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The 2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is for the real ones

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Do you remember when you were little, and everything would get you excited? Toys. Food. Play dates. As you grow up, the things you’re excited about change, and usually diminish. It’s a shame, part of the sadness of growing up. But magic happens here too, because the things that do get you excited are usually really special. I am here to tell you that I was very excited to drive this 2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. And it did not let me down.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Get one:

Everything you need to enjoy the driving experience. Steering, engine, brakes, and a shifter handed down from the heavens make this a special thing.

Don’t get one:

Pay up or you get blank switches everywhere. Not as quick as some cars in its price bracket, especially with the six-speed.

Soul Score: 10

The very definition of a machine with a soul.

The 2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Overview

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

Here I am, a little over a year into testing cars (I mean really testing them), and wow, some fast things have graced my driveway. Speed I never imagined when I was 18 is now commonplace. What a time to be alive.

But we’ve lost something along the way. Speed kills. In this case, it’s killed soul. Turbos. Automatic transmissions. EVs. You know my deal – you don’t fall in love with a 0-60 time.

And this Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is the slowest performance car I’ve tested yet. It’s also the best. You need real skill to drive it. Let’s weed out the performance poseurs and take it for a drive.

Performance Score: 10. Flawless victory

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
A big wing to keep it all down at the back.

Six speeds. Six cylinders. Four wheels. Two seats. The GT4 gives you a bit more than that, but not by much. It is perfection from a performance standpoint. No wonder why BMW drivers often leave the brand for Porsche. The cars are almost always just simply better. They should be, they cost more.

Still, cost doesn’t equal competence. Every part of this car works in harmony to produce a driving experience best described as nirvana.

Engine

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Press this. Go Vroom.

Well, almost nirvana. The flat-six engine buried in the middle of the GT4 pumps out 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. It’s a really special thing. Raucous and rowdy, rev it out to its 8,000 RPM redline and revel in a sound that new cars just don’t make any more.

Peep the power curve. Max power is available at 7,600 RPM, just before redline. Torque for this six-speed comes online at 5,000 – 6,800. That means you must drive this car, hard, to appreciate its ability and speed. It suits my driving style well, like my old E92 M3 did.

Funny I mention that car, because its S65 V-8 had nearly identical power figures (less torque, actually). Good on Porsche for continuing the tradition. But it’s ever so slightly buzzier and not as smooth as that special mill. Maybe it’s the large-for-a-six-cylinder 4-liter displacement, but it’s not that V-8, or even an inline-six. Whatever, I’m splitting hairs. I love you, engine. Please don’t go.

Transmission

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
No one does it better.

There are a lot of manual transmissions that are better than what BMW produces, but to compare the two wouldn’t be fair to the GT4.

It’s my job to describe to you how a car feels to drive, but I’m at a loss for words here. It’s the best manual transmission and clutch combination I’ve ever driven. Some snick-snick from a Honda. Some muscle from a Blackwing. An extremely predictable clutch that catches low off the floor.

Driving this car will make you tired after awhile, which I’m absolutely fine with. Each push and pull of the shifter makes you feel like Dominic Toretto. You might even find yourself making his shift face on the way to your family BBQ.

Ok, ok, I’ll compare them. In the M3, the shifter feels as if it’s connected to a black hole. Nothing there, no snick at all. This GT4 might as well have a perfectly counter-balanced weight underneath its Alcantara boot. Each gear has such a positive engagement.

Phew. I need a cold shower just writing about it.

Steering and Chassis

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Wow, this is precise.

Sort of like the Kia EV6, the chassis in the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is set up for success with its powertrain configuration. The engine is mounted in the middle of the car, low to the ground, making the heaviest part of the GT4 just inches off the floor.

The spec sheet tells another part of the story. The 718 weighs in at just 3,200 pounds. It’s the lightest car I’ve driven since maybe a Nissan 350Z. But that was 20 years ago – you can buy a GT4 tomorrow (maybe).

Delicious ingredients don’t guarantee a tasty meal, but that’s not a concern here. Everything is perfect. There’s enough power to kick out the tail for a nice drift, but it’s not an M5, where you just tap the throttle and smoke ’em. The GT4 instead asks you “what’s the fastest way around the corner?”, and then allows you to answer it from the driver’s seat. Not a gram wasted, not a hair out of place. A short wheelbase means the ride can be a bit bouncy, but it’s barely worth mentioning. Put the shocks in “touring” mode, and the GT4 can serve the Grand Touring role just as well.

Part of what makes this chassis so confidence-inspiring is its perfect steering. Is this hydraulic? Might as well be. There’s no guessing as to how much grip you have left, or what the back of the car is doing. You feel it all. This is all on winter tires by the way. Stunning.

Don’t think the GT4 will rip the wheel out of your hands like a C7 Z06 might have – it’s much too civilized for that. But the car will challenge you. Put down the phone and drive this one.

Brakes

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
CCBs are optional.

More good things. A firm pedal inspires, without the need for a fancy Sport mode. This test car was equipped with standard discs, but Carbon Ceramics are optional.

I did not drive the car hard enough to find any fade, and I doubt you’d discover it on public roads (unless you’re being stupid). If you plan on tracking your GT4, I might option the CCBs if only to match the ability of the rest of the chassis. It’s so comfortable and easy to drive this car fast that you might find yourself going quicker than anticipated on track.

An M4 CSL is faster than this Cayman. It achieves its speed by beating the pavement (and you) into submission. There is no finesse. Drive a CSL as hard as this Cayman on track, and you are either the Stig or headed for a wall. Wouldn’t you rather trade three seconds a lap for an infinite amount of enjoyment?

