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  • Engine
    2.5L Turbocharged H-4
  • Power
    365 HP / 317 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    7-Speed Dual-Clutch; 6-Speed Manual
  • 0-60 Time
    3.9 Seconds (PDK); 4.4 Seconds (Manual)
  • Top Speed
    180 MPH
  • Drivetrain
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    3,032 - 3,098 LBS
  • Seating
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
Your wardrobe normally might be boring, but there are certain rare times when the fashion sprites shine down on you with an inexplicable frisson. Your selfies radiate, your cohorts shower praise and glower rapaciously. You nail it. The 718 GTS is, in a sense, Porsche's killer look. All the hottest pieces and accessories from the Porsche option closet come together when this ensemble is convened, some odd alchemy occurs and, voila, you are clothed in road-going magic.

Only some of the 718 GTS magic is sartorial, all of it in basic black. On the outside, this includes blacked-out front and rear aprons and model badges, smoke-tinted headlamp and taillamp lenses and satin-black 20-inch wheels. Inside, there's a clingy sueded blanket of Alcantara cloaking the steering wheel, seats and shift knob.

The rest of the sorcery is mechanical and computer-manipulated. A larger-diameter turbo, a revised air intake and a slightly higher boost pressure raise the output of the 2.5-liter flat-four to 365 horsepower—15 hp more than in the 718 S and 65 hp more than in the base car. An active suspension acronym (PASM) lowers the car a bit less than half an inch and varies damping according to road surface. A torque vectoring system moves the 317 lb-ft of twist, all available at 1,950 rpm, from side to side out back. You can even get carbon-ceramic brakes, if you have an itchy $7,500 that needs to be scratched off your balance sheet and you want to pretend you live at a racetrack. A six-speed manual transmission gloriously is standard. Porsche's intuitive PDK double-clutch automated manual is optional, and infuriatingly better at everything shifty than you'll ever be.

There are fewer locations better suited to testing such a vehicle than the Mayacama and Vaca mountains around Napa in Northern California. Not simply because the landscape resembles some idealized Edenic painting by Albert Bierstadt, or because the real estate is priced as outrageously as the Porsche option list, or because at the end of the 300-mile drive day you can down fancy local vegetables and cheeses like they're, well, local Calistoga sparkling water. And it's not even because there are a nearly infinite number of twisty, perfectly paved hillside roads ringing these ranges and sweeping through the valleys. It's because in addition to all of this, the residents have been properly trained in etiquette and know, when they see a cadmium-yellow Cayman GTS roaring up in their rearview like a giant predatory warbler, to skip into the next available turnout and allow the GTS to continue its extralegal trajectory. Forget cabernet; this is our Golden State drug of choice.

What makes the GTS so good? Well, to start with, unlike other iconic Porsches, it has its up-powered engine in the ideal position, right behind the two cozy power-rake/manual-reach seats (power seats are $2,300 or $3,000, depending on whether you want to adjust 14 or 18 ways.) This gives the car not just ideal balance, but a sense of eager playfulness. That's due in part to an engine that's right up next to your ears. With only four bores to growl with, it's one-third less wailing than the old Cayman/Boxster flat-six, but it's still an enticing, gnarly sound. The exhaust note is, to be fair, enhanced by some symposer thing in the stereo, but even so, the motor eggs you on to rev to peak power at 6,500 rpm, and sometimes keep revving beyond if you need to exorcize your right-foot demons.

The perfect diameter, virtually button- and toggle-free steering wheel has clairvoyance bordering on the occult, almost as if it made the same deal with the devil that we made to get this job. And the suspension does a lovely job of splitting the line between sticky and cushy, though we did prefer twisting the little selector dial to Sport or Sport+, even on the highway. Why? Because we are sporty. Did you not see the cravat? Also because that way, the car matches your revs on downshifts, and that delights us and we're not afraid to admit it.

There is not a road type or a situation in which the GTS does not shine—except a couple times when we hit some rubble and the PASM behaved more like SPASM. We did not take the car on the track, however, which seems like its true métier. This raises the question of whether the GTS is worth the extra $11,000 over the base price of the 350-hp 718 S, or the $24,000 over the suggested retail of the 300-hp base 718 if you're not looking for a track-day hero. Porsche's answer is that it positions the car as a Sport Value Proposition, noting, with the conviction of a Time Warner cable-bundle salesman, that adding all the fun go-fast bits onto an S á la carte would cost about 8 percent more than clumping them as a GTS.

This value question is not only unanswerable, it's a bit specious. If you have $81,000 to spend on a sporty toy that lacks automatic climate control or power seats, ($93,000 as the one that we drove was outfitted), you clearly aren't greatly concerned with The Price of Things. An $800 Prada loafer is not eight times better than a Bass Weejun. But if you like it, and you want the best one, and you can afford it, you should buy it.

Having spent a week in a Boxster S in Southern California this winter, we can, however, argue that this car is not 15 percent more fun than that one was. That said, our unpopular, and perhaps singular, opinion is that the GTS is more fun than a $20,000-more-expensive 911 T, which we also drove recently. No matter how wonderful the 911 T is to drive, it always feels to us like it is fighting its ponderous and improperly placed motor and seven decades of lecherous heritage. (There, we said it.) If we were spending our imaginary money, we would pick the Cayman GTS over the 911, and we would pick the S over the GTS – but with its exclusive trim and appearance, and recherché rarity, only the GTS will tie your outfit all together.

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