There’s a lot to be said for the meditative quality of a long drive on a good road by yourself, but I often find that running through the canyons north of Los Angeles is more fun with a friend. And since my significant other owns a Porsche Cayman GT4, many of our date nights involve me staring at the back end of his Brewster Green coupe while I’m chasing it down Angeles Forest Highway.
With its big rear wing and lightweight fixtures, the hardcore GT4 makes no bones about its positioning as Porsche’s most race-focused Cayman. Yet in the years I’ve been privy to seat time in my partner’s GT4, I’ve instead come to respect its abilities as a road car. No matter what supercar I’m driving, the GT4 always keeps up. And while the 2020 GT4 improves on many of the coupe’s livability factors, it gives up nothing in the way of go-like-hell satisfaction.
- Perfectly tuned chassis
- Powerful flat-six engine
- A tactile experience that puts the driver and car in perfect harmony
- Outdated infotainment tech
- Might be too harsh for some
The new GT4’s 4.0-liter flat-six is shared with the 718 Spyder, as well as Porsche’s updated . It is not, however, the same 4.0-liter engine from the . The good news is that the new 4.0-liter has stop/start and cylinder deactivation, which help it run more efficiently, for whatever that’s worth in a car designed to be driven hard. The bad news is that this 4.0-liter doesn’t sound quite as good as the GT3’s motor, or even the 3.8-liter engine from the old GT4. Of course, this is still a free-breathing flat-six that’ll spin up to 8,000 rpm, so I should clarify that “doesn’t sound quite as good” isn’t really a demerit. Plus, it’s a welcome bit of salvation for those put off by the lesser 718s’ turbo-four soundtracks.
With 414 horsepower, the 4.0-liter engine improves upon the 2016 GT4’s 3.8-liter flat-six by 29 hp. The torque specs are identical, at 309 pound-feet. Porsche says the 718 GT4 will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, which doesn’t sound all that quick for a sports car in 2020, especially when a base 911 Carrera will do the same sprint in 4 seconds flat. But the extra emotion that comes with winding out a big flat-six more than makes up for any discrepancy in straight-line speed. Besides, the GT4 isn’t about acceleration times. Throw it into a corner. That’s when it comes alive.
Both the Cayman GT4 and its 718 Spyder sibling share a front axle with Porsche’s 991.2 GT3, a car I personally put on a pedestal as one of the best-handling sports cars I’ve ever driven — ever. Compared to other 718 models, the GT4 has a unique rear axle, stiffer chassis and a 1-inch lower ride height. Drivers can tinker with camber, toe and anti-roll bar adjustments. The wing has a slightly different shape and the large rear diffuser houses a new exhaust system, all of which accounts for a 50% improvement in downforce over the old GT4, resulting in greater high-speed stability. All told, while the 718 GT4 is only slightly quicker than its predecessor in a straight line, it’s a lot faster in the corners.
And holy smokes, can it hustle. The 718 Boxster-Cayman chassis is already a thing of brilliance, but the GT4 takes it to another level. Unique stability control tuning and a mechanical limited-slip differential help you put the power down with great control, but they never get in the way of a good time. There’s just enough play in the chassis to keep you on your toes, and enough grip from the 245/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires to let you safely and confidently exploit its limits.
The GT4’s reflexes are so quick and its actions so precise, it forms an instant bond with the driver. It doesn’t take long before you’re putting your full faith in the GT4’s hardware, entering corners way faster than you’d otherwise dare and coming out the other side thinking it was all a piece of cake. The new GT4’s steering is slightly lighter on center than its forebear, but the response is nevertheless immediate. This car offers the kind of tactile experience that leads me to believe this should be the benchmark for all of Porsche’s future sports cars.
The six-speed manual gearbox has provoked the ire of some folks. Its relatively long gearing means you can reach triple-digit speeds not long after shifting into third gear. Said another way, you don’t really have to change gears all that much, which kind of defeats the purpose of a manual transmission. But I personally don’t get the hate. There’s more drama in one push of the clutch and one pull of the shifter than in an entire high school theater department. The new GT4’s clutch is actually lighter than the old car’s, too, so I’m compelled to use it more often, just shifting for the sake of shifting, repeating corners at different points in different gears just to see what feels better. It’s fun, and fun is good. Or just wait a few months and order your GT4 with, which is a lot less fun.
Huge, 16.1-inch front and 15.4-inch rear carbon-ceramic brakes bring the party to a halt with a quickness, though beware, they’re an $8,000 add-on. Adaptive dampers let you toggle between Normal and Sport settings, though this really just changes the ride quality from stiff to stiffer, which I suppose might be a complaint if this car wasn’t designed from the get-go to be an absolute scalpel of a driver’s tool.
On that note, there’s not much to talk about as far as comfort or convenience features are concerned — at least, no more than the last GT4, or really, any other Cayman. Most of the interior is lined with Alcantara suede, and while I called the $5,900 full bucket seats a little snug when I, I’ve since dropped 20 pounds, and now they’re a lot more tolerable. A 7-inch touchscreen runs the older version of Porsche’s Communication Management software with included, which is pretty easy to use but definitely behind the times, especially compared to the newer PCM tech in the 911. There aren’t any advanced driver-assistance systems to speak of, either, but that’s not why anyone buys a GT4.
At $100,550, including $1,350 for destination, the GT4 is a much more expensive proposition than another track-ready sports coupe like, say, a. But Porsche people don’t buy Mustangs, so it’s a moot point. The presents a pretty good mid-engine threat, too, but hilarious as it is to drive, I couldn’t live with the Lotus’ interior every day, not to mention the brand’s less-than-stellar track record for reliability.
The GT4 is the best expression of the inherently fantastic Porsche Cayman, and the new one is no more or less special than the original. That’s especially good news for 2016 GT4 owners like my better half. I can chase him through the canyons, GT4 behind GT4, and still awe at the greatness of the old car while enjoying the magic of the new.