Bite Sized Appeal : Porsche Cayman GT4 Driven [review]

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Cayman GT4 shows that Porsche knows what it takes to tickle this enthusiast's fancy

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Faro, Portugal - When rumours of a ‘Cayman GT4’ first surfaced more than half a year ago – the Boxster ‘GT4’ has just been announced as well – there was some consternation as to how it would fit into Porsche’s model lineup. Now that we’ve learnt that both 911 GT3 and 911 GT3 RS are PDK-only, the stickshift-only Cayman GT4’s place in the brand’s sportscar hierarchy becomes crystal clear: 911 performance in the compact, agile, mid-engined lightweight Cayman – it’s longer, wider, lower overall with a 11mm longer wheelbase, but is 5kg lighter than a Cayman GTS in stick-shift, which is all the more remarkable when you consider the GT4’s 3.8-litre versus the GTS’s 3.4-litre.

At the launch, it’s made exhaustively clear that the Cayman GT4 is an ‘entry-level’ GT car, with performance that is more easily exploited by non-professional drivers than its 911 GT counterparts. Of course, stellar vehicle dynamics aside, there’s also the matter of social dynamics as far as Cayman ownership in Singapore is concerned...

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If you take snob appeal out of the picture, the real driving purists appreciate the handling and compact proportions of the Cayman – to these owners, it's less about status and more about the driving thrills in a car whose proportions bring them back to the days of the air-cooled 911s – especially with later 911 iterations constantly growing in size. Driving a 911 is hard work and requires both commitment and confidence to accurately exploit the weight-transfers of Porsche’s rear-engine, rear-driven icon, especially on a track or fast B-road, but therein lies the thrill to a lot of die-hards. So if you’ve ever come out of a rear-drive 911 and commented how ‘easy’ it is to drive, you’re likely not driving it hard or fast enough.

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The GT4’s front running gear – chassis, suspension and brakes – come straight off the 911 GT3, with the 3.8-litre flat-six from the Carrera S. The 20-inch wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are GT3-inspired, but the rims feature a traditional five-bolt pattern, as opposed to the GT3’s motorsports-inspired centrelock wheels, since the ability to apply the requisite 100Nm tightening torque in the event of an impromptu tyre-change can prove challenging without a pit-crew within shouting distance.

The stance and aggressive body-aero immediately command attention, although you can’t help but wonder if it’s all show and no go, but this is Porsche you’re talking about and the brand isn’t in the habit of tacking-on non-functional bits of trim or louvres for the sake of ‘looking sporty’ – check out the discreet side-blades on the GT4’s flanks to provide a ram-air effect for the naturally-aspirated engine. The motorsports theme continues inside, with the 918-esque chunky steering wheel, snug-fit, carbonfibre-backed sports buckets and of course, Alcantara as far as the eyes can see.

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On the move, there’s a hard-edge to its ride that some might find too uncompromising, especially over bad roads. Also, if you’re at anything less than flat-out, the GT4 is constantly tugging at the leash in barely restrained frustration, since there’s no greater automotive sin than to drive such a car slowly. As you pick up the pace, the heartbeat quickens in tandem as the full fury of the GT4 is brought to bear upon whichever stretch of tarmac you’ve set your sights on.

The engine's pace is furious and frenetic, but always within control, and the 245/35 front rubbers turn-in with a keenness so sharp that you’re always checking to see if any blood has been drawn. The steering is near-organic and allows for a fast and fluid style of driving where the more circuitous the going, the more toe-curling the satisfaction – you finish-off each lap with all senses tingling. Likewise, the shift-action and pedal damping of the brakes and clutch have a natural weighting that make every drive such an intimate affair  – hard work has never been more pleasurable.

As far as we’re concerned, the Cayman GT4 is especially relevant in this virtually digital age of sportscars, since some of the most engaging things in life are best experienced raw.

PHOTOS PORSCHE / DANIEL WOLLSTEIN

The full feature is available in TopGear Singapore #37. If you're missing it at the newstands, click HERE to subscribe

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Porsche Cayman GT4
Engine: 3800cc, flat6
Power/rpm: 385bhp/7400rpm
Torque/rpm: 420Nm/4750-6000rpm
Transmission: 6spd manual
0-100km/h: 4.4secs
Top speed: 295km/h
Fuel consumption: 10.3l/100km
CO2: 238g/km
Kerbweight: 1340kg
Price: from S$432,688 w/o COE
Availability: NOW (interested parties might like to know that 2 units are left from Stuttgart Auto's allocation for Singapore)

David Khoo
Author: David Khoo
David is a big petrolhead who has been dabbling in the car trade since 2001 and currently oversees Top Gear Singapore. His stories often take an eclectic slant from the predictable, and he's able to craft a compelling read that lets you see the cars (often old!) in a new light.