2021 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 review: Now with PDK

The GT4 is now available with a manual or automatic.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

Some things cannot be quantified. The sound of a flat six-aspirated engine spinning at 8,000 rpm. Loud and clear feedback perceived through a steering wheel. The crisp and rewarding action of a manual transmission that clicks from gear to gear. All these sensations are fundamental to the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Experience. So what happens if you take one away?

Like it

  • Super sharp reflections
  • Loud and sonorous flat-six power
  • Quick change dual clutch gearbox

I do not like

  • Small gear levers
  • Outdated infotainment technology
  • It cannot replace manual experience

For 2021, the Cayman GT4 is available with Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s the same gearbox you’ll find in many of the company’s other sports cars and has a number of benefits. Despite adding 68 pounds to the GT4’s curb weight, the Cayman is faster with PDK. It will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, compared to 4.2 seconds with the manual transmission. PDK also allows the engine to produce more torque – 317 pound-feet, compared to 309 – and even makes the GT4 a bit more efficient, with 1mpg increases across the board. Of course, the result is a still dreary 18mpg city, 24mpg on the highway and 20mpg combined, but hey, any improvement is good.

No surprise, PDK works beautifully with the GT4’s 4.0-liter flat six. Left to fend for themselves, gear changes are as smooth as they are fast and are also perfectly synchronized. The transmission knows when you are driving hard and keeps the gears close to the red line to accommodate. Press the PDK Sport button on the center console and the DCT is even more alert, keeping the engine at high revs to take advantage of all its 414 horsepower. Do you want to choose your adventure? Metal paddles attached to the steering wheel allow you to call up your shift logic, and inputs are rewarded with instant responses. I wish the blades were larger and mounted on the column – the correct way – but when it comes to dual-clutch transmissions, it’s really hard to beat PDK.

But while the DCT’s improvements are undeniably clear, what the GT4 gains in objective performance it loses in subjective enjoyment. Much of the reason I love the Cayman GT4 is its raw and engaging character; in terms of driver feedback, modern cars aren’t much better than that. The standard six-speed manual transmission increases that engagement, dragging you into the experience with a hefty clutch pedal, powerful shift lever, and a short-stroke box so tactile you’ll find yourself clicking gears at traffic lights simply because the good one .

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the GT4’s manual transmission, saying the shifting is too long to make it really enjoyable. But I don’t understand hate. Just because you don’t to have changing often doesn’t mean you I can not. It is not necessary to constantly run between 6,000 and 8,000 rpm in the GT4 to have an impeccable time; the 4.0-liter engine has ample mid-range thrust. After all, you are not making lap records on public roads. If you want to change, just a damn shift.

I wish the PDK car had larger shift levers.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

However, whichever drivetrain you choose, the GT4 is a brilliant car. The Porsche 718’s chassis pretty much can’t go wrong, and in this more aggressive spec, it’s a joy to squeeze up and down my favorite canyon roads again and again. A steady stream of feedback flows through the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and I can feel the reverberation of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires through the frame and into the fixed bucket seats. These carbon fiber-reinforced chairs aren’t exactly built for long-range comfort, but then again, neither is the GT4.

Yet, at the same time, the Cayman is incredibly liveable. The chassis isn’t so stiff as to punish you for driving on rough pavement, which is remarkable considering how tight this car is on a mountain road. The noise of the wind and tires definitely gets noticed, but it’s nothing you can’t drown out with a few twists of the stereo volume knob. Or, you know, you just open the sports exhaust and sink the throttle. There is nothing like the lament of a six flat.

These full bucket seats are pleasantly supportive.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The Cayman’s interior is definitely showing its age, although the simple arrangement of the fixed buttons on the center console makes them easily spotted while driving, and there’s a satisfying click to their action. The fabric door handles have not yet lost their novelty and, don’t forget, the Cayman is quite functional too. The mid-engine layout means there’s a deep trunk and a small but usable luggage compartment under the tailgate.

If there’s one place where the 718 really looks outdated, it’s in the tech department. The GT4’s 7-inch color touchscreen performs the older iteration of Porsche’s PCM software with a relatively simple menu structure. you can take Apple CarPlay but Android Auto still not available. Want the latest and greatest driver assistance features? You got the wrong car, man.

Look closely and you will notice that this Gentian Blue GT4 has a roll cage behind the seats, but don’t get too excited. This is part of a Clubsport package that’s not available in the US that includes a six-point seat belt for the driver and a light fire extinguisher because, you know, racing can be dangerous. The only reason this specific car has the Clubsport option is because it’s a German-spec GT4 that Porsche imported to the US for testing. The European license plate on the front bumper isn’t just for show, that’s what I’m saying.

I love the look of gentian blue.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The 2021 Cayman GT4 starts at $ 102,550, including $ 1,350 for the destination, and the new PDK option adds $ 3,210 to the bottom line. Grab a few key options like full bucket seats ($ 5,900), carbon ceramic brakes ($ 8,000), LED headlights ($ 2,140), and a non-boring paint color (you can get it in Frozen Berry pink!) And a well-optioned GT4 will run around $ 125,000. Considering this thing can chase supercars that cost twice as much, that hefty sounding price tag looks oddly like a bargain. Strange, I know.

Would I personally prefer the PDK option in the Cayman GT4? No. It takes too much away from the driving experience for my liking, and the improved performance can’t make up for that loss of engagement. The Cayman GT4 is one of the best sports cars in the world, and this is true whether you choose manual or automatic transmission. But for a car so focused on an all-encompassing sensory experience, I can’t imagine buying one without a historically quintessential element of the bond between car and driver.

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