There appears to be a growing trend of extending prestigious and exclusive models down the line to expand appeal and market share.
From Porsche, this has surfaced in the Cayman GT4, the entry-level model to purist sports car driving for those who might find the newly launched 911 GT3 RS too big for their liking.
This GT family model is not to be confused with the Cayman GTS, which is provided as a sportier option to the standard one with merely a bigger (and more powerful) displacement engine and firmer dynamic settings.
According to Porsche’s High Performance Cars project manager Jorg Jürgen, the Porsche GT with a numeral is the car that is developed for some really serious fast driving on the road and it is said that more than 80% of those who buy this GT range take them to the race tracks.
Understandably, there are some hand-me downs in the development of the Cayman GT4 from the bigger GT3, with some refinements made to accommodate the more compact body of the Cayman.
The front suspension and brake set up is taken directly from the GT3, with minor adjustments and changes made, while the rear is developed from the mid-engine Cayman base as it is different compared to the rear engine modus of the 911.
Even the brake system is specially adapted to the Cayman GT4; apart from the discs being bigger than that in the Cayman GTS, the brake discs are made of a special composite to achieve a lower unsprung weight for better vehicle dynamic balance.
There is also the option for PCCB ceramic brakes that are mounted differently to handle more forces acting on them during braking and contribute to even better dynamic control.
Although the 3.8-litre flat-six engine is the same six-cylinder unit powering the 911 Carrera S, it has to be turned 180 degrees to accommodate the exhaust and fuel feed trunking that is typical to the mid-engine location.
This is the first time that Porsche has used this engine in a mid-engine location and it was a learning curve for its engineers.
Output for the direct injection engine is improved with 385hp (an additional 45hp) being churned out at 7,400rpm and 420Nm (+40Nm) that is delivered from 4,750 to 6,000rpm.
To raise the purist appeal of the Cayman GT4, Porsche decided that it would be available only with a six-speed manual transmission, also a carryover from the Carrera.
However, the transmission is strengthened in a few areas to provide better gear engagement; interestingly, the gearshift was made 20cm shorter so that the travel between gears is actually shorter for the desired sporty feel.
In body styling, the Cayman GT4 differs from the normal models in a unique front section that has a longer overhang and runs on a longer wheelbase to be 34mm longer than the Cayman GTS: it also sits 30mm lower.
The body styling is refined to achieve greater downforce and engine cooling: three large air intakes in front supply air to three radiators behind them as well as the front brakes, and the large front spoiler extends lower to accelerate air flow between the underbody and the road to generate downforce in front.
At the rear is a fixed rear wing, made of lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), located by two aluminium brackets that generates downforce with the less distinct rear spoiler bib beneath it.
This arrangement is said to result in a high level of driving stability and exceptional performance through corners.
As proof of Porsche’s ambition to display its competence in building ‘exceptional’ sports cars in every vehicle class, the Cayman GT4 is a top performer in its segment clocking 7 minutes and 40 seconds on the North Loop of the Nürburgring.
Our understanding of that was provided in a drive on familiar grounds, the Algarve motorsport circuit in Portugal that we enjoyed an impression drive of this new generation Cayman two years ago.
Again, the drive format was similar; we drove in a four-car convoy, starting with a warm-up lap and a cooling-down lap, with three fast ones in between.
We had former world rally ace Walter Rohrl as the pace leader and the speed was as dazzling as we had expected.
The lighter than expected clutch action made driving the manual transmission Cayman GT4 easy and the positive short throw gearshift was a delight to use.
Using mostly third gear, an occasional fourth on the short straight and second gear for two hairpins, and with engine speed above 5,000rpm, we could tell immediately that the Cayman GT4 was a different kettle of fish from the standard model.
It was a point-and-shoot kind of driving dynamics, probably taking a cue from the MINI Cooper S but with a better balance and stability from the mid-engine layout.
We could take the corners noticeably quicker, with less tyre squeals (which are specially ‘homologated’ 20-inch Michelin Cup Sport tyres) and although we did lose the car momentarily coming over on a rise, lifting off and easing on the accelerator helped to regain the car’s poise.
The first Cayman GT4 we drove had PCCB brakes that allowed us to brake deeper into the corner to a comfortable speed before accelerating hard out of it.
Doing the same with cast iron brakes required us to brake earlier or we would be going into the corner faster than we would like and scrubbing off more speed, while trying harder to get the car going in the intended direction.
That was put in a proper perspective by Mathias Hoffsümmer with whom we had a ‘hot’ lap in: being a regular Porsche driving instructor, he was of the opinion that one could drive as fast whether the brakes were cast iron or ceramics.
“It is all a matter of adapting to the braking characteristics,” he said as he put the Cayman GT4 with cast iron brakes quickly through the corners, going off the road slightly in two areas by carrying too much speed.
We heartily agreed with him that the Cayman GT4 was a lot more fun to drive over the standard model with its higher level of dynamic balance.
If you are looking to enjoying the same, you would have to wait till the second half of the year when the Cayman GT4 is scheduled to be brought in.
Engine: 3,800cc, flat-six cylinders, naturally-aspirated direct injection, water-cooled
Maximum power: 385bhp at 7,400rpm
Maximum torque: 420Nm from 4,750-6,000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Features: Side air induction scoops; electro-mechanical steering;fixed rear wing with lower bib; interior door pulls in place of handles; lower ride height; higher level of cooling; bigger and lighter brake discs; Sport seat Plus
Acceleration (0-100kph): 4.4 seconds
Top speed: 295kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 10.3l/100km