by Karl Furlong
The Porsche 718 Cayman has always been achingly close to being the perfect sports car. It handles with precision and operates on a plane of driver engagement that competitors can't get close to. It's fast, and, as the 'baby' coupe in the Porsche range, its proportions are ideal, plus it is more accessible than the pricey 911. The only chink in its bulletproof armor is the new generation of turbocharged four-cylinder engines; it's not that they aren't powerful enough, but more that they lack charisma, and sing a song that's more grating Cardi B than soaring Whitney Houston. The return of the GT4 remedies this flaw to spectacular effect, getting a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine that will rev all the way to 8,000 rpm, and, if you work the six-speed manual gearbox quickly enough, will hit 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds. The cabin is more functional than luxurious and Porsche has once again been stingy with the list of standard features, but at any price, it's difficult to find a more complete driver's car than the new Cayman GT4.
The high-performance GT4 is a new addition to the 718 Cayman range for the 2020 model year. It's one of only two Cayman coupes to use a six-cylinder engine, with the 4.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer unit producing 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a six-speed manual gearbox with an Auto Blip function. A newly developed sport exhaust system forms part of the GT4 offering, as does a braking system that is said to be adopted from the track-focused 911 GT3. The revised rear diffuser is said to contribute to a 50 percent increase in downforce relative to the previous GT4. 20-inch GT4 wheels, a fixed rear spoiler, sports seats, and rear ParkAssist are among the standard features.
4.0-liter Flat 6 Gas
The changes made to the GT4 give this range-topping Cayman a more menacing look. Notably, there are 20-inch wheels to easily fill out those arches and the presence of an enormous fixed rear wing. It's not a true performance car if the brake calipers don't get a lick of red paint, as is the case here. GT4 badging, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, larger cooling air intakes, and a lower rear fascia in black all do well to complement the basic Cayman's simple lines and squat, road-hugging look. At the back, two large exhaust pipes are the real deal, as they should be on a car with an engine like this one.
The compact Cayman measures 175.5 inches in length (the regular Cayman is shorter at 172.4 inches), 78.6 inches in width (including the mirrors), and has a low height of just 50 inches. The wheelbase stretches to just 97.8 inches. A curb weight of 3,199 pounds is no match for the 4.0-liter engine's tremendous power.
The Cayman GT4's color palette is made up of nine shades, starting with four standard colors: White, Black, Guards Red, and Racing Yellow. The latter two shades are especially striking. Three metallic hues each cost $650 and are Carrara White, Gentian Blue, and GT Silver. Finally, two so-called "special colors" are also the priciest at $3,540 each. They are Chalk and Miami Blue. The GT4 is no shrinking violet so we're partial to Guards Red, Racing Yellow, and Miami Blue to really let other road users know that this is not a sports car to be trifled with.
Armed with a six-speed manual gearbox sending power to the rear wheels, and blessed with that 4.0-liter flat-six, the Cayman GT4 is capable of reaching 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds before going on to a top speed of 188 mph. The naturally aspirated boxer engine's outputs of 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque are plentiful within the compact and fairly light Cayman's body. As fast as the GT4 is, it's not the quickest coupe out there. At over $30,000 less, the Audi TT RS will leave the GT4 behind in a straight line, accomplishing the benchmark sprint in just 3.6 seconds, thanks to its all-wheel-drive traction and dual-clutch transmission. Also quicker and more affordable is the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 Coupe. If you want more than a drag strip toy, though, the GT4's cornering poise leaves both these rivals trailing.
Based on the turbocharged engine family powering the 911 Carrera models, the GT4's naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six is nevertheless newly designed with features like cylinder heads with piezo injectors and the implementation of a high-strength forged crankshaft. Peak power outputs are 414 hp and 309 lb-ft, and it only comes paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. From the moment you start driving it, the GT4 distances itself from the four-cylinder Caymans with its more emotive engine sound. Throttle response is exceptional, and it powers down the road with ferocity and unabated focus. Without turbocharging, there is more opportunity to rev out the engine on normal roads without reaching dangerous speeds, but approaching the red line will quickly launch you past slower traffic. The manual gearbox has a delightful and accurate shift action, and the Auto Blip feature is just another opportunity to hear that engine sing. No gimmicks and no excessive amount of settings to distract you; the GT4's powertrain is raw, mechanical, and pure.
Competing with the engine as the star of the GT4 show is the chassis wizardry that has been bestowed upon this most powerful Cayman coupe. Every major control - from the steering to the brakes to the gear shift action - seems to have been engineered as an harmonious whole, the sum of which is even more special than each individual part. The electromechanical power steering system (don't let anyone tell you that all electric systems are fundamentally flawed) provides predictable, deeply satisfying feedback from the front end, and there is grip aplenty. Both novice and skilled drivers will revel in the GT4's superb chassis balance; even pushed hard, it never feels nervous or edgy.
