This car has been a long time coming. Especially, in the minds and hearts of Porsche enthusiasts with a particular taste for the Cayman, a car Porsche has always been keen on keeping a step or two behind its flagship 911 models. Most of us never really believed it would materialise. Well, now that it’s been decided to make the next Cayman or its replacement fully electric, Porsche has finally relented and made the GT4 RS a reality.
Just like the regular Cayman GT4’s, it’s a 4-litre naturally aspirated flat-six. Nevertheless, the RS’s is a totally different beast – the motorsport-derived power plant, straight out of the 992 GT3. It revs not to a mere 8,000 RPM but to a hugely exciting 9,000, producing 500 HP at 8,400 RPM. That’s a full 80-HP leap above the regular GT4. It’s also got a 20-Nm-stronger torque, peaking at 450 Nm at 6,750 RPM. That may be 10 HP shy of what the GT3 engine produces due to a longer exhaust path, but you wouldn’t ever know it. In any case, all these figures cannot tell the whole story. It’s the character of this engine that makes it so universally revered. With lots of torque even at low RPM, it’s incredibly drivable. While above 6,000 RPM, the best word to describe it is ‘ferocious’. It’s just an incredible combination of throttle response, power, and torque, complete with a soundtrack that is virtually unmatched.
A big part of the sound experience comes from the GT4 RS’s unique air intake system which places the airbox right behind your ears. Explaining just how much glorious intake sound floods into the cabin is just next to impossible. The only way to absorb it is to strap yourself into a GT4 RS and go for a lap. This engine is an all-time great sounder already in the 911 GT3, but here it’s dialed up not to a mere 11, but to something like 1,100. At full throttle, this is the most racecar-like sound you will ever hear, without getting into a race car.
Now, some figures. The GT4 RS does the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 3.4 seconds while accelerating on to 200 only takes another 7.5 seconds. The RS is helped by new shortened PDK gear ratios, the shortest ever used in a Porsche GT car in fact. As all RS models, the GT4 RS is available with the PDK dual-clutch gearbox only. Thanks to a larger swan-neck wing at the back and a larger splitter at the front, the downforce is 25 % above the regular GT4’s. The car’s highest downforce setting is equal to that of the 992 GT3 in its default configuration.
Let’s get into driving this car. I’m fortunate to own a 718 GT4 with some modifications. So, as you can imagine, I was eager to compare the RS with my car and see how well I’ve done to make it quicker without the full force of Porsche’s engineering department behind me. The GT4 RS’s Nurburgring lap time is 23.6 seconds faster than the regular GT4’s, so one would certainly expect to notice that kind of difference. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the Michelin Cup 2 R tires on this test. Those were used to make that lap time of 7 minutes and 9.3 seconds. Instead, the GT4 RS is shod with regular Michelin Cup 2 tires with the same N1 Porsche spec marking as on the GT4. Inside the RS, everything is very familiar – hardly any changes from the 981 Cayman & Boxster generation of 2013. The GT4 RS has the 992 GT3 PDK gear selector while its dashboard is covered by the Alcantra Race-Tex, fitting with the car’s racing vibe. Other than that, it’s a usual cabin with a near- perfect layout, complete with an excellent driving position. For maximum lightness and performance, the test cars had the PCM delete option – no-infotainment system – and were equipped with the optional Weissach package and magnesium wheels for maximum lightness.
On the racetrack, it’s a very fast car. Because of a more primitive MacPherson strut suspension, it’s still a little below the 911 GT3’s level but it makes up for that by showering you with driving fun. If the GT4 RS has 97 % of the 911 GT3’s capabilities, its engagement factor is more like 197 %. The suspension is a lot stiffer than on the regular GT4, helping the RS feel much closer to a race car than any other fast road vehicle. Handled wisely, the car does not tend to slide on the front or rear axle. Only when after a couple of hard laps, the tires start losing grip significantly does under- steer become noticeable. The steering is super sharp and accurate, even more so in comparison with the regular GT4, due to the rubber bushings in the suspension having been replaced by solid ones.
This means, however, that if you drive a GT4 RS on a regular road, it feels a bit like a duck out of water. It’s not that you can’t normally drive it around at a low speed. You certainly can. Besides, subject to even stricter noise restrictions than the 992 GT3, the GT4 RS is actually pretty quiet on the outside. Inside the car, however, the lack of noise-deadening materials does take its toll. Loads of noises come from the engine department, many of them not particularly fruity. The whirring of the pump, the rattling of the chain, and the ticking of the high pressure fuel injectors are, of course, annoying rather than exotic. So, if you want the GT4 RS to produce its glorious sound, you have to step on its tail and let it rev to 9,000 RPM with its individual throttle bodies fully open. At this point, you may start feeling you actually shouldn’t be doing those things on public roads. The car gathers speed so quickly and with such a roar that it does start feeling like a racecar in a place where it does not belong. You can certainly drive it to the nearest bakery in the morning to pick up a couple of croissants. Or even a pain au chocolat or two. But you probably wouldn’t want to take it out on any sort of long-distance trip. The main comfort this car offers is keeping you dry while driving in the rain. Which, admittedly, is not a common thing in Dubai.
If not a racetrack, at the very least, you’ll need a totally empty twisty road not too far from where you live to drive off your daily accumulated stress and frustration. I talked a lot to Porsche ambassador and legendary racing driver Joerg Bergmeister about the car he developed while doing his count- less laps on Nurburgring Nordschleife. Joerg is a great guy, and he’s clearly in love with his job. Well, who wouldn’t be? Would you like to test awesome unreleased Porsches on racetracks? Yes please. He took me on a lap in a GT4 RS on the stickier Cup 2 R tires and was a right hoot, a bit quicker than I had managed to lap of course.
It’s not difficult to distill what the GT4 RS is all about – it’s a track car which isn’t just about lap times. This car is a celebration of a naturally aspirated engine, namely, the magnificent Porsche 4-litre flat-six power plant. We’ll hopefully be able to enjoy it for many more years in the 911 range. Neverthe- less, it will never be as raw and exciting as it is in this most ultimate of the Caymans. The engine takes centre stage to such a degree that you almost forget to appreciate the great quality of the rest of the car. I am privileged to have driven it – experience of a lifetime indeed. And finally we know what it would be like if Porsche let the Cayman off the leash.