You’re going to buy a Porsche. Maybe a little red one, like the little red Porsche model car I used to play with, with my grandmother, when I was a kid. There’s something about a little red model Porsche that sets off a spark in the brains of young gearheads, and something about a real little red Porsche that sets off a spark in the brains of older ones.

So. Your new Porsche: maybe an extra-frisky, extra track-ready and extra-exclusive one? With sounds and moves and classy looks fitting of a world-class sports machine? A real gentleman’s performance car. This sounds legit, yes?

You’ve got to choose one. Just one. Oh, the horror.

Two options come to mind: the 911 GT3 and the Cayman GTS. These two top-track-dog, go-fast rocket-coupes both came online in the recent past, and though they’re very different, they’re also very similar.

But you’ve got to choose one. Just one. Oh, the horror.

After being tasked with driving these two hot Porsches, done two ways, your writer offers up the following comparison of this pair of rides, in several scenarios, to help you decide on one – if you’re lucky enough to have this sort of problem.

Cayman GTS vs 911 GT3 Specs

Specs. Figures. Numbers. You need these to spout off to your pals while smirking, to brag about in online forums, and to validate your choice in one of these two rockets. Here’s the nutshell: The Cayman GTS, which launched to put the athletic GTS badge on a mid-engine Porsche for the first time in a long time, gets a slightly tweaked 340 horsepower, weighs 1,420 kilograms if you get the manual (which you should because that would be badass), and does 0-100 km/h in about 4.8 seconds. That’s at about $85,000 to start for GTS grade, which includes a plethora of standard go-fast goodies you’d have to otherwise add to lesser Cayman models.

The 911 GT3, which is just bananas, will relieve you of about $64,000 more, punches the horsepower figure to 475, weighs as much as the Cayman GTS with a small passenger on board, and knocks the 0-100 km/g figure back to 3.5 seconds or so. It only comes with a seven-speed PDK transmission, since a manual would call your clumsy arms and legs and feeble muscle fibres and ligaments into the shifting experience, slowing things down compared to the solenoids and electromagnets and computer algorithms used here instead.

Goodies?

Oh, heavens yes, there are goodies. The Cayman has them, and so does the GT3. Example? Cayman’s manual transmission is slick and as precise as these come, and it has automatic rev-matching to let you make kickass heel-and-toe noises, even if you don’t know what heel-and-toe noises are, or what the kickass ones sound like. Newly refined Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) includes more sensors to fine-tune shock absorber calibration in real time, against current conditions and intentions, too.

Riding on mere air is for peasants.

The GT3 has even more goodies—things like adaptive motor mounts that leverage the engine’s inertia within the car’s body to help it turn, four-wheel steering that works to the same effect, and special programming exclusive to the GT3-spec PDK transmission to make it shift faster and harder than I’ve ever seen a transmission shift. Fire off a gearchange at full rip, and you’ll wonder if Chuck Norris just roundhouse kicked you in the spine.

There’s even felt applied to the tire sidewalls to make them look sexier. The valve stems say ‘N2’ on them, requesting that you fill them with nitrogen, not air, since riding on mere air is for peasants.

Around Town

The magical thing about most Porsches is that they’re almost too easy to drive around town every day. You can see out of them. You don’t need to open a door and hang halfway out while reversing into a parking space. They’re easy to board and exit. [Ummmm, are you talking about the same Porsches we are? Last time we checked, they are painful to crouch down into and pull oneself out of… –JY] They have room for your shopping and you can take them to Home Depot or Sears or to Costco with little second thought.

That’s the case with both of these units. Moreso with the Cayman GTS, as it is smaller, easier to park, has two trunks and less sporty and over-bolstered seats that make slipping in and out a cinch. But even the GT3, which looks completely lost at the grocery store, will take home a few bags of ingredients with ease and won’t make you look like a dufus while you’re trying to park or change lanes or maneuver backwards out of your driveway.

They’re also both, to varying degrees, happy to dawdle along in traffic without breaking 2,000 rpm or making too much noise or exerting much effort. No problem for easygoing day-to-day driving here, even if watching a GT3 drive slowly through traffic is like watching Michael Phelps wander about in a wading pool full of obese tourists.

At Full Rip

Naughty business, opening either of these machines up. They both have flat-six engines that love to rev, magnificent transmissions for different reasons, and make noises typically reserved for an exotic-car-chase scene in a Michael Bay movie.

The GT3 puts on more of a show when the hauling of ass is requested.

Hammer it. Revs pile on, aggressively, and the noise ramps up steeply as torsos are pressed into seatbacks. You start noticing how quickly the speedometer is climbing, and how long the gears are, as the intake tone escalates from a howl to a wail and beyond. That’s 7,000 rpm.

Stay on it, and all of the above turn up a notch. By now, the GT3 is pulling exponentially harder than it was a few thousand revs ago. The noise is saturating the cabin. Flooding. Piercing. Full. Thick. You’re grinning ear to ear, and praying to the go-fast gods that there’s nobody with a radar-gun nearby. That’s 8,000 rpm. Eight thousand!

