Driven: Porsche Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder – believe the hype
Apparently we don’t do ordinary road tests on here. I know this because I heard Drivetribe overlord, Tim Rodie say so on a podcast I was listening to while driving back from the launch of the Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder.
The people who’ll buy these cars will do so regardless of what I say here, so what’s the point? Well, not everyone’s going to get the chance to drive one, so I can at least give you an idea of what it’s like.
Still here? Good. Both cars are, in a word, brilliant. But then we all knew they would be, didn’t we?
Engineering the brilliance
Being Porsche Motorsport products sort of dictates that they'll be good cars, so it's more a question of how good. We’ve pored over the details previously, but if you need a quick crib sheet then here goes.
Both cars get 420hp from an all-new naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six engine, as well as GT3-derived suspension, actual aero, manual gearboxes only at launch with a PDK dual-clutch following soon. That PDK bit is actual news. All of that makes both a good bit faster than the standard four-cylinder models.
They both still have the same focus on being as light as reasonably possible, giving real driver sensation and purity, which in this increasingly digital, configurable age is something to be celebrated.
Indeed, get in the cabin of either and you’ll find they’re refreshingly simple. There are no driver modes as such, and these cars are set-up as they should be, the only choices being the opportunity to switch off the traction and stability control, increase the volume of the exhaust and a decision between two suspension modes – only one of which you’ll need, if you’re on the road.
The Spyder adds some extra choice in that you can open or close the roof, obviously, though such is the thin, lightweight nature of the top that you’ll hear the traffic, and the sound of that engine even when it's closed.
There’s an auto blip in both, too, which will rev match your downshifts if you’re not so expert at heel and toe-ing. Even if you are pretty handy with your footwork, it’s better than you’ll ever be. The steering wheel is, praise be, actually round, and there’s not a single button on it. That, as much as anything tells you everything you need to know about both cars, they’re pure, simple, and uncomplicated.
What're they like to drive?
That steering is brilliantly weighted and beautifully accurate. The GT4 and Spyder are cars that exhibit the sort of poise, balance, control and agility that’s rare, in its purest form at least, these days.
Yes, the number bores will point to faster, cheaper alternatives such as Audi’s TTRS, and even a Sport Chrono and PDK-equipped, farty-engined 718 Cayman/Boxster GTS. Ignore them, because although they’re more bombastic when it comes to raw figures, they just don't have anywhere near the special feeling you get in the GT4.
If you need any confirmation about their performance then note that the GT4 is quicker around the Nurburgring than that bastion of hypercar royalty, the Carrera GT. That’s progress, in every sense.
That it’s been achieved without submitting to loopy levels of power is to be celebrated, Porsche’s GT boss, Andreas Preuninger simply saying that with the GT4 everything is “enough.” I’m not about to argue with him, either, though while both are as near as damn it to driving perfection there remains one slight issue.
The gearing is still too long. We’ve been told that it’s down to homologation, emissions regulations and suchlike, and without them these cars wouldn’t exist. If the potential to do 80mph in second gear is the price of that then so be it, especially because the 4.0-litre’s ample low-range urge allows you to short shift while still making indecent progress.
That engine, too, what a triumph. Porsche investing in an all-new 4.0-litre non-turbo flat-six while everyone else is downsizing, turbocharging or hybridising is a brilliant two-fingered riposte to the paper-shufflers that make the rules. That it’s been housed in a chassis is such competence and driver appeal is even more wonderful. If you like driving, you’ll love the GT4 and Spyder, but then, you already knew that didn’t you. And me? Every fibre in me wants one. Which one? Unusually for me I’d have the Spyder, because it’s the GT4 and more.
What. A. Brilliant. Car.