Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review

Published:02 January 2017

Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
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  • 5 out of 5

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

► Cayman GT4’s track-only twin
► Tested at the Lausitzring circuit
► And we thought the road car handled well…

The road-going Porsche Cayman GT4 is the leanest, most focused factory-built Cayman there’s ever been. Apart from this one.

This, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport, is the track-only racing version, on sale to race teams and private buyers alike, and eligible for various GT racing series around the world. If the road car’s anything to go by, this just might be about as fun as driving gets.

What makes the GT4 Clubsport different from the Cayman GT4 road car? Apart from a rollcage, obviously

Less than you might think. The engine is the same yowling 991-sourced 3.8-litre naturally aspirated flat-six as the road car, with a slightly raised oil level the only alteration. Power and torque outputs are unchanged, at 380bhp and 310lb ft respectively.

While the GT4 road car is famously only available with a H-pattern manual gearbox only, the Clubsport is fitted with the PDK from elsewhere in the Cayman range. It’s essentially the same gearbox as the 7-speed road unit, albeit with seventh gear deleted to turn it into a six-speeder. Racing drivers don’t care about tactility and involvement when a missed gear can mean missing a race win, hence the PDK’s inclusion here.

The GT4 road car borrows its front axle from the 911 GT3, so the Clubsport logically adopts the 911 GT3 Cup racing car’s front suspension, and the stability control system’s been recalibrated to work with slick tyres rather than treaded boots. Likewise, there’s a new 12-stage ABS system to help drivers drop anchor as late as physically possible.

Other than a broader Gurney-style lip on the rear spoiler, the bodywork’s more or less unchanged other than the addition of some jaunty go-faster graphics in this case. And, sat on its optional air jacks here at Brandenburg’s Lausitzring circuit’s pitlane, very alluring it looks too.

Lausitzring is German for Rockingham: a grand US-style superspeedway with a technical infield section. We’re here to test two versions, the standard track car in its base form, and a car equipped with the more extensively developed Manthey Racing (MR) pack.

So what’s it like?

Thread yourself through the rollcage and you find yourself sat in the Cayman’s body-in-white, with a few disembodied pieces of switchgear looking oddly out of place in the otherwise naked interior. Electric window and mirror switches remain in the lovely carbon doorcards, and the air-con system is still available, helping to cure driver fatigue in long-distance races.

All the adjustment of the steering column remains, as does the Cayman’s regular instrument panel, forlornly displaying a warning from the tyre pressure monitoring system nonplussed by the slick tyres.

How different does it feel from the Cayman GT4 road car to drive?

We’ve been eulogising about the Cayman GT4 road car since our first drive, and after a run of sighting laps to learn the way around the circuit behind works driver Michael Christensen, it feels (and sounds) every bit as good as I remember.

Climb into the racing car, however, and the road-going GT4 feels almost clumsy by comparison. We drive the MR car first, which has enjoyed effectively an extra year of development at the hands of German motorsport team Manthey Racing, and features a host of upgrades including: two-way adjustable suspension and a driveshaft spacer to allow more flexibility in rear geometry, carbon doors and bonnet, polycarbonate windows, racing fuel cell tank and adjustable brake balance. If you want to take your GT4 into actual GT4 racing, this is the version you’ll need.

Like the road car, it doesn’t feel hugely fast in a straight line (especially alone on the Lausitzring's ultra-wide circuit), but corners are what it’s all about. The MR car here has its suspension in the same setup as 2016’s Nurburgring 24 hours class-winner, and it’s extraordinarily pliant over the Lausitzring’s bumpy surfaces. Compared with the road car, you can leave your braking impossibly late, waiting until you’re practically in the corner before you punch the pedal. And with the adjustable ABS system in an aggressive setting, you can punch the pedal as hard as you like.

Front-end grip is unshakeable once the slicks have a little heat in them, and the rear gives you plenty of warning when it slips into oversteer. You can still rely on the safety net of stability control too, recalibrated for the higher forces and different grip characteristics of slick tyres. The road car is set-up to slip into understeer earlier, and its brakes protest more at the Lausitzring’s bigger stops.

Swapping into the base-spec Clubsport track car is initially a bit of a shock; its stiffer suspension makes it feel like a bucking bronco over the Lausitzring’s bumpy surface, and it’s harder to hang on to than the more planted MR-spec car. It may be slower over a lap, but it’s still fantastic fun.

The dual-clutch gearbox is effective, and makes it impossible to accidentally over-rev on downshifts. It’s not fast as a built-for-purpose racing gearbox would be, but it is more cost effective, and user-friendly.

It doesn’t sounds quite as sonorous from the cockpit as the road car, that flat-six howl buried under a buffer of white noise, but it sounds savage from the outside, automated throttle blips reverberating around the Lausitzring’s empty grandstands.

The GT4 road car is thoroughly impressive on track, far more able than most road cars. But it can’t compete with the race car for braking stability, lateral grip and direction change. (The advantage afforded by slick tyres in all of the above notwithstanding, of course).

Where can I race the GT4 Clubsport?

Apart from trackdays, sprints and certain club races, in the UK you could venture as high as the GT4 class within the British GT championship.

The Clubsport also races in its own class within the Nordschleife-based VLN series. It won its class in the Nurburgring 24 hours earlier this year; about as ringing a racing endorsement as they come.

How much?

In the UK, £95,300 plus VAT for a race-spec car with fire extinguisher system, 100 litre fuel cell, air jacks and air conditioning, sold through Porsche’s Reading centre. A 'track day' spec car with standard road fuel tank and a few other shortcuts is £81,000 plus VAT.

Incidentally, if you have the means to venture a little further up the Porsche motorsport ladder, a 911 GT3 Cup car starts at £124k plus VAT and a 911 GT3 R £365k. To buy a full FIA WEC-spec 911 RSR, you’ll need a factory-supported team and bottomless Nomex pockets.

Verdict

Friendly and flattering for novices, and thoroughly competitive in the hands of experienced drivers, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport is as talented and absorbing as the road car it’s based on. To race one must surely be sheer joy. 

Read more Porsche reviews

Specs

Price when new: £81,000
On sale in the UK: Now, via Porsche's Reading centre
Engine: 3800cc 24v flat-six, 380bhp @ 7400rpm, 310lb ft @ 4750-6000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch, limited-slip differential, rear-wheel drive
Performance: Sub-4.4sec 0-62mph, c. 180mph, n/a mpg, n/a CO2
Weight / material: 1300kg / steel, composites
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4438mm / 1817mm / 1266mm

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  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review
  • Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport (2017) review

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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