What is it?

Just about the most anticipated performance car of the year and the car enthusiasts have been begging Porsche to build since the Cayman debuted nearly a decade ago. The Cayman GT4 is the first mid-engined Motorsport Porsche and the wait has been worth it.

Engine, transmission, 0-100km/h time

The Cayman GT4 is powered by the now-superseded 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat-six from the 911 Carrera S, and the bigger engine makes short work of the GT4’s 1340kg. The muscular and musical boxer produces 283kW at 7400rpm – that’s 33kW more than the 3.4-litre Cayman GTS. Then there’s the 420Nm from 4750-6000rpm – 40Nm more than the GTS.

Falling perfectly to hand is the stubby gearlever for a six-speed manual gearbox (no PDK is offered). Porsche doesn’t make you do all the work yourself, though, as the GT4 is fitted with a brilliant rev-matching function that adds perfectly timed throttle blips to smooth downshifts. Drive is distributed via a mechanical limited-slip diff with 27 per cent lock up under load and 22 per cent on the over run. Then there’s Porsche torque vectoring system that brakes an inside rear wheel to trim any excesses.

In a world of hot hatches hitting 100km/h in four seconds, the GT4’s 4.4-second sprint isn’t a headline figure, but spec-sheet benchmarking is missing the point of this car entirely. That the GT4 will hit 200km/h in 14.5 seconds, and power on to a top speed of 295km/h, proves that it is fast enough for all but hopeless power junkies.

Side view of Porsche Cayman GT4 at Phillip Island

What’s it like to drive?

Everything about the GT4 carries an analogue heftiness that is a welcome throwback in motoring landscape that is being increasingly robbed of feel and involvement. The electrically-assisted power steering no longer has the fidgety feedback of the old hydraulic system, but using lessons learnt from the 911 GT3 (with which the GT4 famously shares many parts), the steering is meaty, fast and extremely accurate. And the Alcantara-trimmed wheel is a joy to hold.

The clutch requires a determined shove – especially so as I’d raced a marathon only two days before our drive at Phillip Island. The weight and action of the clutch is matched by the short mechanical action of the gear lever. It is a joy to flick through shifts, but the old Cayman bug-bear of tall gearing is still evident. Phillip Island is a fast and flowing circuit, and the GT4 required just third and fourth for most of the lap – second was needed to dig the GT4 out of the turn 10 hairpin after Lukey Heights, and fifth was grabbed briefly down the main straight. A tighter circuit like Wakefield Park would probably only require second and third gear.

Porsche Cayman GT4 cornering at Phillip Island

Despite the comment about the gearing, the bigger engine pulls the ratios with conviction and it sounds utterly ridiculous doing so. With a maximum engine speed of 7800rpm, it doesn’t have the power or vocal reach of the 9000rpm-GT3. For our laps in the GT4, Porsche racing legend Craig Baird was leading the way in a GT3 and aside from the gulf in driver skill, it was fascinating to watch where the GT3 and GT4 ebbed and flowed around the circuit.

The GT4’s inherent mid-engined stability fired the Cayman through Phillip Island’s faster corners with relative ease and I was able to take a little bit of distance out of Baird’s GT3 through the fearsome Hay Shed corner. Out of the slower corners (Honda and turn 10), the GT3’s traction and power advantage stole car lengths from the GT4. Ultimately, the GT3 would be faster given equal driver talent, but the GT4 delivers serious speed and thrills, and an experience with its own flavour. It’s clearly not a GT3, but nor does it feel like anything else in the Cayman range.

Like all Porsche brakes, those on the GT4 delivered tireless performance at Phillip Island. Our test car was fitted with cast iron rotors (380mm front and rear) clamped by six-piston front calipers and four-pistons rears. For track junkies or option-box tickers, huge carbon ceramic discs are available (410mm front, 390mm rears). The iron brakes delivered a consistently high and firm pedal with great feel and progression.

Interior of 2015 Cayman GT4

Rivals?

It’s hard to pigeon hole the GT4 mainly because it feels so analogue in a digital world. It’s also unique in the Porsche line-up, sitting above and beyond Cayman and Boxster models, and also off to the side of the 911 range. It’s got a focus that separates it from the likes of BMW’s M4 and a delicacy that puts it at odds with something like a Nissan GT-R. The GT4 is very much its own thing and it’s all the better for it.

Price

Any discussion of price and rivals is largely irrelevant as the $189,900 GT4 is over-subscribed. Australia’s current allocation stands at just 70 units and yet dealers are holding orders for up to double that. Porsche Cars Australia is confident that they’ll be able to secure more than the current 70 GT4s promised by Germany, but also admits that some customers will miss out.

Porsche Cayman GT4 wheel and tyre

Verdict

Having now driven the GT4, it’s easy to understand the scramble by enthusiasts to park one in their garage. It is a captivating sports car and a worthy and welcome addition to Porsche Motorsport portfolio.

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Jesse Taylor, Editor