Although today’s drive is a painfully short one, this will also be one of the most challenging reviews I will ever write. It is hard to know where to start and stop with the deluge of praise the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 deserves. You see, this sports car is a rare vehicle that makes me feel connected to the car and the road without drowning me in tech. Only two other cars that have successfully pulled this kind of driving purity — BMW M2 and the Mazda MX-5.
The drive was done on the south-half of the Sepang International Circuit, which begins right after Turn 8 and ends just before Turn 15; a sandy slip-road completes the track. Although the South track is the slower portion of the circuit, it is also more technical. There are multiple pressure points here that aims to knock car and driver off the racing line.
So, where do I start? Should I begin at Turn 9 where you can brake the GT4 past the point of no return then launch out of it like a hero? Or do I start with the progenitor of this madness? Alright, then.
The original Cayman GT4 was an experiment gone absolutely right. The brief was to make a Cayman that’s more track-focused than the GTS but not as good as the 911. That car had the nearly all the best bits Zuffenhausen has in the storeroom with most of the parts adapted from the 911. The 3.8-litre flat-six came from the 911 Carrera S, paired with a quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission and suspension components of the 911 GT3. Then, Porsche dropped that Cayman lower to the ground and slapped on dynamic transmission mounts just for fun and called it the Cayman GT4. And fun it was.
The OG Cayman GT4 immediately became the best Cayman, one-upping even the mighty 911 Carrera S to become the sportiest Porsche of all time, at the time. The GT4 had sublime handling and body control to go with the free-revving powerful engine. The car is only available in six-speed manual transmission which instantly appeals to purists and not posers.
In so many ways, the Cayman GT4 sequel takes all that is good about the original and made it better. So you can think of the 718 Cayman GT4 as the Empire Strikes Back or In Utero.
Already the 718 GT4 has a bigger engine in between the axles — a 4.0-litre flat-six that produces 414hp and 420Nm. The engine is paired with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission that instantly alienates wannabes. The GT4 will do 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds but more importantly, it will do 0-200kph in 13.8 seconds, with the sweet spot coming in at around 5,000rpm and staying on until 6,800rpm. Having said that, your eyes won’t be counting the revs, leaving the job solely to your ears.
The first thing that hits you is the emotional soundtrack throughout the cabin, even if your ears are protected by a balaclava and a full-face helmet. You’ll start depending on the howl of the engine to tell you when to shift up. And when you do, the auto-blip function places the revs in the right place so you’ll pick up right where you left off. It’s plenty useful going around tight corners that would otherwise drop the revs out of the sweet spot. Not doing heel-toe has never been this enjoyable.
And this takes us back to Turn 9 of the Sepang International Circuit, a tight corner that forces you to brake early just so you don’t overshoot the apex and munch grass. When you make the turn, the track goes into a steep incline that most cars struggle to gather engine speed for the subsequent climb.
The 718 GT4 lets you brake deep into the corner, much deeper if you know what you’re doing. And if you know how to trail-brake, you’ll go straight down the rabbit hole. The downshift from third to second is inevitable, but the GT4’s auto blip function keeps the revs right at the sweet spot long enough for you to downshift and pick up from where you left off. Instead of a slow climb, the GT4 launches from Turn 9 and into Turn 10 without losing pace.
You’ll cut Turn 10 down without hesitation, and just a dab on the brakes will do for Turn 11 before diving headfirst into Turn 12 and 13. You’ll want to keep your foot firmly on the accelerator for this one and keep the engine in the zone. From here on, you’ll hand your life over to the GT4’s tremendous grip as you switch from sharp left to long right without touching the brakes.
The steering works with you to gently place the GT4 exactly where you want it to, and you’ll quickly learn how it reacts to your inputs. The Porsche’s nose cut into the apex of 12 quickly followed by a slight adjustment of the wheel lines up 13 perfectly.
Here, the front splitter, the big rear wing and underbody diffuser become more than just visual appeal. Porsche claims that the GT4 has its downforce increased by up to 50 per cent. This explains the high-speed stability on the straights and fast corners. The rear echoes the front’s rapid direction change without screech or smoke, suggesting that the grip limit is nowhere near as expected. You can definitely go faster.
The Cayman’s lack of driving drama does not subtract from the experience; the opposite is true. In fact, it is the 718 that will encourage you to find more grip and more speed around the corners. It presents a progressive learning curve, letting you perform better than the previous lap.
I’ll be the first to admit that there is joy in taming a tail-happy sports car. But, hitting every apex accurately and carrying massive speed everywhere — straights and corners of all degrees and angle — is equally rewarding, if not more exciting. And the soundtrack that accompanies your heroics whenever the engine turns above 5,000rpm makes the drive freaking epic.