Porsche Cayman GT4

Motorsport division unleashes 911ís nemesis

ALEX INWOOD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

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 razor-edged flat-six noise that my brain is starved of oxygen.

First observation then Ė this is not an upgraded Cayman fitted with some go-fast bits and a steeper $189,900 price tag. Itís a different animal altogether; a track-honed Frankenstein crafted by the boffins inside Porscheís iconic motorsport division.

Itís also Porscheís entry-level track toy, but donít 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 Caymanís mid-engine layout.

The bigger 380mm brakes and front end are from the mighty GT3, as are elements of the sharper electric steering. Thereís even a new, aero-infused body that at 295km/h provides 100kg of downforce. Joyously, the sole gearbox is a six-speed manual.

The attention to detail is so absolute Porsche says its GT division has fitted over 500 new components and it shows. 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, which is helped by a 9mm longer wheelbase, 13mm wider front track and larger 20-inch wheels shod in 295/30 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.

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 Iíve only just begun to explore the limits of the GT4ís ability.

Inside, the seating position GTS. is perfect and even the pedals are exactly where you want them, which makes rev matching on downshifts a dream. Until you realise that in Sport mode the GT4 matches every downshift for you.

The gearbox itself is a gem and mated to a stick thatís 20mm shorter to deliver snappier shifts.

One weakness is the ratios, which are the same as Cayman GTS and feel too long. Shorter ratios would make the GT4 punchier and let you access that beautifully oiled íbox more regularly.

Another point of contention is the engine, which while brilliant in isolation, lacks the final dash of rev-crazed savagery you get from the GT3ís more potent unit. And the heavier clutch and firmer ride (it sits 30mm lower than standard) might get tiring on public roads.

But really, Iím nitpicking. The GT4 is a triumph and guaranteed to reward you every time you drive it. Just remember to breathe.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Porsche Cayman GT4 3800cc flat 6, dohc, 24v 283kW @ 7400rpm 420Nm @ 4750rpm 6-speed manual 1340kg 4.4sec (claimed) 10.3L/100km $189,900 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Firm ride; heavy clutch; rear visibility; gearing too tall Grip; balance; steering; interior ergonomics and quality; manual only!

Why the waLiEt?ASE IT!

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IT HAS taken years for Porscheís GT boffins to tweak the Cayman. But the delay wasnít, as many assumed, because Porsche was afraid it would tread on the toes of the 911. Porsche blames the wait on the GT divisionís limited manpower and says it simply hasnít had the time to fettle a new product line until now.

Luckily, the GT division works quickly and completed the GT4 in just under two years Ė the shortest development of any GT car to date.