Keep on it. Now, the howling intake noise is drowned out by a purely mechanical zing from behind you. It’s all engine noise, now – no intake. It’s a curiously harsh and alarming sound, and it feels less like it’s flooding into the cabin and more like it’s being transmitted directly into your brain. Velocities of engine internals like the pistons and valves and the crankshaft approach the sound barrier. You almost start to wonder how the engine is staying together. Nine thousand revs. NINE. FREAKING. THOUSAND. And you get a bit dizzy, since you’ve forgotten to breathe.

Shift up. There’s a lick of wheelspin to celebrate the upshift, and you’re back on it again. But not for long, at all, if you want to keep your driver’s license.

The Cayman is similarly entertaining, just not as fast. The engine tone turns from a muted hum into an exotic, intake-rich howl as the revs climb eagerly to 7,500. Crack the window, and you’ll hear it even more, since the intake vent is just behind the driver’s door.

The shifter mechanism feels perfect, and so does the clutch, and so does the placement of the pedals for heel-and-toe shifting. I wouldn’t change a thing. And since the Cayman GTS won’t blast you into demerit point territory faster than you can say “Really, officer?!” you can fully enjoy smashing a few full-throttle gear shifts here and there.

For the Driving Enthusiast

Driven with intent, there are a few commonalities between both of these models. Pushed on some winding roads, the underlying sensation is one of effortlessness. That feeling that you’re fighting the car’s mass, weight and current versus intended direction is virtually non-existent. Each machine has brakes perfectly tuned against the power output, steering that feels expertly balanced against the weight and attitude, and a chassis and suspension set up to capitalize on all of the above.

You pay big bucks for a Porsche – and I’m convinced that this expert and dialed-in feel and balance of each system off of the next is a big part of the reason why. These machines are both so polished. Simply adding go-fast parts to a volume model and slapping on a performance badge never feels this pure and authentic.

Differences. There are differences. To put it simply, at least at your writer’s skill level, the less-potent Cayman GTS feels perfect. There’s plenty of power, plenty of braking, plenty of grip and plenty of urgency delivered in a way that mostly encourages, builds confidence and never overwhelms. Even after multiple hard laps around Laguna Seca, I got out of the GTS feeling at ease, relaxed and laid back, not like I’d just been beaten up and frightened and left to seek out a security blanket and go hide under a staircase.

Driving fast is hard work, but not in a Cayman GTS. It’s an easy, stress-free car to drive the bejesus out of. There’s no fuss. No drama. Just predictable, stable and very precise reactions to your commands. The athleticism, and the mid-engine stability, makes it feel effortless at your fingertips, willing and eager and at ease. And the sound, grip and smoothness of it all never get old.

YOU’RE NOT A SISSY-CHICKEN, ARE YOU? BRO?

The GT3 is, um, wilder. Unless you’re an experienced performance driver with plenty of track time, it makes you aware, frequently, that you’re not using all of its capability, though like the Cayman, it will play ball with all skill levels if you’re okay with the car having a snooze while you work up the courage to flog it a little. With the GT3’s rear-engine rear-drive setup, tighter suspension and more power, it’s friskier, and likes to slip, slide, shift and turn on its tires more easily, more vigorously, more startlingly, and more often. Squirms and slips and sensations you’re isolated from in other 911 models are proudly displayed here. It’s a very active car.

And, you can brake deeper, power out earlier, and gobble up the straight stretches more ravenously, though for a skill level like mine (I’m a reporter, not a racecar driver), the GT3 is a more intense thing to drive, and you’ll likely need more breaks. And some driving lessons. And a few extra pairs of underpants if you plan on pushing things a bit.

It’s like this.

Whenever you ask the Cayman to do something at high speed, it’s all like “PFFFFFT!!! Bro, seriously? We can totally get around that corner this fast without winding up in the cabbage. I totally got this, bro!” and that’s it.

Conversely, when you ask the GT3 to do something at speed, it’s all like “!!!!!!!!!! HECK YA!!! I’LL RIP THE HELL OUT OF THAT CORNER AND GIVE IT A WEDGIE!! DO YOU WANT TO GO SURPRISE-SIDEWAYS??!? HOW MUCH TIRE SMOKE DO YOU WANT BRO? YOU LIKE TIRE SMOKE, RIGHT?  ARE YOU GONNA HIT MY REV LIMITER!?? BECAUSE I LOVE WHEN YOU HIT MY REV LIMITER!!!! HEY, HAVE YOU GOT YOUR SEATBELT ON??? CAUSE YOUR GONNA NEED IT TO HOLD YOUR LUNGS INSIDE OF YOUR CHEST WHEN I START MAKING G-FORCES! LOL!!!!!!!!!! BRO, WHY ISN’T MY THROTTLE ON THE FLOOR? YOU’RE NOT A SISSY-CHICKEN, ARE YOU? BRO?

