A few years ago, if you wanted a hardcore Porsche built for true drivers then the 911 GT3 was the go-to option. It’s still a great driver’s car, but now the GT3 is only available with the PDK double-clutch automatic transmission. So enthusiasts looking for three pedals and a manual gearbox have to look lower down the range for back-to-basics thrills.
Yet that’s no bad thing. Enter the new Porsche Cayman GT4 – a £64,451 manual-only two-seater sports car, which is sublime. On first inspection, the GT4 might look like a special made up from the Porsche parts bin, but with a 380bhp 3.8-litre flat-six engine from the 911 Carrera S, heavily reworked suspension using GT3 components and a chunky aero kit from the motorsport department, it’s much more than that.
Image 2 of 14
This is a carefully engineered and honed machine using the best elements from Porsche’s current range. And what a delicious recipe that is. The Cayman GT4 is full of feel and poise, with razor-sharp reactions and an incredible breadth of ability. That comes from the chassis.
With super sticky Michelin tyres, there’s huge grip on offer, and a narrower-diameter steering wheel like in the GT3 RS means you can place the Cayman perfectly.
The suspension is firm, so you’ll get jiggled about gently in the optional carbon-fibre bucket seats (borrowed from the 918 Spyder), but the dampers do a great job of keeping the wheels in contact with the tarmac, allowing you to carry incredible speed through corners, tucking the GT4’s chiselled jaw into bends with precision.
Image 3 of 14
With Porsche’s Active Suspension Management fitted as standard, you can stiffen the chassis even further. It’s best saved for super smooth roads and race tracks, but the adaptive dampers take the tautness of the body control to another level. Here you can feel exactly what the GT4 is doing underneath you in more detail, and this rich feedback inspires huge confidence and gives an impressive turn of speed.
But it’s still a challenge to get the most from this mid-engined Porsche, because that three-pedal layout and six-speed manual gearbox add another layer of involvement to the driving experience.
Porsche has shortened the gearlever by 20mm compared to the Cayman GTS, and the throw is shorter as well. It means you can rip through the gears, slotting each ratio with a reassuringly mechanical thunk. The shift quality is beautiful, too, although the GT4 suffers with the same problem as the rest of the Cayman range: the gear ratios are just a bit too long.
Image 4 of 14
Second takes you all the way to 81mph, for example, which means the 380bhp flat-six rasping away behind you doesn’t feel as explosive as it could do in a light 1,340kg sports car like this, even if it sounds it.
There’s still plenty of punch, though – 0-62mph takes 4.4 seconds, and even with that jutting front splitter and rear wing, this car will hit 183mph flat-out. But the trick chassis highlights the engine’s relatively humble origins compared to the 9,000rpm motorsport-derived engine in the £100,540 911 GT3.
These are minor details, however, as the Cayman GT4 is a mega driver’s car that delivers incredible thrills at legal speeds, and jaw-dropping performance on track. The optional carbon ceramic brakes on our test car meant it delivered eye-widening stopping power, but in all honesty, this car is really all about the steering and chassis control combined with the involvement that a manual transmission brings.
Image 13 of 14
There’s a Sport mode that sharpens the throttle response, as well as blipping the accelerator to smooth out downshifts, but if you want to practise racing gear changes you can turn it off and manipulate the beautifully weighted controls without any electronic interference and simple heel and toe action.
The GT4 doesn’t need these complex extras to shine, though, as Porsche has perfectly captured the essence of what a mid-engined, two-seat sports car should be. At £64,451 it’s still far from cheap – and £9,054 more than the 3.4-litre GTS – but given the high-spec components underneath and the talent that’s on offer, it’s actually surprisingly good value. It’s little wonder the UK’s allocation has already been snapped up.