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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.0L Flat 6 Gas
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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 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.