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2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

Comparing Two Attractive Mid-Engined Offerings On Track

Dec 12, 2014

With every new generation of mid-engine Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman, they move closer to the performance of the 911. For 2015, both models will be offered in base, S and now GTS—the latter being the best of breed to date. The Porsche Cayman GTS in particular should have the Carrera looking over its shoulder.

2014 porsche cayman rear view 02 Photo 2/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

The Boxster GTS takes the 315hp S up to 330 hp. In the Cayman, GTS means the 325hp S gets a bump up to 340. For those keeping score, that brings a Cayman to within 10 hp of the base 911 Carrera.

Both GTS versions include the Sport Chrono package and Sport Exhaust, which would normally set you back $4,740 to option up an S model. These two features, along with a software change, account for the increased performance. Besides the go-faster additions, each gets new front and rear fasciae, bi-xenon lighting (including Porsche Dynamic Lighting System) and model-specific interior trim with either red or silver stitching, along with extra splashes of carbon fiber and Alcantara. Buying a GTS will save roughly $9,000 over a comparably equipped S.

I attended the launch of the latest Boxster at Barber Motorsports Park back in May 2012. I reveled in the newer, bigger car's added stability, its refinement and how easy it was to drive. I also alluded to the fact that it might be slightly underpowered for the abilities of the chassis. Now I had the chance to drive all three variants of both models at the legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, whose asphalt still hadn't cooled from the annual Motorsports Reunion. The backdrop of this vintage motorsport event is ideal for driving Porsche's mid-engine family. From the beginning, the middle of the car is where the company has chosen to place the powerplant of the majority of its purpose-built racing cars. Everything from 550 Spyders to 908s to the current 919 hybrid racer all carry their power amidships.

2014 porsche boxster front view 03 Photo 6/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

The GTS cars Porsche brought over were European-spec, fitted with the beautifully supportive one-piece sport seats found in the last generation's Boxster Spyder. While I love these seats and would probably find a way to get them through the parts department for any new Porsche I was buying, they were apparently right behind the top in terms of customer concerns on the Spyder. If you want them in the States, I suggest you contact Porsche Cars North America and let them know.

I started my track session with the base Cayman. Which is good. The longer wheelbase (compared with the previous generation) makes it stable and easy to drive. In earlier Caymans (Caymen?), the thought of typical mid-engine snap-pirouettes was always in the back of my mind. The new car is completely predictable. And even with stability and traction control active, a few degrees of slip in the corners is possible. Steering feel, while not air-cooled Porsche hyperactive, is still about as good as it gets.

Jumping from base to S is big in terms of performance, but the two are incredibly similar overall. It's hard to say the S is "better," but it's certainly faster and more capable in every aspect. All the things that define a car are the same: It rotates into turns dutifully, brakes straight and predictably and puts down power almost as well as a 911. It does feel a bit heavier, though. I don't feel like I want to move the car around as much; I want to be more precise and efficient in the S. Getting a little sideways bleeds off more speed, and getting a little offline during turn-in takes a bit more effort to get it back. But get it all correct and it will run away from the base car. Driving them back to back really makes the base car feel underpowered, or maybe it would be more appropriate to say the chassis feels under-utilized.

The GTS seems to split the difference. For this exercise, Porsche's GTS cars have manual transmissions. In Sport Plus mode, the car will blip the throttle to rev-match on downshifts. While this works seamlessly, the idea of the car heel-toeing for me negates the purpose of buying the manual. I freely admit that I'm always faster in PDK-equipped cars, but Porsche's manual transmissions are among the best in the business, and rowing my own does make me smile. On the track, give me the PDK. On the road? Three pedals, please.

2014 porsche boxster interior 04 Photo 10/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

In the Cayman lineup, the GTS is hands down my favorite. It's easy to lose yourself in an IMSA GTP fantasy, driving what feels like a prototype racer. In high-speed turns, it settles down and grabs asphalt like a machine with higher downforce. Damping rates are firm, but suspension travel is plentiful, even with the 0.8-inch drop in ride height compared with the base cars. It never gets upset by track irregularities or running on the curbing. I can brake late and get on the power early; I'm never waiting on the car. After just a few corners, I think Porsche may shortly remove the term understeer from its vocabulary. High speed, low speed, under braking, hard on the throttle...the car just won't do it without being forced. Part of this is torque vectoring, but the majority is just good old-fashioned chassis tuning.

When switching to Boxsters, I decided not to drop down to the base version but opted to start with the mid-level S. The first noticeable thing about the Boxster is, ironically, the lack of headroom with the top up. I'm 6'2" and, with a helmet, my seating position is certainly compromised. Although there is an obvious fix, closed-top driving is the order of the day, so reclining the seat is the best course of action.

