RE: Porsche Cayman GT4 vs. Lotus Exige V6 Cup

RE: Porsche Cayman GT4 vs. Lotus Exige V6 Cup

Tuesday 8th September 2015

Porsche Cayman GT4 vs. Lotus Exige V6 Cup

The best Porsche you can't buy against the Lotus you might just want to consider as an alternative - but is it really worthy?



Last time we tried to contrive an England versus Germany showdown we kind of cocked up the number crunching. And ended up with a Jag costing half as much as the 911 we attempted to compare it against.

The one we've been waiting for!
The one we've been waiting for!
This time it works though. The Cayman GT4 trades on the track focused input of the division that builds GT3s alongside their Cup and RSR race equivalents. And the Exige Cup is - technically - a Lotus Motorsport product, a roll cage away from eligibility to race in Lotus Cup championships held around the world.

Starting price for the Exige Cup is £62,994 while the Cayman, if you could buy it (which you can't), ostensibly starts at £64,451. Both numbers can be easily inflated via the options list though, our PHer supplied Exige costing over £70K while our GT4 press car with all the toys tops £80,000.

The Cayman has 385hp and 310lb ft from a 3.8-litre normally aspirated flat-six while, as tested, the Lotus's 3.5-litre supercharged V6 does 350hp and 295lb ft in a car weighing nearly a quarter of a tonne less. Lotus has also just confirmed an updated Cup with 360hp plus the same starting price and it would seem there is more where that came from on the way. For now both are manual-only, track-tyre shod circuit shredders with spanner-based adjustment for the fettlers but a no-nonsense purist streak straight out of the box. This test isn't about lap times and number crunching though, rather an investigation of which can work better on your traditional British back road, in this case the brutally bumpy ones criss-crossing Saddleworth Moor.



Porsche Cayman GT4
The 991 GT3 is not like the cars Porsche's GT department used to make. An incredibly impressive piece of kit and, if you're man enough to go there, a very, very grown-up driving proposition too. But gizmos like PDK and four-wheel steering open the door to the posers and wannabes natural selection would previously have weeded out in as long as it took them to stall single-mass flywheel against hair-trigger clutch.

Fluid, precise and pretty fabulous here actually
Fluid, precise and pretty fabulous here actually
The Cayman GT4 IS the kind of car Porsche's GT department used to make. Indeed, you wonder if this was the deal Preuninger and his team made at the crossroads, Robert Johnson style. We'll build you a GT3 for the mainstream. But we get to really express our talents in a car built for the die-hards disillusioned with the new direction for the 911.

And that's exactly who bought it. Apparently swallowing up the entire allocation, leaving none for the rest of us. Here, in a Bullseye style 'look at what you could have won' is what you're missing out on. In short, the answer to all the criticisms we've thrown at the 991 and latest Caymans and Boxsters. Well, nearly all.

Starting at the front the GT3 front suspension, smaller (and completely unadorned) wheel and other changes mean there's none of the mush in the steering seen in 'civilian' Porsches. Yes, it's electrically assisted. And, no, there isn't the feel of the older cars. But it's brilliantly weighted, predictable and absolutely resolute in its reaction to your inputs. Point front end. It goes. The murmurs of feedback as the front wheels track cambers or load and unload aren't as clear as they once were but for an electric system it's as good as it gets.

Lovely - but not really that pared back
Lovely - but not really that pared back
The natural balance of the Cayman, flat stance and the brilliant damping mean turn-in a 911 driver could only dream of. Porsche admits the standard setting of the dampers is the one used for the 'ring times and road driving, the firmer PASM mode only really for super smooth tracks. This and the fact GT Porsches permit a 15 per cent overspeed on the rear wheels even with everything fully on means the only mode button you really need press is the loud exhaust setting. Turn the nannies off if you will but there is movement aplenty even with them in place. With experience of this and the Cup tyres in the GT3 it'll be interesting to drive this car in the wet...

