Its maker denied this car would ever exist. Was it worth the wait? | by Andrew Frankel
This is a car Porsche could and, you might reasonably argue, should have made a very long time ago. The Cayman has now been with us for 10 years, 10 years in which people like me have asked Porsche when they were going to build a GT version every time the subject of their mid-engined coupé came up. They must have got very bored answering it, not least because the answer was always the same: GT cars are made by the Motorsport department by the same people who make our racing cars. And our racing cars are 911s.
So why the change of heart? Why did I spend a couple of days flinging a Cayman created by the wizards of Weissach around the Algarve and the epic Portimão racetrack? Porsche now says the issue was more to do with timing, with finding enough space in the schedule and people on the ground to do it. I’m not sure I’ve been told the whole truth and I’m not sure I care: the Porsche Cayman GT4 is here.
In fact it should make a better pure sports car than a 911, not just because it’s smaller, lighter and has its engine in the right place, but also because that very fact provides the Cayman with a longer and therefore theoretically more stable wheelbase. The most obvious change compared to the hitherto top-of-the-range Cayman GTS is the replacement of its 3.4-litre motor with a 3.8 sourced from the 911 Carrera S, flipped through 180 degrees and modified only for installation purposes. Its more convoluted exhaust paths means it generates 380bhp instead of the 394bhp it manages in the 911, though this is still a useful 45bhp over the Cayman GTS.
Interestingly the car is available only with manual gears while the GT3 911s are strictly paddle-shift. Porsche says it’s like this because it wanted to give customers a choice, though given their wildly different price points that’s unlikely to be a determining factor. Choice would be to offer two- and three-pedal options in both. Some have suggested there’s actually not the space to package Porsche’s PDK transmission with the larger engine in the Cayman’s restricted bay, but Porsche denies it.
The firm has cut no corners in the suspension or braking departments.
The front struts come direct from the 911 GT3, while the multi-link rear suspension is a brand-new design.
As with all Porsche Motorsport product the roll bars and toe/camber settings of the suspension are owner-adjustable. The brakes come from the GT3, too, so are massively over-engineered for the task even before you consider the carbon-ceramic option.
As for the body, that deep front air dam doesn’t just satisfy the increased cooling requirements of the larger motor, it works with the rear wing to create the first Cayman actually to generate positive downforce instead of merely reduced lift. And that’s in its default setting. You can take some tools, rake the wing more steeply and balance the effect at the front by pulling out some inserts in the venturi to gain more downforce, too.
So the question is how much over the price of the Cayman GTS would you expect to pay for that body, the big engine and GT3 suspension and brakes, not to mention its ultra-high performance Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres? If you care about such matters, the GT4 will lap the Nürburgring in 7min 40sec, almost exactly halfway between the times of the Cayman GTS and the current 911 GT3. But is its price similarly positioned? It is not. While the GT3 costs a little more than £100,000, the GT4 retails for just £64,451 or, put another way, less than a Cayman GTS with sat-nav, ceramic brakes and PDK gears.
If you do not grasp this point, it is possible the Cayman GT4 might be a mild disappointment on first acquaintance. It is the first Porsche GT to use an off-the-peg engine and it shows. A GT3 will manage better than 9000rpm with the clearest, sharpest howl; the GT4 is all done before 8000rpm and only sounds louder than a normal 911 because Porsche has pulled out much of the sound deadening. On the road its ride quality is suspiciously good, suggesting it might be a little too soft for serious track work.
But you must remember that this is a new kind of Porsche GT and that a 911 GT3 costs more than half as much again. In short you have to manage your expectations. Oh, and before you dismiss it as a kind of GT-lite, find a really difficult track on which to test it.
For the money, the car is a phenomenon. Like all Porsche’s best sporting cars, the least impressive aspect is its bald performance. I am required to tell you it will do 0-62mph in 4.4sec and reaches 183mph, but I am inclined to tell you that these figures reveal little of the real-world pace and pleasure that comes from driving this car fast.
Would you, for instance, be surprised to learn it has better steering even than the GT3, because numerous software updates now mean Porsche electric steering is as near as makes very little difference as good as the old Porsche hydraulic steering? And while GT3s are more pyrotechnically impressive in their pure speed and penchant for oversteer, the Cayman’s body control over Portimão’s many blind and angled crests was simply sublime. It’s a far, far easier car to drive fast than a GT3, but only a little less rewarding. Those who enjoy changing gear themselves might even find it preferable.
I’m not one of them. I far prefer three pedals to two, but you must not believe those who’ll tell you that the mid-engined, manual Cayman GT4 is in engineering terms a purer car than a GT3, and thus technically better and more exciting. It isn’t.
But it’s close – and closer than the vast difference in their price points suggests. Most importantly for those on the other side of the argument, who consider that only a 911 could possibly ever merit GT badges, the Cayman GT4 is as deserving a member of the Porsche Motorsport stable as any other.
Even so, it is very much the entry point to a range that in time will include the new GT3 RS and even another GT2 RS, and that is the way it feels. No question, one of the reasons it costs so much less than a GT3 is that Porsche wanted space created between the two. If it should decide to make a quicker, more hard-core Cayman GT4 to slot neatly in the middle, there would be the room for them to do that. Porsche currently says it’s not making a Cayman GT4 RS and has no plans so to do. But this is the same company that told me time and again it was not going to make a Cayman GT4.
I expect we’ll see that RS in a couple of years.
Engine: 3.8 litres, 6 cylinders
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 310lb [email protected]
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 183mph