2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS First Drive: Mission Control, Ready for Laughs
The most gobsmacking, track-focused factory Cayman yet is a dreamy dance partner.
Gran Turismo 7, the new installment of the revered racing video game franchise, launched on PlayStation on March 4. It features more than 400 cars, but the new 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS we drove just a few days prior isn't among the 20 Porsches available to players. Why is this notable? If there's any new car coming to market shortly that carries the create-your-own-fantasy-version-of-your-favorite-car "tuner" ethos that's been a Gran Turismo staple since the game first appeared in 1997, the 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS is it.
Of course, every Porsche sports car developed by the company's GT division fits that bill. But whereas the GT3 has existed for years and represents perpetual 911-performance evolution, the first-ever Cayman GT4 RS signifies the same spirit in a different animal. It arrives boasting plenty of upgrades compared to lesser Caymans, but its 911 GT3 heart is the big story.
Despite years-old theories that said Porsche would never dare swap something like the GT3's engine into its mid-engine coupe to avoid upstaging the big-ticket 911, the boys and girls of Flacht finally pulled the trigger. And this engine isn't something like the GT3's 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six; it is the GT3's boxer. It spins to the same ungodly 9,000-rpm limit, makes the same 331 lb-ft of torque, and produces 493 hp. The latter figure is 9 hp less than the GT3's 502 hp, but the negligible delta is down to variances in the Cayman's exhaust and cooling systems due to the different platform architecture between the rear-engine 911 and mid-engine 718. Engine aside, other notable chunks of hardware come from the most previous GT3 models: The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, gear ratios, and final drive are lifted from the 991.2 GT3 RS PDK, the limited slip-differential comes from the 991.2 GT3 manual, and the PDK control unit and software are courtesy of the 991.2 GT3 RS.
Compared to the standard 718 Cayman GT4, the RS has bigger brakes, 49 fewer pounds, wider front and rear tracks, and more rear camber. Its more aggressive aero elements contribute up to 220 pounds of downforce at 124 mph. Add the optional carbon-fiber-heavy Weissach pack ($13,250) along with magnesium wheels ($15,640 and saving a further 22 pounds), plus sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tires, and the result is a thing to envy.
Our first drive experience occurred at the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack, and we knew this car was special by the end of our first lap. For starters, with standard carbon-fiber-shell seats swiped from the 918 Spyder hypercar, the driving position and comfort is excellent. In base configuration, the GT4 RS weighs 39 pounds more than the GT3 (the latter's underlying platform is newer and lighter), but the two cars deliver similar forward surge. We lost time on the straights to the Porsche instructor leading us in a 911 Turbo S, but the Cayman held a clear advantage everywhere else.
The chassis balance is sublime, with a strong front end aided on corner turn-in by a mechanically locking rear differential and standard torque vectoring that helps to turn the car as soon as you breath on the steering wheel. The actual steering feel communicates with Visine clarity when you push the front tires past their high limit, and it makes it easy to gather everything up and recover.
The GT4 RS rotates easily into corners, and this is the factory-built Cayman that causes you to think the most about your throttle application on corner exit, lest its power break-loose the rear tires in an easily controlled yet time-losing dose of oversteer. It all feels so satisfying, so grin-inducing, and—most importantly—so organic, several of our laps were defined by internal conflict: Drive the correct way for your quickest times, or let the tail fly for fun? "How about both?" was the solution we landed on. Both approaches satisfy equally, depending on your disposition.
Porsche offered us laps in both the standard GT4 RS and one fitted with the Weissach kit plus the optional magnesium wheels that are a must-have to save weight. (The Weissach pack alone consists essentially of cosmetic upgrades, but Porsche won't let you buy the lighter wheels without it.) Each car featured optional carbon-ceramic brakes ($8,000), which shed an additional 38 pounds of total unsprung weight divided across the chassis' four corners. We need more time in each car in quick succession to be sure, but our butt-dyno indicated the Weissach-and-magnesium-wheel car felt slightly more reactive to braking and steering inputs, which makes sense. Then again, the steering in both cars was fantastically precise, and for the Weissach/wheel setup's total cost of $28,890, we can't say it's empirically worth it. Money no object? Go for it and don't look back: The extra carbon trim looks killer, and who doesn't enjoy being able to tell people your car has magnesium wheels? (All GT4 RS' come with center-lock rims, a Cayman lineup first.)
