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By William Kelly
Caution. Adult language and crude smutty innuendo warning. This is not my usual style. However, this is not my usual car either.
In 2020 mid-pandemic how does one objectify an object without becoming objectionable?
In these times of political correctness and being sensitive towards every thing under the sun (and especially to any poor, sunlight deprived things discriminated against by their lack of exposure to a sun-like object). I think that we do lose some impact in our constraint of the use of flowery and evocative language.
On offer is a Porsche! Doesn’t it deserve an attempt at some meaningful level of prose? We shall see…
Let me confess upfront that actually I really wanted to hate it. Yes. I, the very picture of open mindedness, a free flowing fount of impartiality, with hand on heart, had already pre-judged it and found it wanting.
I was ready to do the “oooo aaaa well it’s not a 911, and it costs a lot more than a Boxster” jabber of the bog standard everyday variety of the impossible to please motoring journo.
Who, I might add, has never spent a day in his life answering to shareholders and management teams, curious design criteria, impossible to meet deadlines and complicated production processes that short of NASA must be among the most sophisticated on the planet.
However. The fact of the matter remains and it is that the Cayman is a middler. It cannot be allowed to outshine its bigger 911 brother but at the same time it still needs to be better than the Boxster sibling. It is an inbetweener. It is the definitive inbetweener in fact. Lost between the cracks. The one you buy because you can’t afford the 911, want a Porsche badge and refuse to be seen dead in a Boxster.
Which brings me neatly to the point. There are a lot of ‘howevers’ when it comes to this car, far more than should be considered acceptable. And in my writing my intention is to focus on the positive and to allow the reader to derive a sense of occasion one gets from the various motors that pass through my hands.
The Cayman is what proves that it is not all about specs. It is about the inbetweener come good.
To put this in a useful analogy and at the risk of running foul of those among us who cry and bleat and moan about appreciation of a good looking human being I am going to try my best to sum it up in terms we can relate to but are not allowed to talk about.
Think of an attractive human after a big night out the morning after. Disheveled, mussed up hair, probably not smelling all that wonderful. Cigarette hanging out of the mouth, bags under the eyes, generally just rough. Husky voice, in desperate need of strong coffee, bloodshot eyes and pounding headache to round off the picture.
Its still an attractive human. Just not quite at its best. This is the first Cayman iteration from 1996. Take said human past lunchtime – it’s staggered out of bed, popped a coupla aspirin, brushed its hair and climbed into jeans and a T shirt. Attractiveness factor is high.
This is the current Cayman looks.
Now. Add to said human all the bells and whistles. Good clothes, makeup, style, sophistication, class, good cologne, smart shoes – the works. We have now an attractive human looking their best – and the results are spectacular in the transformation from early this morning. We all know the type – curse them to hell.
This is the Cayman GT4.
There is no way of putting this delicately.
It is an unbelievably sexy car. It is unbelievable simply because it is a Cayman, and because this is Porsche – what the hell have the Germans done? They have gone off their rocker with outrageous ambition. One gets the sense that they climbed into the wardrobe and tried on everything. More is better.
And unbelievably they have pulled it off, despite themselves. Porsche have built an outrageously good looking car that that arouses beyond what a car should. It should be illegal.
Everything, and I do mean everything on the outside works. Right from the boy racer splitters front and rear to the ducting behind the doors pulling into the lines of the car the result is that most unexpected of things – a staggeringly handsome and beautifully bang-able Porsche Cayman.
This is a good thing. Anyone from Elton John through to the Cookie Monster would look good inside this car, if for no other reason than no-one would be looking at the actual squishy meat muppet contents.
Put another way to ram the point home. The conflicts and the ‘howevers’ that this car poses continue the longer you stare at it, with a little drool running out the side of your mouth.
Consider the rear spoiler fitted. Your inner child will be screaming at you that this is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. At the same time your grown adult brain will be agreeing whole heartedly. You’ll probably be having minor heart rate increases. You probably will have a somewhat conflicted expression on your face because whilst your lips are protesting with the words “Well, yes, look, it’s a little OTT…” to your spouse/friends/other humans, your utter lack of belief in your own words will betray you.
Read also: Porsche 911: evolutionary excellence
No-one will believe you. Because that spoiler IS cool beyond words. It makes the whole back end of the car and it give you something to hang onto – no wait… let’s not go there.
