You probably shouldn’t buy this car. It’s not bad, it just isn’t really meant for most people. This Porsche is a tool for single-minded speed freaks hell-bent on chasing an unattainable dream: the perfect lap.
The 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS has a name as evocative as a math problem and a price tag – $166,600 – that would make a sane person recoil. (The price – 666 – a coincidence? I think not.) By the time you add the must-have $15,110 Weissach package of carbon fibre goodies, the delicious $17,840 forged magnesium wheels, as well as the $9,130 ceramic brakes and the $3,470 front-axle lift system, you’re looking at a $212,000 version of Porsche’s entry-level Cayman sports car, which starts at $67,100. Despite that, Porsche will have no trouble selling every single RS it can build.
Like the devil, Porsche is very good at giving its customers exactly what they want and making them pay dearly for it. It’s quite a good business model. The company’s initial public offering, expected later this year, should generate plenty of interest.
The GT4 RS is a Porschephile’s dream come true: take the naturally aspirated four-litre, flat-six engine from the range-topping 911 GT3 and GT3 Cup race car – probably the best combustion-engine this side of a Ferrari V12 – and cram it into the tiny midengine Cayman chassis. Bring to a boil and voila, a car that attracts track-day junkies like a porch light draws in moths.
This won’t be an owner’s only car, and it almost certainly won’t be their only Porsche. The average household income of someone who buys one of Porsche’s GT-series cars is US$1-million, according to Frank Wiesmann, product communications manager at Porsche Cars North America.
Compared to the outwardly similar $116,100 Cayman GT4, the hardcore GT4 RS is lighter, stiffer, wider across the front axle, more powerful, contains more carbon fibre and is even less practical. The GT3 motor makes 493 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque, and spins to a neighbour-annoying 9,000 revolutions per minute. With front springs nearly twice as stiff as those on the GT4, the RS is unsuitable for our pothole-riddled public roads.
The RS looks as if it was run through the Fast and Furious movie prop department, splattered with scoops and vents and wings galore, but they’re all there for a purpose. Look closely and you’ll notice the rear side windows have been replaced with air-intakes to feed the motor. They’re located mere inches behind the driver’s head, not separated by glass or anything, and make so much noise it would be impossible to have a conversation in this car at full tilt. People will call the RS a race car for the road, but it’s not; it’s a race car for racetracks, but just happens to be road legal.
Your $200,000 gets you a machine engineered with an obsessive-compulsive attention to detail. For example, Porsche used lightweight carpet lining to save 1.8 kilograms, which helped get the curb weight down to 1,464 kilograms. Similarly, a carbon fibre reinforced plastic hood, fenders, carbon racing seats, thinner rear-window glass and other absurd weight-saving measures make the RS 22 kilograms lighter than the already featherweight GT4. That enormous rear-wing, working in concert with an adjustable front diffuser, creates up to 91 kilograms of aerodynamic downforce pinning the car to the road at 200 kilometres an hour. There’s no manual gearbox available, only a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic because it makes for quicker lap times, Wiesmann said. Fitted with the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, the RS beat the GT4′s Nurburgring lap record by exactly 23.6 seconds, he said with pride. These are geeky details, but they’re necessary for speed-demons searching to shave tenths-of-a-second off a lap time.
Wedged into the carbon fibre seats, tearing around the Streets of Willow circuit in the California desert, the car’s flat-six has an angry, high-pitched metallic edge as it wails to the 9,000 revolutions per minute red line. Gear changes are violent and instant. The steering wheel offers a steady flow of fine-grained information; the feel and feedback is as good as it gets, but the RS was not built to flatter ham-fisted drivers. If you make a mistake, it’ll let you know. Stomp on the brakes too late and release the pedal without the required finesse, and the car will snap into oversteer. Crank the steering too quickly coming into a corner and you’ll instantly feel understeer as the front tires smear across the tarmac. Lift off the throttle midcorner and the car will begin to rotate around you, sliding into predictable oversteer. Peak torque is a modest 331 lb-ft at 6,250 revolutions per minute, so – unlike the forgiving and torque-rich turbocharged motors which have become the norm – the RS’s engine demands to be kept high in the rev range. Get everything right and this little machine carries mind-blowing speed through tight, technical corners, changing directions like a sparrow.
The optional magnesium wheels cost more than a new Nissan Versa, but they save 9.7 kilograms of unsprung weight, which makes the RS’s steering feel a smidgen lighter and even more willing to change directions. And, with the optional carbon intakes and airbox from the Weissach package, the motor makes even more of a racket. Those optional extras alone cost a combined $33,000. Nothing about this will make sense to a normal person, but this isn’t a car for normal people.
The GT4 RS will teach you to be a better, faster driver, punishing mistakes and rewarding skill. In that, at least, it’s reminiscent of a miniature McLaren 720S. If you’re not planning to spend your summer weekends at local track days, do yourself a favour and buy a softer, more usable but equally enjoyable sports car, like the Porsche 718 Spyder. If you want a toy, a car less concerned with lap times and more interested in laying down big smoky drifts, try the BMW M4 or M2 CS. If, however, you often find yourself daydreaming about camber settings and racing lines, the GT4 RS is as good as it gets, at least until the new even-more-expensive GT3 RS comes along.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.