JOHANNESBURG: Car companies sometimes use the horse-and-rider analogy when describing one of their new products, but more often than not it’s really just a big pile of marketing hype. If anything, this hallowed connection between driver and machine is becoming rarer than ever.
Modern cars have become more brilliant in every way we can imagine and the performance models just keep getting faster, with equally impressive lap time reductions, as chassis technologies continually advance. Yet, capable as these modern machines are, that feeling of connectedness is usually lacking.
However, when you finally come across a car that makes you want to drive it just for the sake of driving it, you know it’s going to be a good day. And that good day came along recently when Porsche lent us a Cayman 718 GT4 for the weekend.
The GT4, as you might know, goes against the modern downsizing grain, instead treating owners to a four-litre, flat-six normally aspirated engine that revs all the way to 8 000rpm. But this engine is certainly not archaic, as it’s the first high-revving motor to make use of a direct injection system with Piezo injectors.
The purist boxes keep on ticking, with power going to the back wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. This is the version we tried out, although those who are spellbound by Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch gearboxes can order a GT4 in auto guise at no extra cost.
Porsche claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.4 seconds, and the vehicle certainly doesn’t feel that fast at first acquaintance. Its maximum power of 309kW is produced at 7 600rpm, and there’s 420Nm of twist available from 5 000 revs, which means you have to rev the guts out of it to achieve the kind of figures I’ve mentioned.
But let me tell you, exploiting this car’s upper rev limits is a goosebump-inducing experience that no modern turbocharged performance car can match. Often, there’s not enough road to do such a thing. The car just begs for quiet, open stretches of asphalt.
The manual gearbox has a solid and thunky feel to it, making it a pleasure to operate, but the clutch is a bit on the heavy side – not uncommon for a performance car. Unless you’re planning to drive the car in heavy traffic regularly, then the manual is the one to go for because if you’re seeking old school thrills, then you might as well go all the way.
But it’s more than just the engine and gearbox combo that makes this one of the few cars worthy of that aforementioned horse-and-rider analogy. The steering feels communicative too and the GT4 also boasts go-kart-like agility. Keep in mind, though, that this rear-driven machine can bite when you push it too far. You also have to make sure to warm up those semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres before you get too carried away. But oh, what an engaging machine.
For the record, the 718 GT4 rides 30mm lower than regular Caymans, and it’s also equipped with torque vectoring, a rear diff lock and a version of the Porsche Active Suspension Management damping system that was designed specifically for track use. The large aluminium monobloc fixed-calliper brakes were also designed with track driving in mind, but those wanting a further edge can opt for ceramic composite anchors.
But does it work as an everyday car?
It certainly can. It’s not the best daily driver, but the GT4 is a decent and tolerable compromise, given the level of driver enjoyment that lies at the top end of that rev range. The cabin and infotainment system are a little on the dated side, but it offers most of the basic luxuries that you’d expect these days. The ride quality is also fairly decent, especially considering that this is a track toy first.
In not too many years from now cars like the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 probably won’t exist. It’s pricey at R1 804 000, but there really aren’t many cars that will offer this kind of driver engagement. It’s surely one of the last of its kind.