Boxing Day : Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 Drive [review]

By davidkhoo, 26 February 2020

Estoril, Portugal – Having quick reflexes is a good trait for a sportscar, but it’s even better for a sportscar brand, and few brands can react and act as quickly as Porsche and turn on a dime, especially when it comes to rekindling the purists’ passion for the brand.

The controversial use of flat4 2.0-/2.5-litre engines in the 718 Cayman and Boxster range hit a sour note with die-hard Porsche-philes, especially after the highs of the flat6 engines from the inception of the Boxster (Type 986) all the way to the Type 981.

(Click HERE to read about the 987 Boxster Spyder, 981 GTS, Ruf 3800 S... and the 914!)

In fact, ‘718’ was added to the nomenclature at the launch of this generation Cayman and Boxster to ‘remember’ the brand’s classic mid-engined four-pot race-car of the late 1950s.

However, all was not lost, because the flat6 (a Carrera S’s 3.8-litre in the case of the 981) that powered the special edition Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder models was carried over into the 718 generation.

With Porsche Motorsports’ involvement, the 718 Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder became the happy recipients of a newly-developed nat-asp flat6 4.0-litre that sings to the thrilling 8000rpm tune of 420hp and 420Nm.

(8000rpm not thrilling enough for you? Click HERE for the 991.2 GT3 and its 9000rpm redline!)

But this story isn’t about the 718 GT4 or the Spyder, but rather the GTS 4.0 (to better distinguish it from its smaller-hearted iteration from not that many years ago), because a detuned 400hp version of the same 4.0-litre has been shoehorned into the model range sweet-spot to supersede the turbocharged 2.5-litre flat4 that was introduced in 2017.

Unlike the harder-edged GT4 and Spyder, the GTS does not feature any of the Porsche Motorsports chassis/handling/aero tweaks and enjoys only the use of the engine.

Although the GTS siblings (and GT4/Spyder) are currently matched to a 6spd manual transmission, PDK variants are on the horizon.

Like the rest of the Porsche line-up, ‘GTS’ (for Gran Turismo Sport) is the model sweet-spot that combines engaging performance with daily drive sensibilities, all wrapped up in the appropriately sporty trim/equipment combination.

You could probably cost-spec a similar GTS trim/equipment to a S, but the GTS models always have a little extra chutzpah in terms of engine performance that you can’t apply to the S models.

As Porsche shifts gears from the turbocharged flat4 2.5-litre to the nat-asp flat6 4.0-litre in the 718 GTS 4.0, the GTS now sits closer to the GT4/Spyder and is even further removed from the entry-level 718, S  and T models.

This Great Divide isn’t detrimental to the 718’s cause, because as much as we vocal purists rah-rah the return of the flat6, most 718 buyers (and some might say the less vocal majority) are content with the spurty performance of the flat4s… Why? Well, because #Porsche.

Besides, with another flat6 (and arguably more accessible) model in the 718’s cap to join the GT4/Spyder, there are now two distinct lines within the 718 range.

One targets newcomers to Porsche, while the other will appeal to diehards and driving enthusiasts who prefer to enjoy a flat6’s 7800rpm soundtrack with sportier examples of the brand’s hugely capable mid-engined/rear-drive ‘718’ sportscars.

The thrill of driving doesn’t come from going fast – in most cases, it is anything but, because most new sportscars are fast, if little else – because factors like soundtrack and the sense of satisfaction that comes from delicately balancing the power-band of a high-revving engine with a frolicsome chassis’ lateral grip levels contribute to how engaged and connected a committed driver feels.

In fact, there aren’t many things as evocative as a vocal nat-asp engine, especially when wrung towards its redline through a wonderfully-weighted, slick-shifting 6spd stick-shift.

A boisterous, rabble-rousing soundtrack plays a huge role in our enjoyment of a long and winding road, and that’s why we’ve taken the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 out with the top-down while the sun’s out to better enjoy it. We already know it can handle itself on-track (we had the Cayman GTS 4.0 on the circuit).

Hence, we decided to luxuriate in the glorious music of the flat6: there aren’t many things as evocative as the sizzling snap-crackle-pop on downshifts and rising wail under hard acceleration that ricochets between mountain walls with you and the plus-one ensconced in the best seats of the house and carving a path through the sinuous road ahead!

Compared to our track-outfitted 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 with the cost-optional 918 Spyder carbonfibre bucket seats and PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes, our white Boxster (the moving shots are of our demo car, the Chalk GTS is pictured for illustration) features standard brakes for easy fast-road modulation, but has the 918 seats to keep us snugly in place when lateral gs build.

The GTS Interior Package has always featured Alcantara touchpoints (steering and shifter), with plenty of contrast stitching and matching seatbelts for a snazzy sporty ambience, and the 4.0 is no exception.

The front lip and front air-intakes feature a dark contrast finish, while the smoked head-/tail-lights and satin-gloss black 20-inch alloys complete the intense package. As standard, the GTS 4.0 sits 20mm lower, but a less compromising drop of 10mm is available as an option.

To begin with, the 2.5-litre-engined 718 GTS was no slouch: it wasn’t just lightweight (it tipped the scales at 1375kg, versus the 4.0’s 1405kg) and intensely manoeuvrable, but also clocked a combined 9.2l/100km and 210g/km in the combined cycle in the fuel economy and emissions stakes.

The flat4 is tuned for 365hp (a 35hp surfeit compared to the GTS 4.0), but an identical 420Nm, albeit available from between 1900-5500rpm, so it more than compensates for the hp difference (in PDK guise, the 2.5-litre GTS was tuned for 430Nm). In fact, the rev-happy nat-asp 4.0 requires a different driving style from that of the turbocharged flat4, with its near-instant responses to throttle inputs.

Compared to the boost-happy mid-range surge of the 2.5, the 4.0’s intimate delights require delicate ministration as you coax and cajole the rev-needle ever closer to its 7800rpm redline.

This also means working with gas and gears to keep the engine on constant-boil when you’re pressing hard, as you watch the curve of the road ahead with eagle-eyes to anticipate, strategise and maximise speed on the straights and into the corners… and it is this challenge that characterises an ‘engaging car’ to driving enthusiasts, not easy-peasy pointing-and-squirting.

All through the days of silent movies to today’s immersive 3D cinematic experience, a theatrical score remains a solid constant in contributing to every moviegoers’ enjoyment. For instance, could you think of Star Wars without recalling John Williams’ operatic score, or Darth Vader’s appearance without the Imperial March playing in your head?

Ultimately, it is no different for a precision driving instrument like the GTS 4.0 that is designed to stir the soul of driving enthusiasts, especially since it now has the right engine and sound to let you groove to its (heart)beat.

PHOTOS Porsche

Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0
Engine 3995cc, flat6, nat-asp
Power/rpm 400hp/7000rpm
Torque/rpm 420Nm/5000-6500rpm
Transmission 6spd manual
0-100km/h 4.5secs
Top Speed 293km/h
Kerbweight (DIN) 1405kg
Fuel Consumption 10.8l/100km
CO2 246g/km

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