Porsche Cayman GT4

Analogue sports car for today’s digital age

JONATHAN HAWLEY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

“THE simple things are often the best,” says Andreas Preuninger, Porsche’s manager of motorsport and high-performance cars. And after just a quick scan of the new Cayman GT4’s specs, it’s difficult to argue the point.

Instead of adding complexity to the Cayman GTS to create the GT4, Preuninger and his team have inserted performance simplicity. A bigger 3.8-litre engine pretty much straight from the 911 Carrera S; brakes and front end from the GT3; an aero kit that brings downforce front and rear; gearbox restricted to a sixspeed manual only. And, presto, a $190,000 entry level to Porsche’s GT range for buyers with every intention – or perhaps just the vaguest daydream – of heading trackside in something ready to race straight out of the box.

Make no mistake, the Cayman GT4 is a hardened sports car in the old-fashioned sense. No turbochargers, no automated gearbox, just a 283kW flat-six, a clutch pedal and 1340kg of weight to shift via the rear wheels.

Starting on the outside, there are three big inlets in the front airdam to feed the radiators, a trademark Porsche GT outlet just ahead of the bonnet catch, extensions to the side scoops to force more air into the engine, and a big wing on the back. The 380mm brake discs are so big they require 20-inch rims.

Inside, the seats and 918-style steering wheel are trimmed in Alcantara for grip. More heavily bolstered lightweight seats cost an

extra $6890 and a half roll-cage, harnesses and fire extinguisher are another three grand.

Suspension is Porsche’s active PASM set-up with two levels of stiffness (effectively firm and hard). You can hit a button to (quite delightfully) give automatic blips of the throttle on downchanges, but otherwise the Cayman GT4 experience is arguably analogue. And always, when you’re behind the wheel, in your face.

There are decibels of pure, not synthesised, engine noise, and by ripping out sound insulation from the engine bay Porsche has also brought back transmission whine, at least when there’s a load on the drivetrain. Which would be most of the time, because there’s very little incentive to drive the GT4 slowly.

The 3.8-litre Carrera S engine is remarkably unchanged in the GT4. Outputs are down by 11kW and 20Nm compared to the 911, but being lighter helps the GT4 to a 0.3sec-quicker 0-100km/h time.

Perhaps more impressively, the extra capacity gives an added dose of flexibility across the 7800rpm rev range, despite a high torque peak of 4750rpm. In third gear, for instance, the GT4 will pull without hesitation from speeds not much beyond walking pace to deep into three figures.

In sixth gear on the highway, shuffling back a couple of gears might be good fun for the extra urge and the crackle of the exhaust, but it’s barely necessary given the instant throttle response in the highest ratio.

Acceleration through the gears is relentless, but not beyond the Cayman’s levels of traction, bolstered by 295/30ZR20 rear rubber. Porsche admits the 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds could have been bettered by fitting a seven-speed PDK, but reckons there’s a market for a manual-only sports car.

There’s no doubting the chassis set-up is stiff, and over bumpy roads the front end bucks and weaves, and braking points need to be adjusted accordingly.

Get it right and the GT4’s ultrasharp steering reacts intuitively, the body sits flat, grip is absolute and there’s never any doubt about the right power to cleanly exit a corner.

If you want to fool about with overcoming those limits, the balance is such that backing off and powering on will tuck in the front end and move the tail out with delicious ease.

Like any Cayman or Boxster, however, it’s for the most part a neutral handler with little in the way of understeer. The GT4 gives the distinct impression that all four corners – including the 245/35 front hoops – are sharing the load lightly, though the limits are higher, and there’s bulk power and torque to make exits quicker and the next corner arrive faster.

Porsche’s stability control is finely attenuated to allow some lateral free-play before gently negating sideways slip.

Those big brakes can take any amount of punishment and in such a lightweight sports car, effect impressive stopping power.

But if someone is thinking of competing in a 24-hour enduro in their Cayman GT4, ceramic composite discs are optional at a cool $17,990, or almost 10 percent of the purchase price.

While the noise, the firm ride and even the lack of rearward visibility (that massive wing) can make road use tiring at times, the Cayman GT4’s lust for hardcore driving is, on the whole, totally addictive.

The recipe might seem simple, but the results are glorious.

There are decibels of pure, non-synthesised engine noise and Porsche has brought back gear whine

01 COOL CHANGE

Front airdam features three big openings to feed the radiators and cool the brakes. Like the GT3, there’s an exit slot ahead of the bonnet catch that also adds to downforce. The extra plastic adds 34mm compared with the Cayman GTS.

02 POWER TO WEIGHT

The 3.8-litre flat six borrowed from the 911 Carrera S has been rotated 180 degrees to suit the Cayman’s mid-engined layout, with drive heading rearwards. In this guise it produces 11kW and 20Nm less, but Cayman GT4 is around 75kg lighter.

03 STOP RIGHT NOW

Standard brakes are 380mm ventilated discs all round – that’s 50mm (front) and 80mm (rear) bigger than Cayman GTS’s.

In addition to adding yellow calipers, PCCB ceramics are lighter, grippier and, at 410mm and 390mm, even bigger.

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Track tracking

PORSCHE says 80 percent of Cayman GT4 customers will find themselves on a racetrack at some stage.

To that end, a ‘Track Precision’ smartphone app is available with the $3990 Sport Chrono package that enables you to not only time laps but also compare inconsistencies with a perfect reference lap and, of course, the obligatory ability to share and analyse data with fellow gentleman racers after a track session. The app relies on pre-loaded GPS data from a variety of racetracks globally and, while Australian circuits haven’t yet been mapped, the process isn’t a difficult one.