Course it was epic in the sunshine at Estoril – how about the real world?
By Matt Bird / Saturday, April 9, 2022 / Loading comments
Given it was the first comment on last month’s drive, given it’s always discussed whenever a Porsche GT car is launched, and given this absolutely must be my EuroMillions weekend, let’s get it out of the way first: yes, if you haven’t been able to secure a GT4 RS at list price, it’s surely too late now. And no, they’re not going to be easy to get secondhand, from a Porsche dealer or anywhere else. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and it won’t stop with this RS. Undoubtedly there will be people who make money off owning one and not driving it a lot, which is a pity. None of that ought to detract from one of Porsche’s most exciting production cars in years though – so let’s try to put it to one side for now.
Because any enthusiast would seize an opportunity to drive the new GT4 RS on the road, whether you’re about to take delivery or not. Moreover, the international launch route on busy and slow roads didn’t really do the car justice. So obviously we needed to have another go, as diligent journalists. Plus, of course, there’s always the slim possibility that the RS’s awe-inspiring performance on circuit might be undone by the unsettling dynamic challenge that is a British B road.
Certainly away from a race track and a swarm of similar cars, is appears even sillier, its splitter seemingly set to skim every stone, and that rear end, with those 935-style bazookas hanging low as part of the Weissach package, looking pure race car. It’s nigh-on impossible to gaze at the GT4 and not smirk at just how wild it is. How could something with front arch slashes so dramatic and intakes instead of quarter windows ever made production? The RS is a one-inch punch of a track car, packing enormous visual impact into precious little space. You almost wouldn’t feel short-changed if it was going in a collection just to gawp at…
‘Almost’ because no buyer would be doing their investment justice without spending time behind the wheel. And as the exterior so overtly implies, this is far from a regular Porsche Cayman experience. It’s not even a Cayman-turned-up-to-11 experience – which would be easy to anticipate. The RS honestly feels as far from a GT4 as that car does from a regular Cayman, and you’ll know that by the first roundabout. The reduced insulation makes everything louder, not just the venerated flat-six: you can hear the brakes, the mechanical burr of transmission and diff, and general road detritus fizz around in the arches. Pinned into that carbon bucket seat with Schroth harnesses – don’t forget the belt as well to avoid the buzzer! – the RS feels every inch the race car. Consequently, driving it on a suburban road feels kind of inappropriate, the experience more akin to a Exige than a Cayman. Only with a better driving position.
Motorways are frenetic, that’s for sure. More noise seems to emanate from the 295-section Michelin Cup 2s here than similar tyres do in a regular GT4 (probably thanks to the reduced insulation again) and the spoiler means visibility is severely reduced. The engine is obviously ever present, and the gearing that makes the RS such an exhilarating drive means the national speed limit is almost exactly 3,000rpm; 81mph (or 130kph, as per a lot of Euro speed limits) is 3,500rpm, and you’ll know it. The stereo can be turned up, and it’s hardly like buzzing along in a Caterham – yet by the same token this is in no way comparable to just a GT4 with the exhaust on. Every overtake has the flat six snarling behind your ears; your bum will tell you what year that cat’s-eye went down; and the more aggressive front end is prone to picking up the odd truck groove. There’s no danger of not paying any attention, put it that way. Or forgetting what ‘RS’ stands for…
Then you get to a single lane stretch. While clearly not designed for the environment, the car’s inherent quality means there is some unconventional fun to derive from the experience. The RS looks like it should scrape through every compression, yet it retains resolute composure over even the worst imperfection. Like every Cayman, its compact footprint ensures it feels more at home on small roads than a 911, and the steering maybe even more engrossing than in the flagship. Plus you’re never more than a flex from a truly sensational flat-six.
The engine remains epic on the public highway, and the gearing perhaps even more exciting when using all of the power band. The difference between a 420hp GT4 that’ll reach 8,000rpm and 85mph in second and a 500hp RS that howls to 9,000rpm and 70mph in the same gear is prodigious, precisely because it puts you in the most exciting part of the rev range for more of the time. And even at less than 5,000rpm, the intakes ensure the most wonderful noise, 4.0-litre gurgling, gargling and snorting with menace a few centimetres away. You could drive this car for 10,000 miles and still be finding new engine sounds right at the end. Yes, it’s far too loud for most people – but would you really care? You’re in the presence of greatness. Plus the GT3-donated lever works a treat on a country road for pretending the Cayman is an R-GT tarmac rally car – which makes it life-affirming in a way that few supercars ever achieve.
Of course, a stiffer Porsche 718 is undoubtedly one less suited to a bumpy road, but you’ll know when the flicker of traction control is coming because you’re so much more deeply plumbed into the experience. The RS demands your A-game, all of the time, everywhere – would you really want it any different? Because, sure, hand on heart, a regular GT4 would be more supple and perhaps even more enjoyable over a long stretch, but by the same token it can’t summon up the urgency or semi-deranged nature of its sibling – nor the nerve-shredding thrill that comes with it.
It says much of the Cayman experience that not only does it feel sillier than a 911 GT3 RS on the road, but also that those options to further focus the experience – the sports exhaust and the PASM dampers’ Sport mode – go untouched for much longer than usual. Where these functions can go unnoticed when activated in humbler Porsches, there’s no danger of that here; the exhaust introduces an inescapable, booming blare to the honking intake, and the dampers further tighten body movements that are already ferociously controlled as standard. It’s tolerable, just, if of little discernible benefit on the road. The ‘normal’ experience is hardcore enough.
Yet for all its relative unsuitability – regardless of the claims, this is definitely a car that works better on track than road – there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for another go in the RS. It’s hard to recall a hardtop car of any stripe that insists the driver is so immersed in every part of the drive, yet stops just short of overwhelming them. I’d have no qualms about driving it to the Nurburgring, put it that way. Furthermore, a louder, stiffer, more agitated Cayman with shorter gears actually means you drive at a slower speed, despite the extra power, which must be a boon in the UK.
But be in no doubt – this is a properly intense Porsche, regardless of the Cayman badge. Those with just a couple of track days lined up this year will probably still be better served by a GT4, such is this RS’s unflinching focus. However, if you’re the kind of person who can do midweek track days, has a European A-Z that starts with Assen and ends at Zandvoort, and wants to turn up to a Sunday Service utterly wired, then this is the car. It’s hard to think of anything better for making every mile memorable, in fact, than a GT4 RS – more expensive Porsches included.
SPECIFICATION | 2022 PORSCHE 718 CAYMAN GT4 RS
Engine: 3,996cc, flat-six
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch PDK auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],400rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],750rpm
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,415kg (DIN)
MPG: 21.4 (WLTP)
CO2: 299g/km (WLTP)
Price: £108,370 (price as standard; price as tested £131,112 comprised of Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brake for £5,597 (though not currently available to order), GT Silver Metallic for £2,273, Leather interior Weissach package with extensive items in leather and Race-Tex, in Black-Deep Sea Blue for £1,242, Weissach package without roll cage for £8,913, Clubsport Package as no-cost-option, Chrono Package for £194, Brake calipers in black for £581, Wheels painted in Satin Neodyme for £387, LED main headlights including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus for £1,322, Light design package for £210, Rear ParkAssist for £362, Speed limit indicator for £236, Cruise control for £228, Six-point racing harness for passenger seat for £294, Seat belts in Deep Sea Blue for £194, Roll cage in satin Deep Sea Blue for £257, Sun visors Race-Tex for £291, Storage compartment lid in Race-Tex with Porsche Crest for £161.)
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