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Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Is for the Feedback

Sep 11, 2023

The sound. The steering. The ultimate connection to the road. More than lap times, the GT4 RS delivers smiles worthy of its exclusivity. A fitting end to one of the world’s great sports cars.

The 718 Cayman GT4 RS is a fitting sendoff for Porsche’s gas-powered mid-engine sports car. Free of any corporate restrictions, it’s the ultimate conclusion for the Cayman platform, with the big-boy GT3 engine, usable aerodynamics, and legit race car suspension—everything a purist could possibly desire, save for a third pedal.

The yearning for a manual transmission quells itself as soon as you spin the starter. A deep, guttural rumble from the 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six penetrates the interior in a way that no other car could, thanks to a carbon airbox that sits atop the motor and inside the cabin. Fed by carbon inlets where the rear quarter windows would normally sit, it’s a unique approach that solidifies the GT4 RS as the best-sounding Porsche road car ever—from the driver’s seat, anyway. At 9000 rpm, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is the lack of a stick shift.

Porsche didn’t need to develop a new intake system for the GT4 RS. But it did, part of a larger goal that aimed to provide as much feedback to the driver as possible. That ethos extends to every part of the vehicle, from the spherical ball joints, to the wider front fenders, to the shorter gearing. There are faster track specials, yes, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that talks back to you with such immediacy and clarity.

The GT4 RS is, of course, far from slow. That flat-six is straight out of the 911 GT3, complete with the same individual throttle bodies, rigid finger-follower valvetrain, and dry-sump oiling system. It’s rated at 493 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque—less than the GT3 not because of engine tuning, but because the exhaust needed to be lengthened to get the engine to fit. Curb weight is 3227 pounds, lighter than the normal GT4 thanks to a fiberglass reinforced plastic hood and front fenders. There’s also reduced sound deadening, lighter carpeting, a lightweight piece of glass for the rear hatch, and simple pull straps in place of door handles. That revamped final drive means a rocket sprint 2.8 seconds to 60 and, when equipped with the Weissach package, a 7:04 lap time around the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

You’ll want to spend the $13,250 over the GT4 RS’s $163,650 base price if you plan to drive the car on a track, as you rightly should. The Weissach pack adds a smattering of visible carbon along the exterior, including the hood, wing, intakes, mirrors, and swan neck-shaped wing uprights. It also comes with a lighter titanium exhaust and forged wheels. Those truly obsessed with unsprung mass can option forged magnesium wheels. Just be prepared to swallow the $15,640 price tag.

The Weissach pack also adds specific logos to the dashboard and the headrests of the standard bucket seats, an attempt to help modernize an 11-year-old interior design that originated with the last-gen Boxster. Acres of buttons spewed across the dash and a mostly analog gauge cluster are a refreshing sight in a world now dominated by screens. Techheads won’t be happy with the lack of a wheel-mounted drive mode selector and missing wireless CarPlay, but purists won’t care. The one thing that truly irks us is the PDK shifter, taken straight from the GT3. It tries its hardest to look like a real six-speed, down to the round knob and Alcantara boot. We had to explain more than once to onlookers that no, it doesn’t have a stick shift, as much as that might look like one.

Everything else about the interior, though, is perfect. The buckets provide, well, buckets of lateral support, and aren’t terribly uncomfortable for long stints. You sit low in the chassis, and can get the steering wheel nice and close for optimal precision. Visibility is excellent, save for the rear, which is partially obscured by the wing, bigger than the one on the normal GT4. Getting in and out is an exercise in body contortion, but after a few attempts I figured out a way to ingress and egress with a little bit of grace. A helpful tip: slide the seat back from your normal driving position to give as much room as possible to swing your legs out.

When there’s a race track at your disposal, getting out of the GT4 RS is the last thing you’ll want to do. A day at Lime Rock Park, an iconic road course nestled within the hills of northwest Connecticut, was more than enough time to discover the upper limits of Porsche’s mid-engine sports car in its ultimate form. The 1.6-mile track, with its varying corners and stark elevation changes, is our preferred location for testing, whether it be new track specials like this, car comparisons, or vintage race cars.

