Automobiles

2022 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS First Drive Review: The Ultimate 718

Lighter, sharper and a whole lot more fun, the GT4 RS is the ultimate expression of what a 718 Cayman can be.

It's a total track rat.
Porsche

One of my favorite automotive conspiracy theories is that Porsche intentionally holds the Cayman back to protect the sanctity of the 911. It's so silly. And after hitting the track in the new GT4 RS, I have to ask: How could a Cayman get better than this?

The RS is way more than just a hotter GT4, and we actually have the 911 to thank for much of this updo. Porsche incorporated the front end from a 991-generation 911 Carrera 4S into the GT4's body structure, helping to make the RS more rigid, but also allowing it to be fitted with an electronic front-axle lift -- something no other Cayman offers. The RS' hood and front fenders are made from carbon fiber, and the air vents in the wheel wells are great for both aerodynamics and brake cooling, plus they look rad as heck. Ditto the side air ducts that replace the Cayman's rear quarter windows.

Those side ducts feed a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-6 engine, but it's not the same one used in the Cayman GT4. The RS gets the engine from the 992-generation 911 GT3 -- itself a version of the powerplant used in the 911 GT3 Cup race car -- which puts out 493 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. Of course, it's not the numerical specs that really matter here. The linear power delivery screamin' 9,000-rpm redline are what make this engine such a peach. Combine that with side air intakes and the sound the thing makes at full wail is incredible.

You can only get the Cayman GT4 RS with Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, and it has the same tuning as the transmission used in the most recent 911 GT3 RS. The shifter is the same faux-manual stick from the new GT3, and there are small paddles on the steering wheel if you feel like calling the shots. But lapping California's tight and technical Streets of Willow race track (in counterclockwise configuration, no less!), I never have the burnin' desire to take over shifting duties. PDK knows best.

The Porsche 718 chassis is one of the best out there, and it only gets better as you climb the Cayman hierarchy. The RS has unique dampers and significantly stiffer spring rates, both a boon for pancake-flat handling, but which will likely make this thing somewhat brutal on public roads. (It's an RS, what did you expect?) The retuned suspension means the RS sits 1.2 inches lower to the ground than a base Cayman, hunkered down on 20-inch center-locking wheels wrapped in 245/35 front and 295/30 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Like the 911 GT3, supersticky Cup 2 R rubbers are available, though Porsche makes you get through the dealer, not the factory.

The RS has larger brakes than a regular GT4 (carbon ceramics are optional) and it has a huge swan-neck wing, as well. You can brake late going into corners and scrub off speed quickly, knowing the RS' aero tricks won't cause the front end to dive or the rear end to shimmy during hard stops. This is awesome for coming down the hill onto what would normally be Streets' front straightaway, and braking hard as you enter the skid pad for a sharp left toward Turn 1.

Go on, live a little.

Porsche

The RS isn't so much sharper than the standard GT4 as it is more eager, aggressive and playful. It rewards quick reflexes and fearless corner entry speeds, and it doesn't come with rear-axle steering to help tuck in that rump. A mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche's torque-vectoring tech manages power between the rear wheels, and it does so brilliantly, never succumbing to oversteer or sloppiness should you get on the power a little early while exiting a turn. Increased rear camber helps with stability, and obviously, the Cup 2 R tires deserve some credit, too.

Porsche says the RS is 49 pounds lighter than an equivalent Cayman GT4 with PDK, for a final curb weight of 3,227 pounds. That's seriously light by modern sports car standards -- especially considering the large-displacement flat-six ballast. You can reduce weight by an additional 22 pounds if you spec the magnesium forged wheels that you see on this test car, which look absolutely killer painted in optional Indigo Blue. On their own, these wheels are a $15,640 upgrade, though you can only get them if you add the $13,250 Weissach Package, technically making them a $28,890 option. This is the point where I'd normally throw in a "yikes" for effect, but Porsche tells me 95% of the people who preordered the GT4 RS went for the Weissach, and 80% of those picked the magnesium wheels. Good.

You genuinely can feel a difference with the Weissach package, mostly because the magnesium wheels reduce unsprung weight at each corner. Turn-in is a little sharper and the steering wheel feels more lively in your hands. If that's worth $28,890 to you, then hey, by all means. Other Weissach goodies include exposed carbon fiber on some body panels and engine bits, Porsche lettering on the rear window and titanium tailpipes that turn an awesome blue-purple when they're hot.

Looks like a manual but it's actually an automatic. The GT4 RS gets the same shifter as the new 911 GT3.

Porsche

Going for the Weissach also adds Race-Tex suede on the dashboard, one of the few differences between the RS and non-RS interiors. Matte carbon fiber trim lines the front of the dash and the center console, and you get a yellow center marker on the steering wheel that matches the color of the gear pattern on the shifter. The single-piece carbon-fiber seats are like the ones in other Porsches, supportive and tough to get in and out of as ever. I'll mention the 7-inch color touchscreen and Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto) integration because I kind of have to, but no one buying a GT4 RS will care about that stuff whatsoever.

The first round of GT4 RS coupes will arrive in North America later this year, priced from $143,050 including $1,350 for destination. Optioned to the hilt with the Weissach pack, magnesium wheels, front-axle lift, ceramic brakes, a Bose audio system and lots of small styling tweaks, the Arctic Grey car pictured here costs $195,190, which is kind of wild. Then again, the RS more than punches above its weight, and Porsche will sell every single one it makes, so who cares?

The GT4 RS is the ultimate expression of what the Porsche 718 Cayman can be, and it in no way feels like its wings have been clipped to allow something like the 911 GT3 to fly higher. It's an immensely capable, hilariously fun little track rat that stands out as something truly special. 10 out of 10, 5 stars, no notes.