We went to COTA to track the Porsche Cayman GT4

Test Drives | December 22nd, 2016 by 1
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Porsche’s 2016 Cayman GT4 is the modern incarnation of the E30 M3. Heretical for a BMWBLOG editor to say, huh? Though separated by generations, both …

Porsche’s 2016 Cayman GT4 is the modern incarnation of the E30 M3. Heretical for a BMWBLOG editor to say, huh? Though separated by generations, both Germans are lightweight, driver-focused sports cars built off existing platforms. Both cars are unapologetically, track focused and have more handling prowess and brakes than power. Further, both have few luxury amenities. The 2016 GT4 has no back up sensors, or back up camera and there is no optional keyless entry. The GT4 could even be optioned without air-conditioning or a even a radio.

The BMW M parallels with the Porsche GT4 don’t stop there. The GT4 story is also similar to 2011 BMW 1M as both German manufacturers used existing platforms and pulled a lot of parts from their bigger brothers – the M3 and the GT3 – saving development time and costs.

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Further, both BMW and Porsche underestimated the demand for these low production, one-year run, driver oriented hot rods. With these two cars, both BMW and Porsche almost seemed to be testing the demand for driver-focused, manual transmission only cars. What they founds was demand for these cars far exceeded supply, leading to some price gouging by new car dealers. The cars high demand still rings true as both have high used car values. Ultimately Porsche was able to make more GT4s than BMW was able to with the 1M in their one year runs but both are still rare, special cars.

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So what’s the GT4 like to drive?

Last month, BMWBLOG spent a weekend running in a BMWCCA Driver’s school, The Texas Trifecta, at the F1 racetrack Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas. COTA is world class 3.4 Mile 20-turn racetrack with 133 feet of elevation change. We put about 200 track miles on a stock GT4 and came away duly impressed.

Like a 1.49G in a turn and 1.33G under braking on stock tires and brakes impressed.

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The competence the GT4 has on track in staggering. As you wind out the 3.8 liter flat-six fitted from a 911S, raw engine noise dominates the cabin as you climb up the rev range to its 7800 rpm redline. There is just something special and aurally distinctive that comes from naturally-aspirated sports cars that is missing in modern turbos. From outside, the GT4 has a very distinctive and wicked exhaust, one that needs no after market replacement to be able to hear.

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As far as power goes, the GT4’s 911S sourced motor produces 385 hp, and 309 lb-ft of torque. Not exactly staggering numbers by today’s standards. With just a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds, the GT4 is clearly not a straight line drag race car. Where the GT4 shines though is in its ability to carry speed through a corner and how nailing the brakes hauling the car down from 135mph going into turn 12 feels like you just dropped a boat anchor. The GT4’s massive cross drilled brakes and optional carbon ceramics were taken directly from the 991 GT3.

The GT4 has almost telepathic steering making getting down on the apexes a blast and communicates exactly when you are reaching the limits of grip. The GT4 weighs just 3,000 lbs and given its grip and brakes it has the ability to chase down cars of much higher horsepower. The GT4 is fast on track but its speed on track that you work for. See the parallels with the much vaunted E30 M3?

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The GT4 comes from the factory fully adjustable suspension. Since there is some understeer as it comes from the factory, we dialed it down by setting the rear sway bar to full stiff. We also adjusted the rear spoiler on the GT4 from 4.5 to its maximum of 7 degrees on the rear spoiler and removed the front end underbody blocks, which according to Porsche balances the aero across the whole car. At speed, the aero on the GT4 adds 100 kg or 220 lbs of down force. This was very noticeable in high speed turns such as turn 10 at COTA. Being mid-engined, you can even get some power on oversteer with the car, as I noted once going tail out through turn nine at COTA. I did note that in the GT4 you cannot get on the power as early as you can a 911. Overall, I found it easier to drive the mid-engined GT4 fast than a 911’s rear engine where you really have to manage the 911s weight.

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I had read much criticism about tall gearing in the GT4, however, at COTA, I found the gearing to be just about perfect. The Porsche’s 6 speed shifter and clutch make for fast shifts. Perhaps on the street it would bother me more but it didn’t on track. The GT4 has sweet re-matching auto blipping which is only a button push away, for those that want it. That is the only thing, the “sport” button in the GT4 does – turn on rev-matching/auto blipping downshifts. Traction control is not at all intrusive but can be turned off in stages. Unfortunately, to turn off the auto blipping in the M2, all the other electronic nannies have to go off too. In the GT4 Porsche lets you select exactly what you want and doesn’t group things into an all on or off.

The interior of the GT4 is all business. The one we drove had Carbon Fiber Bucket seats a price $4,730 option, but well worth as they really hold you in place on the track. Though they have fore/aft and height adjustable, the back does not recline. They do require some effort to get in and out and would not be my choice to use to go to the grocery store. When you get in those carbon buckets and strap in the GT4 you just want to drive.

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The alcantara steering wheels is small in diameter and feels great in your hands. We also got to test out the Porsche Track app. You pair your phone with the wireless network in the car and it keeps track of your lap times, GPS position on the track showing you your racing line. The app even shows brake pedal pressure, throttle and steering angles. Unfortunately in the GT4 there is no back up camera or sensors, as they say with Porsche GT cars, you don’t need to worry about what is behind you.

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The GT4 is that rare car that comes along too infrequently. Like the Evo II E30 M3 and the 1M, it is more than the sum of its parts. It manages to be an ultimate drivers car that communicates, involves and envelopes the driver. Turn in is immediate, the 6 speed manual is intuitive and the engine sounds raw. The GT4 isn’t just about lap times, it’s about the experience. As EVO Magazine says, the GT4 “just has that right grip to power ratio…” and the GT4 won their drivers car of the year against some very very stiff competition.

SPECS

Base MSRP $84,600
0-60 4.1 sec
1/4 mile 12.3 sec
3.8L Flat Six
385 hp
309 lbs-ft torque
2955 lbs curb weight

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