March 29, 2016 @ 05:34 PM

Review: Porsche Cayman GT4 - The last of its kind

In a very automatic world, the Cayman GT4’s six-speed manual sticks out like magical horns of a unicorn. Enthusiasts rejoice


Porsche is a car manufacturer that takes pride in making their car more efficient and more powerful every time a new model within a range is released, no matter how small. And while their celebrated number sometimes seem minuscule, a mere three per cent improvement on something can make a huge difference when you’re tinkering at the limits of current technology. Hardware swaps make for bigger gains and better reading, which is why Porsche is slapping on turbos onto nearly all of their engines and then mate it with an automatic transmission that delivers power with celebrated efficiency.
 
Porsche do have, in their inventory, very good automatic transmissions and their PDK is one of the best dual-clutch gearboxes that can exist in any car. It is so good that a vast majority of their sports cars are fitted with this split-second rapid-fire transmission. Case in point: the Porsche 911 GT3 comes only with PDK.
 
Before you think Porsche have sold out, here comes a reminder from Stuttgart that they haven’t. The undeniable proof that Porsche still got soul — at least until the end of the decade — lies in this nutcracker of a sports car. You’re looking at the Cayman GT4, last driven in mountainous roads of Faro and the perfectly-tarred Algarve race circuit, both found in the south of Portugal. It is a sports car that will soon become just as mythical as a unicorn.
 
Crack open the door and you’ll find an interior that’s all business. Leather trim with carbon and aluminium inlays are found in appropriate quantities. As an added touch of racecar-ness, the door pulls are made from fabric. The focus of the car is on the driving so there aren't many things to fiddle with inside; you get the usual climate, radio and multimedia controls on the centre console. The rest of the push buttons — suspension, exhaust, drive mode, stability and traction control — are placed on the transmission tunnel, just behind one of the rarest things you can find in a full-fledged sports car.
 
Behold a pommel sheathed in yellow-stitched black leather, connected to six solid cogs that require footwork on a clutch pedal to get the gears to bite… and it chomps down hard. More to the point, the Cayman GT4 is only offered with a six-speed manual transmission, which is really one of the most inefficient ways to put hooves on the road. Of course, the PDK is better suited for a sports car if hundredths of a second let you sleep better but the six-speed manual is just more fun. It makes you feel more connected to the car as if by touching the pommel alone you have become part of the car. The bucket seats, which only lets you adjust for reach and not recline, intensified the emotion even more. Nicely padded side bolsters hold your torso to the seat that’s fixed closely to the ground. So you’ll feel the dynamics of the car better and will react with pure instinct alone. This is what it feels like to drive with your body.
 
Still, the whole experience isn’t all grease and sweat. Porsche, with all of their tech wizardry, have managed to slip in a feature that automatically blips the throttle when downshifting quickly so the revs are matched close to the sweet spot by the time you punch into gear. This takes away some of the heel-and-toe work when diving into the corners, swooping around the bends and slashing apexes at full charge. The transmission is armed with two dynamic mounts that stiffen whenever the GT4 is attacking the corners. These dynamic mounts counter-balances the physics and movements that would otherwise throw off the precise driving dynamics and the sports car’s stability through the corners.
 
You could, if committed enough, to throw off the GT4’s balance but there are plenty of tools in here that keep the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres on the black; traction and stability control notwithstanding and switching both off is not something you want to do on public roads. The whole sports car is tweaked to be even more sure-footed than the other Caymans including the GTS, which is 34mm shorter and sit 18mm higher above the ground than the GT4. You will be grateful for the very large rear wing and the downforce it generates with the rear spoiler when shooting quickly down a mountain pass. You won’t need a whole 30 minutes before you fully appreciate how balanced and grippy the rear is and how it squats when putting power on the ground. Deft clutch and throttle work paired with agile steering manoeuvres slap a silly grin on your face. It helps that the Cayman GT4’s default chassis setting is already more accomplished than the rest of its class… if there are any left. The North Loop of the Nurburgring becomes the point of reference for the GT4’s Normal chassis setting whereas Sport moves that point to suit the typical modern racetracks. Both settings will result in a ride that lets you feel all of the road although Sport has a firmer stance on lateral control.
 
Software makes up part of the joy, hardware covers the rest. Wheel bearings and split wishbones, among other components of the front suspension, comes from the 911 GT3, as is the ball-joint design chassis mounts. Wheel design is also derived from the GT3. What else? Brakes. The standard composite brakes are 380mm in diameter and definitely larger, 50mm front and 80mm rear, than the ones fitted to the GTS. Even bigger brakes of 410mm at the front and 390mm at the rear comes from the optional PCCB ceramics, also taken off the GT3’s parts shelf.
 
Although not lifted from the GT3, the 3.8-litre engine taken from the 911 Carrera S still makes the headlines. Somewhere in the middle and set low to increase stability, the flat-six generates 385bhp and 440Nm. 911 devotees will note the drop in horsepower but it had to be done to fit the bigger engine in a smaller bay. Nevertheless, the GT4 is still fast and does 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds. Trying to hit that number with a manual transmission becomes the busiest four seconds of your life. Thankfully, the distance between the gates isn’t far and take no more than a flick of the wrist and a kick of the clutch to get the next gear engaged.
 
Those buying this car for its straight-line speed will be missing the point. The GT4 isn’t build to win drag races or drive very fast in a straight line. This car lives for the curves of the B-road and the sweepers of the race track. This car lives for the people who doesn’t care about being milliseconds faster than the next person. The Cayman GT4 plays on the emotions and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing things on your own. For the enthusiast, this is the best sports car for a long, long time to come.

CHRIS NG
 
Spec: Porsche Cayman GT4
 
Price
RM840,000 (before taxes and insurance)
 
Engine
3800cc, flat-six, VarioCam Plus, direct petrol injection, 385bhp @ 7400rpm, 420Nm @ 4750-6000rpm
 
Transmission
Six-speed manual transmission with mechanical rear diff, rear-wheel drive
 
Performance
4.4sec 0-100kph, 295kph, 10.3l/100km (combined), 238g/km CO2 (combined)
 
On sale
Now

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