The Porsche Cayman GT4 RS is a track-focused monster, but how does it handle being driven on the road with some torrential rain thrown in? Ben Zachariah headed to the hills to find out.
- Ergonomics are spot on
- Handling is up there with the all-time greats
- The engine is pure art
- Ride is overly firm for a road car
- Pack light, there ain’t much storage
- Dunlop tyres didn’t instil confidence in the wet
2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS
To those who aren’t brand diehards, the 2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS probably just looks like any other wild RS-badged coupe from the company in the past decade. Wings, flaps, vents, and an abundance of carbon fibre.
But this is a significant car in Porsche’s history, as it is the first Cayman to receive the RS treatment, tipping the scales away from a road car and more towards a dedicated racer – and it could very well be the last, with the next generation rumoured to be moving to a purely electric powertrain.
For a Porsche to wear the RS badge means it is the most hardcore iteration of that model. More power, less weight, much fast.
Interestingly, though, it isn’t the first 718 to wear an RS badge. Long before the revered 911 had appeared in the company’s line-up, the 1957 Porsche 718 RSK launched, coming third overall at Le Mans and eventually winning the Targa Florio.
So the 718 RS has some weighty provenance, to say nothing of the expectations set by its bigger sibling, the 911 GT3 RS – which, through the generations, has been considered by many to be the ‘enthusiast’s choice’ among the supercar fraternity.
In March 2022, our very own Joshua Dowling was one of the first to test the Cayman GT4 RS in Europe, with Porsche smartly limiting time spent on the road in favour of loops at a dedicated racetrack. Because there’s no getting around it – this is a racing car with carpet and CarPlay.
What I really wanted to know was whether the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS is even remotely useable on Australian roads.
|Key details||2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS 982|
|Price||$311,900 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Shark Blue|
|Options||Weissach Package – $33,210
– Leather and Race-Tex interior
– Exposed carbon-fibre bonnet
– Forged magnesium wheels
– Titanium exhaust
Club Sport Package – $0
– Bolt-in roll cage
– Six-point racing harness for the driver
– Fire extinguisher
Lift system on front axle – $4900
Chrono Package – $520
Special Colour – $6070
|Price as tested||$356,600 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Porsche 911 GT3 | Lamborghini Huracan | Ferrari F8 Tributo|
With an hour of seat time under my belt, heading out of Melbourne’s suburbia for the Yarra Valley, I was reminded of other cars I’d driven from the German sports car company in recent years.
Naturally I was reminded of my time with the Porsche 981 Cayman GT4, with its millimetre-perfect driving position. Also, the 2022 Porsche 992 911 GT3 and its engine that’s shared with the GT4 RS, as well as mixed memories of a 1983 Porsche 911 SC cabriolet with Fuchs wheels.
Some years ago, driving away from the house of the friend who had loaned me his 911 SC for a few summer days on the Great Ocean Road, the heavens had opened up during my journey through Melbourne. Clenched buttocks, a leaking roof, and an older rear-engined car I had yet to get to terms with.
History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme, as they say.
By the time I’d reached Healesville in the GT4 RS, the black cloud that had been chasing me finally caught up, and I found shelter at a petrol station as sheets of rain filled the valley and winds brought down trees and branches. In the height of summer, no less.
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It all seemed very familiar.
Firstly, just like that old Porsche 911 SC, this GT4 RS vehicle isn’t a press car – it’s privately owned. And the very trusting owner had enjoyed exactly one day of driving his car before it went in to get paint protection film applied, and I had collected it from the workshop for this test. So the unseasonable wet weather and the clenching were things I was used to at least.
|2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS 982|
|Boot volume||125L front / 136L rear|
But there were a few key differences this time around. Unlike the 911, the Cayman is mid-engined. There’s also no leaky roof to worry about, being a coupe. The GT4 RS also costs a bit more than the 911 SC, coming in at $311,900 before on-road costs – about $77K cheaper than the GT3, and nearly $200K less than the GT3 RS.
Even at that price point, the GT4 RS doesn’t come with a push-button start, as Josh noted, but neither does it come with stereo buttons for the steering wheel. Volume would have been nice. The knobs and buttons Porsche has provided are top-notch, though, and a masterclass in button making. And it does have some funky cupholders that are fun to use.
The 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six engine is borrowed directly from the 992 GT3, but the air intakes are quite different in the GT4 RS, significantly changing the car’s soundtrack – as well as its character.
Now mounted where the glass would normally be for second-row passengers, air is sucked in directly behind the heads of the driver and passenger, making for an insane noise any time the throttle is applied. The throttle essentially becomes a volume pedal.
As the carbon-fibre intakes provide no sound insulation, and because they’re mounted just behind your ears, you get to hear valves and butterflies doing their thing, with volumes of air rushing in to create a cacophony of rorty metallic noise. It’s quite the experience.
‘Quiet’ probably isn’t the right word for the RS, but driving in traffic and around town was civilised enough, with phone calls taken over Bluetooth and some music playing in the background as I headed for the Yarra Valley.
