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Driven: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Image by Porsche AG.

Driven: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
We might be looking at mid-engined sports car perfection here. Phenomenal.

   



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Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: almost every last thing, except...

Not so good: ...the gearing's a bit long

Key Facts

Model tested: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Price: 718 Cayman range from £46,790; GT4 from £75,348, car as tested £94,506
Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive with mechanical limited-slip differential
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 249g/km (VED Band 226-255: £1,850 in year one, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.7mpg
Top speed: 188mph
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 420hp at 7,600rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 5,000-6,800rpm
Boot space: 150 litres (front boot), 270 litres (rear of cabin)

Our view:

In recent weeks and - going back a bit further, before the coronavirus crisis really bit hard - months, we've had the privilege of driving some fabulous Porsches. Like, startlingly fabulous. Machines of all shapes and sizes, it's frankly (from our professional viewpoint) getting embarrassing doling out full marks to these vehicles, but when a manufacturer is on a hot streak, capable of turning out unerring magnificence time and time again, what are you supposed to do? Hmm?

Aside from them all wearing shields on their conks, shields with a little prancing horse logo on them, there's no real pattern to how Porsche consistently achieves excellence with a wide array of vehicles. It can do sporty SUVs like few other companies can, save for possibly Alfa Romeo and its ultimate Stelvio, and we present to you as evidence the mighty Macan Turbo and the equally astonishing Cayenne GTS Coupe. It continues to evolve the venerable 911 into a laws-of-physics-defying wonder, managing to imbue the latest mega-power Turbo S with the frisson of driver interactivity that the forced-induction legend has always lacked, and yet making the model at the other end of the 992 spectrum - the basic Carrera Coupe - an utter delight to deal with too. The marque has no problem doing a luxury supersaloon, in this case the Panamera GTS, to a standard that would make most other companies operating in the same sphere weep, it continues to make limited-run, highly collectible masterpieces such as the 991 Speedster that serve as cast-iron investments in a financially insecure world, and finally it has gone and had the temerity to stamp its authority all over the future with the sublime Taycan Turbo electric vehicle.

In the face of this unrelenting onslaught of incredible achievement across all automotive departments, about the most Porsche's rivals can hope for is that the company allows one of its many spinning plates to wobble a bit too much on its stick, metaphorically speaking. Such as the Stuttgart concern putting a four-cylinder engine in a Boxster or making a 680hp petrol-electric SUV which feels as though it weighs the same as the Moon. But, plainly, these are hardly true 'drop the ball' moments; it's more like, sticking with a sporting theme, Liverpool FC sacrificing the odd points here and there on their title run-in at the end of the 2019/20 campaign. In essence, in much the same way that the Reds drawing with Burnley didn't affect the fact they ended up 18 points clear of the field come season's end, right now Porsche's armour has no chinks; it can seemingly do no real wrong.

There's a phrase 'first among equals', though, and while some of the high points of the aforementioned roll call of Stuttgart's glittering 21st century output are staggeringly high, to the point of inducing vertigo in onlookers (we're thinking of you, 991 Speedster...), there has to be a car which sits above all of the others we've already listed. Something really special. Something which coalesces the idea of a particular type of vehicle into a showroom-ready product that is about as close to perfection as a car is ever going to get. And we're here to tell you that the machine which deserves Porsche's current crown to rule all crowns (no mentioning the One Ring, please, we'll not be binding anyone in darkness today) is this one, the 718 Cayman GT4.

It is the hard-topped analogue of the 718 Spyder and, with that open-topped car, it jointly represents the first time the 718 family (or 982-series, if you prefer Porsche's internal model nomenclature) has been blessed with six-cylinder power. Admittedly, now that the German firm has conceded the 718 GTS twins are getting six-cylinder engines too, you could argue that the GT4's and Spyder's positions at the tops of their respective ranges have been somewhat undermined.

