Words by JP O’Brien
My following of the Porsche brand over the decades can be pretty much described as religious, especially when it comes to the GT models like the 911 GT3. I’ve hankered after some form of the GT3 for years, most recently the 997.2 GT3, which in my mind was the last great GT3 model, being the final manual transmission, track orientated 911. I love the race-car-for-the-road philosophy that the GT3 represents. The purity of the driving experience is perfection, as a driver connected to the car and then straight to the tarmac. When word got out that there was to be a Cayman GT car, the GT4, I knew it would be a special piece of kit. Porsche delivered on my expectations. The GT4 ticked all the boxes; exclusivity, performance and looks that could kill.
Unfortunately all the build slots in the UK were either allocated before the GT4 was officially announced or reserved for the most loyal Porsche customers at each dealership, so I almost gave up hope of securing one.
In what seemed like a whirlwind couple of days I was tipped off about a vacant build slot in Ireland, I called the dealership within minutes and sure enough they had been given two additional slots, one of which had already been taken. I took no chances, I secured the last slot on the phone. It wasn’t time to celebrate yet, as I had to pay a deposit as soon as possible, otherwise someone else could have potentially taken my slot off me. The next few days were a blur, getting together the money to show I was serious. Once this was done I could relax, a GT4 at the factory would have my name beside it. Now all I had to do was confirm my specification and pay the balance of a 10% deposit. I had a couple of weeks to do this so I spent the time poring over the online configurator, speaking to other GT4 owners, quizzing petrolhead friends and researching on forums like PistonHeads about what the consensus was regarding ‘the dream specification’. The result? Clubsport Package (roll cage, harnesses, fire extinguisher, battery master switch), 918 carbon fibre bucket seats with embossed Porsche crests, Sport Chrono Package, 64 litre fuel tank, Satin Black wheels along with some creature comforts; Porsche Communication Management with satnav, auto dimming mirrors, Bi-Xenon Headlights and lastly, floor mats.
The other big decision to make was what colour I should get the GT4 painted in. There were twelve colours in total, standard no cost options were White, Racing Yellow, Guards Red and Black. Since the GT4 is a track focussed car I wanted to get it in White, as this is the colour that the Porsche factory delivered cars to race teams. As soon as I saw the optional Carrara White Metallic Paint I knew it had to be that, the way it shines with specks of gold in the sunshine really give it a depth of colour you wouldn’t expect. It turns out very few GT4s were actually delivered in this colour, so I am very happy with my choice. I still get a GT4 that looks like a track refugee, with an added something.
It’s now been two months since I received my car and a good measure of how great it is, is that I am driving it much more than I planned to. 4,300 miles so far. Over the Winter time I’ll stop using it, especially when there is salt on the roads. Big road trips will be where most of the miles will rack up. I am not going to be one of those owners that will use it minimally. I’ve invested in getting the paintwork protected, with paint protection film and ceramic coating. This will keep the car stone chip free despite the road miles. I use it occasionally for the drive to work, if the sun is out and I feel in the mood for a blast. The GT4 currently competes with a third generation M3 for road time.
The stance and proportions of the GT4 are startling, watching countless videos and reading reviews about the car before I took delivery failed to prepare me for the visual onslaught of the GT4 in the flesh, it looks exciting and fast when stationary.
Even though I have the Clubsport Package with the fixed back carbon fibre seats (which are borrowed from the 918 Spyder supercar), I sometimes forget that I am in a really special car. Only when you spot the world around you going nuts, camera phones filming you pass by and other drivers trying to keep up with you to have a proper look do you realise just how much of a big deal the GT4 is.
When I park up the GT4, the thought that always enters my mind is that Porsche really nailed it with this car. The low and wide front lip, the rear end aero and the overall race car stance is simply awesome.
The theatre around the GT4 begins right from getting into it. Actually, preparation starts from the end of the previous drive. I like to make sure that the Schroth harnesses are loosened off and laid out of the seat, resting flat so when I get in to the car on the next trip I can just slide into the seat and pick grab them. They easily click into place in the central clasp. I tighten them up so that they are firm yet comfortable on the road. To get the engine going I insert the key and twist to position two, press the exhaust valve button as I love the sound of a cold start with the valves wide open. Next I press the clutch and brake pedals simultaneously and turn the key to wake the starter motor.
