A full-face helmet does little to take the edge off the 9000-rpm shriek of a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six when it’s mounted amidships just behind your seat, as it is in the 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS. We start to wish we’d also worn earplugs (but not really, because its glorious sounds may well be worth hearing aids in retirement) as we feed in the power exiting a slow corner, then bang through the gears on our way to storming headlong into a banked sweeper at Streets of Willow Springs raceway.
It’s a prime example of what a Porsche engineer told us in matter-of-fact terms: “Whenever the GT4 RS engineering team came to a development crossroads, we made a point of always choosing the path of greatest performance.” Boy, does it show.
That starts with the engine itself. This is not some massaged version of the enlarged and de-turbo-ed 911 engine that powers the Cayman GT4. Instead, the GT4 RS is fitted with the same 911 GT3 Cup–derived engine that powers the vaunted 911 GT3, but spun around and mounted beneath the rear liftgate glass, a placement that virtually puts it inside the passenger compartment. In the GT4 RS, this high-revving, naturally aspirated, dry-sump flat-six makes 493 horsepower at 8400 rpm and 331 pound-feet of torque at 6750 revs. It’s worth noting that the same mill puts out 502 ponies and 346 pound-feet in the GT3, which makes one wonder if the difference is truly the result of an exhaust packaging limitation related to the midship engine placement or a case of preserving the on-paper superiority of the 911 GT3.
Likewise, the RS’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission gearing is more aggressive than the Cayman GT4’s, instead using the tightly spaced cogs of the GT3’s gearbox, in which seventh gear tops out at just 0.84:1 instead of a lazier 0.71:1. Beyond that, the Cayman GT4 RS is more aggressive than the GT4 in the final-drive department, with short 4.17:1 rear-end gearing instead the regular GT4’s taller 3.89:1 final-drive. The end result is a GT4 RS claimed top speed that’s rev-limited to 196 mph in seventh gear. Porsche also claims a 3.2-second 60-mph time and an 11.3-second quarter-mile, but Porsche usually sandbags such numbers. What we do know with certainty is that open-road cruising at 70 mph results in a tense 3050-rpm thrum.
If that wasn’t enough, the engineering team ditched the Cayman’s admittedly useless rear quarter-windows and substituted high-mounted engine air intakes. The ducting runs a few scant inches behind your skull, so when you boot the throttle, you can absolutely feel the throbbing cry as atmosphere gets inhaled toward the six individual throttle butterflies of the ravenously gulping flat-six. This performance-maximizing intake placement not only enhances the aural experience in the GT4 RS’s cabin, it also allows the entirety of the formerly subdivided bodyside scoops to be dedicated to cooling this insane beast.
The driving position is slightly hunched forward owing to fixed-angle one-piece buckets—18-way adjustable seats are available at no-cost—but this absolutely suits on-track and aggressive driving because it puts you up on the wheel in a way that generates more leverage. You’ll need it, too, because the 245/35ZR-20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R Track Connect front tires can generate immense grip with nary a whiff of understeer, and the steering geometry creates armloads of self-aligning torque that clearly communicates how hard the tires are working in any given corner. It’s not manual steering because you can indeed twirl the wheel in a parking lot, but the amount of feel and feedback you get is exactly what you need when pushing hard up against the limit. Is the effort a bit much when lollygagging down the highway? A bit, yeah. But it’s utter magic when working through a series of corners.
Compared to the GT4, the front and rear track width of the GT4 RS is broader by 0.2 and 0.3 inch, respectively. There are two adaptive-damping modes, but the default setting is ideal for both track and mountain-road use, especially if the asphalt is anything less than billiard-table smooth. The Normal setting is an absolute must for routine driving around town, because not only does the car tend to copy every undulation the paving machine laid down, modest cracks and step-down joints can feel like miniature cliffs. The reason for this is not entirely down to track-oriented spring and damper tuning, though, because the RS suspension links are fitted with ball joints at their ends instead of tuned rubber bushings. The RS can nevertheless pass for a livable daily driver, however, because the optional $3040 front-axle lift system makes it entirely possible to surmount speed bumps, traverse intersection drainage dips (with care and forethought), and tackle reasonably angled driveway cuts.
Still, you may be getting the impression that the GT4 RS lives its best life as a track car, and it indeed has features that are most often found on track-oriented machines. Center-lock wheels are compulsory, for one, and the front and rear anti-roll bars are adjustable through three settings each. The aerodynamics are not kidding, either. The GT-style rear wing is adjustable through three angles of attack (none of which results in good rearview-mirror visibility), and its swan-neck mounting assures that the critical downforce-generating underside is completely free and clear of bracketry. The car’s smooth underbelly directs air through a center diffuser as well. Up front, fender-top vents and radiused fender openings relieve underbody pressure to reduce lift, and there are adjustable fences low in the wheel wells to tweak the amount of downforce generated by the GT4 RS-spec front splitter.
Hood-mounted NACA ducts funnel air down to the GT3-esque front brakes, which feature six-piston fixed calipers that squeeze 16.1-inch rotors whether you stick with the standard iron discs or upgrade to the cross-drilled carbon-ceramic setup. The rear end features four-pot calipers and either 15.0-inch iron discs or 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic ones. We spent all our track and canyon time with the carbon ceramics, and they generated immense and unfailing stopping power, with a clairvoyant delicacy that made their response easy to predict. They also reduce unsprung weight a fair bit. If you can afford this car in the first place, there’s no reason not to spend $8000 on them.
Aside from the carbon-ceramic brakes, the forged magnesium wheels ($15,640) are worth considering because they also take a bite out of unsprung mass to the tune of nearly six pounds per corner, claims Porsche. Their upcharge is actually even higher, because the Weissach package ($13,250) is a prerequisite for the magnesium wheels, but that brings with it a clear-coated carbon-fiber hood and other trim pieces, special seat embroidery, and titanium exhaust tips.
The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS arrives this summer and should start at $144,050, which seems like a bargain since it undercuts the GT3 by nearly $20,000. Sure, you can nudge that close to $200,000 if you get frisky with the options sheet, but that’s par for the course in Porscheland. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you have the means, and want a track-focused car you won’t lock away in a glass garage, we highly recommend picking one up.
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