Naysayers of our grandiose statement about the Cayman GT4's place in the Porsche pantheon might also attempt a little undermining of their own, by pointing to the fact that this 718 doesn't have a 'proper' GT Department engine. What it actually has is the 9A2 Evo 3.0-litre biturbo flat-six from the 992 Carrera, stripped of its twin blowers and then bored out to 3,995cc. It doesn't rev to 9,000rpm like the jewel of an engine in the old GT3, instead delivering peak power at 7,600rpm and topping out at a 'mere' 8,000rpm.

We could add further grist to the GT4-detractors' mill by pointing out that, with some choice options, this particular 718 costs as near as makes no difference £95,000, which is twice what a basic four-cylinder Cayman would set you back. We could also say that the 718's cabin is, architecturally speaking, starting to show its age, what with its diddy little screen for the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment and its mainly analogue instrument cluster pack and such an antiquated, archaic concept as actual, physical switchgear. We could even tell you that the 4.0-litre's cylinder deactivation tech leads to a weird two-tone tune coming from the middle of the GT4 when it's on a long motorway cruise, as it shuts down one bank of cylinders and then the other, trying to save fuel by running as a three and simultaneously also attempting to prevent premature piston wear on one bank of the engine. We might go so far as to actually criticise something about this oh-so-wonderful car, namely the mega-long gearing on the 718 Cayman GT4, which permits it to run to 84mph in second and almost 120mph at the top of third. We worked those figures out by multiplying mph-per-thousand-rpm, just in case any of Her Majesty's constabulary are reading this...

But none of this stuff matters. You see, there are people who don't want to admit what has always been an inevitability; those people would be 911 devotees, in the main. And the inevitability in question is this: the fact of the matter is that, in theory, if you want to set out to make the greatest-handling machine of all, you put the engine in the middle of the chassis and send drive to the trailing wheels of the car. You do not sling the heaviest single component of any road-going vehicle out beyond the rear axle and then engineer the merry hell out of the rest of the chassis, in an effort to cope with the ever-increasing grunt coming from the very back of the car. What we're saying is that if it were left to run free, unfettered by its parent company's considerations of its long-held 911-fanbase's feelings and any sort of product hierarchy, the Cayman should ultimately exceed the 911. It should be a better car than Stuttgart's icon.

And that moment has finally come to pass. Sure, the Cayman has shown glimpses of pulling this feat off in the past. You only have to look at the Cayman R of the 987 family or even the immediate precursor to the halo 718, which was the 981-series Cayman GT4, for moments where the apfelkart at Zuffenhausen was in serious danger of being upset. But it's this car, this glorious, glorious car, which has performed the unthinkable - regicide of the 911.

Save for that stretchy gearing - which it turns out is not the major hindrance you might think it would be in our stringent anti-speeding country, thanks to the six-pot lump having oodles of low-down torque and flexibility - there is nothing with which we can fault the 718 Cayman GT4. Nothing. It's easy to get in and out of it. The cabin is solidly made, beautifully appointed and ergonomically bang on the money. It has interior ambience to die for, thanks to the half-caged Clubsport Package (+£2,778) and the £3,788 full bucket seats. It looks incredible on the outside, all purposeful menace, track-car refugee vibes, resplendent in Racing Yellow with black detailing. It is a tremendously refined cruiser, considering its circuit-focused raison d'Ítre, with its standard-fit Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers and 30mm-lower ride height managing to make it far more civil on motorway runs than it has any right to be (NB: we got 30.6mpg from it on one long run from Nottinghamshire to Bracknell; ridiculous economy from a 420hp, nat-asp, 188mph petrol car). The optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB, £5,597) are immense, with pedal feel from the gods and the sort of bite that'll never struggle to sharply contain road speeds. The steering is heavenly, full of feel and feedback, weighted to perfection and sweetly consistent across the lock. The gearbox's mechanical, nuggety throw is epic. The front-end grip and turn-in could not be any better if it tried. The balance of the chassis is majestic. And the engine? The noise? The performance? You'll not once, not even for a moment, regret this powerplant's 992 Carrera origins. Not when you've heard it roaring past 4,000rpm and spinning out to the redline, not when you've felt how rabidly quick 420hp and 420Nm can make a 1,495kg machine fire at the horizon, not when you've revelled in normally aspirated magnificence like this. We did nigh-on 750 miles in the space of a week in the Cayman GT4 and we wished, with every fibre of our being, that we'd had call (or merely the time) to do another 750 more; hell, make it 7,500 miles more, because we'd always be learning something new, we'd always be deliriously happy, we'd always be thrillingly involved in the process of going places, when in command of this thoroughly blinding Porsche.

