2015 Porsche Boxster GTS [w/video]Thu, 22 May 2014
You know the sound: the startling pop-brraaap-pop-pop shotgun fire of unspent flammables coursing through exhaust pipes that usually signals a raw, naughty powerplant beneath the hood.
But when you're nestled in the Porsche Boxster GTS' snug seats, it's not a crackling small block V8 or a high-strung Italian flat crank making the devilish racket, but rather the new king of the Boxster/Cayman lineup, a 3.4-liter flat-six that produces 330 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.
Within the emotional vacuum of a spec sheet, the Boxster GTS' pumped-up grunt seems pretty mild, with a gain of only 15 hp and 7 lb-ft, respectively. But the reworked acoustical experience goes a long way towards suggesting the GTS has a trace of racing blood in its veins, and might even be missing its catalytic converters. In addition to the sonorous, centrally positioned tailpipes, the cabin also fills with lovely mechanical strains thanks to the "Sound Symposer" acoustical amplifier that's trickled down into the Boxster/Cayman lineup from the 911 for the first time. Boxster S, we hardly knew ya.
Some nomenclature background: Porsche's GTS models go back to 1964, when the street version of the Carrera GTS race car (i.e., 904) hit Porsche showrooms to satisfy homologation requirements. Porsche sold 125 of those models – 25 over the minimum – and the Grand Turismo Sport abbreviation has since suggested spiked performance in a package that's comfortable enough for long-distance driving.
The GTS abbreviation suggests spiked performance in a package that's comfortable enough for long-distance driving.
While I'm certainly admiring the Boxster GTS' surprisingly effective damping as it coasts over speed bumps in rural Mallorca just off the eastern coast of Spain, it isn't until I find a convoluted stretch of single-lane road descending the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range that I can cut to the core of this small two-seater and see what it's all about.
Overrun with pro cyclists prepping for the weekend's Ironman triathlon, this road is a vertically strung sequence of hairpins, the kind of technical terror that makes high-powered muscle cars nervous. Unlike tail-happy, rear-drive powerhouses that require a bit of wrangling, the mid-engined Boxster is swimming through the seemingly endless sequence of twists like a salmon through a stream, linking steering inputs to direction changes with tireless athletic agility that pivots around its relatively centralized polar moment of inertia. While you can feel the Boxster's trademark flatness and quick turn-in, those sensations are heightened by the GTS' suspension, which has been lowered by 10 millimeters. The predictability of its body control at these speeds makes the Boxster more endangered by the treacherous environment (rock wall to the right, Lycra-clad cyclists and steep cliff drops to the left) than the absolute limits of handling dynamics and mechanical grip.
The mid-engine Boxster swims through the seemingly endless sequence of twists like a salmon through a stream.
It isn't until a visit to Circuito Mallorca RennArena the following day that I feel comfortable fully plumbing the depths of the GTS' skill set. Led for a few familiarization laps by none other than legendary racer Walter Röhrl (who's cutting a swath in a 911), the GTS feels eager to explore each corner, its nose lurching forward while The Master demonstrates the ideal apex and exit path for each bend. After a quick pit, I'm on my own on the track.
Sport+ mode, selected via a small button flanking the shifter, seems to be a logical choice for the task of track duty, as it sharpens throttle response, opens the throttle valve, quickens gear engagement, loosens stability control thresholds, and moves shift points so high the car would be annoyingly over-revvy under any other circumstance. The setting enables a two-tenths of a second quicker 0 to 60 sprint thanks to launch mode, and the GTS' standard Sport Chrono package also activates the dynamic transmission mounts' most aggressive setting, effectively making the chassis feel stiffer and respond more immediately.
The Boxster feels eminently correctable, like an obedient puppy that's just trying to help get you around the track quicker.
The car's overall sensation of sharpness is certainly noted and appreciated on the track, as I'm gaining confidence and hitting corners with escalating entry speeds. There's some palpable understeer in slower kinks when the Boxster is tossed in too fast, but there's also the pleasant surprise of control when you're tapping the brakes and adjusting steering in order to get the car back on track. Unlike the runaway train feeling some cars exude at the moment of plowing, the Boxster feels eminently correctable, like an obedient puppy that's just trying to help get you around the track quicker.
As the laps pile on and I feel more secure in the Boxster's dynamics – which is happening rather quickly despite the fact that I haven't memorized the subtleties of the track – I do something relatively early on that I usually approach with a great deal of caution: I turn off the electronic aids.
If things go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.
What proceeds is a surprising, delightful boost in confidence that feels liberating, not terrifying, which is more than can be said of higher horsepower steeds that push around more weight. The Boxster's proportions are so compact and its curb weight so scant (2,965 pounds with a manual, 3,031 pounds with PDK), its slides and yaws don't sneak up on you or go south at the drop of a hat. In fact, there's so much conveyed to the driver that, like a communication-intensive relationship, if things go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.
As such, the only faux pas of note I committed was placing a tire or two over a rumble strip (I was drifting; sue me), and not always dropping gears aggressively enough to stay in the sweet spot of the engine's power output, which seems to lie halfway towards its maximum revs of 7,800 rpm. Those crimes were minimal, considering the compendium of things that can go wrong at the track.
As such, the Porsche Boxster GTS belongs to the small, proud clique of sports cars whose strengths are heightened, not diminished, when taken to the track. Included in the package is standard PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), a Sport Chrono package, a sport exhaust, 20-inch wheels, PDLS (Porsche Dynamic Light System), blacked-out trim and a modified spoiler lip. All in all, the options would run about $16,000 à la carte, but the GTS premium adds $10,960 to the PDK model, or $10,200 to the manual.
As much as the current-gen Boxster and Boxster S have endeared themselves to diehards with their eerie precision and refined chassis, they've also struggled with having to live under the shadow of their charismatic big brother, the larger-than-life 911. "Why," a deep-pocketed shopper might ask, "should I get the lower priced model when I can buy the best?"
This is one of the most holistically satisfying modern Porsches outside of the 918 Spyder.
After two days behind the wheel of the Boxster GTS, the answer emerges like a waft of smoke from a genie bottle: sure, a Speed Yellow 911 Carrera 4S or a Guards Red 911 Turbo S would have owned the road and awed the locals, but the seemingly innocuous Boxster keeps reclaiming a warm spot in our hearts that's satisfied by feedback, agility and the deliciously antsy bark of an unrestrained exhaust.
At nearly 78 large, the Porsche Boxster GTS certainly isn't cheap – and it won't get any cheaper as options get ticked. But until the next, edgier iteration of Boxster is released (the GT3, or GT4, or however the nomenclature lands), the GTS remains one of the most holistically satisfying modern Porsches outside of the 918 Spyder that you can plop your butt into.
- 3.4L Flat-6
- 330 HP / 273 LB-FT
- 7-Speed DCT
- 0-60 Time:
- 4.4 Seconds
- Top Speed:
- 173 MPH
- Rear-Wheel Drive
- Curb Weight:
- 3,031 LBS
- 5.3 (front) / 9.7 (rear) CU-FT
- Base Price:
By Basem Wasef
See also: McLaren boss' exclusive Porsche 935 Street is worth three 911 Turbos, Petrolicious explores long-term living with Porsche's 914/6, Watch Porsche legend Jeff Zwart frolic in the snow in his 356.