2014 porsche boxster driver seat 08 Photo 14/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

The Boxster S is great, full stop. Anyone who doesn't like this car doesn't like sports cars. It isn't quite as precise as the Cayman S—and you will have a tough time pretending you're nestled in a Le Mans-winning 962—but it will turn your favorite freeway ramps into switchbacks chiseled into the side of the Alps. It likes to be thrown around more than the Cayman S, which could be down to the slightly softer chassis, or maybe it just instills a greater sense of fun. I pulled into the pits after my Boxster S laps concerned that it would render a GTS version pointless.

Sliding my less-than-svelte self into the un-American sport seats of the GTS helped quell my concerns a bit. First, you pick up an inch or so of headroom with these seats, which (unfortunately) is a moot point for North American customers. The sound of the Sport Exhaust alone is nearly worth the sticker price. I can't imagine buying an S and not getting Sport Chrono and Sport Exhaust, both standard GTS fare. Concerns about seeing the point of the Boxster GTS now switched to wondering if people would still buy an S.

2014 porsche boxster gauge cluster 07 Photo 15/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

Jumping "down" from GTS to base Boxster, Porsche's entry-level model, is perhaps the biggest eye-opener of the day. Half a lap into my session and this car is competing for top honors. The simplicity and basic goodness of the Boxster is what connects to the car-guy genes in our DNA. By modern standards, a plain Boxster is relatively average in terms of numbers on paper. On the track, though, there is magic to the connection you feel with this car. It offers the closest communication of anything in the lineup. It never feels fast, but it exists to corner. It dives, rolls and squats more than the others, but complaining about too much movement in this Boxster is like wishing a dancer would just stand still and listen to the music.

Brake pedal actuation is silky smooth and yardstick linear. Whether getting into or out of the brakes, it feels as though the ball of your foot is pressing the pad to the rotor with no middleman to try and throw in an interpretation. Turn-in may not be as precise or aggressive as the others, but it happens with more rotational yaw. The Cayman GTS bull's-eyes apexes with sniper-like precision, while the Boxster can be tossed at them, sliding by them in a beautifully controlled drift. If the Cayman GTS makes you Hurley Haywood racing a 962 at Le Mans, the Boxster transforms you into Hans Herrmann drifting a 550 Spyder around Italy in the Mille Miglia. This test car is optioned simply, and that's exactly how it should be bought.

2014 porsche cayman front view 05 Photo 16/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

The price gap between a base Boxster and a Cayman GTS is $23,800. A decent chunk of change, but it doesn't even begin to tell the whole story. The base Boxster and the Cayman GTS are my two favorites, and while they may seem the same on paper, they sit on the palate as alike as chocolate ice cream and lemon sorbet.

I can tell you from past experience the Boxster is a phenomenal road car that carves canyons as happily as it commutes. It can handle track days and excel at driver education sessions.

2014 porsche boxster passenger side view 06 Photo 17/23   |   2014 Porsche Cayman vs. 2014 Porsche Boxster - Middle Men

The Cayman GTS feels like it would be just as content to commute, but it would turn canyon carving into a more serious proposition, an ideal companion for an owner progressing from occasional track outings to club racing. The other models fill the spectrum between these two with the Boxsters leaning more toward fun touring, the Caymans skewed slightly to furrowed-brow fast driving.

Show people a flash card with the word "Porsche" on it and 99 percent of them will visualize a 911. That's no bad thing, as the 911 embodies the soul of the company and probably always will, even if it doesn't always carry the performance flag. I love the 911; I'm a past owner. But for the first time, I would really consider buying the Cayman GTS over a base 911. I will also admit that a base Boxster was never really on my radar, but this current iteration is so good that I'm starting to calculate lease payments. Anything in this range is a winner—it just depends on which flavor you want.

