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2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 - Faultless?



Sitting in the Paddock lookin’ pretty. Picture by Graham MacNeil (Instagram @ns_streetscene) 

Driving cars fast is similar to playing and composing music. You can’t produce good music in all genres in the same way. You have to pay attention to scales, beats, appropriate tempo, chords, etc. In much the same way, different types of cars like to be driven differently to reward you. Depending on the handling balance of the car (understeer, neutral, or oversteer), weight distribution, polar moment, yaw axis location, driven wheels, etc. Luckily, I had a chance to find what the Cayman GT4 is like.

I was asked to come for ride on track on a lapping day I went to (lapping day post here) to ride in a Porsche Cayman GT4. Needless to say, I took it. Although there is a lot you can’t tell about a car from the passenger seat, you can still judge quite a few things. Plus, I have been a passenger in a lot of cars on the track, stock, modified, and built, ranging from humble SRT4's and Evos to Corvettes and 911s, the highlight of all would probably be a 997 GT2 RS, so I learned to gather a lot of information about a car while acting as a ballast. The Cayman GT4 lands somewhere in the top-middle portion of that range in terms of pace. The way it manages that pace, though, is different. Very different.



Coming off track, heading to pit lane. Picture by Graham MacNeil (Instagram @ns_streetscene)

In one extreme, you have FWD, front end heavy, safely tuned (i.e. limit understeer) cars. You rely a lot on trail braking to rotate the car. You can’t use power mid corner to help the car rotate. You have to be patient with the throttle on exit. Things like that. At the other end of the scale, you have 911's. Phenomenal braking balance due to the weight of the engine on the rear wheels. Phenomenal traction for exactly the same reason. But, once again due to that very same reason, you have very high rear polar moment. Man handle it (with the nannies turned off) and it’ll bite. You can use the power to rotate the car. But you have to be careful; it’ll first want to understeer as you take weight off the front wheels and the solid traction in the back lets you just put power down. You’ll you give it more, but it’ll just put that power to the ground. Then give it some more. Until you get to the point you want, where the rear wheels begin to slip and help you rotate. Remember all that weight in the back that was helping you brake and put power down? It now wants to swap ends with you. Good luck keeping it back there.

What, you might ask, is this guy blabbering on about and what is the point of all this? The point is that you need to remember all of it before you can appreciate the GT4. The GT4 takes all of those notions, all of those concerns, techniques, and (let’s be kind), say, character attributes, and throws them all away.. You could just forget about all that when you get in. It doesn’t matter. The GT4 is so stable and so forgiving that you feel like you can get away with everything.



Track Shot. Picture by Graham MacNeil (Instagram @ns_streetscene)

Now, Caymans in general are forgiving and stable. They’re great cars to drive fast in. What’s special here is the very high dose of grip and immediacy. The car responds so fast that you except it to bite if you take it by surprise but it just doesn’t. That was the one thing that stuck with me most after the drive. The speed isn’t impressive. There are plenty of cars that have the same pace. Ultimate grip? It has big, fat, sticky tires, what do you expect? The combination of high grip, stability, and immediacy was the most impressive. The owner was still learning the car as he bought it recently so not all inputs were smooth, yet the car just took it all. No oversteer, no understeer, no drifts, just goes where he pointed it. The very same moment he pointed, it seems.

He wasn’t driving at the limit so I didn’t see what it’s like when the tires do let go (or while riding the limit) but, being mid engine and so stable, I suspect the balance would tilt a little towards understeer. With that said, I expect that to be remedied “with a boot full of power”, to quote Jeremy Clarkson. A little throttle would probably rotate the car beautifully at the limit. I also can’t comment on the steering since I didn’t drive it, but I could tell a lot about what’s happening at the contact patches and suspension loading through the chassis. The suspension is very stiff, although not punishing, which is a huge testament to the tuning because our track is old, patchy, and very bumpy. Trust me, I have a solid axle Mustang (‘12 Boss 302) and I know every bump on that track. The chassis can talk a lot through the seat, especially (I suspect) when so equipped with the optional fixed-back buckets.



Sitting in pit lane, waiting for a hot track. Picture by Graham MacNeil (Instagram @ns_streetscene)

Power? Well, no one can call 385 hp low, especially in a car that basically weighs 3,000 lbs. In fact, this car has slightly better power to weight ratio than a Boss 302 like mine, with 444 hp and a curb weight of approximately 3,600 lbs. It’s also still naturally aspirated like said Mustang and, of course, here it comes from a proper-sounding flat six, both make it unlike the new turbo and 4 cylinder 718 Caymans. But.. the car could use more. A lot more. There is enough power for someone to put down a really good lap time but not enough for the chassis. It could use a lot more. It’s begging for a lot more. Especially if that extra power still comes linearly, with no forced induction, and keeps on building with revs. A GT4 RS perhaps? 450 hp wouldn’t hurt..

After the drive, Alan - the gentleman who owns the car - asked me what I think the car could do. I expect the car to be able to run 1:15's, easily and consistently. I wouldn’t even surprised if it were even a tick quicker. If I remember correctly, he seemed to be running between 1:23's to 1:24's when I was with him, with the occasional high 1:22 lap. In my experience, a passenger that shares my curb weight adds about a second a lap, so that would drop to a range of 1:21's to 1:23's (if you want lap time perspective, check out the lapping day post here). He was able to dip into the teens and got just under 1:20 on a lap in the morning in cooler temperatures, in what I have no doubt was the same pace as the afternoon. Despite that, the car didn’t feel like the it was breaking a sweat.

Faults? Hmm.. It’s only available as a manual. You can’t have it with AWD. It’s a little loud. I don’t think you can get some features like leather seats or sunroof and.. Oh wait, I’m supposed to be listing faults. I don’t know. Let me know if you find them.

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