Numerous GT-specific add-ons make it crystal clear at a glance that this coupe means business. A tray-shaped front splitter flies low enough to decapitate small mammals, enlarged air intakes will catch almost as many flies as the windscreen, and the rear spoiler easily seats a dozen buzzards abreast. Other drag-cutting addenda are the more slippery door mirrors, flared lateral breathing scoops wearing embossed GT4 logos, and a rear diffuser that complements the two staggered air deflectors. All in all, the sportiest Cayman produces 220 pounds of downforce at speed.
Andreas Preuninger, who, as head of Porsche’s GT division, led development of the GT4, sums up the message conveyed by his latest brainchild: “To us, it simply is a highly desirable sports car. But don’t let this desirability make you think that every Dick, Tom, and Harry can hop in and take it to the limit just like that.”
Intimidated yet? We fire up the Carrera S-sourced 3.8-liter flat-six and head off on Stuttgart roads that are still coated with what was freezing rain only a couple hours ago. The first stretch of autobahn is restricted to 75 mph. The instant the ban lifts, we shift down into third and give her stick. The naturally aspirated six picks up at 4,750 rpm, where peak torque of 309 lb-ft comes on, but it really wails around 7,400, when it delivers all 385 hp. Porsche’s next-generation turbo engines, just around the corner, will deliver more power and achieve better fuel efficiency (the GT4 is 15 percent worse than the Cayman GTS on the European cycle), but they won’t give you goosebumps like this engine does.
The 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 feels rock solid at autobahn spends, barely irritated by washed-out tarmac, yawning expansion joints, and impromptu surface variations. At 145 mph, traffic starts clogging our flight path, and soon after the next speed limit is enforced with radar-eyed vigor. On an empty, dry, and reasonably straight autobahn, the Cayman GT4 can top 183 mph.
Simplicity is the watchword for this car, and so the GT team pruned the electronic systems and adjustable doodads that are so prevalent on modern Porsches. The active dampers, for instance, know only two settings: Normal, which is tailor-made for the bumpy Nordschleife, and Sport, which is just fine for a smooth GP circuit. There is no swooshy Comfort mode and no please-number-your-bones Sport Plus calibration.
Sure enough, it rides just fine. The yellow streak does not exactly love manhole covers, sleeping policemen, and cobblestone sections, but most of the time the Porsche soaks up pavement imperfections with aplomb.
The steering rack, along with the front axle and suspension, wheel bearings, shock absorbers, and front tires come straight out of the GT3. The steering feels reassuringly meaty on-center and stays steady over camber changes, yet is quick and eager to turn in. It is, above all, utterly predictable.
The country roads in the Stuttgart-Heilbronn-Karlsruhe triangle are the natural habitat for pure driving machines like the GT4. By midday, the temperature has climbed to 43 degrees, and the tarmac is now dry in places. The 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires have finally warmed up, and they bite hard as we flick the wheel. We turn off stability control and, while we’re at it, hit the Sport and exhaust buttons, too.
Now the twin tailpipes speak up with the rusty voice of the Marlboro Man, and the black box blips the throttle prior to downshifts. Ready to scare the locals? Select second gear, feed torque well before the apex, tighten the line, and boot it. What follows is an exhilarating blend of fast forward and slow motion. The rear tires, which stay superglued to the pavement with the electronic nannies on, now feel more like sticky licorice, never snapping but allowing a progressive slide before they grab hold once more and pull the tail back in line. Helping the car to behave this way is a new, forged aluminum rear suspension. It has so-called helper springs to preload the main springs under full rebound.
A late-afternoon blast back from the Black Forest foothills to the Zuffenhausen HQ was one of those truly memorable experiences you can, for legal reasons, only talk about in detail with close friends. The engine never seems to run out of revs, and when it eventually does, chances are you are about to run out of road. The impatient mid- to high-end urge is vaguely reminiscent of a big bore V-8, but thankfully the soundtrack still clearly identifies it as a flat-six. All the controls are perfectly weighted. The gearbox, although not quite Honda smooth, has nice short throws. Optional carbon-ceramic rotors cost a king’s ransom ($7,400, to be precise) but are equal to at least 50 hp for the way they let you drop the hammer way late in turns.
The list of performance-related options is pleasantly short, for a Porsche. “We spent 24 months to define the optimum DNA, and it makes no sense at all to let the customer tweak it,” explains Preuninger. You can still throw money at look-at-me goodies, like our test car’s $2,590 leather and Alcantara interior with yellow stitching.
“Special” is an overused word, but appropriate here. In contrast to so many over-engineered, oversexed, and overpriced high-performance competitors, the Cayman GT4 is accessible in more ways than one as well as sensationally capable. We want one.
2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 Specifications
|Engine:||3.8L DOHC 24-valve flat-6/385 hp @ 7,400 rpm, 309 lb-ft @ 4,750-6,000 rpm|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H:||174.7 x 71.5 x 49.8 in|
|0-60 mph:||4.2 sec|
|Top speed:||183 mph|