2020 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4: is it the best sports car you can buy for under R2m?
JOHANNESBURG - Don’t let its diminutive proportions and toy-car-like stance fool you. This is no ordinary 718.
Mounted midships behind the driver and passenger is a 4.0-litre, naturally-aspirated flat-six engine that, at its peak, makes 309kW of power. That peak, incidentally, is at 7600rpm.
Where most cars give up breathing, the 718 Cayman GT4 comes alive...
All the right stuff
For the second-generation Cayman GT4, Porsche’s GT car division had much more to draw from in terms of technologies and gizzards that are already available in the manic 911s; the GT3, GT3 RS, and the GT2 RS.
The latest Cayman GT4 comes with an improved aerodynamics concept over the standard turbocharged models you’ll see alongside it on showroom floors. This improved aero, in the form of unique underbody panels and a front splitter/rear-wing combo, is said to generate up to 50 per cent more downforce overall without adversely affecting drag. On its own, the car’s fixed rear wing produces around 20 per cent more downforce compared to the previous generation Cayman GT4.
There are air curtain vents on the front of the car to help extract turbulent air from the wheel wells, and there are scoops on the rear haunches of the car to ram air into the engine. It’s extremely trick, extremely alluring, and perhaps, one of the most compelling cars on sale right now considering it’s still relatively restrained from a styling perspective as far as sports cars go.
Under the skin, from a chassis perspective, it’s been given the full Porsche GT car programme once-over too. It is fitted with refined lightweight spring-strut front and rear axles that make use of racing technologies. You also get Porsche Active Suspension Management with 30mm lower suspension compared to standard Caymans, lowering the car’s centre of gravity and improving lateral dynamics.
Porsche say that because the GT4 is specifically designed for use on the racetrack (although it is a road car), it’s handling character is honed to be as sharp as possible. The Porsche Stability Management (PSM) therefore operates with even greater sensitivity and precision, but it can be deactivated in two steps if you would like to explore where grip ends and handling begins.
You also get Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) with a proper mechanical limited-slip differential that enhances the car’s longitudinal and lateral dynamics, cornering performance and overall driving pleasure. Seriously, you just feel all these technologies working together, seamlessly and harmoniously to make you feel like a driving god.
High engagement factor
One of the key ingredients of the GT4 soufflé that I haven’t mentioned yet that ultimately makes it such a dynamite car to drive is its standard-fit six-speed manual transmission. It’s short to throw from cog to cog, precise and tight, and well-weighted. The clutch action is heavy, but not too heavy, with just the right bite point.
Everything about the GT4 just comes together when you grab another gear, rev it out, brake, turn, lean on the technologies and the mechanical grip that’s inherent and just work through the corners again and again and again.
There’s a proper rage in the car, you start to feel it, as you build momentum. It’s not as ferocious as a Mezger-engined GT car from the past, but certainly, a new and exciting buzz of energy that is every bit as intoxicating as it should be considering the heritage of the GT badge.
The manual box, the accurate steering, the grippy nature of the car, the noise and the drama all come together to truly make you feel like you’re connected with the thing, and that I guess is the essence of the GT4 experience.
Yes, it has a radio and aircon and lovely bucket seats and you can personalise it to your heart’s content through the Porsche configurator to make it look good, but it’s the way the car drives that makes it so desirable.
Should you buy one?
Cars like the Porsche Cayman GT4 come few and far between. It reminds me of the E92 BMW M3, but it also reminds me of the Honda S2000 and the Lotus Exige. There’s a natural balance, a neutral feeling in the car, one that gives you the confidence to challenge the bends, all the while you know it’s still a lairy beast that can very quickly swap ends on you if you’re too aggressive with your inputs.
Is it worth the R1.7 million price tag? Well, if you’re considering a BMW M2 CS I would urge you to drive the Cayman first.
It’s built for driving and if you want a softer one, they can sell you a Cayman S.
I guess the key thing about the Cayman GT4 is that as carmakers like Porsche pursue the path of electrification and autonomy in cars, it remains a pre-eminent example of what we in the trade call a “driver’s car”.
It’s not the fastest from 0 to 100km/h. It’s not doesn’t have the highest top speed. It won’t make your friends gasp at face value, but it will make you smile every single time you drive it.
For more information on the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 or to arrange a personalised test drive experience, see the Porsche South Africa website.