It takes less than one turn to quell any fears the mighty GT3 engine could overwhelm the GT4’s wonderful chassis. Standard Michelin Cup 2s keep the rear in check, while a wider front track delivers tons of grip and feedback, dropped in huge bundles like a dump truck unloading on your front door. The lack of rubber in the suspension means there’s nothing but hard, metal linkages between the pavement and your fingertips, the steering wheel feeding every bit of information your brain can handle. The rack itself is quick but never gets twitchy. It encourages you to be smooth and poised, but stays at the ready for quick adjustments and minor corrections alike.

Even through Lime Rock’s last two corners—fast right-handers where you have to be brave to go quickly—the GT4 RS doesn’t ever feel knife-edged or scary, despite what its carbon-slathered, aero-optimized body might suggest. Ironically, it feels far less serious than the bigger, more powerful GT3 RS. There’s a sensible, playful limit that’ll tell you it’s coming long before you get out of shape. It’s the type of car that eggs you on, begs you to dig deeper and go further with your limits without ever fumbling when it reaches its own. A lot of that has to do with the downforce, which is 25 percent greater than the regular GT4, and the adaptive Bilstein dampers at work, which can react quicker than before.

As joyful as corners can be, it’s Lime Rock’s front straight where you’ll receive the biggest dopamine hit. This 4.0-liter is the engine the GT4 should’ve had all along, and feels even more epic than it did in the GT3. Despite what the numbers say it feels just as powerful here, and that in-cabin airbox makes it seem like the wide-open-throttle symphony is being injected directly into the base of your brain stem. The last thousand rpm especially, from 8000 to 9000, is pure metal-on-metal chaos, and it’s supremely addictive.

I’d go as far as to issue a warning if you ever get the chance to drive or ride in a GT4 RS: This car will ruin all other Porsches for you. From the inside, it outdoes everything else for sound, save for the most unobtainable race cars. I went from driving the GT4 RS to a GT3 RS, and while the GT3 was certainly quicker and more powerful, I couldn’t believe the difference in volume and quality from the engine. If sensory overload is your top priority, there is no greater Porsche road car on sale today.

The only thing worthy of matching the perfect engine is a perfect gearbox. Porsche’s PDK remains the “no notes” of dual-clutches, executing telepathically quick shifts without cutting torque going to the wheels. Leave the transmission in automatic and press the “PDK Sport” button on the center console, and the ‘box will react quicker under braking to deliver downshifts to ensure you’re in the right gear when exiting a corner. A combination of speed, braking force, lateral gs, and steering wheel angle means it always seems to know exactly which gear you should be in—sometimes even more than you do.

Just as impressive as the GT4 RS’s gearbox are its brakes. There are aluminum monoblock fixed calipers at each corner, with six pistons at the front and four at the rear. The front discs measure 16 inches in diameter, 1.1 inches bigger than the discs on the regular GT4. There are NACA ducts on the hood that route air directly to the calipers, meaning you won’t ever have to worry about overheating while on track. Those that need even more stopping power can option Porsche’s ceramic composite brakes (PCCB) for an additional $8000. They worked well on our tester, delivering smooth yet solid and consistent stopping power with every jab of the pedal. The car went through repeated, 10/10ths laps around Lime Rock across a full day with multiple drivers, and the brakes didn’t exhibit any fade.

The 718 Cayman GT4 RS is the ultimate conclusion for Porsche’s universally loved sports car. It takes everything we adore about the hardest-core 911 track specials from the brand (high-revving engine, lightning-quick gearbox, real aero, plenty of carbon fiber) and stuffs them into a delightful chassis without ruining the balance that made the Cayman so good in the first place. Overtly friendly and fun for all levels of driver, I can’t think of a better out-of-the-box track car that you can just get in and immediately enjoy this easily. It’s very likely this RS (and the Boxster Spyder version) will be the last hurrah for mid-engine Porsches, seeing as how the 718’s replacement will be fully electric. As sad as that sounds, I’m just glad the GT4 RS exists at all. For the longest time, we all assumed Porsche would never make a car like this, resigning its most desirable upgrades to its rear-engine flagship. Yet here it is, in all its glory. So let’s celebrate it while we can.

Brian Silvestro is Hearst Autos' Lead Deputy Editor for rankings content. He spent over seven years as a staff writer for Road & Track Magazine, and still contributes regularly with car reviews, industry interviews, and more.

He also has a taste for high-mileage, rusted-out projects and amateur endurance racing.

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