by Sebastian Cenizo
Nobody has ever accused Porsche of making a bad driver's car, but sometimes the company goes out of its way to show the world just how good it is, as it has done with the latest 718 Cayman GT4. When the Cayman first arrived on the scene, it was berated for being "just a hardtop Boxster". In the years since, it's been lauded as one of the purest driving machines around, and the GT4 was the ultimate expression of a chassis balanced perfectly by the engine it deserved. Now, however, there's a new model that's even pricier than the old one. So, is it worth the $100k asking price, or is the 911 a better deal? A 4.0-liter flat-six that produces 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque is certainly worth talking about, especially when the GT4 plays in an exclusive sports car category that's also home to the BMW M2 CS. As a fully-fledged Porsche GT-developed car, the Cayman GT4 is no longer considered a wannabe performance machine, but is instead a bonafide icon. Has it supplanted the 911 as the consummate sports car? It might just have done so.
The GT4 was a new addition to the 718 Cayman range for 2020, so not much needed updating for the 2021 model year. Nevertheless, there is one big change. When the GT4 was launched, it was as a manual-only model. However, for 2021, Porsche has broadened the car's appeal by offering a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. This improves the accuracy and quickness of shifts, but we're just happy that you can still row your own gears if you like, and as you should.
4.0-liter Flat 6 Gas
The Cayman GT4 looks as aggressive as you'd expect from a Porsche with the GT moniker. LED running lights above large openings in the front bumper help lower the focal point of the front end, while adaptive bi-xenon headlights are complemented by a subtle black accent ahead of the hood opening. Further down the profile, 20-inch GT4-specific wheels are shod in Michelin semi-slick rubber and fit perfectly with the Cayman's side air intakes. At the rear, a large wing is the center of attention, joined by LED taillights and a massive rear diffuser housing a pair of functional exhaust outlets.
The regular 718 Cayman has near-perfect proportions and the GT4 doesn't mess with that much. It adds three inches over the base models, increasing length to 175.4 inches. All other dimensions are similar, with width measuring 70.9 inches excluding the mirrors and the wheelbase measuring 97.8 inches. Height is 50 inches on the dot, while curb weight for the manual is 3,208 pounds. The PDK variant is presumably a little heavier, but no official mention is made of the exact figure by the manufacturer.
Porsche doesn't usually offer a lot of standard equipment with its cars, but you do at least get a few no-cost paint options on the GT4. White, Black, Guards Red, and Racing Yellow will cost nothing extra, but if you're willing to brave more vibrant shades, you can have metallic finishes like Carrara White, GT Silver, or Gentian Blue for an additional $650. Some special colors are on offer, too, but each of these are going to set you back $3,540. Your options here are Python Green, Miami Blue, and Chalk. If these options still aren't enough for you, you can have a custom color mixed up for $12,830. However, we find that the visual impact of White and Racing Yellow is quite appealing.
The 718 Cayman GT4 is no slouch, but it's not the fastest car this amount of money can buy. It gets from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds with the manual, and an estimated four seconds flat with the PDK. In today's world of super hot hatches with fire-breathing turbocharged engines, that's not exactly benchmark-setting but, as always, the Porsche experience is about feel. Still, the 4.0-liter flat-six is good enough for a top speed of 188 mph. It produces an impressive 414 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque, directed exclusively to the rear axle. To aid in cornering and - if you're feeling like a hooligan - smokey drifts, the car comes with a mechanical limited-slip differential. The manual version also boasts an auto-blip function that can be enabled at the press of a button, which helps those who haven't yet mastered the art of the heel-and-toe downshift. If even that is too complicated for you, the seven-speed PDK eliminates any room for error when it comes to changing gears.
