Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 2021 review – an all-time great
For a combination of pure driver appeal and value, the Cayman GT4 has no rivals. An instant modern classic, if ever there was one.
Porsche admits the GT4 won’t make the company very much money. At £76,530 it’s not quite a loss-leader, but considering it contains most of a 991.2 911 GT3’s chassis and brakes, has a frankly brilliant atmospheric 4-litre engine and 50 percent more downforce than the previous Cayman GT4, it’s hardly surprising that, for Porsche, it is a heinously expensive car to produce.
Yet for the buying punter it appears to be an absolute bargain. It’s available with both a six-speed manual gearbox and seven-speed PDK this time around, and also has its drop-top Spyder counterpart too, this time with an identical chassis setup unlike the 981 Spyder before.
Around the Nurburgring it is some 12 seconds quicker than the previous GT4 – and has set a lap time identical to that of the 997 GT3 RS 4.0-litre. On the road it is smoother riding and a touch more civilised than before, although it is still a rabid animal at heart. A “perfectly irrational” car in Porsche’s words. Enough said.
Of course so complete is the 718 GT4 that it followed its predecessor’s success by taking out the overall 2019 eCoty gong, proving that in the case of a mid-engined GT Porsche lightning does indeed strike twice.
Engine, transmission and 0-60 time
The GT4 is powered by a 4-litre atmospheric flat-six that produces 414bhp and has an ear-splitting red line of 8000rpm. Maximum torque of 310lb ft is actually the same as before, but is developed over a much broader rev range between 5000-6800rpm. The engine is a development of the new 992’s 3.0-litre flat-six turbo but has been bored out to release an extra 1014cc, removing its twin-turbochargers in the process. Despite the similarities in size and in both bore and stroke measurements, it has nothing to do with the engine from a GT3.
There are two gearboxes available, the first is a six-speed manual with unusually long ratios in first and second; the GT4 will do 85mph in second gear. The ‘box features a switchable auto blip function on downshifts that works a treat in practice. The gear lever itself is also shorter than before for more precise movements, while at the back there’s a mechanical limited slip diff. The second option is Porsche’s excellent PDK, and comes with one more ratio and a better spread between the rest of them for an extra £2000.
The new GT4 weighs a touch more than before, Porsche admits through gritted teeth, the kerb weight having risen by around 35kg to 1495kg due mainly to the fitment of new particulate filters in the huge new rear silencer. These will however allow it to be emissions friendly for many years to come. Even so, the latest GT4 can hit 62mph in 4.4sec in manual form (the same as the old car) but gets to 124mph (200kmh) one second faster than before. Top speed has risen from 180mph to 189mph. PDK cars drop acceleration times down a full half second at 3.9sec, but oddly have a 1mph lower top speed at 188mph.
At the heart of the GT4 is its 4-litre flat-six engine, we know that. But it’s on the aerodynamic and chassis fronts that it has taken its biggest strides forward. Downforce is up by 50 per cent compared with the old car thanks to a combination of a huge rear wing, a proper underbody diffuser and a more aggressive front splitter. At its 189mph top speed the new GT4 generates 122kg of downforce, says Porsche, which is impressive given how relatively unadorned of winglets and slats it is, massive rear spoiler aside.
The chassis takes plenty of inspiration from the previous-generation 991 GT3, but builds it from an ever-so-slightly less compromised platform thanks to the inherent advantages of the 718’s mid-engined layout. As a result, there’s no hydraulic trickery present, nor any rear wheel-steering system either. In this respect the GT4 is even more purist in its approach compared to the GT3, although both cars share a near identical braking system, with vast steel rotors at each corner that Porsche admits are “probably a bit too big for the GT4.” Optional carbon ceramic discs are available for an extra £5597.
The really clever stuff occurs beneath the car, which features a serious-looking diffuser that adds an extra 30 percent of downforce all on its own. At the rear there is a conventional mechanical limited slip diff and the tyres are bespoke, and yet softer still, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.
What’s it like to drive?
Bloody epic, quite frankly. The old GT4 wasn’t exactly lacking in purist appeal, but this new version goes to another level – both subjectively and objectively, ie. against the stopwatch or around a track.
The new engine might be related in kind to a 992’s, but in practice it feels every inch a proper Porsche GT engine. Throttle response is very strong at anything above 4500rpm, and you can feel the extra torque below this, even if second gear is a bit long, making it feel a tiny bit hesitant at, say, 45mph in second gear. The secret is to keep the crank rotating above 5000rpm at all times, although the true magnificence is reserved only for the last 2000rpm, at which point the GT4 feels – and sounds – rabid.
The gearbox’s shift quality is a highlight, too, especially when paired with the new auto-blip function on downshifts. Never before has not heeling-and-toeing been so pleasurable, and yet you still have the joy derived from the extra connection a proper, short-shifting manual gearbox gives you. And you can switch the auto blip off if you are partial to a pair of genuine leather driving gloves.
As for the chassis, steering, brakes and body control in general, it’s hard to know where to start. Or, more to the point, when to stop with the tidal wave of praise. The GT4 is that rarest of cars that manages to combine true feel, true interaction and, therefore, huge emotional connection while at the same time providing immense objective capability. In other words, it feels massively exciting and massively fast, and it is. And this is all augmented by the stirring soundtrack it generates, and which accompanies your every move above 5000rpm and is enough to bring a very slight tear to your eye on occasion. In short, it’s really rather good.
Price and rivals
The GT4’s asking price of £76,530 puts it in a league of one amongst mid-engined cars at this level, and that’s before you so much as mention the fact that it is 100 percent epic to drive. One can, of course, go mad with the options list, but the only ones you need to know about are the £2000 PDK gearbox and £5597 carbon ceramic brakes.
As for rivals, the BMW M2 CS is a staggeringly good alternative, and while we would really hate to pick between them, they go about their business in profoundly different ways. Pound for pound, these are two of the finest performance cars in a decade, and we’d not blame you at all for finding space in the garage for both.
Looking ahead, though, the all-new Lotus Emira will stand to be the GT4's biggest threat, coming in complementary manual and automatic versions and at a similar price point. It’s all-new chassis is also slightly lighter than the Cayman’s, and with an all-new interior and tech won’t likely have the typical day-to-day compromises that we typically associate with Lotus. Bring on the twin test.