Quick Spin: 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4

Introduced this year at the Geneva Auto Show, and due in Canadian showrooms imminently (third quarter, 2015), the mid-engine Cayman GT4 is Porsche's latest addition to its expanding lineup.

Porsche executives describe the GT4 as a more “hard-edged” Cayman and it certainly looks like it means business.

This is the first “GT” version of the Cayman and murmurs of horsepower conflicts between the Cayman and the 911 notwithstanding, the Cayman GT4's Carrera S–derived 3.8L flat-six makes a robust 385 hp that blasts it from 0-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds en route to a top speed of 295 km/h.

The Cayman GT4 achieved a lap time of 7 minutes and 40 seconds on the North Loop of the Nürburgring in Germany, a time that, according to Porsche, “makes a clear statement that Porsche will continue to promote hardcore two-door sports cars in the future – sports cars that are developed at the Motorsport department in Weissach.”

The starting price in Canada is $96,500.

autoTRADER got a chance to drive one at Porsche North America's new $100 million Atlanta-based headquarters, which handily has a Driver Experience Center including a six-feature test track on site with 1.6-mile handling course.

Dressed in bright yellow, the Cayman GT4 at “OPD” (One Porsche Drive...) is visually distinguished from other Cayman models with its three large inlet openings at the front and equally prominent fixed rear wing. Those with a discerning eye will also detect that the GT4 is 30 mm lower than standard Caymans. At the side the GT4 features blades that act as ram air ducts, directing air to the engine.

The interior is dressed in a combination of leather and suede-like alcantara and includes 918 Spyder–style seats and a special sport steering wheel.

Fitted with 911 GT3 brakes and front axle, the Cayman GT4 owes much to the chassis of the 911 GT3 (its components are sourced almost entirely from that car, Porsche says) and it can also be specified with the PCCB ceramic brake system, carbon-fibre seat shells and, if equipped with the Sport Chrono package or as a $2,120 accessory, a GPS-based Track Precision app that provides comprehensive data for those seriously tracking their Cayman GT4 (indeed 80-percent of Porsche “GT” buyers track their cars).

Little red Porsches (with big engines): Northern Exposure: Little Red Porsches, Done Two Ways (911 GT3 & Cayman GTS)

Porsche executives describe the GT4 as a more “hard-edged” Cayman and it certainly looks like it means business. The short but demanding closed circuit at One Porsche Drive is the kind of test track every driving enthusiast would like to have in their backyard. This little track is a hoot.

“Anybody here not know how to drive a manual?” We thought the Porsche chief instructor was joking, but apparently not. The GT4 arrives exclusively with a six-speed gearbox so I guess he has to make sure!

Behind the wheel, you might think the sublime driving dynamics of the GT4 (along with the driver's ability...) would account for your speed increasing at every lap, but the presence of a Porsche driving instructor (all of these guys and gals are hugely competent teachers and drivers) in the passenger seat has a huge impact. This takes “personal training” to a whole new level.

“Touch the brake, move to the left, hard acceleration, roll off the brakes and accelerate, brake hard, hard right now full on the gas...” Eventually the instructions diminish in frequency as you learn how to drive on this track and really, you can't beat this as a way to improve your skills in the shortest possible time.

What it also does is allow you to experience the capabilities of the GT4, hurtling down the straights and threading its way through the curves as speeds most non-racers would otherwise never achieve. The throaty rasp of the exhaust is particularly appealing.

The car has huge poise, instant throttle response and fantastic brakes. The seats in our car provided perfect support and stability in the rapid-fire twists and turns of the Experience Center's track. I ran in third gear all the way and found gobs of torque throughout.

Of course, it's not a GT3 or 911 Turbo equivalent (Porsche is very good at delineating its models), but it's right up there with the deep engineering that permits Porsches to sing when conditions permit.

Look for one in Porsche showrooms by October.

Introduced this year at the Geneva Auto Show, and due in Canadian showrooms imminently (third quarter, 2015), the mid-engine Cayman GT4... 9/1/2015 10:28:21 AM