The engine catches quickly with a hollow bark from the exhaust, a sound I am utterly addicted to. I sit there for around thirty seconds and let the idle settle before leaving the garage and wait for another minute or so on the driveway just to let it wake up a bit more from the cold start. Once on the move, the GT4 from cold has a slightly stiff throw, which isn’t a bad thing. The notchiness reminds you that this is a mechanical instrument, not an electronic gadget. It requires sympathy and warm oil, like a luxury watch it demands care and will reward you with precision changes for years. The same goes for the limited slip differential, which when first going forwards while cold will lock and push the front wheels wide at very low maneuvering speeds. The Dunlop Sportmaxx Race tyres must be respected, only once they have warmed up can you lean on them. While they are cold they are lethal.
The sound of the GT4 is intoxicating, not just from the exhaust either, at around 3,500 rpm you hear the engine note change, and also the induction sound through the sidepods multiplies.
When the back end does step out, it happens in a very predictable and linear way, making it instinctive to catch – given you are familiar with handling high performance cars on the limit. This is where the mid engine natural balance outshines all 911 GT3 models from Porsche, which have their engines mounted at the rear.
The brakes are great, even when cold – which isn’t a surprise given that they are borrowed from the 991 GT3. The same goes for the front suspension, which has pretty much been lifted straight out of the 991 GT3 and bolted to the front of the Cayman chassis.
The only slight criticism I have for Porsche regarding the GT4 is the initial setup, which is very conservative. There is a hint of understeer on initial turn in, with the aim to keep new GT4 drivers on the black stuff. This can be dialed out by raising the front roll bar up to the medium setting. Before I do this though I’d like to get the GT4 out on track, then make the change to see how it transforms the handling.
B-Roads are where the GT4 truly shines. I’ve taken the GT4 to the EVO triangle in Wales. In normal PASM mode the suspension absorbs all bumps and holes you’d typically find on our roads. The torque vectoring is very noticeable at low speed, high g corners, which keeps you bang on line. High speed corners are also dealt with effortlessly, the front splitter, flat floor, diffuser and rear wing all work in harmony with the high grip Dunlop tyres to keep you on the road and overflowing with adrenalin.
I’ve had a play with the suspension settings, out of the box with PASM in Normal mode the GT4 is set up for the Nürburgring. PASM in Sport model is suited to flat tracks as everything stiffens up so you can push it harder into corners. The transmission has dynamic mounts which adjust based on how aggressively you drive, the GT4 works out if you really want to play and then adjusts accordingly.
Even though my car isn’t luxuriously specced, the interior still feels every bit the premium product it is. The switches all click with a uniform feel and have real weight behind it. I’d go as far to say that the feel is not dissimilar to a trigger brake on a gun… The air conditioning control LED panel looks very high end too, with its white and black LCD display.
On the outside I love the aggressive look of the car, with its low stance, extended front lip spoiler and likeness to a GT race car. The big brakes and wheels with their wide tyres complete the package.
Owning the GT4 can be summed up pretty simply, before I had the keys in my hand I had some friends trying to convince me to sell it immediately and put the proceeds straight into a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Within twenty minutes of driving the GT4 I knew there was no chance I’d be letting go of it, even for a Italian V10. I just can’t wait to get the GT4 on track, I know that it will out-drive many cars including ultra high powered stuff. I feel very lucky to have got one, it is my dream car. It hasn’t changed me, I feel a bit embarrassed to own it when people really go nuts over it.
I’ve always bought cars that were function over form, right from Honda Type R’s to Land Rover Defenders – it is very clear what their purpose is. The GT4 has nailed this way of thinking on the head. I have considered more ‘watered down’ and compromised cars in the past but now there is no doubt that I was right to go with my instincts and stick to the cars that prioritise the drivers connection to the road.
I’d read that the lightweight bucket seats that I specced would be harsh for long journeys, but since driving the GT4 to Le Mans 24 Hours in June, I find that they suit me just fine. The angle of the backs are not too upright, they are supportive yet well shaped.
I’m going to leave the GT4 as is, at least while it is under warranty, more than likely it will stay stock after that too, I know that to extract the quickest lap time isn’t down to limitations of the car – it is me as the driver. So I am focussing on honing my skills behind the wheel.
I think prices are going to remain stable for the foreseeable future around the £100,000 mark. This is the purest Porsche GT car of recent times and from now on cars will only get more synthesised and electronic.