Porsche Cayman GT4 RS vs Morgan Super 3 vs Ferrari 296 GTB: Speed Week's final three
Several arguments later and we’re down to our final trio... time to head for the hills to decide on a winner
History weighs heavy on the landscape among the Ore Mountains in northwestern Czech Republic, named after rich deposits beneath the surface that’ve fuelled multiple mining rushes for tin, silver and even uranium over the centuries. Welcome to the ceiling of the old Sudetenland, the disputed German-Czech territory ceded to Hitler on the eve of war, later the epicentre of the regime’s doomed plot to create an atomic weapon.
At the summit of Klínovec, the highest point of the Ore, you’ll find a derelict mountaintop hotel infested with wasps and its 19th century observation tower, now dwarfed by a 56-metre-tall television transmitter looking out over the naked ski slopes. Wiry mountain bike enthusiasts clamber out of sleeping bags in knackered, fogged-up estate cars and prepare to hurl themselves down the 1,200m slopes.
Photography: John Wycherley
And just for today, Klínovec is the rendezvous point for our final three contenders. Making it onto the podium are the Ferrari 296 GTB, Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS, and the Morgan Super 3, driven by the soon-to-be-late Ollie Kew, who very much dressed for weather in the lowlands before selecting the roofless Moggie for this morning’s sunny jaunt into the countryside. While he defrosts in the warm embrace of the Aston Martin DBX support wagon, never knowingly under-Gore-Texed Ollie Marriage offers sage advice.
OM: Kew, the cravat was a nice touch but you don’t need to dress like Downton to drive the Morgan. I did offer you the full Ranulph this morning. Appreciate your teeth are chattering too much to talk right now, but where’s Rix?
JR: [distant] A-HOY-HOY!
OM: Oh god, we’ve bought along our own Czech Alan Partridge and he’s blagged his way into the observation tower with no local currency. Must’ve been recognised off YouTube. Yes mate, a-hoy-hoy to you. While you’re dossing around up there, we’re talking cars down here. So, Ollie, beyond the obvious, how was the Super 3 on the drive up here this morning? I’ll wait until your jaw has defrosted.
OK: That’ll teach me for trying to eke out a lie-in. Last man to the key pot and I get to drive a sunny afternoon pub car up a mountain. At least the aero screens do a better job of quelling jowel-whiplash than the equivalent on a Ferrari SP2 Monza, which makes the Moggie a bargain. And it’s incredible that the heated seats are too hot to tolerate even when one’s left testicle has frostbite.
OM: I got to deploy full smugface in the Ferrari this morning. SEDC: Silent Electric Dawn Crawl mode. I love it, but the contrast with the rest of this car is less comforting. Assetto Fiorano costs a fortune, saves little weight and adds hassle: hard dampers, harder seats and harnesses. And you look an idiot. Don’t see the point.
JR: No such faff in the GT4 RS – it’s got seatbelts, a choice of two cupholders for my piping hot coffee and, not to rub it in too much Kew, but a roof and windows. Back of the net. I couldn’t help noticing earlier, Marriage, you mentioned a lack of manual gearbox being possibly the Porsche’s only drawback, well there might be another. While all that intake noise is spine-tinglingly good, it’s bloody difficult to get it to shut up, which might be nice if, for example, you’ve had one too many affordable Czech lagers the night before. I had a go though, feathered the throttle like there was some sort of small woodland creature underneath it, and the GT4 RS did get cruisy and quiet. But my god does it take some willpower. Right, I need a pint of adrenalin to restore balance in the universe. Is the Ferrari free?
OK: My turn in the Porsche please. Since the whole ‘serious car nerds like serious stripped Porsches’ thing is a massive cliché, can I just tick a few off? The Porsche’s driving position is delectable, it’s got the best steering wheel here (small, round, unsquidgy) and it feels like the narrowest, most threadable car here. RS add-ons do hurt that trademark Cayman fishbowl visibility though.
OM: The wing is quite the blocker isn’t it? But that cabin... all the stuff you need and no distractions. Same with the Morgan, although the quality is shakier. Give me a sec while I dig out the Gore-Tex. But I’m really looking forward to this – partly it’s the masochist in me, but it looked so much fun on the road heading up here this morning. It was having to work for its speed, while the Ferrari just swept along. Right, wingmen, I’m ready to go, drop in behind.
