There have always been murmurs in the automotive enthusiast community that Porsche has intentionally never quite let the Boxster and Cayman live up to their full potential. After all, Porsche has an excellent reason not to make the mid-engined sports cars too potent: add too much power, make them too fast, and people might start ditching the rear-engined 911 for them.
The new 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Boxster Spyder, however, prove that Porsche isn’t afraid of a little intramural competition. After all, if it were all that worried about losing 911 sales, why would the carmaker wedge a naturally-aspirated flat-six derived from the 911 Carrera’s unit into the Cayman/Boxster platform?
Indeed, if anything, the new 4.0-liter boxer-six in the 718 Boxster Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 is, in some ways, superior to the twin-turbo unit found in the base 911s. The engine cranks out 414 horsepower at a power peak of 7,600 rpm, just 400 rpm away from redline; torque sits at 309 pound-feet, but you’ll have to wind it to between 5,000 and 6,800 rpm to find all that twist. By modern standards, that makes it a screamer.
Ensuring you’ll want to make it howl early and often: Both new 718 models only come with a six-speed manual gearbox, through which the power is routed to the aft wheels clad in ultra-high-performance rubber. Launch it right, and either model vaults from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, to 100 mph in a shade over nine seconds, and all the way up to 187 mph for the droptop and 188 mph for the coupe.
Of course, a Porsche needs to handle as well as it hauls ass. Both Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 benefit from a new high-performance suspension, with lightweight spring-strut front and rear axles and partly ball-jointed suspension mountings and a version of the Porsche Active Suspension Management damping setup that drops the car almost 1.2 inches. Torque vectoring and a mechanical limited-slip differential in back add to the turning prowess, as well.
They’re not quite identical cars with different rooflines, though. While both see an increase in downforce from a single-chamber arch rear silencer, the Cayman GT4 boasts a fixed spoiler on its tail, whereas the Boxster Spyder uses a retractable wing that rises at 74 mph. The Cayman GT4 also offers an optional Clubsport package for track rats that brings a steel roll bar, a six-point harness for the driver’s seat, and a fire extinguisher. (sadly, it doesn’t seem to be an option on the American version of Porsche’s car configurator.)
Another way they differ, albeit slightly: price. The Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder starts at $96,300, while the fixed-roof Cayman GT4 starts at $99,200. Not cheap, sure. But considering how hard it is to find even a base 911 for less that (and considering the all-new 911 Carrera S starts at $113,300), the new Cayman and Boxster variants seem almost like a bargain.
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