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Six and Natural Aspiration: 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 PDK and 981 Cayman GTS 3.4 PDK

We bring the best Cayman GTS models out to play.
James Wong
James Wong
15 Nov 2023
There is commonality between the 3.4 and 4.0 because they are six cylinder boxers and because they’re naturally aspirated. And well, that’s something we should all celebrate because that’s what makes them great.

If you’ve spent enough time trawling the Internet on Porsche content, there is a strong enough chorus crying out that the 981 Cayman GTS could be one of the best sounding Caymans around.

Why? Isn’t the 981 Cayman GTS underpowered?
There’s something about the 981 GTS’s 3.4 that is on the cusp of power insufficiency, such that it demands the driver to wring every last rpm out of it to really get going. But then in the process, one discovers the apocalyptic soundtrack that crescendos along and realises that this is a bloody brilliant sports car. Sure, in this day and age, it doesn’t feel all that powerful, but it’s quite enough, I reckon.

Well, more power does no harm, right?
Enter the 718 GTS 4.0, with a full 16% more displacement and coming with 400 PS and 430 Nm. That’s 60 PS more and 60 Nm more than the 981 GTS, respectively. In other words, it delivers a whole different plane of performance. The low end of the 4.0 is far meatier, allowing one to get going without needing too much revs. In fact, this encourages gentler driving and less attempts to head to the redline. Good thing or bad, you decide.

There’s just more power across the rev range as well, but the way the 981 GTS delivers it is no less thrilling somehow. Could it be the aural engagement? It must be, for the 981 is loud and proud, and isn’t shy to throw in some pops and crackles for good measure. The 718 does nothing of this sort, preferring to envelope the driver in sound but being rather muted outside. A sign of the times, perhaps, where a sports car is seen to be responsibly enjoyed individually rather than disturbing others while at it.

How has the electric steering progressed on the 718 GTS?
One thing that the 718 GTS does far better than the 981 GTS is its steering feel. Whereas the 981 ushered in electric steering tenuously, the 718 has a fully developed and well researched thesis on electric steering by now. The 718’s steering feels weightier but also more natural, precise and just sweet.

Why did you bring these two cars together again?
But hey, these two cars have more similarities than we imagine. Notice we skipped a generation - the 718 Cayman GTS 2.5? That car is just so different compared with these two. There is more commonality between the 3.4 and 4.0 because they are six cylinder boxers and because they’re naturally aspirated. And well, that’s something we should all celebrate because that’s what makes them great.

OK besides the engines, what else is similar with the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 and 981 Cayman GTS 3.4?
Another commonality is their ride and handling. It’s just perfection. I mean, get Porsche to build a mid-engined sports car and the Cayman is pretty much the result. The sort of poise and grip you have in store is nothing short of amazing. Both cars will flatter their drivers and feel so accessible while at it. That they are both equipped with PDK also helps, although I suspect that they would be even more enjoyable with a manual gearbox.

The 718’s interior is also not as different as one may think, despite nearly 10 years newer than the 981. The former’s interior in fact feels like a heavy facelift rather than a complete redesign, and it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. It works really well, there’s fantastic quality and there’s precious little I’d change. The 718 has, of course, an appreciated upgrade for its infotainment, making things like Apple CarPlay standard fare. The 981 feature does have very nice interior options though, including customised gauges, stitching and seat belts. The options always feel like they’re worth it when specified on something special.

Would you pick a 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 or a 981 Cayman GTS 3.4?
Now for the question that might make me break a sweat - what’s my pick? If I’m driving mostly in Singapore, I think I’d get the 981 GTS. It just feels like I can drive it hard more often and be more engaged at the same time, despite its lazier steering. However, if I’m driving to Malaysia often, I think the 718 GTS is the one, with its beefier engine and sharper handling. The 718 will also be better on the track, I reckon. It just needs an exhaust mod!

Photos by James Wong


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