It's the car we thought Porsche would never build. Well, they just did. Ladies and gents, please be upstanding for the Cayman GT4. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Porsche Cayman GT4 borrows a 385PS 3.8-litre engine from the 911 Carrera S and festoons GT3 parts all over it. The results are spectacular and Porsche has answered the calls of enthusiasts by fitting it with a six-speed manual gearbox. It's the real deal.
When viewed through the forensic eye of an accountant, Porsche is an SUV company that does a profitable sideline in sports cars. Sales of the Cayenne and Macan models now make up the bulk of its sales, but the number crunching fails to tell the full story. The sports models bring the magic that the sports utes sell off the back of. Porsche's racing history and performance car legacy is the fuel that powers the brand, and the one model that stands alone in that legacy is the 911. For years, the 911 was the great untouchable, a performance car deity. Then the Cayman came along. At first, it was sniffily derided as the Porsche coupe you bought if you couldn't afford a 911. It was nevertheless formidable, but with every passing year it got better. The gap to the 911 narrowed. For years we wondered what the Cayman would be like if Porsche really took the hobblers off, but realised that protecting the 911's heftier profit margins was too important to them. We loved the Cayman for what it was, but knew there was an element of crippleware about it. It could have been utterly phenomenal. And then Porsche launched the Cayman GT4. Everything changed.
Porsche plays a straight bat and reckons production capacity rather than any intra-model rivalry has delayed the launch of the the Cayman GT4. That's as maybe, but it might just have been worth the wait. Power comes courtesy of a mid-mounted, 3.8-litre flat-six engine with 385PS produced at 7,400rpm. Yes, it's an engine derived from the Porsche 911 Carrera S lump. Enthusiasts rejoiced when Porsche announced the transmission choice. After the PDK-only 911 GT3, most expected the Cayman GT4 to be fitted with the same butter-smooth paddle-shifter, but the only choice - for the present at least - is a six-speed manual. It's not entirely old-school, as it's fitted with dynamic gearbox mounts and the software blips the throttle for you on downchanges. The Cayman GT4 is undeniably rapid though, howling through 62mph in 4.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 183mph. Porsche Motorsport boss Andreas Preuninger reckoned the car would do a 7m40s lap of the N??rburgring Nordscliefe. Braking force is provided by standard steel rotors, or optional carbon-ceramics from the 911 GT3. The forged 20-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The rear 295/30 ZR20 tyres are bespoke, but the front 245/35 ZR20s are again purloined from the 911 GT3. The body is lowered by 30 mm versus the standard Cayman. Not that you're likely to confuse the two.
Design and Build
The basic styling of the Cayman GT4 is a typically Porsche 'form follows function' deal, but with the goal being zero aerodynamic lift. There's an aggressive front splitter, a larger front grille and bigger frontal air intakes, side air intakes, a pair of rear spoilers and a functional rear diffuser. Porsche reckons that at speed, the Cayman GT4 produces the same 100kg of downforce as the 911 GT3. That's quite something. The brand hasn't skimped on pretty costume jewellery though, with black glass on the front and rear lights, blackened twin central exhausts and lightweight bucket seats taken from the 918 Spyder. Weight? It's 1340kg without fluids and if you really want to eke out a few extra hundredths per lap, you can delete items like air conditioning and satellite navigation. We wouldn't bother and neither do most GT3 RS owners: around 98% of whom stick with their air con systems. Inside, the steering wheel is a fresh design for the GT4 and the cabin is a riot of Alcantara.
Market and Model
Quite how you view the Cayman GT4's value proposition very much depends on whether you see its asking price (around £65,000) as a Cayman GTS plus nine grand or a 911 GT3 minus £35k. Given that this car has a big slug of GT3 DNA in it and is lighter as well, it seems a bit of a bargain. This car has plenty of 911 GT3 underneath (to remind you, that car's around £100,000) and uses a 911 Carrera S 3.8-litre engine (that car's around £85,000), yet a Cayman GT4 is lighter than both. If you want the delicious carbon fibre seats, you ought to splash out for the Clubsport package. This includes a fitted half cage for serious track work and is also supplied with front passenger cell cage tubes should you want to fit them. Standard equipment includes bi-Xenon headlights, a sports exhaust, the Sport Chrono Pack with its dynamic engine mounts, leather/Alcantara interior trim, sports seats, Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with mechanical rear limited slip differential, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity, air conditioning, Porsche Stability Management (PSM), a Porsche Vehicle Tracking anti-theft system and a three-year warranty. Customers will also be able to explore the potential of their new car by participating in a complimentary course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone.
Cost of Ownership
The frenzy of demand for the Cayman GT4 has seen speculators start asking crazy prices for 'lightly used' examples. In fact, they make a similar mileage 911 GT3 look very attractive! Once this initial rush has settled, Cayman GT4 used prices will probably still be healthy. The GTS has held onto its value tenaciously and the GT4 is held in higher esteem and will probably be rarer. Loading the car up with expensive options is about the only way to really dilute your residual value. In case you were wondering, fuel economy is rated at 27.4mpg, while emissions are 238g/km. Insurance is likely to be a top of the shop Group 50, and if you are planning to take the car out on track, it would be well worth your time to find some specialist cover.
Porsche needs cars like the Cayman GT4. Yes, the Weissach company might well be churning out SUVs like there's no tomorrow, but without the halo sports cars to validate the brand, the 4x4s - as talented as they are - could easily be lost in a morass of lookalike offerings. Make no mistake, even though it is the junior model in Porsche's GT line-up, the Cayman GT4 more than earns its spurs. What's more, it's a fantasy car that is more attainable to many than the 911. We're not about to pretend for one moment that £64,000 is small change, but it doesn't seem an exorbitant price to pay for what might just be the best sports car in the 'real' world. Let's give thanks for the fact that Porsche listened. Its customers wanted a hot Cayman for years and now that we have one, it's hard to complain about the result. Weissach didn't go at this one half-cocked. Prepare to see this one at the top of quite a few "Performance Car of the Year' awards.