, raising up to provide a more sporting profile than the 911's traditional raised decklid.
The rear wing assembly on the Cayman is neat, raising up to provide a more sporting profile than the 911’s traditional raised decklid.

While the interior feels remarkably similar, the lower roofline and lack of rear seating conspire to make the Cayman’s cockpit feel noticeably more claustrophobic, a sense heightened by the inset Sport Chrono stopwatch.

Moreover, while the suspension springing and damping is naturally softer, the Cayman GTS’ ride seems more harshly affected by the 20-inch Carrera S wheels, almost to the point of making it unbearable on everyday rough surfaces (albeit only when cruising).

The lack of real luggage space is a problem too. I may have managed to transport a six-foot blind in the Cayman GTS but, for more comprehensive European travel, I reckon the 911’s rear passenger area has the more usable ability to swallow cases (as I proved when camping at Le Mans last year).

It's a good badge to have on the back of your Porsche, but is it the one your heart yearns for?
It’s a good badge to have on the back of your Porsche, but is it the one your heart yearns for?

I also think the financial saving compared to a 991 is actually a moot point. If you’re in the market for a new car and had £55,000 to spend, you would definitely buy the Cayman GTS over a second-hand 997 GTS, or similar.

However, if you had the full budget for a 991 Carrera, you’re unlikely to want to give up the prestige of the 911 badge for that of a Cayman, even if it does come with the added cachet of the GTS moniker and all the dynamic brilliance that entails.

Therefore, the Cayman GTS is a real head-and-heart car. My head knows it is the sensible thing to choose, yet my heart – the real driver when considering a sports car purchase – knows the 911 is the car to have. Maybe, though the Cayman GT4 will finally be the car to change that once and for all.

Find out why Total 911 have been testing a Cayman GTS in part one of Josh’s diary before reading why the mid-engined sports car helps to reveal the 991’s true colours in the second part now.

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