And then there is another ‘however’. No-one will hate you in this car and write you off as another prick on the inside of his cactus. For non 356 Porsche owners this is a big step forward. The GT4 is so street cool that it is absolutely not the car for ugly macho ego stroking and aggro on the roads. You are missing the point completely if you do.
No-one will take you seriously with a boy racer ‘look at me’ attitude. People will want to pet and stroke and ogle your car and admire it without resentment at your personal good fortune for owning it simply because it is a thing of enduring beauty. And when all is said and done, everyone, and especially you, knows it is going home with you.
Inside there is more Good News. Once you have the door open and you wiggle your derriere into the firm comfy seats from here on out it is all Grand Tourer stuff. The interior is a pleasant place to be with the sense of style continuing from the outside. However (there it is again!) the interior is calming. You can feel your heartbeat slow down but a sense of anticipation will grow. Believe me.
Porsche have not gone for the flash and dash approach. There are knobs and dials and switches but there are not millions of them. There is a six speed manual gearbox – yes!!!! And a steering wheel that doesn’t look like an F1 quick release space shuttle controller.
It is all very… Teutonic. With a tongue in cheek poke at weight saving – door strap handles! It made me chortle – they feel as if they are connected to the Hulk’s own front door lock. I loved them and the only thing that makes it even better is that I understand they are not an extra cost option. At least I think that is the case. You know what? If they are I think I’d have them anyway and chalk it up to an old MGA connection.
You get some sort of a screen and some other stuff for the usual 2020 car accoutrements. All the general important stuff is there – lots of toys and goodies and Stuff To Do if you ever get bored. You can read all about in the brochure if you get that bored with your life.
Of interest though there are TWO buttons for how you want to kill yourself. The first one is ESC (electronic stability control) off for a slow yet probably interesting death. The other is for killing yourself quickly with both ESC and TC off. Still likely to be an interesting way to shuffle off this mortal coil. I have yet to work out why this is even a feature but to be honest turning them off doesn’t appeal all that much. The GT4 does have a bloody great big lump of a thing – 4 litres of capacity in petrol pulverisation and this all the way up to a screaming 8000 rpm.
With all of this enthusiasm it is inevitable that you get quite a lot of that turned into horse powers and there seem to be far more of these horse power things around than turning off either of those two buttons would advise.
As mentioned a six speed manual box mates to the monster that does the job of propulsion. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, this is a gear box that lets you decide how and where and why. You get to make all the mistakes on your own but you get to perfect the drive the exact way you want it. The clutch is surprisingly light and I loved the feel of the gearbox. It’s solid, quick, the lever in exactly the right place. It’s lovely. Big tick there.
Gearing is long – I don’t mind this – the hint is in the name of GT (in my mind anyway this means Grand Tourer and not Boy Racer Track Day Special) and I don’t mind letting a car red line at nigh on 80 km/hr in first gear, and then to smash 130 with room to go in second.
From there whoever is still left in the race (oops, I mean ummm…) can sod off because by now if I haven’t won the rationalisation is easy and follows along the lines of “I’m bored” and “I wasn’t really trying anyway, and besides, did you see how darn beautiful my car is in relation to, well, it doesn’t really matter what you’re driving anyway because in comparison I am beautiful and you know it and that is all that matters.” Deep breaths.
The ride on the car is immense. I was expecting a bone jarring arse bashing rib poking head banging neck snapping horribleness. Aside from the acceleration powers the ride is absolutely fabulous given what the car is. It reinforces in my mind the Grand Tourer – you jump in in Joburg and 8 hours later you are wherever you want to be for lunch and you’ll be as fresh as when you left. It is a get in, drive, get on with it ‘add it to the memories list of great drives’ car.
The car is superb. So why on God’s good green earth have Porsche fitted the only button that I truly found silly. It’s the ridiculous “push this for more exhaust noise” thing. Seriously? The GT4 is so, completely, the antithesis of the obnoxious noisy BAM (BMW, Audi, Mercedes) brigade that the button is almost offensive. Leave it alone – it is the last damned thing the GT4 needs.
I absolutely hate myself for using it almost non stop. I am better than that.
Actually…as it turns out I’m not.
What a car. What a car! Utterly memorable, cheap(ish) relatively, sublime good looks that had me hooked, utterly, from the second I laid eyes on it. Backed with superb good old petrol inspired motoring and not let down with any compromise on its levels of competency. I suspect that whilst it may add a powerful addition to Porsche’s arsenal against the competition it might also put Porsche at war with itself – the GT4 is that good that it must surely now be punching its bigger siblings with enough power to be inflicting some pain.
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