Driven: Cayman GT4 – Porsche’s response to the purists

 

I’ve never really quite understood the Porsche Cayman. What essentially started off life as a hard-top variant of the Boxster, Porsche struggled for years to limit the breadth of the Cayman’s abilities, seemingly to prevent it from stealing limelight from the 911. Don’t get me wrong, all modern Boxster and Cayman models are good cars, just a tiny bit short of the greatness of a 911. In fact, I would easily pick a Boxster over the Cayman – at least then I would have a proper convertible sports car.

But times have changed and Porsche have embraced this and evolved. What we have before us, is a Cayman that we never saw coming. In fact, this is the only other car from Weissach to wear the GT badge. The 3.8-litre flat-six engine is taken straight off a 911 Carrera S, has been turned sideways and shoehorned into the Cayman GT4. The engine has been detuned to make “just” 385hp/420Nm – 15hp shy of the Carrera S, 45hp more than the Cayman GTS and interestingly 35hp more than a standard Carrera.

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More good news for purists: the engine in the GT4 is bolted onto a six-speed manual gearbox, together with a rear differential lock and Porsche’s Torque Vectoring system. Dual-clutch PDKs are quicker, more efficient, and certainly better in the real world. But factor in driver engagement and there is no way an autobox can compete against a conventional manual.

Porsche says the GT4 will sprint from zerotohundred in 4.4 seconds; just a few tenths shy of the sprint time in a Carrera S, and on towards a top speed of 295km/h.

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In the flesh, the Cayman GT4 is an imposing sight. It sits 18mm lower, has a 13mm wider front track, a longer wheelbase, and 30mm lower ride height when compared with a standard Cayman. Each visual component has a function and purpose – aerodynamics and cooling. The front has been re-sculpted to accommodate massive air intakes and the rear now sprouts a massive (adjustable) rear wing which, at speed, can generate up to 100kg of downforce. Fun-fact: this is the only Cayman to ever generate downforce, on both front and rear.

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Filling the arches are massive 20-inch wheels, design based on the GT3 and are mounted with five lug bolts; more conventional yes, but also much easier to torque. These are shod with super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 – 245/35 fronts and 295/30 rear – these are similar rubbers as used on the 911 GT3 and 918 Spyder. Our test car was fitted with the optional PCCB ceramic brakes, the same ones used on the GT3. Yup, you guessed it – monster 410mm fronts and 390mm rears that provide excellent stopping power, without the real need to warm them up first.

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Enter the Cayman GT4 and a swathe of Alcantara greets you. The full bucket CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced polymer) seats are taken straight out from a 918 Spyder, and surprisingly even allows for minor adjustments. They are perfect. Our test car came complete with the optional Club Sport Package, which adds a roll-cage in the rear. For the hardcore few, a six-point harness and front rollover cage are also available as options.

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From the get-go, you become very aware that the GT4 is something special. The gear knob is stubbly but perfectly sized, clutch is light and shifting through the gears is a slick, satisfying affair. Engage the Sport button and the car magically matches the revs as you shift. Sure, the 3.8-litre motor isn’t the purest or most powerful in the Porsche family, but it revs healthily and the sound that it makes is sublime. Perhaps the only problem is the overtly long gear ratios, with second gear going way past 130km/h. This was especially apparent during our run up Ulu Yam – midway through corners, you have to decide whether you want to stay in third or drop to second gear.

As we carve the corners heading up towards Gohtong Jaya, it is clear the GT4 has beautifully neutral handling. This car has so much balance and poise that it is difficult to get it wrong. But if and when you do, the GT4 works with you and coaxes you along to get it right. Grip levels are astonishing, and that makes oversteer a real challenge to induce (although there is the occasional mild hint of understeer). In fact, there’s more grip than there is power and I doubt anyone would be able to explore these limits with just street driving.

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PASM is fitted as standard in the GT4 and have tuned Normal mode for attacking the Nürburgring. Put it in Sport mode and the suspension stiffens up – not so hard that you’re skipping and hopping through uneven surfaces, but if like me you have a bad lower back, you will note there is less comfort. Personally, I think Sport is best left for trackdays at Sepang. In truth, the GT4’s ride is never really too harsh in either mode, especially when you consider it rides on massive 20-inch wheels and 35/30 profile tyres front and rear.

Each and every component of the GT4 – power, balance, ride, handling, all this comes beautifully together as one symphonic harmony, with the driver the conductor to this orchestra. There is never a need to push this car to its limits to feel like a champion, even a simple supermarket run (yes – there’s enough stowage space) can make you feel like a hero. But the more time you spend behind the wheel, you discover than the GT4 coaxes you along as you explore your own thresholds, and when you finally nail that apex, the emotional reward is simply sublime. This is the sort of car that makes you a better driver.

Verdict?

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If you couldn’t already tell, we love the Cayman GT4. It is the sort of car that ticks all the right boxes, and is both fun and rewarding to drive. It is closer in essence to the GT3RS and certainly worth every sen Porsche are asking for it. Having driven over 100 cars in my automotive career, I can easily tell you that the GT4 sits up there amongst the best. With Porsche moving towards forced induction for the upcoming 718 Boxster/Cayman models, the GT4 will no doubt be etched in the history book as one of the best mid-engined sports car that Porsche has ever produced.

Prices for the Cayman GT4 start from RM840k, undercutting the current generation GT3 by some RM400k, and for what feels like 90% of the potential. But all this no longer matters because Porsche will only make 2,500 units and every single car has already been accounted for. And if it wasn’t obvious enough already, yes – prices are bound to soar over time. I guess there’s just no point trying to figure out which organs I don’t need…

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