I was blissfully ignorant at the time, but this would be my final fling. A few days later, the UK entered lockdown, and the freedom to simply go for a drive was abruptly revoked.
In the weeks and months that followed, I often thought about that afternoon. Confined to Croydon, sealed off from friends and family, roaring through the Cotswolds in a red Porsche felt like a distant dream.
Had my last pre-lockdown blast been in a Toyota Yaris, I wouldn’t have reminisced so regularly. But the Cayman GTS 4.0 makes every journey a bit special (even, I suspect, a government-mandated trip to Asda).
Defying the trend for downsizing, it loses the turbocharged 2.5-litre four of the old GTS in favour of a free-breathing 4.0-litre flat-six. The result comes tantalisingly close to the flagship Cayman GT4, with fewer of that car’s compromises.
GT4 excepted, the 718 Cayman and its open-top Boxster sibling have always felt like outstanding cars with mediocre motors. The flat-four (still fitted to entry-level and ‘S’ models) isn’t short on power, but it sounds ordinary and doesn’t relish revs like a sports car should.
No such quandaries in the new GTS. Its limiter cuts in at 7,800rpm, some 200rpm lower than the GT4, but the engine is otherwise identical – and a fitting foil for that sublime chassis.
With 400hp and 310lb ft of torque, the GTS hits 62mph in 4.5 seconds. The forthcoming PDK paddle-shift gearbox will likely make it even quicker, but my car had the six-speed manual.
Notchy and deliciously precise, with a throttle-blip function for downshifts, it’s well worth the added effort. Only the long ratios – which feel optimised for German autobahns, not British B-roads – take the edge off a little.
Like many 911s of old, the flat-six sounds lumpen at idle, then coalesces and intensifies into a piercing howl. Beyond 5,000rpm, it’s utterly explosive – an addictive rush that gets under your skin like a hungry mosquito.
Frankly, you’d have to drive it back-to-back with a GT4 to notice any difference. It’s the engine this third-generation Cayman has long deserved.
The GTS changes direction like a startled cat, too. The super-sticky Michelin Cup 2 tyres of the GT4 have been swapped for longer-lasting Pirellis, but feathery steering and nuanced damping help you exploit every last grain of grip. PCCB ceramic-composite brakes (a pricey £5,177 option) also scrub off speed without breaking sweat. Where some mid-engined cars feel edgy and intimidating, the Cayman fills you with confidence.
Some elements of the £64,088 GTS feel dated, particularly its interior; you’ll find no digital dials or widescreen infotainment here. Yet for me, its sheer breadth of talent wins out over newer rivals.
Certainly, the £10,000 premium over a four-pot Cayman S is money well spent. But paying £11,000 extra for the stiffer, shoutier GT4 offers diminishing returns. Unless you take part in track days, or simply want the ultimate Cayman, I’d save the cash.
It’s also worth noting that a fully-loaded GTS comes within a few thousand pounds of an entry-level 911 Carrera. In reality, though, the two are very different: the 911 a luxurious, driver-focused GT, the Cayman a straightforward sports car.
This back-to-basics purity is core to the Cayman’s appeal. It doesn’t muddy the waters with four-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering or hybrid assistance. The manual ’box – a rarity in 2020 – is the Kirsche on the Torte. More than tedious Zoom meetings or toilet roll rationing, it made me long for the end of lockdown, and the joy of just driving again. For a sports car, what greater compliment could there be?
TOP SPEED: 182mph
CO2 G/KM: 246
MPG COMBINED: 25.9