Saying that the beauty of the GT4 is its ability to overlap the various corner phases and give you confidence to play with its balance even at vaguely civilised speeds. Regular Porsches just don't do this any more but in the GT4 you can relish the sense of picking up the throttle before you've even started winding the lock off, rear axle working in partnership with the front to push the car into the turn. Meaning by the time you come to exit you're already in the engine's howling sweet spot as the lock releases, the relaxed stability control permitting just the subtlest sense of rotation under power. That you feel this even with Cup rubber on a dry road is a measure of how detailed the feedback is.

Porsche at its finest? No doubt
Porsche at its finest? No doubt
Then of course there's the manual gearbox. The stubby, Alcantara covered shifter has a lovely, mechanical positivity and the crispness of the throttle response demands pinpoint accuracy if you're to time your revs and blips to perfection. Sport mode does it for you but, really, that's just cheating. The ratios? Preuninger will insist the long second is there to give you a single overtaking gear but, without wishing to incriminate ourselves, it proves not quite long enough and a lower third gear would give you more headroom. At vaguely realistic 'fast road' pace you'll rarely be out of second and third, necessitating constant cross-plane shifts when to and fro between third and fourth would be faster and more intuitive. It doesn't ruin the driving experience, but it is a very real flaw. Preuninger can scowl all he likes; on these roads a shorter final drive would really let the GT4 off its leash.



Lotus Exige Cup
The Cayman might have a half cage in the back and natty little fabric door releases. But its track pretensions are just that, given the lashings of Alcantara, contrast stitching and toys found in the cabin. The Lotus is the real thing though, kill switch and extinguisher button occupying the space where you'd usually find a radio and only the bare minimum of the aluminium tub covered in any trim whatsoever.

No slipping under the radar, even in this grey
No slipping under the radar, even in this grey
This is a more honest expression of Lotus values than you get in the Evora 400, proper minimalism but carried off with style too. The removable steering wheel is beautiful; alongside the gearstick and the pedals you don't really need to focus on anything else.

On the road the V6 Exige is a more muscular and physical piece of kit than the old four-cylinder one. More potent, for sure, but not quite as feral or crazed. But it's still 230kg less than the Porsche. This shows as you swap from one to the other, the supercharged Toyota engine having a more elastic power delivery than the crisp, normally aspirated Porsche in the sense that you stretch it and then - twang! - you're properly catapulted forward as if fired off the front of an aircraft carrier. For all that talk the gearing doesn't feel noticeably shorter than the Porsche but the rev range is tighter and the delivery punchier, meaning you spend more time flicking between third and fourth with second only really necessary in properly tight corners. Which is just as well, because the shift - though better than many Lotuses - still isn't quite as positive as the Cayman's.

Cup by name, Cup by nature!
Cup by name, Cup by nature!
On these violently bumpy Pennine roads the steering requires a firm hand. It doesn't kick back like a 4C but the cambers and bumps are such that you need to be assertive to even maintain a straight and level course. Corners will have the sinews in your forearms straining, the front axle dictating pace more than it does in the Porsche. If you're greedy with the entry speed it feels ready to push on, more gas only exacerbating it where the diff-equipped Cayman has that lovely sense of throttle adjustability. Your only option is to lift momentarily to tuck it back in; a split second off the power compared with the Porsche but enough compartmentalise steering and throttle into separate tasks rather than merging one into the other. The pick-up and lack of weight mean you'll make up the ground in an instant but it's more about point and squirt and less about flow than you might expect of a Lotus.

Exige less composed than the GT4 here
Exige less composed than the GT4 here
The roads are sufficiently bumpy that, were this not a privately-owned car, you'd be considering dialling in a bit more damping via the clickers on the Nitrons' remote reservoirs. Optional Ohlins are available but as-is the Lotus actually struggles with the violent compressions more than the Porsche, which is a bit of an upset for the home team. Indeed, at times it actually feels a little unruly, diagonal bumps pitching the car into a frankly alarming corkscrewing motion. The Cup's hardpoints have more adjustment available than the standard V6 though, meaning geometry and damping can all be fiddled with according to need. On the day though it's simply not as flat and composed as the Porsche; it'll still carry comparable pace but your palms are sweatier doing so.

As you'd expect, it's a much more sensory experience driving this car fast. The creaks through the structure, the whiff of fuel, the sneezes and shrieks of the supercharger - even the squelching of the dampers through big bumps - you get it all. Next time we get these two back to back it needs to involve a track and a stopwatch...



