Some breathless laps at the Phillip Island circuit in Victoria suggest that the 283kW GT4 – the first Cayman worked over by Porsche’s motorsport division – will be every bit as entertaining as it felt overseas.
WHAT IS IT?
Bloody special, that’s what. This is the first Porsche Cayman to be fettled by Porsche’s iconic motorsport division and trust us, it’s been worth the wait. This is no light upgrade: the Cayman GT4 looks and feels every bit as focused as the bigger, and more expensive, 911 GT3.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Because this is the Cayman we’ve all been waiting for. A bigger engine, and parts stolen from the mighty 911 GT3, promise to lift what is already a benchmark sportscar to another level.
Lotus Exige S, Jaguar F-Type Coupe R, Audi TT RS, Porsche 911 GT3
THE WHEELS VERDICT
It's as good as we'd hoped. Better even. Porsche's entry-level GT car is a masterclass of sublime dynamics and track-honed thrills pitched at serious performance car enthusiasts. So you'll want one, obviously, but you'd better get in quick: it's almost sold out.
PLUS: Grip; balance; steering; interior ergonomics; manual only
MINUS: firm ride; rear visibility; too tall geared; demand is so high, you’re unlikely to get one
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT TAKES a full lap in the Cayman GT4 before I remember to do the most basic of human functions: breathe. The preceding 4.4km at Phillip Island has been such a manic orgy of eye-popping speed, astonishing mid-corner grip and haunting flat-six noise that my brain is starved of oxygen.
First observation then – this is not just a mildly upgraded Cayman fitted with some go-fast bits and a steeper $189,900 price tag. It’s a different animal altogether; a brilliant, track-honed Frankenstein crafted by the boffins inside Porsche’s iconic motorsport division.
It’s also Porsche’s entry-level track toy, but don’t for a second dismiss the GT4 as the runt of the GT litter. The 283kW/420Nm 3.8-litre flat six is nicked from the Carrera S, only rotated 180 degrees to suit the Cayman’s mid-engine layout. The bigger, 380mm brakes and front end are from the mighty GT3, as are elements of the sharper electronic steering. There’s even a new, aero-infused body that at 295km/h provides 100kg of downforce. And joyously, the sole transmission choice is a six-speed manual.
The attention to detail is so absolute Porsche says its GT division has fitted the GT4 with more than 500 new components. Little wonder it feels so different. From the first corner at Phillip Island, the GT4 is a noticeable step up from the already very fast Cayman GTS.
It sits flatter, grips harder, and the way it changes direction is astonishing. What really sets the GT4 apart, though, is its colossal mid-corner grip. Porsche’s motorsport boffins worked tirelessly to boost the GT4’s mechanical purchase. The wheelbase is 9mm longer, and front track 13mm wider. Rear track is actually 7mm narrower, to house bigger, GT3-esque 20-inch wheels wrapped with sticky 295/30 Michelin Pilot sport Cup 2 rubber. Through high-speed corners the GT4 feels welded to the tarmac.
It’s so beautifully balanced and confidence inspiring that with every new corner you get on the throttle harder and earlier, secure in the knowledge the rear tyres will grip and hurl you through the other side. This is one of those rare cars where the harder you push, the more it rewards you, and I finish my handful of laps convinced I’ve only just begun to explore the limits of the GT4’s astonishing ability.
Inside, the GT4’s interior is a masterclass of build quality and ergonomics. The seating position is perfect and a new, 918-style alcantara-trimmed steering wheel that’s 10mm smaller sits snugly in your hands. Even the pedals are exactly where you want them, which makes rev matching on downshifts a dream. Until you realise that with Sport mode activated, the GT4 matches every downshift for you. Perfectly.
The gearbox itself is a gem, and it’s mated to a stick that’s 20mm shorter than a regular Cayman’s to deliver snappier, slicker shifts. The one weakness is the box’s ratios, which have been carried over unchanged from the Cayman GTS and feel too long. Shorter ratios wouldn’t only make the GT4 punchier: they would also have you shifting up through that beautifully oiled ’box more regularly.
Which brings us to another point of contention – the engine. In isolation the 3.8-litre six is a peach that revs sweetly to its 7800rpm cutout and delivers a razor-edged howl that is angrier and even more engaging than the note than it delivers in the Carrera S. But it does lack the final dash of rev-crazed savageness you get in the GT3’s bespoke unit. And I’m sure the GT4’s heavier clutch and firmer ride (it sits 30mm lower than standard) could become tiring on public roads. But really, I’m nit-picking here. The GT4 is a triumph, and one guaranteed to reward you every time you slide behind the wheel. Just remember to breathe.
Model: Porsche Cayman GT4
Engine: 3800cc flat 6, dohc, 24v
Max power: 283kW @ 7400rpm
Max torque: 420Nm @ 4750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-100km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)
On sale: Now