On what planet would a car enthusiast consider an automatic version of a Porsche over an old-school manual transmission? Actually, in which case exactly would you consider it in any performance car?
It might sound like a stupid question, given in today’s world of rapid dual-clutch transmissions the performance benefit of an automatic is considerable over a manual, but how often do 0-100km/h times matter over the pure joy of shifting gears yourself?
In the case of the Porsche Cayman GT4, those questions are harder to answer because the manual has incredibly long gear ratios. So long, in fact, you can get pretty close to 140km/h in second gear.
As we experienced a few months ago, the GT4 manual can become an annoying daily as you find yourself wanting to redline in first and second gear to extract all that power and torque from the naturally-aspirated engine, (hypothetically) exceeding the speed limit in the process.
Does adding the best dual-clutch transmission in the business help make the Porsche Cayman GT4 a better car all around?
We travelled to Launceston for the infamous Targa Tasmania event to find out.
The PDK version of the Porsche Cayman GT4 starts at $214,780 before on-road costs, a $4580 increase over the manual.
Our Python Green GT4 was optioned up by about an additional $25,000 bringing the total price to $239,750.
- Python Green exterior colour: $6070
- Adaptive Sports Seats Plus: $4630
- Leather interior: $3320
- Bose sound system: $2230
- LED headlights with dynamic lights: $2090
- Door sill guard in carbon: $1800
- Interior Carbon Package: $1260
- Chrono Package: $900
- Painted vehicle key: $780
- Electrically folding mirrors: $560
- Black badges: $500
- Top centre marking in yellow on the steering wheel: $450
- Headlight cleaning system covers painted in exterior colour: $380
It’s strange you have to option the headlight cleaning covers in the same colour as the car, or that you need to pay for electrically folding exterior mirrors… but the options aren’t as ridiculous as we may have expected from Porsche of old.
The Porsche Cayman GT4 is focused on the buyer who wants a road car that will most find its way to the race track. Sure, it’s not the incoming GT4 RS, but this is still very much focused on regular track or tarmac work.
As such, a 30mm lowered ride height (compared to the standard car) as part of Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is standard.
Add dynamic gearbox mounts, a specific wing, adjustable chassis (toe, camber, anti-roll bars), and telemetry from the Porsche track precision app, and you start to get a clearer picture of why you’d spend the money to go from the GTS to the GT4.
While it shares the same six-piston front and four-piston rear caliper brake system design of the GTS, the GT4 gets larger 380mm discs front and rear.
It annoyingly misses out on front parking sensors that are standard across the Cayman range, but there are plenty of other touches that make sure no one mistakes your Cayman for a regular model.
Porsche’s sports cars aren’t crash tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, so there’s no safety rating we can quote here.
Even so, it lacks plenty of basic active safety systems that are standard on cars one tenth the price.
Sure, no-one buying a GT4 will bat an eyelid about the lack of some of these features, but that should be no excuse for Porsche not to include them as standard.
There’s not an awful lot to say about the GT4’s interior other than it pretty much looks like every other Porsche.
This is a good thing as the consistency and fit and finish is first rate and befitting the Porsche badge, but if you’re expecting some sort of massive upgrade from the base Cayman to the GT4 in terms of interior, you will have to settle for nicer seats, a bunch of GT4 badges and, thats pretty much it.
The GT4 specific steering wheel is pretty nice and the ideal thing you want to be holding on the race track.
We found ourselves to be pretty comfortable in the optional sport seats during the Targa stages and also while driving on the open road, but those seats really should be standard on the range-topping model such as this.
The sound system isn’t too bad either, nor is Porsche’s infotainment system that has seamless integration of Apple CarPlay (although not wirelessly).
Overall, it’s fair to say you don’t buy a GT4 for the interior, but for what sits directly behind your seat.
Having switched to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, Porsche has brought back the flat six for the the Cayman GTS and GT4.
That engine is a 4.0-litre flat six-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit that’s a derivative of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo in the regular 911 – not the same engine as the 911 GT3.