Verdict
First shock is the car that performs best on these very British roads isn't the Lotus, at least as-is. Not everyone wants to fiddle with clicker adjusters and spanners and, without any tweaking, the Porsche just gobbled up the very worst these vicious roads could throw at it. The engine is glorious and the decision to keep it manual only is inspired self-selection for those who'll really appreciate its subtleties.

This isn't over just yet...
This isn't over just yet...
But. Even if you wanted one your Porsche dealer can't sell you one - exactly the situation our Lotus owner found himself in.

So the Lotus is the silver medal for those who didn't win the race to get a Cayman? Yes and no. Like that guy who self consciously wears his race overalls to the track day briefing there's a whiff of pretension about the Porsche's track garnish, given it's not really stripped back and minimalist at all. When Sport Auto's reaction to driving it back to back with a standard Exige is a narrow points victory for the Lotus and cry for a 'proper' pared back, track-spec RS version you know there's something in this.

The Cayman still taps into enough track influence to reward like no other Porsche on sale and make every day feel like a track day, even if it's not. The Lotus, on the other hand, is a pure adrenaline hit, a bit raw and properly intense but always thrilling thanks to a pleasing imbalance of power to weight. And if the Cup is a bit extreme there's always the standard V6 S. Either way, if Stuttgart's caution about GT4 volumes has given you fear of missing out it's credit to Lotus that the Exige offers a genuinely viable alternative, even against Porsche at the absolute top of its game.


LOTUS EXIGE V6 CUP
Engine
: 3,456cc V6, supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@4,500rpm
0-62mph: c. 3.8sec
Top speed: c. 171mph
Weight: 1,110kg (without driver, depending on final spec)
MPG: 28mpg (NEDC combined)*
CO2: 236g/km*
Price: £62,994 (basic price inc. VAT, fully road legal and with limited warranty)
*Figures for standard Exige S

PORSCHE CAYMAN GT4
Engine
: 3,800cc flat-6
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 385@7,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 310@4,750rpm
0-62mph: 4.4sec
Top speed: 182mph
Weight: 1,415kg (EU with driver; 1,340kg DIN without driver)
MPG: 27.4mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 238g/km
Price: £64,451 (before options, £81,551 as tested, comprising Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes £4,977; Clubsport package £2,670; fixed bucket seats £1,907; black painted wheels £393; centre console carbon trim £341; black leather interior with contrast stitching £1,344; Porsche Communication Management inc. sat nav £2,141; Sport Chrono £1,085; telephone module for PCM £527; two-zone climate control £518; Sound Package Plus £396; Porsche Dynamic Light System















[Photos: Sim Mainey]

Author
Discussion

Phooey

Original Poster:

8,623 posts

97 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
I've only had a pickled onion all day

soad

28,566 posts

104 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Phooey said:
I've only had a pickled onion all day
Chippy must be open? wink

Darsettian

74 posts

43 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
done a bit better for meself - pesto pasta and pumpkin salad. Washed down with a pint o' theakstons old peculier.

bencollins

3,011 posts

133 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Nice photography.
North and East Lancashire is very underrated for driving and natural beauty.

DonkeyApple

29,186 posts

97 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
The real benefit of the Porsche is that no one will really know what it is. It'll just blend in with all the youngster's and wife's anniversary gift ones. Will quietly blend into the background with all the other mass produced cars. Whereas that Lotus is always going to stand out. There will be no escaping it. Every time you open the garage door you are going to be faced with something that was built purely for you personally to enjoy the thrill of. On top of that, the Lotus will be a bit embarrassing to park up at the shops as no one is going to realise it's a £70k car. People are just going to think that you really like driving and special cars but are poor. Unlike the Porsche where everyone is going to know that your husband is successful and rich. Albeit, not enough to have got you a 911.
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ORD

10,982 posts

55 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Cue 30 pages of people saying the journos are biased and the Lotus is a proper car with soul and stuff.

