Cranking the 3.4-litre flat-six behind me up to 7800rpm, I’m treated to a fabulous metallic howl just before I slip the oh-so-sweet six-speed manual into third gear. A corner arrives, and I’m treated to a sharp-turn in, impeccable stability in the middle, and a cheeky little pop from the rear end as I boot it on exit.
What an amazing sports car this Porsche Cayman GTS is. I’ve driven all shapes and sizes of Porsche before, but the Cayman is one of the few that’s eluded me somehow - but already I absolutely get why it’s the benchmark. And to think, this isn’t even the best Cayman: that title goes to the be-winged, banana yellow thing that explodes past my window near the top end of second.
I’m talking about the Cayman GT4, the reason why we find ourselves on a chilly but nicely deserted bit of road in the pretty Cotswolds. Rather than take it up on its own, we figured its little brother would make a pretty damn good point of reference. After all, if the GTS is the benchmark, just how good does it become when you lavish it with new parts and the knowhow of Porsche’s GT bods?
With the pair sitting in front of us and photographer Jayson Fong busy doing his thing, we’ve the chance to examine the outward differences between the two. The GTS is a good-looking, purposeful thing, but it looks thoroughly understated next to the GT4. And not just because of the colour.
That much lower nose (which you will ground out at some point, no matter how careful you are) with its meaty intakes to feed an additional radiator gives the GT4 a much more substantial look than the GTS. Then you have the equally meaty intakes just in front of the rear wheel arches to keep the 3.8-litre flat-six cool, and a socking great adjustable rear wing.
All told, the bodywork changes give an extra 100kg of downforce at 186mph. They also make the GT4 look like a racing car, which we obviously like.
With the static photos done and dusted, snapper Jayson disappears to his vantage point for a few dynamic photos, which means I can jump in the yellow GT4 and have a bit of fun. From the off, it’s very apparent that this car is a much more hardcore proposition.
'A few corners later, and it’s abundantly clear the GT4 feels like a completely different car; unsurprising given just how different it is under the skin'
Pulling away as boisterously as I can, the GT4 hooks up and fires me down the road. The GTS - even with the traction control on - has a habit of excitedly lighting up the rears on full bore starts. If you want to get up to the same tomfoolery in its big brother, it takes a lot more effort, such is the mechanical grip on offer.
A few corners later, and it’s abundantly clear that the GT4 feels like a completely different car; unsurprising given just how different it is under the skin. We have the front suspension and steering set-up from a 911 GT3, an entirely bespoke rear suspension set-up, and that gorgeous flat-six that you won’t find in any other Cayman. Or in the 911 Carrera S it was originally pinched from, come to think of it - since that car has switched over to turbo power.
The grip, the poise, the stability, it’s all leaps and bounds ahead of the GTS. But the thing that’s making me go really fizzy on the inside? That’s the feedback through my fingertips via the much heavier, more natural-feeling steering, which is transmitted through my buttocks via the sensational chassis and the (optional) carbonfibre bucket seat that’s hugging my hips tightly.
It’s all very racy in the way it feels, without ever feeling out of place on public roads. It’s an utterly joyous thing to pelt around corners while milling through gears on the short-shifting, slick six-speed manual gearbox and absorbing yourself in that thunderous six-cylinder tune.
We’ve moved onto a twistier and bumpier bit of road, so I take the keys back to the GTS. After spending time in the GT4, the lighter steering feels borderline numb, and while 335bhp means this is no slouch, you don’t get the same dramatic burst of energy after 4000rpm like you get in the 380bhp GT4.
But over the bumps and yumps that made the GT4 start to feel a little frantic, the softer edge of the GTS starts to make sense. Out here, I don’t feel like I’m far off the pace; that little bit of extra give in the suspension takes the edge off, and I’m getting into a better rhythm. And I’m relishing every gear change, even if it doesn’t quite have the satisfying mechanical thunk of the other car.
Pretty soon though, I’m hankering after the GT4, and I find myself clumsily flopping into its deep bucket seat. And sod the firmness I decide, as this by far and away offers the better driving experience. Yes, the GTS would be a much better daily driver, but I don’t really care - these cars aren’t about popping out to get a pint of milk. They’re about popping out to get a pint of milk and accidentally taking a massive detour through the countryside.
I’m hacking away at the GT4’s reassuringly weighty steering, dancing around its heavy pedal box, and desperately trying to find fault with the car. The only thing that springs to mind? As with other manual ‘boxed Porsches, first and second gear are ludicrously long (you’ll hit nearly 50mph in first and are doing over 80mph at the top end of second), which is a pity when it robs you of experiencing that glorious shift action and the opportunity to smash into the 7800rpm red line quite so much.
That and the much firmer ride are things I could live with, although frankly with a car this good to drive I’d happily put up with it having a driver’s seat made entirely of drawing pins. What’s more of an issue is that it’ll be extremely difficult for me to ever own one. And not just because of the brand new price tag. At £64,451 it’s around £10,000 more than the GTS, which is way out of my meagre means, but - considering the changes going on under the skin - it’s a bit of a bargain. However, the problem here is they’re all sold. And since it’s pretty much an instant classic, it’ll never, ever depreciate. In fact there are used examples for sale now for over £100,000. I’m determined to do whatever it takes, though; selling organs, living in a cardboard box… Anything is worth it to own one.
There’s one moment in my time with the GT4 that sums the whole car up perfectly. It wasn’t when I watched it get carefully unloaded outside my house in all its garish yellow glory, nor was it when I took it for the first drive. It wasn’t even when we filled this particular corner of the Cotswolds with furious six-cylinder noise. No, it was when a builder from the construction site near my house enquired about the acceleration figure for the car.
Being a bit of a stats geek, I can usually rattle off performance figures at the drop of a hat. But this time, I had to ponder the question for a moment, and say “4.4 seconds, I think…” Turns out it is indeed 4.4 seconds, and when saying it out loud, it didn’t really sound all that impressive, particularly when the 911 GT3 RS will do the same almost a second quicker.
But that’s the thing with the GT4: it’s not about the headline stats. It’s not the quickest accelerating, the fastest or the prettiest; it’s more about how it makes you feel when you’re driving quickly. And how it makes you feel is bloody marvellous. If you’re at all interested in driving, you simply must do whatever it takes to get behind the wheel of one. Believe the hype.