In seven-speed GT4 PDK guise it pumps out 309kW of power and 430Nm of torque, 10Nm more than the manual but perhaps not enough to compensate for the 30kg weight gain.
As for why we mentioned the Cayman GTS? Unlike the Porsche 911 range which is all turbo until you get to the GT3, the Cayman GTS shares the power unit of the GT4 with slightly less grunt.
That should be a consideration if you don’t intend to track your Cayman.
Although the GT4 is naturally-aspirated, it doesn’t have the same growl as the atmospheric 911.
It also doesn’t have a petrol particulate filter so it’s hard to know exactly why it doesn’t give that distinct Porsche noise.
Having talked to a few owners, replacing the cat-back component of the exhaust system apparently makes a substantial difference.
All in all though, it would be fair to say the old GT4, which shared the 3.8-litre 991.1 Porsche 911 Carrera S engine, had a much nicer note out of the box.
Firstly, go read Chris Atkinson’s performance review of the manual GT4 here.
It remains the third fastest car on our lap leaderboard, ahead of the Audi R8 and plenty of other fast cars. So much of that performance is the car, and a bit of it is the Michelin Cup 2 tyres.
During the Targa event we had a dry day and a wet day. The beauty of the Cup 2s is that they’re super sticky once warmed up and work a treat on the track and normal surfaces when everything is switched on.
When the tyres are performing at their peak the GT4 is a blissful thing to drive, it gave me so much confidence in tackling corners I was fantasising about a racing career.
It’s stable, smooth, and highly predictable. With the engine set perfectly for the weight balance, the GT4 delivers a linear driving experience that makes it an ideal track car for those that want to learn and get better before moving up to scarier things like the GT2 RS.
The steering is responsive and full of life. It feels tight and demands to be pointed in the right direction.
The adaptive suspension is best left in its softest setting for the road (and most tracks) as it absorbs the bumps and undulations without skipping a beat.
There is a tendency for oversteer if you push it hard enough, but it’s in a very predictable manner that lends it self to some serious fun.
All of that praise aside, the car is also absolutely terrifying in the wet. We did a full day of Targa in very wet conditions and its fair to say that there were numerous brown-pants moments as the GT4 went into snap oversteer or a persistent sense of understeer as the Cup 2s just refused to warm up.
Having driven plenty of other cars with Cup2s and Trofeo Rs this behaviour is not unique to the GT4, but it’s best noted for those considering this a potential daily.
The PDK gearbox completely transforms the GT4. Where before the manual’s long gear ratios would makes you keep the car higher in the rev range – mostly in first and second – the dual-clutch transmission makes it far more seamless. Yes, the ratios in the PDK are different, but gears are still pretty darn long.
We suspect Porsche has kept them that way to stop buyers switching from the GT3 to the GT4, because there is a very good chance the GT4 PDK (3.9 seconds to 100km/h) would be as quick if not quicker with shorter ratios than the 3.4 seconds of the PDK 911 GT3.
The long ratios are less of an issue in the PDK because switching gears is no longer a manual process and, although we wouldn’t usually praise an automatic over a manual in a sports car, the fact the PDK is better at dropping down into first gear in slow corners is a huge tick.
Porsche Australia charges $695 per year to service the GT4, which includes all your fluids but obviously not tyres and brakes or other consumables.
Once your three-year warranty runs out, Porsche will allow you to extend it for up to 15 years for a fee.
It’s hard to fault the GT4 for what it is and what it costs in relation to the rest of the Porsche range.
The real question to answer is:
- Do you really need a GT4, or will the GTS with the same engine and transmission do?
The manual is undoubtedly the more engaging car, but the PDK makes this far more liveable as a daily. Of course if you want a daily, see above.
If you’re in the market to buy one, there is also the thought of perhaps just going all out and getting the GT4 RS we think is coming.
These are seriously tough questions to answer, and there really are no wrong choices.