2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 first drive review: A standout track star
The Knockhill Racing Circuit is a 30-minute drive northwest from Edinburgh, Scotland, and is surrounded by sheep-filled grazing fields. Based on the surrounding countryside and track map, Knockhill doesn't seem like too much of a challenge, but romping around "Scotland's national motorsport center" in a 2020 Porsche Cayman GT4 proves otherwise. The 1.3-mile, 9-turn road course keeps you on your toes with tight turns and elevation changes. It's a serious race track best tackled in a serious track car. Thankfully, that's exactly what the new Cayman GT4 is.
After a slow and steady recognizance lap behind an instructor in a 911 GT3 RS, it's time for my hot laps. Flooring the GT4's throttle out of the hairpin onto the front straight causes its new, 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated flat-six engine to belt out some lovely sounds, running up to its 8,000-rpm redline. The soundtrack isn't quite as ear-pleasing as the higher-pitch scream of the GT3, but not many engines come close to matching those riveting noises. It sure beats the four-cylinder drone from other Cayman models, anyway.
Like in the 718 Spyder, with which the GT4 shares its mechanicals, the engine has a stop-start system and cylinder deactivation, too.
I have no complaints about the engine's 414 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque. It betters the 2016 Cayman GT4's 3.8-liter mill by 29 horsepower and is connected exclusively to a slick-shifting, six-speed manual gearbox, making the person behind the wheel feel like an integral part of the driving experience. From a standstill, Porsche says the new GT4 accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds and will top out at 188 mph if given enough space.
The optional carbon-ceramic brakes kill speed in a flash, and going down a gear before entering a turn is a cinch, thanks to the GT4's automatic rev-matching feature. Want to heel-and-toe for yourself? No problem -- rev-matching can be disabled with the touch of a button.
Another major piece of the GT4 puzzle is its upgraded chassis components, which have been poached from the 911 GT3. The adaptive shock absorbers, control arms, ball joints and subframes are taken directly from the hard-core 911. Compared to the base Cayman, the GT4 sits more than an inch closer to the ground, for a lower center of gravity.
Track rats will also appreciate the ability to adjust the GT4's toe, camber and the antiroll bars. A mechanical, limited-slip, torque vectoring rear differential, new stability control tuning and sticky, 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires complete the handling alterations.
With the suspension in the Normal setting, there's some initial lean entering corners and some body roll through Knockhill's chicane. But make no mistake, the GT4 is remarkably agile, with responsive steering and strong grip. The car doesn't mind bouncing off an apex curb, either. Punching the dampers into Sport mode tightens things up, making the Cayman feel a bit more eager to turn in, change directions, and hang on tight through the high speed bends.
Attacking Knockhill's tight hairpin turn with too much enthusiasm causes the GT4's front tires to wash out, but it's easy to gather things up and still power through quickly. Around the rest of Knockhill's varying turns, the GT4 does everything you tell it to without fuss. The GT4 never throws you any curveballs with its handling. It's an absolute thrill, and perfectly predictable.
Because of the gray, rainy skies in Scotland, my track time involves a few wet laps, which don't upset the GT4 as much as you might think. Credit the Michelin tires for their excellent grip in these conditions; it's good to know the GT4 doesn't become a handful should a rain cloud put a damper on your day.
Form and function
The GT4 gets a new front fascia with larger air dams, a revised lip spoiler, new center air outlet and side air curtains up front. Around back, there's a fixed, manually adjustable wing with integrated side plates, and functional rear diffuser. Not readily visible is closed underbody paneling. All of this results in a 50% improvement in downforce compared to the old GT4.
Inside, the GT4 will be available with a few seating options in the US, ranging from a standard, two-way sport seat to $5,900 carbon-fiber buckets. Unfortunately, US regulations prevents the factory-installed roll bar feature from coming stateside, but we do get a healthy helping of Alcantara covering the steering wheel, seat inserts, door panel armrests and headliner. Brushed aluminum on the dash and center console trim is also standard.
The Porsche Communication Management infotainment system uses a 7-inch touchscreen, and every US-spec GT4 gets this tech. (Buyers in other countries can spec a multimedia-free center stack.) The GT4 comes with an eight-speaker sound system, satellite radio, Bluetooth and two USB outlets. Navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a Bose audio setup, and Apple CarPlay are optional. As with every Porsche, Android Auto is still a no-go.
An improved track star
After driving the new Porsche Cayman GT4 on track, it's clear this is an involving and hugely capable machine. Without driving them back to back, it's hard to quantify exactly how much better of a car it is over its predecessor -- after all, the previous GT4 was a high benchmark in its own right. Porsche does remind me that the new GT4 will lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 28 seconds, which is 12 seconds quicker than the last GT4. In fact, the new GT4 is 4 seconds quicker than the 2004 Carrera GT supercar, for whatever that's worth.
The 2020 Porsche Cayman GT4 arrives in the US soon with a base price of $99,200, not including $1,350 for destination. Deliveries are expected to begin next spring. This makes it $18,500 more expensive than the excellent Cayman GTS, but if you're buying a Porsche 718 for track duty, you should absolutely splurge for the GT4. Trust me, you won't regret it.
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