This week, Porsche has released official pictures and specs of its latest and greatest creation: the Porsche Cayman GT4. While most of the world rolls their eyes with a ‘who cares’ or ‘why haven’t you emptied the dishwasher yet’ look (…may just be my personal experience), I feel that this is perhaps the most significant Porsche since the fabled 959 from over 25 years ago. Some of my fellow gearheads will scoff at this hot take – but allow me to elaborate – because this is about much more than the cars.
When you think Porsche – you think 911. Full stop. No one says “Panamera!”, or “Cayenne!”, or God forbid “Boxster!”. It’s that son-of-the-Beatle, buggy-eyed, engine hangin’ out the back like Kim on Paper Mag, marvel of engineering that somehow hasn’t changed much in over half a century. This post-war relic has gone on to become one of the most iconic cars of our generation, and celebrates an un-matchable racing record both on-road, and off-road.
Let’s take a quick minute to shout out the 911… it’s not my favourite, but you absolutely have to respect it.
That said, with all the accolades, championships, and purists living and dying by that flat-six, hhrrrrrnnnngggg! sounding thing – there is a brand that’s been almost held hostage by the success and failure of this one model. Think about it – for most of the 90’s, they really only made the 911. Albeit there were different versions of it – you had the Carrera, Carrera 4, Targa, Speedster, and of course the ‘Mike Lowry’ 911 Turbo… but they were just 911’s. And to be completely honest – before 1996, the 911 was very basic and not very user friendly.
Still – Porsche continued to move units of its 911, even through its ugly phases in the early 2000’s. Then they decided to get brave: enter the Boxster. A small, ‘little-sister’ to the 911 BUT it had a secret… the engine was in the middle. It was a much smaller four-cylender, but it was in the right place. (For those who may be a bit lost here, you’ll notice that the best performing cars in the world are pretty much all mid-engined, which means the motor is in front of the rear wheels, vs. behind them like in a 911. Mid-engined cars perform better mainly because the weight is focused to the centre of the car.)
This was a welcome change, as the Boxster developed, Porsche continued to be brave and release the Cayman – a slightly more powerful mid-engined sports car. For the first time in the 21st century, the 911 had a family member that was cheaper in price, and had the potential of being a worthy competitor. Porsche didn’t stop there – the brilliant minds at VW said ‘make an SUV!’… and they did, and it’s only gotten better over time. They also said ‘make a fast 4-door sedan!’… and they did – and even though it started out a bit ugly, I have really grown to love the Panamera. Still though, the guiding light of this brand remained the 911. It was still the one model that defined Porsche in most peoples minds…
Then the changes started to come.
Under the guise of releasing new 911’s, Cayennes, Panameras, Macans, and the bedroom poster 918 Spyder, the little Boxster and Cayman were also getting respectively juiced up. It was inevitable that the ‘better formula mid-engined’ Cayman would get a lot better… and it did. This current Cayman is constantly in the conversation of ‘best sports car money can buy’ – when you factor performance to dollar value. That headline is usually reserved for the 911.
Meanwhile, the 911 underwent some changes itself. It got a much better looking body (in my opinion), 21st century technology including electronic steering – which got all the purists twisted since the old-style steering was a defining characteristic of the 911. But all in all, the most recent 911 is a gorgeous evolution of a very basic and pure sports car. Simply put – it aged well, and has had some great work done… but its not the pure sports car it once was.
Back now to the Cayman GT4. Why is it so significant? Why am I writing this long-winded thing for which I applaud you for making it down so far? It’s the first Porsche model with high-performance numbers, and uncanny capability – that’s not a 911. Keeping in mind I’m disregarding the million-dollar 918 because the Cayman GT4 is kind of attainable. I don’t need a million dollars to drive one of the best cars Porsche makes… and that car isn’t a 911! We are experiencing the changing of the guard here, where the incumbent has been at it since the 1960’s. The best part about all of this is – Porsche hasn’t pissed anyone off. They may have changed what a 911 is, but they haven’t changed what a Porsche is.
This calculated transformation has been happening for almost a decade now it seems – and I’ve only noticed it now. The once one-trick-pony now has offerings for families, young professionals, mid-life-crisisees, urban elites, and the 11-year-old dreamers in us all.
I personally find it refreshing that a generation of gearheads can have a picture of a Cayman GT4 as their device background, dreaming about one day ripping it on the road or track, and no one judging them about it. Congratulations Porsche, you have successfully un-shackled yourself of the 911 as your be-all and end-all. You’ve done it in the most gradual, and respectful way possible – by not dissing the meal-ticket that got you so far, or your loyal fans. Bravo.
I’ll leave you with this little teaser video of the new Cayman GT4. Happy Friday, and start saving.
“Gas pedal down, middle finger up” – AB