To Porsche, the “GT” sub-brand is what “M” is to BMW, “AMG” is to Mercedes and “RS” is to Audi. Hallowed alphabets, in other words – reserved for the truly hardcore performance models, and not to be lightly bestowed.
That for 10 years no Cayman has been deemed worthy of the GT appellation (ignoring the warmed-up Cayman GTS, which is a member of Porsche’s “GTS” line-up and not a true “GT” model) means something, as does the fact that finally there is one that does. The long awaited Cayman GT4 is here, following in the (semi-slick) tyre treads of its 911 GT3 sibling.
In creating the GT4, Porsche has given it essentially the entire front end of the GT3, as well as many other critical parts. The whole front axle is lifted off the bigger car, to the extent that the suspension components are actually identical and interchangeable.
The GT4 also boasts the same PASM adaptive dampers as the GT3, though they are specially tuned to suit the GT4 in this guise. It also borrows the GT3’s brakes, which are much larger than those on any other Cayman (by way of illustration, they’re 50mm larger at the front and 80mm larger at the rear than those of the Cayman GTS, the next-best endowed Cayman model).
The GT4 looks hard-as-nails. It’s got a hunkered stance, sitting a full 30mm lower than the standard Cayman, and with a 13mm wider front track. From the front it’s easily mistaken for the GT3, with its jutting, square-jawed bumper, deep front splitter and trio of aggressive intakes. It even has a slit-like air vent at the bonnet’s leading edge, just like the GT3.
The magnesium-grey 20-inch wheels are almost a carbon copy of its big brother’s, the only difference being that the GT4’s wheels are fastened by a quintet of wheel nuts instead of the centre-lock ones on the GT3.
Side-on, the GT4 is identified further by “sideblades” added to the air intakes on its flanks – they scoop air into the intakes at speed to create a “ram air” effect.
The pert rear of the standard Cayman has been dramatically transformed with a more pronounced ducktail spoiler and, more obviously, a whopping, unapologetic plank of a rear wing brazenly grafted onto the back, standing several inches above the rest of the bodywork.
These add-ons are certainly not for show. Together they help generate genuine downforce at speed (a significant 100 kilograms’ worth), the first Cayman model to do so. And given how stormingly fast the GT4 is, it certainly needs all the help it can get sticking to the road.
The GT4 may have borrowed lots of parts from the GT3, but the engine isn’t one of them. However, it does have the next best thing, the 3.8-litre engine from the 911 Carrera S. In the GT4, this flat-6 delivers a tad less power than it does in the Carrera S (385bhp instead of 400bhp), but even so, it comprehensively outguns the base 3.4-litre 911 with 345bhp.
This little fact is massively significant, because it means that for the first time, Porsche has given a production Cayman more outright urge than a current-model 911. The signs are clear: The kid brother has grown up and it’s time for him to step out of the shadows.
And driving the GT4 is clearly no kids’ play. The engine starts up with a keen bark, but without the flared-rev braggadocio of some recent models with sporty pretensions.
As a counterpoint to the PDK-only 991 GT3 (and perhaps in response to the purists’ vocal protests at the lack of a stick-shift option), the GT4 is uncompromisingly manual-only. The message is clear: This is a hardcore driver’s car, posers need not apply.
While the gearbox and its gear ratios are identical to that of a normal Cayman, the change action is shorter and noticeably heavier thanks to a 20mm shorter gearstick, but also very quick and unerringly crisp. The clutch, beefed up to handle the extra power and torque, is hefty when I first depress the pedal, but once on the move, I forget its weight and revel in its firm, predictable bite.
While the manual ’box demands old-school driver commitment and involvement, it’s not totally devoid of electronic assistance – there is an automated throttle-blip function to mimic heel-and-toe downchanges. It’s exhilarating to use, but the purists that will be drawn to the GT4 will probably turn off this function so they can hone their own rev-matching skills. The GT4 is the kind of car that makes you want to become a better driver, to be worthy of it.
On the go, the GT4’s whole drivetrain feels like a single, unitary item rather than a collection of parts. There is not a millimetre of slack; not a hint of the engine rocking on its mountings during gearchanges or when throttling on and off. No doubt the car’s active engine mounts help immensely, stiffening during hard driving to resist the ferocious forces being transmitted, so that every ounce of urge from the engine is relayed into forward propulsion.
