REVIEW | Why everyone needs to drive a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 just once
Porsche enthusiasts of a traditional persuasion can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The brand has no intention of shelving manual transmissions or horizontally-opposed engine layouts: cornerstones in their development of an enviable legacy.
And one that ought to be preserved, even though their unique take on electrification will pave the way for a new breed of loyalists.
A fortnight ago we had a chance to taste the future from behind the wheel of the battery-powered Taycan Turbo S. The motoring staffers in this building came away with a unanimous sentiment. This silent, brutal four-door completely reset our barometers of what defined fast acceleration.
Its on-paper sprint time of 2.8 seconds felt commensurately violent in real life — maybe even quicker than the quoted figure — and put some in mind of the effortlessness with which a superbike hits 100km/h from standstill. A reminder that its high-voltage powertrain serves up 560kW and 1,050Nm.
Completing our double-up on models from the manufacturer this week is the 718 Cayman GT4 (309kW and 420Nm).
And a person might just be forgiven for dismissing its quoted sprint time (4.4 seconds) as pedestrian, versus the lightspeed pace of its plugged-in sister.
Of course, to judge it according to a single measure would be myopic in the least. If you are the kind of driver who seeks to use both hands, both feet and the part of the brain that regulates those thrilling caveman responses, then this pedigreed reptile is one of the last remaining species that delivers.
That is no exaggeration either. What else can you buy new in 2020 with three pedals, six cylinders and its engine in the middle?
By now you know that the GT4 is the hard-core version of the 982-series Cayman, taking position above the four-cylinder S and the GTS — the latter shares the same heart as the GT4 albeit in a lesser state of tune. A cursory glance affirms that the GT4 (by the way that numeric annotation refers to the engine displacement) is not your garden variety Porsche.
Aside from the glaring aesthetic wow factor, you will appreciate that the aerodynamic fixtures are entirely functional. From the frontal spoiler, to the gaping ducts in the bumper directing airflow, enlarged side gills to cool that fire room, and an aggressive rear diffuser, all garnished with a fixed wing.
The interior boasts a similarly focused theme. Conventional door handles make way for pull-straps, in the interests of saving weight. You will not find audio controls on the steering wheel. No matter. Because the sound system is rarely going to see much use anyway.
You will want to avoid competing with the symphony afforded by that normally-aspirated, four-litre sextet aft of the passenger compartment. We have grown accustomed to synthesised noises from contemporary performance cars. Those “vrrs” and “phas” — and other sounds that an English teacher would use in a lesson about onomatopoeia.
With the GT4 there is none of that. Just the sheer purity of an unfiltered, hairy-chested, almost industrial bellow that becomes a truculent mechanical crescendo as the tachometer needle chases redline. And chase it does.
Life really begins at about 6,500rpm, where the Porsche will scream with progressive fury until 8,000rpm prompts the next cog.
And what a true delight it is to swap gears via this six-speed transmission, with shifts so short a mere twitch of the wrist will do, initiating a deeply satisfying snick as each ratio locks into place. There seems to be a happy medium to the weighting of the clutch, too, whose operation was far less challenging than expected in daily conditions.
This is a car that relishes heavy-handedness. You need to commandeer it decisively and with resolute action.
With the suspension damping engaged to Sport and the automatic throttle-blipping function activated for smoother shifts, we set off for a 250km run through provincial backwaters.
While there is ample grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 footwear (295/30ZR20 rear, 245/35ZR20 front); one is acutely aware that the hind of the GT4 is very much alive. Always.
Not in a completely intimidating way, it must be said. The balance in weight distribution and communication from the steering (and seat of the pants) imbues confidence and relays sparkling detail. More than enough detail to help a sensible driver make prudent decisions regarding his or her limits.
Exhilarating and immersive, the 718 Cayman GT4 wins in its mission to reward the demographic that identifies with the classical values on which Porsche was built. Long may its kind live.
Priced from R1,719,000