So, there it is. The Cayman is easygoing, relaxed and extremely confident when driven hard. The GT3 is beautifully haywire, and, probably a better choice if you like being informed, regularly, that you’re alive via nervous pangs in the stomach and a wicked adrenaline buzz.

Driven Daily

What’s it like to live with these machines on a daily basis? I’m not sure. I only had a week, or less, in each, though I can offer the following insights.

Fuel mileage is very decent. Overall, the Cayman did 10.8 L/100 km and the GT3 used about 12.3 L/100 km. You have to stop more frequently to fill the GT3 than I expected, but mileage was as good as I’d ever seen in such a potent rig.

They can both go on highway trips. Especially the Cayman, with no issue. I even took the GT3 to a wedding, three hours north of Sudbury (there is such a thing), up highway 144 with its transport trucks and train-track crossings and custom jacked-up bro-trucks galore, with little event beyond the crowd that gathered around in the gas station’s gravel parking lot in the Watershed when I stopped for some gasoline and a stick of beef jerky.

You can drive a Cayman in the winter, too. This would make you a horrible person, of course, but why not? The thing talks to you all the time, it’s balanced perfectly, the traction and stability and braking systems are expertly calibrated for optimization of traction, and with winter tires, I don’t see why one wouldn’t enjoy it all year round.

The GT3 in the snow? Um, no. You’d lose your front bumper on the first slush-boulder you encountered on the highway.  And even at summer temperatures, the engine cranks over laboriously, suggesting that you’re about to wake up something big. At 30 below, I know a Cayman will start. A GT3? Maybe so, maybe no.

Then, there’s the stress level thing. The Cayman doesn’t have an ant-scraping bumper, it won’t land you in jail and itself in an impound lot if you redline second gear, and its wheels are held on by five standard lugnuts, meaning if you get a flat out of town, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to get it patched or replaced.

The GT3 uses a single central locking nut, like a racecar, to hold its exotic wheels and tires on, so if you have a tire-related issue, you’re going to need a flatbed tow-truck unless it’s just a little nail. But for every nail puncture I’ve ever suffered over the years and miles, I’ve whacked a pothole and blown the sidewall out of five more. Maybe I’m scared of flat tires, but driving a GT3 far away from a Porsche dealer can be a little stressful for that reason, especially on rougher roads, up north, where there’s no Porsche dealer for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres.

There’s also a page worth of notes about compromises in the GT3 owner’s manual. These relate to various possibly surprising noises, sensations, hot surfaces not to be touched and aerodynamic underbody implements you should replace ASAP if you lose one on a speed bump or manhole cover. There are warnings about reduced ground clearance, squeaky race-brakes and occasional snapping sounds from the tightly wound race-springs. The list goes on. It’s all badass stuff. This is a racecar after all.

But still – you can hop into the Cayman GTS, worry about little if any of that, and enjoy the cruise.

So, with good reason, the GT3 is a much more stressful thing to drive. The Cayman, not so much, and still totally entertaining.

Which one for Pritch

Before delivering my personal conclusion on this little comparison, let me zip up my flame-suit. I’ve had family and friends and co-workers ask me which machine I’d pick, in private.

My dad shook his head. My friends called me rude things. Jonathan Yarkony said I was an old lady and offered to send me some Matlock DVD’s and a shawl and one of those rubber donuts old people sit on to avoid discomfort in their nether-regions. Jacob Black called me some Australian thing that I’m pretty sure means something nasty.

So here it is. For the record. I, Justin William Pritchard, would have the Cayman GTS. Why? It’s less stressful to drive, has performance that’s more usable, more of the time, for more return on investment. It’s more practical, more comfortable, and feels, to me, like a more flattering and confidence-inspiring driving machine, even if not as fast, sticky and haywire.

If I had a racetrack nearby, it would be a different choice. But I don’t. And in the real world, with police radar guns, potholes and pieces of highway infrastructure strewn about, I think I’d be wasting too much of what the GT3 can do, too much of the time.

So, Cayman GTS for this old lady. White please, with the stick.

2015 Porsche Cayman GTS

Specifications


2014 Porsche 911 GT3 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS
Engine Displacement 3.8L 3.4L
Engine Cylinders H6 H6
Peak Horsepower 475 hp @ 8,250 rpm 340 hp @ 7,400 rpm
Peak Torque 325 lb-ft @ 6,250 rpm 280 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 16.0 / 11.5 / 14.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb 12.1 / 8.9 / 10.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space n/a n/a
Base Price $148,800 $85,800
A/C Tax $100 $100
Destination Fee $1,085 $1,085
Price as Tested $163,567 $103,095
Optional Equipment n/a $16,110 – Carmine Red colour, $2,950; GTS Communication package, $4,200; 20-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels, $1,640; ParkAssist (front and rear) with reversing camera, $1,730; Convenience Package (heated seats, two-zone automatic A/C), $1,030; Infotainment Package w/ Bose (Porsche Communication Management w/ navigation, Bose surround sound, satellite radio, online services), $4,560