And as I discover on the flowing, undulating Portimao circuit in southern Portugal where I’m let loose in the car (for a generous 15 laps, no less), Porsche’s claim that its GT-badged cars are made for the track is no empty boast.
The steering, heftier than the standard Cayman’s, is incredibly sharp and precise. The GT4 has astonishing front-end bite, the nose changing tack and resisting understeer ferociously no matter how fast I’ve entered the bend. Portimao has some fearsomely fast sweepers, and the car is awesome through them, charging through with tenacious grip from both ends and with total composure, feeling totally planted. I can almost feel the effect of the front splitter, rear wing and all the other aerodynamic aids working together to keep the coupe sucked to the tarmac.
Porsche claims a mightily impressive 7 minutes, 40 seconds Nurburgring lap time, and from the way it hurtles around Portimao, it’s easy to believe.
With enough blind pace (and equally blind courage), I can, of course, eventually exceed the GT4’s limits of adhesion. But even then, it retains its composure, sliding progressively at both ends and never snapping out of shape. Through tighter bends and with enough (i.e. plenty of) throttle, the tail will edge out, but the GT4’s locking rear differential, coupled with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) that brakes the inside rear wheel when needed, helps to parcel the power ideally between the driven wheels to keep things in check and steer the rear round the bend.
And all this while there is ample feedback constantly filtering through the steering’s Alcantara rim, so I’m kept informed of the state of grip underfoot, and I know exactly how much harder I can lean on that grippy front end.
Down the straights the GT4 is very quick, feeling even faster than its claimed 4.4-second zero-to-100km/h time. The 3.8-litre flat-six delivers its powerful punch in a beautifully linear fashion, and the way the engine howls to its 7800rpm redline is itself an absolute thrill and something I want to do over and over again.
Remarkably, though, the GT4’s exhaust doesn’t flaunt the exaggerated fusillade of pops and crackles that the standard Cayman does (when fitted with the Sports exhaust option). This is telling – the GT4 is all about go, not show, and therefore has no time for such aural frivolity.
A car so rapid will need plenty of stopping power at the end of the straights, and the GT4 comes well-armed. Remember that its brakes have been taken off the bigger GT3, so it’s in fact over-equipped in this regard.
I drive examples of the GT4 fitted with the standard metal composite brakes, as well as the optional PCCB carbon-ceramic ones, and both offer phenomenal retardation, lap after lap. No matter which brakes are fitted, the pedal feel is inspiringly firm, with every extra bit of pedal movement delivering extra braking force. Critically for a car likely to be used extensively on track, there is absolute stability under heavy braking, the GT4 continuing to, well, track straight and true, with no squirming or weaving.
Out on the hilly backroads near the circuit, the GT4 feels equally at home. Its handy size, good visibility and pin-sharp steering allow it to tackle those narrow roads in confidence, and its potent engine punching it from bend to bend with immense pace.
Some of the roads are rutted and poorly surfaced, but the GT4 take them in its stride. The ride is unquestionably very firm, but far from rock-hard, and with the adaptive dampers in the softer of their two settings (the firmer setting is best reserved for circuit use), there is wonderful, fist-tight body control and no roll, plus sufficient compliance to let the car ride these roads at speed without being unsettled.
The GT4 is a spectacular, brilliant achievement; so hardcore and focused that it stands well apart from the rest of the Cayman range. In terms of desirability, it’s right up there with the 911 GT3, and with its ideally balanced mid-engine layout and manual-only transmission, I could even argue that it’s the purer driver’s car.
In my opinion, the Cayman GT4 is going to be one of the iconic Porsches.
TYPE Flat-6, 24-valves
BORE X STROKE 102mm x 77.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.5:1
MAX POWER 385bhp at 7400rpm
MAX TORQUE 420Nm at 4750-6000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 287.3bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed manual
DRIVEN WHEELS Rear
0-100KM/H 4.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 295km/h
CONSUMPTION 9.7km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 238g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs, electronically controlled dampers, anti-roll bar
REAR MacPherson struts, coil springs, electronically controlled dampers, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
SIZE 245/35 R20 (front),
295/30 R20 (rear)
TRACTION AIDS ABS with PSM
KERB WEIGHT 1340kg
TURNING CIRCLE Not available
PRICE EXCL. COE $432,688 (after $10k CEVS surcharge)
WARRANTY 5 years/100,000km
+ Stunning dynamic ability, uncompromising ethos, sheer desirability
– Firm ride, price in Singapore is uncomfortably close to 911 Carrera’s