We'll update this story in the coming weeks when we once again get our hands on a GT4 RS for our official testing. If you're looking for context in the meantime, consider: Compared to the latest 992-series 911 GT3 we recently named MotorTrend's 2022 Performance Vehicle of the Year, the overall driving experience feels similar. As expected, however, the GT4 RS' ultimate capability is certainly a bit less than the GT3's.
The 718's front end is strong on turn-in, but it doesn't bite as hard as the 911 thanks to smaller contact patches and a less sophisticated suspension. Whereas the new GT3 benefits from a racing-derived double control-arm front suspension and a revised multilink rear setup, the 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS retains the 718 lineup's front and rear strut approach. The GT4 RS does, however, have solid ball joints all around, which along with adjustable toe, camber, and anti-roll bars put it on another planet from standard Caymans while retaining the mid-engine vehicle architecture's fun and non-intimidating handling characteristics. Stiffer springs and dampers represent an RS-specific tune as well.
The maximum aerodynamic downforce figure—a massively important factor for modern track cars when it comes to lap time—of 220 pounds at 124 mph is also less than the GT3's, further accounting for the difference in performance. Porsche says the Cayman GT4 RS with its adjustable wing and front diffusers set to their maximum attack angles (the configuration we drove it in) produces an overall downforce level equal to the 911 GT3 set to its "low" aero configuration. A company spokesperson said the track-focused Cayman's performance lies somewhere between the old 991.2-series 911 GT3 and the 992 GT3. Indeed, the 718 Cayman GT4 RS lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes, 4.51 seconds, beating the 991.2 GT3's lap of 7:12.70 by 8.19 seconds. On the flipside, it trailed the 992 GT3's time of 6:55.34 by a similar 9.17 seconds. Those gaps will, of course, be much narrower on more conventional circuits that aren't nearly as long as the 12.8-mile Nordschleife. And for the record, the GT4 RS' time smashed the standard Cayman GT4's lap by 23.6 seconds.
Here's one place the GT4 might hold a clear advantage over the GT3 in terms of the driving experience: The 4.0 is only mere inches behind you, now absent a noise-killing carpet cover atop its airbox. With its external air-intake scoops mounted where the quarter windows live on normal Caymans, the soundtrack produced by the combination of the over-your-shoulder intake ducts and the engine's riptastic voice as it approaches 9,000 on the tach is a wild experience.
We at first thought it was about the same as we heard while driving the GT3—until we remembered to remove our helmet and take another run up and down Streets of Willow's front straight. "Yikes almighty!" is an understatement, at least from within the cockpit. Worth noting, though: Thanks to the mid-mounted flat-six's longer exhaust compared to the GT3, and perhaps also at least slightly thanks to the fuel-particulate filters installed on the European-spec cars we drove, the Cayman GT4 RS pales in comparison to the GT3 in terms of sound levels heard outside of the car. Where watching the GT3 turn laps reminds you of standing trackside at a sports car race, watching the GT4 circulate isn't nearly as dramatic. Whether you deem this a plus or a minus for the Cayman is up to you, but for people who plan to buy one mostly for street-strutting duty, their neighbors will likely consider it a positive.
The 2022 718 Cayman GT4 RS goes on sale this summer with a starting price of $143,050 (unless you add the pricey Weissach and wheel options). That's $21,100 less than the starting price for a 911 GT3 while providing an overall experience that's not far off that 911's. We can't afford to buy one of our own, but it's so much fun, we're looking for alternative ways to get hundreds of more laps. You know, like in a video game. Maybe by the time we fully master Gran Turismo 7's version of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, Porsche and Sony will come to their senses and make it happen, because this is a car every enthusiast should be able to experience no matter their bank balance.
|2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||4.0L/493-hp/331-lb-ft direct-injected DOHC 24-valve flat-six|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,250 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||175.4 x 71.7 x 49.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.2 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||321 miles (est)|
|ON SALE||Summer 2022|