You don't drive the 718 Cayman GT4 and think 'cor, 95 grand is a lot for a baby Porsche'. You instead say to yourself 'cor, I could spend four times as much cash on A.N.Other car as I could on this, and I'd still not be having half as much fun behind the wheel'. Even better, there's precious little like the Porsche as a genuine alternative right now. You could go for an Exige (see below) but that's a seriously uncompromising route to get a driving experience that's only marginally better than the GT4, if indeed it's even better at all. Big-power Audi, BMW and Merc coupes might be considered, but they all lack the divine delicacy and enthralling engagement of the midships Cayman. An Alpine A110S or a GRMN version of the Toyota Supra might give you loads of enjoyment behind the wheel for less money, yet neither will ever feel even remotely as special as the Porsche. Which pretty much leaves the incoming BMW M2 CS as the 718's only real rival, although - unapologetic BMW fans though we are - we doubt even a toughened-up M2 Competition with limited build numbers and a stratospheric price tag could hope to match up to this singular creation from Zuffenhausen.

Oh, and you never, ever lament the fact that this is 'not a 911'. All those muppets who used to sneer at Caymans and say 'couldn't afford a 911, eh?' will only be showing their howling ignorance if they utter the same moronic thing about the GT4. Because, if you splashed out more money on a 911, you'd be getting a lesser car. Seriously. The 718 Cayman GT4 is so outrageously talented in all departments, you can't help but feel that if you locked a load of automotive engineers in a room with some facts about the modern motoring marketplace and asked them to come up with the greatest sports car they could think of, but you didn't let them see any pictures of existing products, then chances are a good 75 to 80 per cent of them would draw something incredibly similar to the mid-engined Porsche. And this 'dream' vehicle would no doubt have a near-identical technical specification to the GT4, too.

We might have driven a lot of five-star Porsches in recent times, then, but this one is the, er, most five-starrest of them all. It's the greatest car this brilliant company makes right now; some accolade, we're sure you'll agree. It's probably the greatest road car the firm has ever put out, this side of something hyper-exotic like a 959, 918 Spyder or Carrera GT. In fact, we'd go so far as to say it's the greatest mid-engined sports car we can think of, off the tops of our heads. Give us 95 thousand pounds for one of our kidneys and you can probably guess precisely where that money would be going. The 718 Cayman GT4 is little short of total genius.

Alternatives:

Audi TT RS: in terms of power and performance, on-paper the TT RS looks like it has the GT4 covered and it's also a good 20 grand cheaper, if both cars are stock. But you know where this is heading, right? Precisely. Given the choice, you'd have the Cayman, without even thinking about it for a nanosecond.

Lotus Exige Cup 430: in a long-running 'the Lotus is more fun to drive but the equivalent Porsche is easier to live with' feud, we're treading familiar battle lines here. The 718 GT4 is scintillating behind the wheel, but the Cup 430 might - it just might - be more scintillating still. However, the top Exige is nothing like as easy to drive as a daily as the Cayman and it's dearer, too.

Porsche 911 GT3: ooooh, controversial! In a battle of GT3 v GT4, we're still waiting for the 992 iteration of the former to arrive (and no doubt it'll be bloody terrific when it does), but we're prepared to say the 718 GT4 is the more talented all-round high-performance car, when compared to a 991.2 GT3 manual... RUN! RUN FOR THE HILLS!


Matt Robinson - 6 Jun 2020



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2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 UK road test. Image by Porsche AG.








 

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