Powertrain/Chassis 2014 Porsche Cayman 2014 Porsche Cayman S 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS
Drivetrain Layout Mid-engine, RWD Mid-engine , RWD Mid-engine, RWD
Engine Type Flat-six, alum. block/heads Flat-six, alum. block/heads Flat-six, alum. block/heads
Valvetrain DOHC, four valves/cyl. DOHC, four valves/cyl. DOHC, four valves/cyl.
Displacement 2.7 liter 3.4 liter 3.4 liter
Compression Ratio 12.5:1 12.5:1 12.5:1
Power (SAE NET) 275 hp @ 7400 325 hp @ 7400 rpm 340 hp @ 7400 rpm
Torque (SAE NET) 213 lb-ft @ 4500 272 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm 280 lb-ft @ 4750
Redline 7800 rpm 7800 rpm 7800 rpm
Transmission six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto
Suspension, Front; Rear Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar
Steering Ratio 12.4-16.5:1 12.4-16.5:1 12.4-16.5:1
Turns Lock-To-Lock 2.5 2.5 2.5
Brakes, F; R four-piston calipers, 12.4-in. vented, drilled rotos; four-piston calipers, 11.8-in. vented, drilled rotors four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors; four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors; four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors
Wheels, F; R 18 x 8 in.; 18 x 9 in. cast aluminum 19 x 8 in.; 19 x 9.5 in. cast aluminum 20 x 8 in.; 20 x 9.5 in. cast aluminum
Tires, F; R 235/45-18; 265/45-18 235/40-19; 265/40-19 235/35-20; 265/35-20
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97.4 in. 97.4 in. 97.4 in.
Track, F/R 60.1/60.6 in. 60.1/60.6 in. 60.1/60.6 in.
Length X Width X Height 172.4 x 70.9 x 51.0 in. 172.4 x 70.9 x 51.0 in. 173.4 x 70.9 x 50.6 in.
Turning Circle 36.0 ft. 36.0 ft. 36.0 ft.
Curb Weight 3059 lb. 3152 lb. 3050 lb. mfr
Weight Dist., F/R 45/55% 43/57% 57/0%
Seating Capacity 2 2 2
Cargo Volume (F/R) 5.3/9.7 cu. ft. 5.3/9.7 cu. ft. 5.3/9.7 cu. ft.
Acceleration To Mhp / Test Data (In Cooperation With Motor Trend)
0-60 5.6 4.2 4.1 est.
Quarter-Mile 13.9 sec. @ 102.7 mph 12.7 sec. @ 109.7 mph 12.5 sec. @ 114 mph est.
Braking, 60-0 MPH 101 ft. 106 ft. 106 ft. est.
Lateral Acceleration 1.06 g (avg.) 1.04 g (avg.) 1.04 g (avg.) est.
MT Figure Eight 24.3 @ 0.80 g (avg.) 24.1 sec. @ 0.83 g (avg.) 23.9 sec. @ 0.84 g (avg.) est.
Pricing
Base Price $53,995 $64,795 $76,195
Powertrain/Chassis 2014 Porsche Boxster 2014 Porsche Boxster S 2015 Porsche Boxster GTS
Drivetrain Layout Mid-engine, RWD Mid-engine , RWD Mid-engine, RWD
Engine Type Flat-six, alum. block/heads Flat-six, alum. block/heads Flat-six, alum. block/heads
Valvetrain DOHC, four valves/cyl. DOHC, four valves/cyl. DOHC, four valves/cyl.
Displacement 2.7 liter 3.4 liter 3.4 liter
Compression Ratio 12.5:1 12.5:1 12.5:1
Power (SAE NET) 265 hp @ 6700 315 hp @ 6700 330 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque (SAE NET) 207 lb-ft @ 4400 266 lb-ft @ 4500 273 lb-ft @ 4500
Redline 7800 rpm 7800 rpm 7800 rpm
Transmission six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto six-speed manual/seven-speed twin-clutch auto
Suspension, Front; Rear Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar Struts, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj. shocks, antiroll bar
Steering Ratio 12.4-16.5:1 12.4-16.5:1 12.4-16.5:1
Turns Lock-To-Lock 2.5 2.5 2.5
Brakes, F; R four-piston calipers, 12.4-in. vented, drilled rotos; four-piston calipers, 11.8-in. vented, drilled rotors four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors; four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors; four-piston calipers, 13.8-in. vented, drilled rotors
Wheels, F; R 18 x 8 in; 18 x 9 in. cast aluminum 19 x 8 in; 19 x 9.5 in. cast aluminum 20 x 8 in; 20 x 9.5 in. cast aluminum
Tires, F; R 235/45-18; 265/45-18 235/40-19; 265/40-19 235/35-20; 265/35-20
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97.4 in. 97.4 in. 97.4 in.
Track, F/R 60.1/60.6 in. 60.1/60.6 in. 60.1/60.6 in.
Length X Width X Height 172.2 x 70.9 x 50.5 172.2 x 70.9 x 50.0 172.2 x 70.9 x 50.0
Turning Circle 36.0 ft. 36.0 ft. 36.0 ft.
Curb Weight 3040 lb. 3133 lb. 3050 lb. mfr
Weight Dist., F/R 46/54% 45/55% 45/55% est.
Seating Capacity 2 2 2
Cargo Volume (F/R) 5.3/4.6 cu. ft. 5.3/4.6 cu. ft. 5.3/4.6 cu. ft.
Acceleration To Mhp / Test Data (In Cooperation With Motor Trend)
0-60 5.6 4.2 4.1 est
Quarter-Mile 14.0 sec. @ 101.7 mph 12.7 sec. @ 109.7 mph 12.5 sec. @ 114 mph est.
Braking, 60-0 MPH 101 ft. 102 ft. 106 ft. est.
Lateral Acceleration 1.02 g (avg.) 1.02 g (avg.) 1.04 g (avg.) est.
MT Figure Eight 24.9 @ 0.77 g (avg.) 24.6 @ 0.81 g (avg.) 23.9 sec. @ 0.84 g (avg.) est.
Pricing
Base Price $51,395 $63,195 $74,495
Michael Febbo
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