The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system makes constant adjustments to the damping force on individual wheels, based on the conditions and the driver's mood. Two simple modes, Normal and Sport, are all that's needed to tap into the GT4's deep well of talents, whether you're on the road or the track. And despite so much power going to the rear wheels alone, it's all beautifully controlled via throttle inputs, gently coaxing the Cayman into the exact degree of oversteer you want before smoothly powering out of corners. That the GT4 does all of this while offering a reasonably compliant ride on the highway is yet another remarkable feat. Even within Porsche's diverse portfolio, the GT4 stands out as one of the best.
EPA estimates were unavailable for the new GT4 at the time of writing, but the previous GT4 (with a slightly smaller 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine) returned figures of 18/23/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The new GT4 is unlikely to improve on these figures. Assuming similar consumption, the latest GT4 should manage a range of around 338 miles when its 16.9-gallon tank is full.
Nothing in the GT4's interior distracts from the important task of driving. The driving position is spot-on and the steering wheel falls perfectly to hand. Unlike the 911, Porsche smartly hasn't tried to squeeze a useless back seat into the cabin, so the Cayman can focus on keeping just the driver and one passenger comfortable. The GT4 has sport seats with Alcantara centers, an old-school central analog tachometer which is just fine with us, and brushed Aluminum trim. Cruise control and rear ParkAssist with a reversing camera are pretty much it in terms of driver aids, and the infotainment system includes an eight-speaker audio system. This is not an opulent cabin filled with gizmos; rather, it has been designed with a singular focus on the driving experience.
Seating just the driver and one occupant, taller folk will need to get down quite low to settle into the GT4, but once they do, they'll appreciate the cockpit's snug feel, with everything in close reach. The seats don't adjust widely, so it's just as well that their basic design and positioning are so good. Both chairs have elevated side bolsters and the backrest can be adjusted electrically, but fore/aft adjustment is manually done. Visibility is generally not a problem, although the huge rear wing is a constant feature when peering out of the back.
The standard sport seats are upholstered in black leather and Alcantara, along with silver stitching. Black seats with yellow stitching (with stitching in a deviated color) adds a total of $3,660 to the price. This also adds yellow stitching to the door pull hoops, dashboard, and door panels. Black seats with silver stitching costs $2,160, while red stitching is also $3,660. 18-way adaptive sport seats are another option and include lumbar adjustment. Finally, full bucket seats in carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) with a carbon-weave finish go for $5,900. Various parts of the cabin, such as the steering column casing and door-sill guards, can be covered in leather. A black Alcantara steering wheel rim and brushed aluminum inlays finish off a sporty, well-built cabin.
With two luggage compartments, the Cayman GT4 is a surprisingly practical proposition. The rear compartment measures 9.5 cubic feet and the front 5.2 cubes. At 14.7 cubes combined, that's about as much cargo space as in some sedans. Of course, because the GT4 doesn't have one large trunk, larger items will struggle to fit, but there is enough space for two people's luggage for a weekend away.
Interior storage space is limited, with shallow door pockets and a center console that isn't that large, either. Two cupholders are neatly hidden in the dashboard on the passenger side, but this means that they're a bit far to reach for the driver. For what it is, though, the Cayman GT4 isn't impossible to live with.
At nearly six figures, the Cayman GT4 is rather light on standard equipment. Clearly, Porsche put this car's development costs into the mechanicals. Inside, basic air conditioning is standard, along with partially power-adjustable seats. There's also power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, cruise control, rear ParkAssist with a reversing camera, and a garage door opener. Safety equipment is limited to six airbags, with driver aids like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring nowhere to be found. Upgrades include 18-way power-adjustable seats, auto-dimming mirrors (inside and outside mirrors), dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated seats. The instrument cluster includes a 4.6-inch color display.
The Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system makes its way into the Cayman GT4. A seven-inch color touchscreen display enables control of functions like SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, 11GB of internal media storage, twin USB slots, twin SD card slots, Bluetooth connectivity, and a CD/DVD drive. A universal audio interface (with auxiliary and iPod inputs) is fitted as well, but Apple CarPlay is an option and Android Auto isn't available at all. An eight-speaker audio system with an integral amplifier is standard, while a ten-speaker Bose surround sound system can be equipped in its place. A navigation system is also an option at $2,320.
Although J.D. Power hasn't yet rated the 2020 GT4, the 2019 version of the regular Cayman received an outstanding 93 out of 100 overall rating. That's better than just about every other sports car out there. No recalls have yet affected the 2020 GT4, although it is, of course, a brand new model.
If anything does go awry, the GT4 is covered by Porsche's familiar four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty with inclusive 24-hour roadside assistance. A four-year/50,000-mile limited paint warranty and a 12-year corrosion warranty regardless of miles covered are included as well.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA, the two major local safety authorities, has yet put the 718 Cayman through its paces, so the sports car doesn't carry an official safety rating.
Porsche has equipped the GT4 with six airbags, including dual front, dual side airbags in the bolster of each seat, and head airbags in each door panel. Other safety features include cruise control, rear ParkAssist with a reversing camera, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, and stability control. Although driver aids like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning are increasingly finding their way even into the subcompact segment, that hasn't bothered Porsche - none of these features are available to the GT4.