OK: He’s off at pace. And Ollie’s right, the Super 3 looks hilarious at speed – you can see the tyres peeling, the elbows working, teeth dug in the top of the steering wheel. But speed is relative – knock the Porsche into manual mode, get the revs up a bit and it’s a racecar. The personality shift is as stark as toggling the Ferrari from full EV to fully lit Race mode. My ears were chapped raw in the Morgan, and now they’re bleeding.
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JR: That Porsche isn’t as noisy from behind as it is inside – that’s clever. This is just brilliant – the weather’s playing ball, the roads are as well surfaced as anything Spain’s got to offer and the landscape is varied and uplifting: fields, forests, hills, ridges, dams and lakes. What an utter joy. Have to say, I can’t remember another Speed Week where I couldn’t call the winner going into the final showdown, think I’ve changed my mind about 12 times already. The Ferrari keeps showing different layers to its personality, but it also seems smaller and more manageable than an F8 Tributo, which is my kind of progress. And it rides so tautly yet calmly on these fixed rate Multimatic dampers.
OM: I reckon that’s the roads. Even the Morgan is benign up here, carving smooth lines and so much more civilised and capable than the old vee-twin machine. That ran on pure charisma, this one appears to have learned many lessons from good teachers. I am the wrong height, though. My eyeline is at the top of the aero screens, which distorts everything and makes it quite hard to place on the road. Despite that, it’s wonderfully occupying to drive. You can’t not pay attention. In the Ferrari you can surf along. Not so much the Porsche because the noise and steering constantly bring you back. It’s a hard car to put down. I think I might be addicted to it. It occupied my dreams last night. To skate over that image quickly, a point about the Super 3: if the GR86, Artura or Emira were here, would the Morgan have made it through to the final?
OK: Ooh, the unreliable Anglo-Japanese elephant in the room. Emira would’ve been a close call. It’s got banging star quality in isolation but the drive slightly failed to sparkle against the all-conquering Cayman GTS and dainty Alpine earlier in the year. My hunch is we’d have sided with 296 over Artura in the hybrid supercar stakes, but only Marriage has tried one. As TG’s only current GR86 correspondent though... it really is a cheap ’n’ cheerful cracker. Oh for a ‘software update’...
JR: I agree, perhaps the GR86 would’ve edged the Morgan out as our counterpoint to the serious supercars. I tell you what though, you could have brought along the cream of the last five Speed Weeks and I still reckon the Porsche and Ferrari would have made it through. They are both hall of famers – as engaging, laugh out loud fun and mind-scrambling as anything I’ve ever driven.
OM: Completely agree. The 296 GTB is Ferrari’s most impressive work since... well, it depends how you measure these things. It’s not as soul stirring as a 458 Speciale, but as an all-round package it’s the best supercar I’ve driven... maybe ever. And on these roads it made the Super 3 feel wizened and daft. There’s colossal depth and integrity to the experience, the way it flows along roads, the speed it’s capable of. But that brings me on to another point. It’s easy to dismiss the Morgan as a dynamic lightweight, but it does ask important questions about speed versus involvement. Speed limits aren’t changing, yet supercars are getting ever faster. And to be capable of that speed they’re more distant right where you don’t want them to be. That said, the GT4 RS is about as rousing a modern sports car as it’s possible to imagine.
OK: These three cars perfectly sum up ways to go fast right now. The Porsche raging against the dying of the light, the super tricked up and clever Ferrari beckoning the electrified future, and the cottage industry British sportster doing more with less, to give you a distilled driving experience Porsche and Ferrari couldn’t hope to match.
JR: Funny, isn’t it, after a couple of days thrashing around the track, today’s gentler pace has definitely closed the gap between our final three. But as much as I adore the Morgan and its eccentric ways, the other two are still leagues ahead. The Morgan’s charms could wear thin, I can’t imagine a day of my life I wouldn’t want the 296 or GT4 RS to be a part of. Which is probably a good point for us to pick a winner...
OM: Hang about, I know we’ve got a stunning sunset up here, but I’ve got a better place for us to unveil our newly crowned Performance Car of the Year. Back to the track!
And the winner of Top Gear magazine's 2022 Speed Week is...