One of the Most Spectacular Thrill Rides in the Automotive Theme Park
When it comes to fun-to-drive Porsches, the 718 Cayman is always near the top of our list. But the GT4 version is a far more serious machine built more for the track than cruising car shows. But, spoiler alert, Porsche has just changed one of our favorite things about the car. An automatic in a GT4? Say it isn’t so!
One of the features that has made the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 so special is its manual transmission. Not just because you can still get one, which in itself is fairly special these days, but the transmission and more specifically, the shifter that controls it, is a true delight.
Possibly even 1 of the 7 wonders of the automotive world. Now, that may be overselling it just a little, but the fact is, putting a PDK automatic transmission into the 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 has the potential to truly upset the shifter cart.
But, before we get into all of that, a refresher on what makes up the Cayman GT4.
The Cayman is of course the hardtop version of what began life as the Porsche Boxster, and now belongs to the 718 family of mid-engine Porsches.
GT refers to the transformation that takes place as it makes a detour through Porsche’s GT race shop on its way to you; and is the gateway drug to more addictive track-prepped Porsches 911 GT2 and GT3. The conversion includes essentially an all-new highly adjustable chassis with 30mm lower ride height, 20-inch tire and wheel package, and PASM; as well as aero enhancements made up of a large fixed rear wing, side blades on the air intakes, integrated Gurney flap, unique front fascia, front splitter, rear diffuser, and complete underbody covering.
Inside, a sport steering wheel, Alcantara materials, and fabric pull-loops for opening the door.
The GT4 also ditches the Cayman’s 4-cylinder for a 4.0-liter flat-6. The naturally-aspirated pancake delivers 414-horsepower and 317 lb-ft. of torque; that’s 8 additional lb-ft. over the manual.
But, the PDK is much more than just a transmission swap, the differential is upgraded, gauge displays are customized, a PDK Sport button replaces the manual’s auto-blip feature, steering wheel paddle shifters are added, and perhaps the best part of all...launch control!
So yes, if you’re more into numbers than interactive driving pleasure, you’ll be happy to know that, as in all Porsche’s, the PDK is what you want for best acceleration times. A trip to Mason Dixon Dragway was in order for verification.
Unless you’ve spent a lot of time launching 911 Turbos or Porsche Taycans, the amount of torque you experience in the GT4 at launch, and the brutality in which it’s delivered, will truly astonish you.
Even without all-wheel-drive, no wheel spin here, just a mad dash to 60 in 3.6-seconds; which is indeed 4/10ths quicker than we achieved in the manual GT4.
The more this engine revs, the more the power builds, and hearing this engine sing its 8,000 rpm tune is downright magical. Nothing much for the driver to do, just hold on, and appreciate the PDK doing the hard work; with firm, quick shifts, on your way to a 12.0-second ¼-mile at 117 miles-per-hour.
Now, this GT4 does not have the Herbie the Love Bug-like ability to actually communicate with you, but it sure feels like it. Unfortunately the thing it seemed to be telling us the most was, “you brought me all the way out here for this?”
Which we interpret to mean, it was looking for much more of a challenge than what our simple cone course could provide. Basically, the harder you push it, the better it responds; great grip, spectacular steering, no oversteer, no understeer, no body roll, and really no way to even get a sense of what this car is truly capable of.
Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes are available on the GT4, but these standard units work just fine in panic situations, stopping us from 60 in just 93-feet.
Away from the track, the PDK of course only adds to the livability of the GT4; especially if you spend more time in traffic jams than you do at track days.
One final PDK bonus, improved Government Fuel Economy Ratings; 18-City, 24-Highway, and 20-Combined are all up by one over the manual. We averaged a good 21.7 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
That makes the Energy Impact Score only slightly worse than average; 16.5-barrels of yearly oil consumption, with 7.2-tons of CO2 emissions.
But, not all of the numbers are in your favor, as opting for the PDK adds $3,210 onto the GT4’s bottom line for a total of $104,760.
The PDK transmission may not do anything to enhance your driving pleasure; but it makes the GT4 quicker, more efficient, and more accessible to those who are not willing to manage the 3-pedal shuffle. All told, the 2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 remains a pure joy to drive, regardless of transmission, and truly one of the most spectacular thrill rides in the automotive theme park.
Engine: 4.0L flat-6
Torque: 317 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.0 seconds @ 117
EPA: 18 City / 24 Highway / 20Combined