Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 2023 review
For a combination of pure driver appeal and value, the Cayman GT4 is in a class of its own. An instant modern classic, if ever there was one
If there is a quintessential sports car in 2023, it’s probably the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Since its breakout in 2015 in the initial 981 generation before its 718 update, the GT4’s combination of a stunning mid-engined chassis, atmospheric flat-six engine and superb depth of engineering has made it a yardstick to which all other sports cars are judged.
This comes despite its relative age, yet the flip-side of this comes in the variety of forms you can now choose – whether that be PDK or manual, base, Clubsport or the new RS. There’s also the 718 Spyder, which now doesn’t just match the GT4’s powertrain but its overall chassis tune too. Here we’ll focus on the base GT4, which starts at £81,400 – if you can get yourself an allocation.
Around the Nürburgring the 718 GT4 is some 12 seconds quicker than the previous 981 – hitting a lap time identical to that of a 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.
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 – unlike the unit found in the intense GT4 RS.
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 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 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 new 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.
But beyond the numbers, what’s the 718 like to actually 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 £81,700 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 per cent 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. An additional £38,300 will get you the range-topping GT4 RS, if you can acquire a build slot...
As for rivals, the new Lotus Emira costs from £85,995 when fitted with the supercharged V6. It’s available in two chassis setups, Sport and Touring, but neither are as sharp, incisive or capable as the Porsche. That’s before you get to the powertrain, which the Porsche has the clear advantage, especially when taking into account the available transmissions.
BMW’s new G87 M2 cost from £64,890, a lot more than the previous F87, but then it’s a lot more car. This time around, the M2 is almost literally an M3 in miniature, with all the same chassis enhancements combined with a shorter wheelbase. They even share the same S58 engine, which in the M2’s case is detuned, but still a fair chunk ahead of the GT4 in power and especially torque.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
|414bhp @ 7600rpm
|310lb ft @ 5000-6800rpm