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What do you call a Cayman that handles better than a 911? A GT4.
The 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 is a hard car to explain, mainly because the regular Cayman, Cayman S and GTS are already some of the best handling cars for the money.
To consider the difference between, well, any Cayman and the GT4 is like comparing your high school crush to Jennifer Lawrence: you’d be happy with either, but… you know what I mean?
Around the fast-paced and lively track that is Philip Island, we went through the entire Cayman range, ending up in a $189,900 GT4 at the very end to find out just how good the latest car from Porsche’s motorsport division is.
Powered by the now superseded but still monstrous Carrera S 3.8-litre six-cylinder engine (with different induction manifold and injectors) that produces 283kW of power and 420Nm of torque, the GT4 can do 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds.
In a further 10.1 seconds, it will hit 200km/h.
The car is the first road-going mid-engined car from Porsche to wear a GT motorsport badge.
That is really saying something, and it's a boost of confidence for how far the second-generation Cayman has come since the original first hit the market in 2006.
The GT4 is available with a six-speed manual gearbox only and, while it’s about 0.1 of a second slower to 100km/h than the Carrera S, it’s almost in a different league when it comes to mechanical grip.
While Porsche is adamant that it’s not just a collection of random bits stuck together, the GT4 certainly shares a reasonable number of parts with the hero GT3 car, such as a great deal of the front end in terms of suspension and brakes, as well as the steering and ABS systems.
This is excellent news, because the GT3 is an amazing machine. Nonetheless, there’s more to the Cayman GT4 that is unique to itself than there isn’t.
Its manual-only availability certainly hasn’t deterred any buyers either, of which there are already over 140 in Australia (roughly 50 percent more than the current Australian allocation).
Porsche says the GT4 will appeal to those that want the performance of a 911 but not necessarily a 911 itself.
Well, let's be frank for a second, of all the 911s running around, the icon perhaps no longer draws the eyes of those it seeks. Meanwhile, the Cayman GT4 sticks out like Bruce Lee in a sea of Steven Seagals.
Much like the late Lee, what it lacks in sheer muscle, it makes up for in technique.
Or, in this case, mechanical grip and dynamics… and that’s not to say the 911 is now an overgrown 63 year-old at the very end of its career, only that the GT4 feels sharper and more energetic than its comparatively priced big brother.
Coming hard out of Siberia at Phillip Island race track and not having to back off, as we’d had to in the three lesser Caymans before it, was a revelation.
The GT4 is essentially the sort of car you can take straight to a racetrack and set incredibly fast lap times, one after another (the massive 380mm front brakes can take a hammering).
The times are gained not in outright acceleration down the straights, but the speed it can comfortably carry through the corners.
The gearbox is super smooth and will blip the throttle and do a perfect rev-match on the downshifts, making the lack of a PDK gearbox almost a positive. We say 'almost' because, ultimately, you’ll be faster in a PDK version, but that doesn’t exist.
Seating position is excellent and the adjustment of the steering wheel and pedal positions made it very easy for us to fit in and get going. You don’t need to heel-n-toe, but you can if you want to.
The Cayman has for long been touted as more dynamically capable than its bigger 911 brother, but in no other variant is that more evident than a GT4.
For about $200,000 – much less than a Carrera S - the GT4 provides thrill levels on a racetrack that you’ll only experience in either a GT3 or a GT3 RS.
Of course, it lacks the two additional seats and, well, it’s not a 911, so if you’re a traditionalist, it’s not a rear-engined icon. But we predict it will quickly come to be regarded as the best handling road car for under $200,000, Porsche or otherwise.
We haven’t had a chance to drive it on the road yet, but it’s fair to say that its talents are almost entirely wasted being punted in traffic.
Thankfully, though, what makes the normal Cayman a good daily, also seems to apply to the GT4, when it comes to noise, vibration and harshness levels and perhaps even general ride comfort – though we will have to test that separately.
In the meantime, GT4s are going the way of the GT3 RS: far more demand than supply. So if you want one, there’s literally no time to waste.