Bonus track

The Cay­man GT4 flat­ters driv­ers of medium abil­ity — and is blis­ter­ingly fast with a rally champ at the wheel

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARSGUIDE EDI­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

AS the in­ter­na­tional con­tin­gent of mo­tor­ing me­dia as­sem­ble in the pits of south­ern Por­tu­gal’s Au­to­dromo In­ter­na­cional do Al­garve, we get some bad news. Our hot laps in the track­fo­cused new Porsche Cay­man will be be­hind a pace car.

Then the good news. Our chap­eron will be rally leg­end Wal­ter Rohrl.

Af­ter one lap to sight the cor­ners, the man who sets pro­duc­tion car lap records for Porsche at Ger­many’s famed Nur­bur­gring race­track is al­ready driv­ing as fast as my tal­ent and ticker can han­dle.

By the third lap sweat is bead­ing on my brow and I’m los­ing touch with the pack of Porsches in Rohrl’s wake. Twenty nail­bit­ing laps later, I’m qui­etly re­lieved to head for pit­lane.

As I pull my creak­ing, sweaty frame out of the cock­pit, Rohrl emerges from the lead car look­ing as if he’d just popped down to the shops for a loaf of bread and car­ton of milk.

I think I’ve wrung the Cayenne’s neck but the re­al­ity is that we’ve barely bro­ken into a can­ter with this Ger­man thor­ough­bred sports car. Now it’s time to take it for a gal­lop, with Rohrl at the reins and me along­side. Four min­utes of mad­ness later I emerge in awe of the man and the ma­chine.

The GT4’s phe­nom­e­nal grip, awe­some stop­ping power and com­po­sure on the ragged edge are some­thing to be­hold.

For his part Rohrl reck­ons the GT4 has bet­ter turn-in and is eas­ier to drive on the limit than the big-daddy 911 GT3. And there­fore it’s a bet­ter track com­pan­ion for the week­end war­rior.

“This car is so easy to drive when you come to the limit and this makes you con­fi­dent,” he says. “That is the big­gest point for a medium driver — he comes ear­lier to the limit of this car than in a GT3, es­pe­cially on very twisty roads.

“For me it’s the max­i­mum car we have at this time.

“Turn­ing in is per­fect and if you come to the limit it’s so easy to feel what’s go­ing on.

“Of course, for pro­fes­sion­als, we go faster on a race­track in the GT3, but for medium driver that is the car where he feels I’m a real race driver.”

Part of that feel­ing comes from the fact that Porsche opted to make the GT4 avail­able only as a man­ual. It’s a cu­ri­ous de­ci­sion on two counts: Porsche ad­mits the car would be quicker with its self-shift­ing PDK trans­mis­sion and 90 per cent of Porsche sports car buy­ers choose the PDK.

But Porsche board mem­ber and R&D boss Wolf­gang Hatz be­lieves that some­times it pays not to lis­ten too much to the cus­tomer.

“A good prod­uct is not made if you ask the cus­tomer what he wants to have. You need peo­ple to take a de­ci­sion,” Hatz says.

The un­ortho­dox ap­proach seems to have worked, with 30 Aus­tralian purists sign­ing up for a GT4 be­fore the an­nounce­ment of the car’s $190,300 price tag last week.

You may have to shift for your­self in the GT4, but you’re not en­tirely left to fend for your­self on the track.

If you press the sport but­ton on the cen­tre con­sole, the Cay­man’s en­gine senses when you’re about to down­shift and blips the throt­tle for you, so that you have enough revs as you exit the cor­ner.

There are other driv­ing aids as well. A smart­phone app can time your laps and col­lect teleme­try al­low­ing you to com­pare your last lap with your fastest.

If you have a cam­era, the app can syn­chro­nise with it to pro­vide a dash­board view of your laps, com­plete with teleme­try read­outs and even a ghost car to chase.

If you think it’s all a bit ex­ces­sive for a sports car, Porsche points to the fact that 80 per cent of Porsche GT buy­ers take their car to a track.

The styling of the Cay­man GT4 re­flects this track fo­cus, with a lower ride height, a re­designed front spoiler to cre­ate down­force, big­ger air in­takes at the front to feed air into the car’s three ra­di­a­tors and front brakes and larger side in­takes to force air into the en­gine be­hind the seats.

At the rear a big wing, spoiler and dif­fuser help to suck the car to the road.

Stop and go is pro­vided by mas­sive 380mm brakes and a 3.8-litre flat six that adds 33kW and 40Nm to the out­puts of the Cay­man GTS.

At full throt­tle, the en­gine sounds as good as it feels, singing sweetly all the way to 7400rpm, where it makes peak power.

Away from the track, the GT4 is more liv­able than other hard-edge sports cars. The al­can­tara seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive and the cabin er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent.

The ride is firm, es­pe­cially in sports mode, and it can get bumpy over less than per­fect sur­faces, but it didn’t crash over pot­holes on our test drive on nar­row, less than per­fect coun­try roads.

The steer­ing is su­perbly weighted and ac­cu­rate and the brakes never show any sign of giv­ing up the ghost.

The cabin is noisy, though. Porsche says this is de­lib­er­ate, and it has re­moved some in­su­la­tion from the in­te­rior to give the car a more raw, sporty feel. But the tyres roar on free­ways and there is a dis­tinct whine — a bit like chirp­ing crick­ets — when the trans­mis­sion is loaded up.

Then there is the ex­ten­sive op­tions list and there is no rearview cam­era de­spite it be­ing a bug­ger to see out the back of.

But you have to look hard for faults. The GT4 is pretty near the per­fect track car for those of us not blessed with Rohrl’s tal­ents.

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