Hats off to the Chef at the restaurant of Porsche Experience Centre Silverstone. The food is excellent.
The menu offers exclusive gourmet dining which – like everything else at the Centre – is an experience. Just like the cars, the restaurant and lounge appeal to all senses. The selectively crafted playlist from the Bose sound system surrounds the venue, the aroma of cooking wafts through the air and the warm bread on the table tastes great (my partner/dough connoisseur, http://www.jpeggs.wordpress.com will tell you at length how good this is).
There are similarities that I can draw between the cutlery in the restaurant and the steering of the new Porsche Cayman GT4. The knife and fork balance harmoniously in between your fingers with a satisfying weight, emanating quality.
Among all of this, you look out to the superb facility here at Silverstone and watch the last drivers saunter back into the car park for lunch, as you pop the swing top on the bottled water and pour into your glass.
With a stomach nicely satisfied, I headed back downstairs to the atrium of the Centre and was given the keys to a White Cayman GT4. It looked superb, if a little naughty covered in a bit of dirt. If it was my own car, I couldn’t relax until it was back to showroom clean.
The most distinguishing features of the GT4 are the enhanced side blades for better cooling of the 385hp 3.8 litre flat-six, derived from the 911 Carrera S; a new fixed rear wing and the aggressive front bumper to accommodate the front axle which is constructed from parts of 911 GT3.
As I opened the door, I noticed the elegant interior clad with black leather and Alcantara. Contrasting stitching highlights the quality of fit and finish, continued to emboss the GT4 model designation on the head piece of the sports seats and the belt used as the interior door-pull.
I plugged the key into the dashboard with my foot pressed on the clutch, and twisted my wrist. The Cayman GT4 has Porsche’s Sports Exhaust (PSE) fitted as standard, so an excited growl erupted and settled with the odd crackle on the way back down to idle speed. I felt a grin stretch my lips and selected first gear, easing the beautifully weighted clutch back up to crawl out of the Centre, onto the roads nearby.
The Porsche Cayman GTS I drove earlier in 2015 was a good snow pole to measure against. Straight away, a more aggressive engine tone and intake roar were prevalent as I squeezed the throttle through second and third gears. Although the GT4 still has longer gearing than a 911, it’s not so noticeable – something to do with the bigger engine and a 30lbft increase in torque, I think.
The funny thing when testing cars is that rule of thumb dictates you save the ‘best’ till last, to avoid forming any unfair opinions due to a sense of anti-climax. I never felt wanting more from the GT4, even after driving the 911 GT3 RS that same morning.
On track, the Cayman encourages you to push just that little bit more on every lap. The car’s centre-of-gravity is basically kissing cats-eyes so there’s lots of confidence in the chassis. The only thing to watch out for is weight transfer under hard acceleration and braking. As you snap off the throttle and slide your foot across to the brakes, the front can become light and the car will hint at understeer. Trust that the car will look after you if you tap into the balance available.
Measure your throttle and steering inputs and dial the power back up as you unwind the steering. If the rear should become unstuck, stab the throttle as required and unwind with a dose of opposite lock. Essentially, the Cayman GT4 is so communicative that even over the limit, the steering and core gel with you to direct your car control.
It’s clear that the GT4 is a derivative of the Porsche motorsports line to look at, even if you haven’t driven it. It was attracting a fair bit of attention on the dual carriageway as camera phones were taking photos and I was being given the thumbs-up.
Dare I say it, I found the GT4 to be the perfect sports car recipe. Every time I even tickled the throttle I struggled to maintain poker face. That’s what the sports car is all about: a perfect amount of power howling from a naturally aspirated engine located behind the two seats, a six-speed manual gearbox and a sports exhaust. Oh, and the brakes are excellent, too. After seeing this car win the prestigious Evo Car of the Year (ECOTY 2015) and being fortunate enough to drive these cars, I couldn’t agree more. The 911 GT3 RS is utterly fabulous, but the Cayman is just more useable.
Engine Size: 3.8 litre, flat-six, 24 valve, mid-mounted
Top Speed: 183 mph
Power: 385 hp
Torque: 310 lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Driven Wheels: Rear
0-62 mph: 4.4 seconds
Combined MPG: 27.4
Kerb Weight: 1415kg
OTR Price: £64,451
Star Rating: * * * * *