Mike29

822 posts

39 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
DonkeyApple said:
The real benefit of the Porsche is that no one will really know what it is. It'll just blend in with all the youngster's and wife's anniversary gift ones. Will quietly blend into the background with all the other mass produced cars. Whereas that Lotus is always going to stand out. There will be no escaping it. Every time you open the garage door you are going to be faced with something that was built purely for you personally to enjoy the thrill of. On top of that, the Lotus will be a bit embarrassing to park up at the shops as no one is going to realise it's a £70k car. People are just going to think that you really like driving and special cars but are poor. Unlike the Porsche where everyone is going to know that your husband is successful and rich.
confused couldn't give a st what people think

EricE

1,945 posts

57 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Darsettian said:
pesto pasta and pumpkin salad
Mind sharing the recipe? I'm in the mood for some pumpkin salad today.

kambites

53,919 posts

149 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
So the track focussed version of the Exige isn't as good on the road as the far less track focussed Porsche unless you adjust the damping to a more road-biased setting... I don't think that'll surprise anyone. Next week a track test of the Cayman GT4 against an Exige Roadster set up entirely for the road with the conclusion that the Cayman is the better track car too?

I guess it was the only Exige you could get hold of but it still seems a bit of an odd comparison.

Edited by kambites on Sunday 6th September 14:04

franki68

5,597 posts

149 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
DonkeyApple said:
The real benefit of the Porsche is that no one will really know what it is. It'll just blend in with all the youngster's and wife's anniversary gift ones. Will quietly blend into the background with all the other mass produced cars. Whereas that Lotus is always going to stand out. There will be no escaping it. Every time you open the garage door you are going to be faced with something that was built purely for you personally to enjoy the thrill of. On top of that, the Lotus will be a bit embarrassing to park up at the shops as no one is going to realise it's a £70k car. People are just going to think that you really like driving and special cars but are poor. Unlike the Porsche where everyone is going to know that your husband is successful and rich. Albeit, not enough to have got you a 911.
alternatively the real benefit of the porsche is that bits wont fall off randomly,after 12 months it wont look like a car that has done 300,000 miles over a hard 20 years,most of the stuff will work ,and finally petrolheads will know that if you're in the lotus...you didn't make the cut for the gt4.

DonkeyApple

29,186 posts

97 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
franki68 said:
alternatively the real benefit of the porsche is that bits wont fall off randomly,after 12 months it wont look like a car that has done 300,000 miles over a hard 20 years,most of the stuff will work ,and finally petrolheads will know that if you're in the lotus...you didn't make the cut for the gt4.
That's true. The Porsche is better if you're on a tight budget.

JockySteer

1,402 posts

44 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
That GT4 is so pleasing to look at. I wonder what kind of premiums they'll carry when it comes to used variants going up for sale.

Impasse

15,099 posts

169 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
DonkeyApple said:
franki68 said:
alternatively the real benefit of the porsche is that bits wont fall off randomly,after 12 months it wont look like a car that has done 300,000 miles over a hard 20 years,most of the stuff will work ,and finally petrolheads will know that if you're in the lotus...you didn't make the cut for the gt4.
That's true. The Porsche is better if you're on a tight budget.
Or don't mind having oil stains on your driveway.

Strange test and draws conclusions with just a hint of a nod towards the two individual cars. One a secondhand customer car with almost infinite adjustments for its suspension, but left on the most unsuitable settings and has now been superseded.
The other a no-expense-spared Press car which will be more equal than other examples.


Edit for fat fingers.

Edited by Impasse on Sunday 6th September 14:40

smilo996

1,377 posts

98 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Zo how about testing them at closer to the same price point and giving the Exige some performance enhancements like the Porscha?

Because the additions to the Lotus were cosmetic to take it to 70K, not performance related but the additions to the Porscha were performance related: Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes £4,977 and Clubsport package £2,670. plus some cosmetic stuff.

So for example testing the Exige with Ohlins
"so that it would not struggle with the violent compressions more than the Porsche". Especially as the point was laboured
"First shock is the car that performs best on these very British roads isn't the Lotus, at least as-is,
"Not everyone wants to fiddle with clicker adjusters and spanners and, without any tweaking".
(Presumably the dealer could do this to set it up for British roads then?)

Especially as the Porscha was very much not "as is" and clearly the favourite going into the test.