While only one engine is on offer for this special model, it's a lovely sounding, naturally aspirated, 4.0-liter flat-six boxer that develops 414 hp and 309 lb-ft. As you'd expect, the throttle response is remarkable, and the Cayman GT4 feels spritely, to say the least - launching from a dead stop or overtaking on the freeway. The crescendo of an uninhibited engine screaming to 8,000 rpm is unlike anything else, and Porsche has kept the love for the NA motor front and center on this car. See, the engine is borrowed from a 911 but with bigger cylinders and no turbocharger. Coupled with a short-throw six-speed manual, this car is the definition of engaging. You have to treat it like an old Civic VTEC, keeping the revs high and working the car hard to get the most out of it. Sure, it doesn't have the wave of torque that a similarly-sized turbo engine does, but it feels and sounds brilliant.
Some have argued that the GT4 needs more power because its chassis can handle more, but isn't it better to have a brilliantly composed chassis than an overpowering engine that you can never fully exploit? Speaking of exploiting the GT4's abilities to the maximum, the available seven-speed PDK dual-clutch is as brilliant here as it's always been. Shifting gears is instantaneous and near-telepathic while switching to manual mode for more control won't leave you frustrated in any way. The six-speed manual is still the more joyous to utilize, however, with the only complaint being that second gear is simply too tall, meaning you can often just sit in second instead of running between the second, third, and fourth ratios on a twisting back road. In terms of the mechanics, the master engineers at Porsche definitely got the whole package right.
As mentioned above, the 718 Cayman GT4 is more than capable of handling the power bestowed upon it. It's agile, light, and full of feel. The steering is accurate and the wheel itself is just the right size, but it also weights up appropriately as the corners tighten. There's more resistance in this steering setup than in most modern ones, which simply engages you more and makes it easier to pick the exact line that will yield the quickest times around a track. In addition, the GT4 features Porsche Active Suspension Management, a system of two-stage adaptive dampers that can stiffen or relax the ride as required. In its stiffer setting, it's almost completely free of body roll and lean, while the more comfortable setting is more than good enough for daily use. However, the optional carbon bucket seats can transmit a lot more road harshness than the standard ones. Still, it's never bad enough for you to want to turn around and go to work in a different car. When it comes time to stop, the brakes do an excellent job and are easy to modulate. Even the optional carbon-ceramic setup is very livable.
Thus far, there are no official estimates for the 2021 Cayman GT4, but 2020's virtually identical model returned 16/23/19 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. With a 16.9-gallon gas tank, this equates to around 321 miles of range with mixed driving. We expect that the PDK version may be marginally more frugal, but we're not holding our breath for Prius-rivaling economy.
What should a proper sports car's interior look like? In our opinion, it should be focused on the driver - simple, ergonomic, supportive, and with as little to distract you from the delicacies of driving as possible. Porsche seems to be of a like mind, resulting in a steering wheel that is nearly unique for its complete lack of additional functions beyond changing your direction of travel. A classic tachometer rests front and center of your field of view between the steering wheel and the cluster. There's also a 4.6-inch digital screen to the right, but this can be configured to only display performance info, too. The materials are all of high quality but are chosen more for their benefits on a practical level than luxury. Overall, the cabin is glorious for the driving enthusiast and a barely tolerable cocoon for those who want to see modern tech.
The 718 Cayman GT4 is a classic sports car for other reasons, too. The car seats only two individuals, with no tepid attempts at a 2+2 configuration. Instead, the driver and passenger are accommodated in a pair of two-way electrically adjustable seats that offer surprising comfort and support, as well as the opportunity for anyone to find the perfect driving position without any worries about headroom or legroom. Getting in and out is a little tricky for the tallest among us, but that's to be expected. Everything falls to hand perfectly, and that's a cliche I've only been inclined to use once before - in another Porsche. So it's perfect for the keen driver and not unbearable for the long road. Still, you can go in either direction. A fixed set of carbon buckets greatly increases support in lieu of comfort, while the other end of the spectrum offers the option of 18-way power-operated adaptive sports seats that add a little weight but greatly enhance ride comfort. The only downside in this car is visibility out the back. The rear window in the regular 718 Cayman is barely usable, while the GT4's wing means you have to squint to see what's behind you.
