It's tough being the younger sibling. The Porsche Cayman is - always has been - a benchmark sports car, yet it seems no review is complete without mentioning how good it would be with a 911 engine in it.
Well, with the arrival of the new Cayman GT4 we can now find out. The first mid-engined model from Porsche's motorsport department, the GT4 headline change over the regular Cayman range is the installation of the 3.8-litre flat-six from the soon-to-be-superseded 991 Carrera S.
The result is 283kW at 7400rpm and 420Nm from 4750-6000rpm, 33kW/40Nm more than the 3.4-litre Cayman GTS. Attached exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox, this propels the GT4 to 100km/h in a claimed 4.4sec and on to a 295km/h top speed.
Unsurprisingly, the engine itself is sensational, with a broad spread of power, great throttle response and a crisp howl as it winds out to its 7800rpm cutout. It lacks the feral top-end rush of the 911 GT variants but is more than capable of pushing the Cayman past 250km/h on Phillip Island's long main straight (apologies for the dodgy video quality, a weird technical issue with the Go Pro).
Our first taste of the GT4 took place exclusively at the Island, but even on its wide, flowing nature the larger engine's edge was blunted somewhat by extraordinarily long gearing. Second gear stretches to 133km/h and third gear 184km/h and the car actually struggles to pull in third on the uphill stretch out of Siberia.
Shorter gearing would allow both more frequent access to the engine's howling top end and more opportunity to use the superb six-speed 'box. The shift is nigh-on perfect and now incorporates a throttle-blip function on downshifts - purists will hate the idea of it, but it works brilliantly and allows you to really lean on the enormous brakes.
With 380mm discs front and rear (six-piston calipers front, four-piston calipers rear) the brakes are a direct lift from the heavier GT3 and endow the GT4 with mind-bending stopping power. Even larger PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes are an option, but it's difficult to imagine the standard system ever showing signs of duress.
Making the most of the extra stopping power are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres - the same rubber used on the likes of the Ferrari 458 Speciale - measuring 245/35 front and 295/30 rear.
Such a massive rubber footprint in a relatively light (1340kg) package means frankly unbelievable levels of grip. The GT4 is one of the few road cars in which you can commit harder and harder and have the car go faster each time; it would take more than our handful of laps to truly reach its ultimate limits.
This is not to say the GT4 is in any way difficult to drive. Its more conventional weight distribution makes it easier to drive fast than the 911 GT3, however should you lift or brake at the wrong point the rear will still try and overtake the front. Overall, though, it sets a dynamic benchmark - on circuit at least - that few other production cars could hope to achieve.
Whether this on-track excellence translates to the road remains to be seen, though it's difficult to imagine anything other than perhaps ride quality tripping it up. Gearing aside, the only real issue with the Cayman GT4 is a very heavy clutch; not a problem on track, but it might prove wearing for those planning on using their new toy on a daily basis.
And apparently plenty will, with a number of buyers choosing the extra focus of the GT4 over a 911. Demand for the first Cayman GT model is off the scale and it's not difficult to see why; $189,900 is a large amount of money, but the performance gap between the GT4 and the Cayman GTS is much larger than the $29,400 price gap suggests.
To put it another way, it offers at least 90 percent of the 911 GT3 experience for two-thirds the cost, which in a bizarre way makes it a bargain as well as brilliant.
Engine: 3800cc flat-6, DOHC, 24v
Power: 283kW @ 7400rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 4750-6000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)
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