Thoughts on the Porsche GT4

As a creative outlet for writing aside from fitness stuff, and as people seem to like it when I talk about cars, I thought I’d share any thoughts on the GT4.

I picked it up at Christmas in nearly the perfect spec — carbon-ceramic brakes, black on black with yellow stitching, the carbon bucket seats from the 918, but doesn’t have the roll cage, which I’m waiting to arrive from the US.

I had been tracking the prices of these on the market for the last 2 years since the debut, and this particular one I had noticed around for ~7 months. Not coincidentally, this matches up with the time I made a change from a 911 to a Lotus Exige v6, which just couldn’t handle my circuit driving — blown engine and transmission issues — but that’s another story for another day.

I’ve only had the GT4 for a month, but I’ve been to Fuji Speedway twice, taken it on the famous mountain roads around Fuji several times, and think I can give it a fair review.

What are the Porsche GT cars?

For those not familiar, Porsche produces some special, ‘track-focussed’ road cars which are denoted by the letters ‘GT’. This is their GT car pecking order and prices (when optioned how you would want, at the prices the market currently demands):

  1. 911GT2RS (~$500k?)
  2. 911GT3RS ($230–330k)
  3. 911 GT3  (~$180–250k)
  4. Cayman GT4 (~$100k)

I’ve put the range there for the 911s because there are two versions, the 991.1 and 991.2 cars, and the prices differ considerably due to newness and rarity.

I’ve driven a GT3RS (991.1) twice and can compare my GT4 with that.

The GT4 is more fun than the three Ferrari’s that I have driven (430, 458 and F12, more on these in a moment) and the Aston Martin Vanquish (which is Aston’s most powerful car, but too light in the rear and near-impossible to put the power down). It has a similar fun factor (directness of steering and feeling glued to the road) as the McLaren 570s and MP4-12c, but these cars are way up on power, price, aren’t naturally aspirated, so it’s not quite fair to compare.

An Aside: How in the hell have you gotten to drive all of these cars?!?

Fair question.

Sometimes, I rent (#yolo). Mainly though, it’s because I live in a residential area in central Tokyo, with a community feel and a high density of sweet cars. It’s an honest society  where people look after each other’s stuff and car insurance typically covers the car to be driven by anyone (unlike in the UK where each individual has to be insured). This means you can casually say to friends, “Have a go!” while tossing them the keys without breaking any laws.

Now, the majority of car guys I know love sharing the joy of their cars with people they know will appreciate them. Seeing the joy of someone driving your car is a good way to relive the fresh feeling you had when buying the car and is a pleasure in itself. Resultantly, being offered the keys to cars I would never otherwise have the opportunity to drive is not uncommon in Tokyo, and it’s something I have done with my own car often too.

I have no idea how this compares with the culture in the US or UK. I used to live in Birmingham and barely saw anything. This is part of the reason I share my car luck on my Instagram.

What I like about the GT4

The GT4 has the same sublime steering feel of the GT3RS — as good as I know for a modern, electric car, and I personally think it’s better than the famous steering feel of the Lotus, which just became tiring after a while. — I had the Lotus Exige v6 for six months. You feel every bump in the road, which was great at first but the steering could be jerked out of your hands at any moment by a badly placed pot hole or large stone on the road so you always have to hold on for dear life when driving ‘spiritedly’.

The most surprising thing about the GT4 is how much more fun it is than my old 911 (991.1 Carrera 2s), which had the same engine. I guess this has a lot to do with it being stuffed in a smaller chassis (the Cayman), which is mid-engined (which gives it good balance), the 911 GT3’s front suspension, and the general Porsche GT department magic wand.

Why I prefer it to the Ferrari’s I’ve driven

My main complaint with the Ferraris are three-fold:

  • The comparative dead feel in the steering,
  • The width, which makes it hard to be confident in the corners on the tight, winding roads you want to be on,
  • The obnoxious opening of the exhaust flaps at ~3k, which can’t really be controlled and makes the car go from quite to SUPER loud in an instant, which just makes you look like a tool trying to attract attention when in the city, even if you’re just trying to drive casually.

The latter point is my biggest bug bear. Obviously, this can be fixed with aftermarket systems (to make it loud at all times), but as a friend told me, Ferrari will void your warranty, and I really don’t feel you should have to when spending that kind of money.

Further, the Ferrari’s can be snappy machines: the 458’s throttle is so exceptionally sensitive that it gets tiring hovering your foot over it in traffic; the F12 is easier in this regard, but you have 730 horsepower, all to the back wheels, and you never really feel confident enough to bury your foot anywhere, at any time, without fearing the tyres spinning up or kicking you sideways unless perfectly straight. (This happened to me when I floored coming onto a highway ramp.) — Having to hold back the throttle all the time isn’t fun.

I’m speaking from a real-life driving perspective here, not a posing one. I feel like an obnoxious poser when in a Ferrari, but if you want attention, which I know is some people’s thing, the Ferrari and Lamborghinis are obviously the way to go.

The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta I rented when Alberto came to visit from Spain.

Modifications to the GT4

The engine in the GT4 comes from Porsche purposefully detuned (385 vs 420bhp), mainly so that it didn’t rival the 991.1 GT3, which sold for a much higher price point. (The second generation 991.2 GT3 is now a considerable step beyond though, at 500 bhp.)

To get the GT4 back up to where it arguably should be from the factory, I had intakes upgraded (IPD Plenum and throttle body) a sport header swapped in (the down pipes from the engine, the first stage of the exhaust), and the ECU retuned. I’ve only driven it briefly but:

  • There’s a notable improvement in throttle response throughout the range, which now feels like the GT3RS,
  • There are sound improvements (it’s louder) incrementally throughout the rev range (sounds stock down low; louder up top), but it is never obnoxiously loud like a full exhaust system. (These sound cool when at the track, but are just obnoxious on the street.)
  • There’s a 45 bhp increase and the power is noticeable. I accidentally did a wheel spin when pulling off the first time.

It now drives more like the GT3RS. It doesn’t have the same powerful surge that pins you into your seat, nor screaming red-line, but it’s still absolutely fantastic.

Now of course, the Porsche 911 GT3 is better (objectively and subjectively) but not by 2.5x, which is the price differential. Thus, the GT4 is pretty much perfect, exactly as the reviews all say, and I couldn’t be happier.

So this begs the question, if I could have anything right now, what would I have?

Probably a 911 GT3 R, which is a track only race car Porsche produce, based on the GT3RS, that doesn’t have any traction control. I’d have to leave it at a garage by Fuji Speedway and have it trailered to the track, but it’d be worth it.

If we’re talking about a car legal for the street, and money were no object, currently my lust list is as follows:

  • McLaren P1
  • McLaren Senna
  • GT2RS
  • McLaren 720s
  • GT3RS

One can only dream… 🙂

– Andy

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