Over the past week, I've been wondering how much compromise is the right amount for a focused sports car—especially when a GTS badge connotes real performance. A little less of the GT4's busy-in-your-hands character isn't such a bad thing for a car which will see plenty of street driving, as Henry Catchpole has been able to convey in his latest review of the Boxster GTS 4.0.
Being comfortable is only one part of the equation; it can't fall on its face when it hits the tracks. A relatively calm blast around the circuit is a good indication of its performance, but if it's truly deserving of a GT badge, watching Mark Webber hustling a Cayman GTS 4.0 around Estoril—one of the best circuits in the world—is ideal.
Put the ten-time Grand Prix winner in the latest Cayman GTS, and he gives us a very clear depiction of just how sharp the car really is. The answer: not much. The extra rubber in the gearbox Steve Sutcliffe complained about hardly seems like an issue for the Aussie; his blurred downshifts are done almost subconsciously. With the GT3's dual-mass flywheel, the engine revs quickly enough to complement Webber's deft coordination. Witnessing those clean shifts are catnip to an aspiring driver who dreams of learning to heel-toe shift perfectly, and that is so much more inspiring than the efficient—if not slightly dull—click of a PDK paddle.
In this footage, the Cayman GTS seems to be friendly enough for the average driver; it's fairly neutral, but tends to overwhelm the front axle first. Still, the rear will dance through faster stuff when the weight is shifted abruptly to the front, but he has a way to keep enough load on the rear axle in these situations. Watch how Webber deftly places his heel on the throttle while braking for a faster corner. It's half of a heel-toe downshift, but he's not changing gears—he's simply keeping the rear planted as he shifts the weight to the nose at high speeds.
Webber's clean, clinical driving is devoid of any self-indulgent histrionics. Through Turn 4 (0:36), he's clearly pushing past the limit of the howling fronts, but he stays well within that window of slip by smoothly rolling on the throttle being quite delicate with the steering. Though professionals of his caliber don't need to be handed a great deal of information to drive a car at the limit, it's clear that this machine is quite communicative based on the minute adjustments in the steering he makes.
Through the Turn 9-10 chicane, we can see where the Cayman GTS' softening impacts its on-track performance. The direction change isn't quite as crisp as what you'd want in an ideal situation, and the way it hops over the bumps delays the throttle application somewhat. Some of that can be attributed to lacking the wider front wheels and rose-jointed front suspension of the Cayman GT4, and some of that can be slightly less sticky rubber. These are the concessions made to make the car a little friendlier for the average user and the public road.
While the front isn't as sharp as an ideal track car's would be, the Cayman GT4's rear is strong and puts its 395 horsepower through the 265-section rears without any wheelspin. All these traits—and a few of its foibles—demonstrate that the Cayman GTS 4.0 is a very reassuring car. It's compromised, but it also appears both supple enough for a bumpy backroad and accurate enough for a F1 driver. Since it comes in nearly $20,000 cheaper than the GT4, it may represent the optimal compromise.