As standard, you get your 718 Cayman GT4 with black leather and Race-Tex faux suede featuring silver stitching. If you prefer proper leather and Alcantara, you have to spend $2,160 on a color scheme and another $1,500 on deviated-color stitching. There's black as a base in all three options, but the stitching on the doors, seats, dash, and steering wheel is available in a color that matches your door straps, which you can have in yellow or red. If you prefer silver, you don't have to pay extra for that aforementioned deviated-color stitching, but it's certainly cooler to have a bright color in a race car for that proper GT racer feel. Adding to this, the Alcantara-clad steering wheel can be had with a 12 o'clock marker in matching red or yellow for an extra $330.
Interior trim is silver as standard, but if you've chosen a vibrant exterior paint hue, this can be brought inside through the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur program, which changes the center console, dash inserts, and door pull straps accordingly.
The Cayman GT4 is a relatively practical super sports car. In the front, you can store 5.2 cubic feet worth of light shopping, while the rear luggage compartment can manage 9.5 cubes - enough for a weekend's light luggage.
In the cabin, you get a pair of cupholders, some small door pockets, a decent glove box, and a little center armrest storage, too. However, there is also a little bit of space behind the seats where you might fit a handbag or a laptop case.
As a thoroughbred sports car, the 718 Cayman GT4 has had most of its development budget spent on performance enhancements - not on luxury features or driver aids. If you want blind-spot monitoring, buy a Panamera. In this car, you get rain-sensing wipers, power heated wing mirrors (with optional folding), and adaptive bi-xenon headlights. You also get adaptive dampers, dynamic gearbox mounts, single-zone climate control, an auto-blip function with the manual, and a limited-slip diff. That's not to say that there is nothing to make living with this car easier. You still get the obligatory rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a 4.6-inch driver info display, stop/start functionality, cruise control, power seats, and a decent offering of options. These include adaptive seats, dual-zone climate control, and the Chrono package with its lap timer. It's not the 'Sport' Chrono package in this car because, among other things, there's no launch control or multifunction steering wheel. However, you do get other options like adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams and heated front seats.
The Cayman GT4's infotainment system comprises a seven-inch touchscreen display with an 11 GB hard drive, two SD card slots, two USB ports, and SiriusXM satellite radio. You also get Bluetooth connectivity and HD Radio but, while Apple CarPlay is a $360 option, Android Auto is not offered at all. Navigation is also a costly extra at $2,320, but at least the standard eight-speaker sound system is good. Should you want to upgrade, there's a 10-speaker Bose setup on offer, but it costs an extra $990. Just as we love that the steering wheel has no buttons, we love that the infotainment system boasts several, along with two rotary knobs that feel just right.
Thus far, neither the brand new 2021 nor the outgoing 2020 edition of the 718 Cayman GT4 has been subject to a single recall.
Should anything go awry, the GT4 is covered by a limited and powertrain warranty for the first four years/50,000 miles. In addition, a 12-year corrosion warranty is offered for the paint and the first 10,000 miles or first year of ownership will cost you nothing in maintenance.
Sports cars are rarely subjected to crash tests, and when they have price tags of over $100,000, these instances become fewer and further between. Still, Porsche has been doing this kind of thing for decades, and we're pretty sure that all the bases are covered. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has a review to offer up, though, so if you're looking for something official, you'll be waiting a while.
Sure, the GT4 is a little scant on safety features, but there's nothing missing that wasn't in most cars 10 years ago. What you do get is a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, and adaptive bi-xenon headlights. You also get frontal, overhead, and side-impact airbags and the usual traction and stability management systems like anti-lock brakes. As an option, you can have adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, but beyond that, no additional safety equipment is offered.
The base 718 Cayman is a wonderful machine to drive and the GT4 is quite simply the distilled essence of that same fantastic driving pleasure. Sure, it's short on factory features and the options list doesn't include even half the amenities available in some other Porsche models, but that's what a distilled version of something is supposed to be like. Porsche's core DNA is all about driving brilliance and that's what we have here. The steering is magnificent, the engine sounds fantasmic, and the chassis is simply terrific. It's not so fast that you fear pushing its limits, and even if you do, but then the car has already become a part of you, and you can feel everything happening through the seat of your pants and the tips of your fingers. It's also nowhere near being slow enough that you'll ever get bored unless you're absolutely hammering it on a track with an excessively long straight. Yes, there are other cars in this price range that easily offer more comfort, power and acceleration, and features all in one package, but what none of them can take away from the GT4 is that it reigns supreme when it comes to handling and unadulterated fun.
