Car Review: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS - road test report

Screaming motor. Serious aero. Superlative dynamics. Is the GT4 RS the ultimate racecar for the road?

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Mon 1 Jan 2024, 5:55 PM

The Porsche 718 Cayman is a no-brainer for someone who is about the badge and loves binging on sporty driving antics. This range-topping GT4 RS variant takes that recipe to exaggerated levels with its race-engineered bodywork and 500 horsepower flat-6 motor. We took it grocery shopping and highway hunting to see how we could justify its price and place in the market. Here’s what we found:

Design & aesthetics

The Cayman is made in the image of the legendary 911. Its sharp sloping nose and teardrop silhouette provide the ingredients for something good. But its destiny, playing second fiddle to the 911 meant that it can never match the sheer beauty of the flagship, either due to purposely botched details or the genuine inability of designers. It’s not that the Cayman isn’t pretty, just not as it could be. Where it wins is size! With a length of 4.456 mm, width of 1,822 mm, and height of 1,267 mm, it's not only closer to the original 911, but it's also the ideal size for a sports car.

In comes the incredible GT4 RS, accessorised further to form an ensemble that even Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada would approve. The bonnet has NACA air intakes for optimum brake cooling and louvres in the CFRP wings for improved ventilation, and there’s a giant swan neck rear spoiler for increased downforce and extra drama. To save weight, it comes with a sticker for a bonnet emblem, and forged magnesium alloys are a wildly expensive option at Dh54,000. All this intimidating aero kit, along with its hunkered-down look (30 mm lower than the standard car) and giant 20-inch blue wheels makes it spectacularly beautiful in ways an engineer would appreciate a machine. It is a form that follows function.

Then you get to the low-slung interior. Granted it's an extract from a 2016 design with an overly button-stacked arrangement, but it’s a functional space that exudes richness in its details and materials. It's not just the sporty 3-spoke steering wheel that’s wrapped in alcantara its also the roof. And the ambiance is further elevated thanks to black leather and deep sea Race-Tex seat upholstery combination, to match the magic of those blue wheels. The weight saving continues inside, with the use of nylon blue pulls instead of door handles.

The driver gets to enjoy the typical Porsche-like set-up with the seat low to the ground and the steering wheel and pedals positioned for optimal control. Even the visibility is great, except out the rear windows, which are now big blind spots thanks to someone’s clever idea of replacing them with CFRP air intakes. They should find a better solution I hope. Moving on, the beautiful analogue counters remain and readings on them are both inspiring and intimidating thanks to the 330 km/h speed marker and lofty 9,000 rpm redline. To the far right is a customisable 4.6-inch digital screen.

As for space, note that the racing buckets are snug-fitting and won’t accommodate holiday weight. If you are planning on bringing kids along like in a 911, the jokes are on you…the 718 has only 2 seats.

FUN FACT

The GT4 RS is the first Cayman to wear the coveted RS badge, previously reserved for the 911 models.

Powertrain & performance

Another now-classic feature is the actual insert for the ignition key. No start button here. Turn it and the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre 6-cylinder boxer engine - inherited from the GT3 - comes to life with a bark. Instantly you know the RS is all heart. On the inside, it feels like you’re in the boiler room of a ship with a mix of loud clanking mechanical noises, much like a Nissan GT-R.

Roll out of the garage and you notice the immediacy of the throttle and the promise of obedience from the chassis. It's like an exoskeleton that follows you around. It feels connected. You also notice the prying eyes of envious neighbours staring at what is essentially the opposite of quiet luxury.

Give it some juice and it flies. The acceleration is so brutal, it goes from where you are to where you want to be so quickly, you need to be awake to drive this. Test the launch control as many times as possible and it will deliver. 100 km/h from a standstill comes in a short 3.4 seconds, the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds. Hang on long enough and it will fight the wind to an incredible 315 km/h. As I exercised my love for spirited drives, I noticed that the 7-speed DSG is possibly the snappiest transmission I’ve ever tested. Simply pull the paddles, and you can see the needle jump up and down the rev counter instantaneously. And as the speed climbs it goes from being an exoskeleton to a shadow that moves with you. The grip is so immense that you can switch lanes and take corners – sharp and sweeping ones too - with a surgeon’s precision thanks to uprated springs and dampers. It would take some mischievous antics to get it out of line. And while all this happens, loud barks are sent out the twin rear exhausts, which can be amplified with the touch of a button.

Call for an emergency stop, and you’re thrown forward from your seat. It has 6 piston calipers that grip on 408 mm front discs and 380 mm discs in the rear clamped by 4 pistons that help shred speed with authority. What else could you expect? The good news is that it didn’t feel grabby in traffic. And the ride quality is compliant, more so than the Cayman R we drove years ago!

When it comes to economy and emissions, this isn’t a gas-guzzling American muscle car, it isn’t what Miss Thunberg would prescribe either. The indicated 550 km range with the optional 90-litre tank isn’t bad at all for the kind of purpose it serves.

Features & functionality

All Caymans benefit from having 2 trunks, much like most electric cars. Surprisingly ironic! Upfront, you have 125 litres of space while the rear cavity behind the engine gets 134 litres, but I’m not sure if either can fit a full-size suitcase. Inside, space is sparse too with 2 retractable cupholders hidden in the carbon fibre and not much more.

Infotainment-wise, the age of the equipment is showing. It’s got a smallish screen for this day and age and a CD player, which isn’t retro it’s just old. But audiophiles won’t complain. The 10-speaker 505-Watt Bose system can always be turned up to nag annoying neighbours, if the rumbling exhaust isn’t enough. You also get Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth. Where safety is concerned, the RS satisfies, with cruise control, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring system.

Other notables were the dual-zone air conditioning system that never failed to keep me cool and the optional, but necessary front axle lift system to avoid the painful scratching of its chin. Besides that, we found the location of the fire extinguisher not ideal as it restricts passenger legroom.

Verdict

The Cayman is a great entry point into the Porsche family. It is chic, quick, and built well. This GT4 RS is the superlative of that formula. Its intimidating aero kit, race-derived engine, and supreme chassis dynamics make this the real deal - a definitive race car for the road. And it will continue to enthrall you as you pile the miles in its mission for speed. Sure, the blind spot is big and there isn’t a lot of cargo space, but where the act of driving is concerned there is a new gold standard, and this is it.

GOOD - Racy exterior; raw, visceral noise and performance; exclusivity; build quality

BAD - Not conventionally beautiful; big blind spots; can’t fit a suitcase; fire extinguisher location

EDITOR’S RATING - 8.5/10 stars

SPECIFICATIONS

Body type - 2-seater; 2-door premium high-performance hatchback

Engine - Mid-engine; 4.0-litre flat-6; rear-wheel drive

Transmission - 7-speed PDK (automated manual)

Peak output - 500 PS @ 8,400rpm - 450 Nm @ 6,750 rpm

0 to 100km/h - 3.4 seconds (claimed)

Top speed - 315 km/h (drag limited; estimated)

Price - Starting at Dh580,000 approx.

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