The original Porsche Cayman GT4 marked a new zenith for a car often cast aside as the 911’s little sibling when it was launched back in 2015. More than just the most performance-oriented and track-focused variant of the 981 model, the GT4 broke new ground for the Cayman nameplate on a whole, giving it a new but well-deserved persona as a serious mid-ship sports car that’s as desirable as it is engaging.
It didn’t take long for Stuttgart to have a second go at a car that took so long to arrive it skipped the first generation of Caymans entirely. With such a lofty benchmark set from the get-go, the latest 718 Cayman GT4 has a lot to prove to justify its badge and price; the latter starting from a whopping RM958,632 in Malaysia. Having gunned it over a few laps around the southern half of the Sepang International Circuit, here’s what we can safely conclude…
1. It’s one of the purest track machines in Porsche’s current line-up
It’s not very often you see an all-electric car and a mid-engined sports car with a naturally-aspirated engine and manual transmission occupy the same showroom floor, but such is Porsche’s commitment to both ends of the spectrum. With a GT3 variant of the current-gen 911 (992) still in the making, the 718 Cayman GT4 and its topless twin, the 718 Spyder are the only offerings in the catalogue that currently make do without any turbochargers or automated gear shifts.
Factor in the GT4’s optional roll cage, manually-adjustable bucket seats and a steering wheel completely liberated from potentially confusing buttons and you’re left with one of the most unadulterated examples of a car purpose-built to take on circuits such as Sepang that you can buy for a million Ringgit. It may sound like a ridiculously hefty sum to part with for a car that forces the driver to do so much on their own, but the points to follow make it all well worth it; a ‘perfectly irrational’ purchase in the words of local distributor Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP).
2. The ‘old school’ powertrain that revs up to 8,000rpm drives and sounds amazing
With a four-litre mill cited in the spec sheet, one won’t be faulted for assuming that Porsche simply plonked the 911 GT3’s engine between the Cayman’s axles in the making of the GT4. But it’s slightly more complicated than that, with the engineers taking the oddly long route to get to a similar destination. The flat-six mill starts life as a three-litre turbo derived from the 992, but it loses the forced induction and gets re-bored for an extra litre of displacement and an increased maximum output of 420PS and 420Nm, with peak power attained at a lofty 7,600rpm.
At full chat, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 will redline at 8,000rpm in a symphony that sounds like the product of Hollywood’s finest audio engineers. Getting there is just as fun, with absolutely no turbo lag and a fluid supply of power obliterating any trace of doubt about the GT4’s published stats – 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 304kph. Think of some naturally-aspirated engines used in supercars – the Lamborghini Huracan’s V10 for instance – scale it down a notch (or two) and that’s largely what you can expect from the GT4; loud, confident, tireless and charismatically so. Some may argue that a four-pot Mercedes-AMG A45 S is quicker off the line, but…
3. Its back-to-basics formula trains you to be a better driver around Sepang’s technical corners
From attainable hot hatches to the hyper-est of hypercars, a great deal of modern-day cars built with performance in mind are overly compensated by sensors and electronics that end up doing a bulk of the hard work for you when the going gets tough. The Cayman GT4 is not entirely innocent of this ‘crime’, with its auto rev-matching doing a staggeringly good job of transforming the clumsiest of gear shifts into expertly-timed manoeuvres; a PDK dual-clutch transmission is also available as an option. But it stays true to its no-nonsense, drive-it-yourself charm by allowing you to switch such aids off completely and truly take control of the elements.
A couple of laps in, doing so exposed us for the frauds we were, with the previously slick gear changes turning into an amateur racket that can be heard from the paddock. As a true extension of its driver, the Cayman GT4 isn’t afraid of being vulnerable and opening up its top-end potential to the most casual of drivers. That you’re forced to row your own gears while managing a source of power you can count on being much more linear than a heavily turbo-ed mill really gets the brain more invested in things like braking points, steering angles and racing lines; a driving geek’s dream so to speak, one which really maximises every inch of the track and every minute on it. That the GT4’s driving limits stretch far and wide by the standards of a rear-driven, track-focused sports car is another bonus altogether.
4. Its traction high is intoxicating to enthusiasts yet forgiving to newbies
That the GT4’s driving limits stretch far and wide by the standards of a rear-driven, track-focused sprots car makes it a perfect, if expensive, learning tool for experienced purists and first-time sports car owners alike. This is a car that’s just as engaging and entertaining at 20 per cent of its potential as it is at 60; that’s the highest figure we feel we’re allowed to quote having mostly used gears three and four throughout our stint and only shaving the 200kph mark on Sepang’s back straight a couple of times. The car is evidently capable of much more abuse and consequently quicker laps based on how well its 20-inch footwear sticks to the road no matter how juvenile the steering inputs.
Somehow, Porsche has managed to create 50 percent more downforce in the 718 Cayman GT4 than its 981 predecessor that already seemed to pack all the aggressive aero imaginable to keep it planted through the corners.
For seasoned track-goers, this buff in aerodynamics paired to the Cayman’s sticky Michelins, linear engine response and lovely mid-engined balance allows you to fully explore the GT4’s grip thresholds while hunting apexes in a way that’s immensely rewarding yet relatively low on risk. This addictive sensation is highly scalable; accessible to even to the wariest of amateurs who have never done a lap of Sepang in their lives, such is the powertrain’s charm and the chassis’s sound setup.
5. You can simply drive it home once you’re done on the track
For all of its talents on the circuit, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is still a road-legal car, even if it does have a roll cage and full bucket seats that can be specified with a six-point harness. While we can’t validate this for certain, there’s a nagging suspicion that it’ll excel on public roads too due to how easy it is to modulate the GT4’s throttle and shift through its gears, especially with auto rev matching left on. And although its suspension and optional ceramic composite brakes are clearly specced with track days in mind, they’ll still come in handy on weekend jaunts up your favourite B-roads.
There are some creature comforts in the mix to make the drive home all the more comfortable too. Our ‘Guards Red’ tester, for one, is kitted out with dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and a Bose surround sound system among other optional extras. Factor in the Club Sport package and other racy extras and you’re looking at about RM149k in add-ons on top of the GT4’s near-RM1m base price, which is plenty of money once again. But some would argue it’s a fair trade for something you’d probably want to get right back into upon reaching the garage after a day out on the track.
What say you?
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Price: From RM958,632 (RM1,107,986 as tested)
Engine: 4.0L 6cyl boxer NA, 420PS, 420Nm
Transmission: 6spd manual, RWD
Performance: 0-100 in 4.4 secs, 304kph