Thus putting the little company on a par with the global mega giant.

Or reducing the clearly performance enhancing components on the Porka.

Then you have something approaching like for like test.

Come on PH, more rigerous tests required and less bias.

ORD

10,982 posts

55 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Bias bingo!

What do I win?!

kambites

53,919 posts

149 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
ORD said:
Bias bingo!

What do I win?!
Maybe the Lotus fan boys should just go for "the Porsche is far too heavy, not even worth driving". hehe

ORD

10,982 posts

55 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
kambites said:
Maybe the Lotus fan boys should just go for "the Porsche is far too heavy, not even worth driving". hehe
Would be a perfectly legitimate view. 1100kg (unless bks, which it may be) is very different from 1400kg. Very different cars, in my book. Not sure anyone would cross-shop.

kambites

53,919 posts

149 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
ORD said:
kambites said:
Maybe the Lotus fan boys should just go for "the Porsche is far too heavy, not even worth driving". hehe
Would be a perfectly legitimate view. 1100kg (unless bks, which it may be) is very different from 1400kg. Very different cars, in my book. Not sure anyone would cross-shop.
Lotus are usually pretty good with weights; my car's official weight is 804kg and last time I had it weighed it was 798 with about half a tank of fuel and some crap in the boot. That's with an after-market exhaust which is probably a few kg lighter than standard so pretty much bang on.

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

96 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
Hello!

I'll just chip in with a couple of points to hopefully help with the context of this comparison. Firstly, the roads we drove on are EXCEPTIONALLY bumpy, even by the standards of British tarmac. I've driven a lot of seemingly comparable roads from Wales to Scotland but have never encountered anything quite as vicious as these ones. And the Lotus owner, who wasn't local, said if he drove on them regularly he'd be fiddling with the dampers on his car to suit; sadly there wasn't the time or scope to do so on the day.

I have to say though, the way the Porsche handled those roads straight out of the box was also exceptional and way, way above my personal expectations. True, the PCCBs and reduction of unsprung weight is a 'performance advantage' gained through an expensive option. But given how much heavier the car is in general I think credit where it's due - the damping is very, very good.

Second, I've driven both of these cars independently on track, albeit not the same one. But the impressions in the test incorporate observations from these and the behaviour on the road would seem to confirm them. I first drove the Lotus at Hethel; it was a press car in the stock 'safe' geometry and damper setting and the instinct to push on under power rather than rotate like the Porsche was noticeable there too. Indeed, I went out with Gavan Kershaw on the steering circle and even he was struggling to get round the understeer under power. As I said in the story, a lift and tuck very quickly adjusts the poise and can then be exploited to the full. But you have to lift, rather than power through like you can with the Porsche.

Comparisons have to be tempered with experience and the fact the behaviour of both cars can be significantly altered with mechanical adjustments to chassis and/or aero. One of the Caymans we drove on the track on the launch event had, for instance, been set soft front/hard rear on the three-step anti-roll bar settings and was massively oversteery compared with the default set-up on the other cars. Let's just say it had been configured with photo and video shoots in mind.

I don't doubt you could do the same with the Lotus too, given the amount of adjustment available.

As I say, nothing on this road drive in different cars from ones I'd driven previously overturned any significant impressions previously derived from testing them on track. So I stand by what I said, hopefully this just helps a little with the context of the conclusions.

Cheers!

Dan

HokumPokum

1,640 posts

133 months

Sunday 6th September 2015
quotequote all
exactly. I read it as lotus wins.....

don't bother showing up porsche, no matter what the sales results are.laugh

let's do the track thing already............ that'll be interesting and for god's sake put on the proper ohlins TTX damper....



thing is i bet the lotus will lose just like the Gt4 gets creamed by the Gt3 on track.
Buy the lotus if you want singular focus which in itself cannot be replicated in the porsche; they have moved away from that even in the 991 RS.
If you want a multi-dimension car, the gt4 will eat whatever lotus has.

as much as this comparo was obvious, the porsche that cannot be bought at list shouts more loudly than any lotus fanboy can

ps: i am kinda on the wall re this fanboy thing as I've wanted to own a lotus but ended up with mostly german toys.