Utility Score: 5. Weekend warrior

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Two spots to store.

It’s unlikely a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is your only car. But if it is…you’ll be fine!

A deep frunk is the perfect spot to hold a week’s worth of groceries, while the hatch in back will hold a duffel bag or small piece of luggage. It’s enough for your special someone to fit their wardrobe for a weekend getaway, maybe even more.

In the cabin, it is a little tight. I love the return of the disappearing dash cup holders – there’s no way they will hold a large iced coffee during high-G maneuvers (they mimic the E9X cup holders, and if you’ve ever had one, you’re smiling right now). But no need to worry about coffee in this thing. You’ll be plenty awake.

Going racing? I fit inside nicely with plenty of room for a helmet around my noggin. You sit low in the GT4, yet somehow the cabin provides excellent visibility.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
The frunk is deep enough to fit a duffel bag or other soft luggage.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
While the rear offers more space, along with access to engine liquids.

Efficiency: 7. Make it sing

A manual-equipped GT4 is rated at 16 mpg city and 23 highway. You’ll average about 19. That’s better than a G80 M3 with a manual (although the G is heavier and more powerful).

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

It has a 17-gallon tank, so you’ll have plenty of range to get places. A Vette might do better because of cylinder deactivation and an automatic, but whatever man. Gimme this.

Features and comfort: 7. Everything you need, nothing you don’t

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

Though the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is no penalty box, it suffers from the typical P-car treatment of spending more to get less. In a world of screens, digital dashes, Head-Up displays and other distracting elements, the GT4 is like a dose of palette-cleansing ginger inside. So refreshing. Your body is ready to receive.

Shut up and drive

Porsche does an excellent job of carrying their DNA through each generation of car. As a result, sitting in this 718 is a lot like sitting inside a 911 from 30 years ago. Everything is where you expect it to be. The chronograph-like dials are beautiful, precise and easy to read. A digital screen embedded in the right circle tells you ancillary information, but the tach is front and center. This GT4 was also equipped with the Chrono package, adding a little stop watch atop the dash

Everything you touch is either Alcantara or leather. Real metal (aluminum?) graces the shifter and steering wheel (it’s cool to the touch). Racy elements include a door pull from fabric as oppose to plastic, and seat belts in a color of your choice. Expect to pay for any and every little thing. And if you don’t, there’s an entire forest of blank buttons on the center console to constantly remind you.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
The Chrono Package adds a stop watch atop the dash.

No keyless start here – insert the fob and turn. Oh yes, I remember how it works now, holding it against the backstop until the motor turns over. Smiling isn’t required to make it work, but happens as a natural byproduct.

Infotainment is typical Porsche, which is to say minimal and efficient, and a Bose stereo is merely adequate, typical of cars with small cabins. But you don’t even need a stereo in here. Just lower the windows.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
How long has it been since you’ve needed to twist and turn?
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Body-color seat belts are optional.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Just enough to make it feel special in here.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Again, optional, but the seat backs can be had with leather as oppose to plastic.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
It’s functional in here, if a bit austere.

Racy pace

By moving the engine out of the butt, typical 911 proportions even themselves out. Porsche amps up the styling with a beautiful rear wing that looks like it came off a GT3, along with a front lip that’s actually meant to “break away” – it’s only a few hundred bucks to replace it if you scrape it. Well done. Graphics on the spoiler are an aftermarket accessory here, but they look terrific and Porsche should just make them an option.

The car looks the business in Shark Blue, a $3,540 option, but you can easily go nuts with a bespoke paint-to-sample color for $10,000, or even have Porsche paint your GT4 a color never before attempted for over $30,000. Treat yo’ self.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention the Porsche Experience Center Delivery. It works like the one at BMW’s Performance Center, and can make your day even more special. You can even do Euro delivery, something BMW killed off after COVID.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
I loved the wing, which can sometimes feel tacked on in cars like this.

The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 is going to make you sad

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Could be the last car of its kind.

As my time with the 718 wound down, I found myself with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. Not because I wouldn’t get to drive it anymore (though that was sad too), but because this car represents what driving still can be. Too bad it usually doesn’t match this experience.

There really aren’t any “bad” cars anymore. Even a Nissan Versa, the cheapest new car you can buy, comes with automatic climate control as standard. The appliances have raised the bar.

But how many good cars are there? Things that you aspire to own, that truly make a difference in your life? Those are much more rare to come across. The GT4 can turn any drive into an event. “Ugh, I need to go to my doctor’s appointment” becomes “I get to drive to my doctor’s appointment!” You focus on the positive things.

This car had me checking my bank account and seeing what G80s are going for on Cars & Bids. If only it were four doors. Maybe that would ruin it. This car isn’t really for the kids.

The Cayman and Cadillac CT-5 V Blackwing stand alone at the top of the Soul Score board. My advice: get one of these cars, because just like childhood, before you know it….yup.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Specifications

Vehicle Type: Mid-engine, two-door coupe.

PRICE

Base: $$106,500
As tested: $125,840

POWERTRAIN

4.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer six cylinder
414 hp @ 7,600
309 lb-ft @ 5,500
Six-speed manual transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 97.8 in
Length: 175.4 in
Width: 70.9 in
Height: 50.0 in
Curb Weight: 3,208 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 19 / 17 / 23 MPG
Range: 388 miles

Thanks to Dave for bringing out his beautiful GT4!

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I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

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