So what does all this driving excellence cost? A lot. $100,200 MSRP to be exact, excluding the $1,350 delivery, processing, and handling fee. If you're not keen on the standard six-speed manual, the PDK version will add $3,210 to that price. Fully loaded, that final asking price is easily inflated to over $155,000.
The Porsche Cayman GT4 is available in just one trim specification, but you can opt to stay with the standard six-speed manual transmission or spend a few grand more for the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic. In either case, you get a 4.0-liter twin-turbo boxer-six. This produces 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of twist without the aid of any forced induction. Standard features include the ability to launch from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 188 mph. They also include 20-inch wheels, adaptive damping suspension, cruise control, rear parking sensors, a 4.6-inch driver info display, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display feeding an octet of speakers. On the performance side, you get a mechanical limited-slip differential, an auto-blip function for manual GT4s, and dynamic gearbox mounts. Options include carbon-ceramic brakes, a Bose sound system, and adaptive LED headlights. Heated seats are also available.
The 718 Cayman GT4 offers a Chrono Package with the iconic dashtop analog clock and a lap timer. Along with a performance display on the infotainment screen, this package adds $550 to the bill. One of the more expensive performance upgrades available is the ceramic composite brake upgrade, adding a whopping $8,000 to the final price of the car. Adaptive LED headlights are less expensive but still cost quite a lot at $2,140, while more everyday options like Apple CarPlay and navigation cost $360 and $2,320, respectively. Fortunately, the latter option also includes voice control at no charge. In terms of seating, the racier full bucket seats will cost an extra $5,900.
The first question you need to ask yourself is in relation to the transmission. Sticking with the standard manual is more engaging but the optional PDK is considerably quicker and is so good that you'll likely never rue the decision to delete a pedal. Nevertheless, manual performance cars like this are only available because some of us still buy them, and we'd love to make the most of our time left with a stick shift. In a car like this, where balance and poise are everything, learning to drive fast with a manual seems like the only way to truly do the car justice. In terms of add-ons, we'd opt for some niceties like Apple CarPlay and navigation, and we'd certainly be tempted by the adaptive sports seats and the Chrono package with its lap timer. But, to be honest, this is a car you buy to enjoy driving hard, and if that's enough to satisfy you, you won't need a long list of options anyway.
The 718 Cayman GT4 is, without a doubt, the younger cousin of the 911. But, because the 911 is rear-engined, it has space for a pair of rear seats - cramped though they may be. More important than seating is price. The 2021 Carrera retails for $97,400, which is around four grand less than the base Cayman GT4. However, the base 911 is less powerful, with its 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six producing just 379 hp, although the torque figure is higher at 331 lb-ft. This model doesn't have access to a manual transmission, instead sticking with its new eight-speed PDK. Still, the gearbox is excellent, and the interior is far more comfortable and spacious. Don't forget that this is a 911, so handling and acceleration are still mesmerizingly good. That said, the GT4 is the one that you'll enjoy more on the track, while the 911 is the one you'd want every day and when going on vacation.
The BMW M2 was a brilliant racer when it first debuted, but it was down on power. Then came the Competition version equipped with the M4's engine. Now, there's a limited edition called the M2 CS, said to be the ultimate expression of everything M2 stands for: power, precision, and playfulness. At a base price of $83,600, it's a little more than half what a fully-specced GT4 goes for. It, too, is available with a choice between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutcher. Both come mated to a 3.0-liter straight-six with a pair of turbos that produces 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The manual achieves 0-60 in four seconds flat and real-world top speed is close to that of the GT4. It also comes with a lot more standard features; so, is it better? For most, yes. But if you appreciate a naturally aspirated engine, the Bimmer may not be for you. If that doesn't matter to you, we'd still recommend a test drive of each, as they both handle brilliantly but do so in their own manner.