The regular Porsche Cayman was a difficult sports car to find fault with in the first place, and the GT4 addresses the only real issue we had with it by substituting the uninspiring turbo-four for a free-revving, naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six. The engine invigorates the Cayman and, together with the masterful chassis, gives enthusiasts access to a driving experience that will set your pants on fire. It really is challenging to put into words exactly what Porsche has achieved with this car's underpinnings, but it's truly something to marvel at. With a beefed-up appearance and a racy cabin clad in Alcantara, the GT4 is even more focused on the job of hurtling you around a race track. Sneaking in at just under $100,000, the privilege doesn't come cheaply. Cars like the Audi TT RS are faster, while something like the BMW M4 Coupe has loads more equipment, space, and luxury. The 718 Cayman GT4 driver doesn't care, though, because he'll be having more fun than anyone else.
The GT4 is a standalone performance model that sits at the top of the 718 Cayman range. Its price reflects that; at $99,200, it costs significantly more than a host of performance cars with mightily strong resumes. The GT4's price is exclusive of taxes, licensing, registration, and a delivery/handling fee of $1,350.
The single-trim Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 makes use of a brilliant 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six engine producing 414 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. Power is fed to the rear wheels and a six-speed manual gearbox is the sole transmission on offer. A sport exhaust system and a mechanically locking rear differential are fitted, too.
Aggressive and taut styling is made more noticeable by the fitment of 20-inch alloy wheels, red-painted brake calipers, and a large rear wing. Bi-xenon headlights are joined by LED daytime running lights and tinted LED taillights, with twin exhaust outlets visible from the back. Inside, the two-seater GT4 has leather/Alcantara seats with partial power-adjustment, air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen, an eight-speaker audio system, cruise control, and a rearview camera. The traditional centrally-mounted Porsche analog tachometer is flanked by a 4.6-inch digital display. Six airbags and rear ParkAssist are included, too, with the options list boasting add-ons like heated seats with increased adjustability, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a Bose surround sound system.
Porsche is famous for many things, but it's also infamous for its pricey options and the 718 Cayman GT4 is no exception. There are no packages, but the range of standalone extras is a long one. The exterior can be equipped with LED headlights and the Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus for $2,140, including a high-beam assistant and dynamic cornering lights. Auto-dimming mirrors with an integrated rain sensor will cost $700.
Inside, carbon fiber trim can be added for $790 and 18-way power-adjustable seats go for $2,640. The dashboard trim can be covered in leather/Alcantara for $1,610, but there are many other small options to fully customize the cabin. Apple CarPlay (including Siri) costs $360, navigation is $2,320, and the Bose surround sound system is $990. On the performance front, the Chrono Package adds a lap timer, analog stopwatch, and integration with the Porsche Track Precision app for $550, while ceramic composite brakes are a steep $8,000.
The GT4 is perfect in so many ways, so we wouldn't stray too far from the stock car when selecting options. Apple CarPlay is a must, though, and we'd add in the Bose sound system too. Seat heating should be standard, so that box gets ticked as well. Finally, the Chrono Package is a useful addition to the GT4, which deserves at least a few track visits per year. Including destination, the final price works out to $102,980.
It wouldn't be a stretch to conclude that the GT4 is to Porsche what the M2 is to BMW, in that each of these cars represents the purest driving machine in the brands' respective ranges. Of course, there are many other Porsches that could claim that title, but the M2 is a welcome throwback to simpler, more compact BMWs of the past. At $58,900, the M2 Competition appears to be a bargain by comparison, especially since it matches the GT4's 0-60 sprint time in manual guise, thanks to a fine 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-pot. To drive, the BMW is an absolute riot, with naughty RWD dynamics and awesome body control. But whatever the M2 does, the GT4 does even better; the Porsche has much more feelsome steering, superior balance, and a sweeter gearbox. As a coupe, the M2 offers more with its usable rear seats, better equipment levels, and larger trunk. Undoubtedly, it's one of BMW's better modern efforts. But even at its eye-opening price, the GT4 is undisputably better at making its driver feeling like a hero.
Even within the Porsche range, badge snobbery dictates that a Cayman/Boxster is a poor man's 911. To approach the Cayman GT4 with the preconceived notion that the 911 is automatically better would be a big mistake. At around the price of the GT4, the all-new 992 Porsche Carrera 911 has 379 hp from its twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine. With its eight-speed PDK 'box, the new base 911 is faster to 60 mph than the GT4. The 911 was designed to be more than just an exciting drive, so it's got a bigger, much more comfortable cabin, a more modern infotainment system, and rides more smoothly than the GT4. In short, the 911 is a more complete car for all seasons. But with its manual gearbox, stirring engine, and unflappable dynamics, the Cayman GT4 excites more than the base 911. Both are phenomenal cars, so it's up to you to decide whether you want more of an all-rounder or outright, track-ready thrills.
Check out some informative Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 video reviews below.