Almost every detail of the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS prioritizes performance or weight savings, from strap handles in place of door handles to ball joints replaced by suspension bushings. A pair of cupholders is a concession to street use, but Porschephiles know exactly what this special 718 is. With a true motorsport-derived 911 GT3 flat-six mounted in the Cayman’s mid-engined chassis, the GT4 RS is a competition car for the road.
Porsche has already announced that the next-generation Cayman and Boxster siblings will go full electrification, making the GT4 RS something of a swansong for the internal combustion era. News that a legitimate 9,000 rpm-capable 911 GT3 engine could even fit into the Cayman has sparked huge excitement among the company’s faithful, although transplanting it into the 718 hasn’t been easy.
Before deliveries of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS begin later this year, Porsche invited select media to Willow Springs for a half-day to check out perhaps the ultimate track toy from a company known for producing track toys. incredible.
The last dance of the Boxster and the Cayman
Understanding the cheers that erupted after the launch of the GT4 RS last year requires a quick dive into Porsche history. While the flagship 911 and its predecessor the 356 are rear-engined models, mid-engined cars date back to the company’s early days, when the 550 and RSK Spyder proved that light, nimble racers could keep up, or even beat, heavier competitors. with larger displacement engines.
The company built its first mid-engined series production design, the 914, in 1969, along with a six-cylinder variant with a 911-sourced engine, the 914/6. This expensive model proved unpopular, but in 1996 Porsche opted for mid-engine again with the original Type 986 Boxster. The company’s first totally new car in 19 years, the first Boxster was immediately popular and credited with reversing the company’s faltering fortunes in the 1990s.
After decades of air-cooled engines, purists scoffed at the Boxster’s water-cooled flat-six, codenamed M96, but a year later the Type 996 911 arrived with a larger version of the engine. However, Porsche never took this engine to racing, knowing that its wet sump oil lubrication setup would cause oil starvation in tight corners, among other problems.
In 1999, Porsche engineer Hans Mezger designed a new performance dry-sump engine for the 911 GT2 and GT3 variants, developed from the mid-engined 1997 911 GT1 LeMans. The “Mezger engine” evolved into an even more hardcore RS (RennSport) line over the next decade, but so far the company has never put either the original design or any of its descendants into a Boxster, and there was never an RS version. of the open-top car or its Cayman coupé sibling.
A screaming engine for the ultimate track toy
On the newly paved Streets of Willow Springs track, the GT3 engine powering the Cayman GT4 RS roars up to 9,000 rpm, reaching peak torque of 331 pound-feet at 6,250 and topping a peak of 493 horsepower at 8 400. Any challenges Porsche engineers had to solve, like relocating the dry-sump oil tank, coolant hoses and vacuum tubes, go out the window, because they also fixed the air intake mounted directly behind the cabin to create the most haunting induction sounds imaginable. .
The 4.0-litre engine sends power to the rear wheels via Porsche’s famous seven-speed PDK transaxle, which receives a dedicated oil line and dual-mass flywheel to handle such high revs. Compared to the “base” GT4, the GT4 RS gearbox is automatic only and also features shorter gear ratios, a nod to widespread complaints about the GT4’s gearing. A mechanical limited-slip differential from the previous generation 911 GT3 helps retain traction despite the extra torque.
Follow-up sessions on the streets of Willow Springs with longtime Porsche works driver Patrick Long and driving instructor Mark Hotchkis up front provided the perfect setting to stretch the new engine and trans, but the Cayman’s light and nimble chassis deserves the limelight just as much, as shown by the 1.6-mile lap Porsche used for the ride, with a series of tight technical sections and only a modest straight .
Reinventing the Boxster-Cayman chassis
The whole exercise of cramming a GT3 engine into the Boxster-Cayman chassis revolves around the obvious advantages of mid-engine weight distribution. And while the GT3 engine’s high redline and power stats lure many buyers to the new GT4 RS, Porsche is no doubt hoping the track rats will also line up for the chance to check out the latest descendant of a Mezger engine it truly belongs to.
To help the Cayman GT4 RS handle such a push above the “regular” Cayman GT4’s 414 horsepower, Porsche bolted an entire front end to the previous generation 911 Carrera 4S. This pairs with stiffer springs front and rear, both of which widen on the track (by six and eight millimeters over the regular GT4, respectively). Ball joints also replace softer rubber suspension bushings at every opportunity.
Setting the dampers to Sport seriously firms up the ride, but the softer mode should make daily driving easier. The lightweight electro-mechanical steering specially adapted to the new chassis allows just enough feedback without excessive effort – another concession to road driving.
Porsche’s choice of a short track didn’t highlight the aerodynamic improvements made to the GT4 RS, which include three adjustment points for the massive rear wing and four for the front splitter, despite so much hype surrounding the gooseneck mounts for the rear spoiler, which would create 25% more downforce over the base GT4 wing without any increase in drag.
718 Cayman GT4 RS Prices and Rivals
Unfortunately, the factory roll bars that Porsche deemed necessary for a media track session will not be available to US buyers. But anyone hoping to take their GT4 RS out to its original habitat will definitely want to opt for the lightweight magnesium wheels, which requires spec Weissach Group, adding a total of $28,890. just for these two options on the car’s hefty $141,700 MSRP.
As is so typical on high-performance Porsches, the Racing Yellow car at Willow Springs, without the Weissach or Magnesium boxes checked but including PCCB and a first Cayman front axle lift system, tagged at $162,600. The Arctic Gray car, meanwhile, soared to $195,190 or well over $200,000 when tax and registration are taken into account.
Those numbers are pretty quickly approaching 911 GT3 territory, although, like the GT3, anyone worried about spending such sums can rest assured that the scarcity will render their concerns almost entirely moot. Still, buyers in the market for such an impressive trail scalpel will be hard-pressed to think of anything remotely comparable. Perhaps the only direct competition will come from the new Lotus Emira.
Optional with a Mercedes-AMG turbo-four or a supercharged Toyota V6, the Emira will deliver significantly more torque much lower in the rev range than the GT4 RS. Tighter steering that retains the excellent feel and feedback of the hydraulic assist mounts unlike the Porsche electromechanical system, as well as a price of about half. Unlike RS buyers, Emira customers can also choose between a six-speed shifter or an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Whipping the 718 Cayman GT4 RS around the track is a joy, and the long-awaited combo of Mezger engine and mid-engine chassis adds even more magic to an already fun machine. But driving on the track only reveals a segment of a dual-sport sports car’s personality, raising as many questions as it answers.
The optional lightweight carbon buckets create an uncomfortable neck angle when wearing a helmet as neither the back nor the headrests can move. The weight of the electric power steering, transmitted through the same 360 millimeter wheel as the base GT4, feels light enough to dictate racing harnesses rather than three-point belts. And the chassis as a whole and the PCCB in particular deserve the R-spec Michelins that Porsche test driver Jörg Bergmeister used when setting a 7:09.3 lap time at the Nürburgring.
Shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, no more racing feeling on the jagged edge; instead, the refined combination of impeccable balance, prodigious brake bite and a quick drivetrain allows for a composed exploration of tire grip on asphalt, all from the comfort of a luxurious interior with noble materials. Here, Porsche tows the line between dedicated track star and modern supercar, leaning towards the latter while pointing adamantly at the former.
Stratospheric price or not, Porsche clearly believes the new 718 Cayman GT4 RS will sell out – and quickly – so fans who can’t or won’t make a purchase can expect to see those engine swan songs. Mezger into town streets quite early.