Get the car onto an empty road, and it’s clear its party piece is that stunning, free-revving engine. I thought this in the GT3 last year, and the GT4 RS just confirms it – the engine is a genuine work of art.
But this isn’t the kind of engine art that should be turned into a coffee table – this flat-six deserves to be used and shared with the world, like a Stradivarius violin. Only much, much louder.
Unfortunately, because this car was so new, so fresh off the boat, it hadn’t completed its run-in period and we weren’t allowed to explore the car’s 9000rpm redline. Thankfully, I had experienced what the engine was capable of in the GT3, and it is nothing short of spectacular when it hits those highs.
Not that we would have been able to experience redline anyway. On those roads, in that torrential weather, anything more than about 40 per cent throttle had the rear Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres struggling to keep us within our marked lane.
Only a few times were there opportunities to lean on the throttle, but the engine builds revs so quickly that we were reaching our faux redline immediately, and short-shifting the transmission had us approaching licence-losing speeds just as quickly. These events were loud and violent and exhilarating to the point of bordering on scary.
This is a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six engine producing 368kW and 450Nm, feeding the 295-section rear tyres via a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission – in a package that weighs approximately 1400kg.
All of which sends the Cayman GT4 RS to 100km/h from a standstill in less than 3.5 seconds (claimed) to a top speed of 315km/h, in ideal conditions.
There is an urgency with this vehicle that feels as if it can sometimes get away from you if you’re not on your game. Drivers with slow reaction times should look elsewhere.
One big difference between the new GT4 RS and the older 981 GT4 that I drove is that transmission. The six-speed manual found in the earlier GT4 was almost perfect – if not a little long in the ratios – both in terms of the way it felt mechanically, but also ergonomically.
Having a manual transmission in the Porsche Cayman GT4 also meant you got to work the shifter and savour the experience to some degree, even if the 3.8-litre isn’t on the same level as the RS’s 4.0-litre. No, the RS is different, in that it almost feels like you’re holding on for dear life when you put the hammer down. Noise, revs, speed, expletives.
But the engine is just so quick to rev, I found the seven-speed PDK made light work of driving in traffic, yet still offered the option of quick and precise gear changes via the paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel when some more spirited driving was called for. The PDK is the right choice for this car, and I didn’t find myself wishing for the manual at any point, despite how much I loved it in the original GT4.
This vehicle is also fitted with both a Club Sport Package – adding a bolt-in roll cage, a six-point racing harness, and a fire extinguisher – as well as the Weissach Pack, which adds an exposed carbon-fibre bonnet and a titanium exhaust system.
Be prepared to pack light if you plan on heading away with a GT4 RS with the Club Sport option ticked – with two backpacks in the storage trunk under the bonnet, and little in the way of spare space in the cabin, we were basically at capacity.
In terms of interior comfort and ergonomics, the 718 is one of the best platforms out there, with everything exactly where it should be inside. And even with the low seats, vision was remarkably good and parking was never difficult.
I did feel a little bad, though. With Porsche’s engineers going to all the effort of manufacturing a carbon-fibre bonnet and front quarter panels, lightweight wheels, and removing sound deadening from the car to shave 10kg off the GT4’s weight (it would have been 35kg if not for the roll cage) – just for me to enjoy a few too many pizzas over lockdown and undo all their good work.
Despite ruining their plans, the RS still feels light and nimble, and even without much sound-deadening material, the car feels comfortable and bolted together properly – it oozes high quality. That might sound silly considering the GT4 RS costs as much as it does, but in supercar circles that feeling of solidity certainly isn’t a given.
But it’s more than that. The Cayman GT4 RS walks a very fine and very rare line of being a factory-built track car that can be registered, yet it is adorned with a minimal list of luxuries that make it usable and comfortable enough on the streets, all while knocking on the door of some vehicles that cost a significant chunk of change more.
|At a glance||2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS 982|
|Warranty||Three years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2995 (three years)
$5495 (five years)
But unlike most racing cars, there are no creaks or groans, neither is there discomfort from poor ergonomics that often plague supercars, nor any concern over the reliability of the powertrain that’s already been well proven in the more expensive GT3.
The car’s chassis is also unbelievably rigid. Potentially amplified by the car’s very stiff suspension, the GT4 RS feels as if it would have to be one of the most torsionally rigid production cars on the road – perhaps even more so than the 992 GT3.
The ride itself is firm, though, there’s simply no getting around it. While having to drive the same piece of winding mountain road for our talented photographer Frank Yang to do his thing in the rain, I kept having to drive over a large and unavoidable depression in the road surface. In most cars, it would have been nothing but a minor bump, barely a footnote, but the Porsche’s dedication to spinal communication – the very thing that makes this car so telepathically good on the track – meant it was a major event in the RS, even at subsequently lower speeds.
The steering – in terms of ratio, weight, and road feedback – is just about as perfect as you can get in a production car today. No notes.
While we weren’t in a position to test the GT4’s handling to the edge of its abilities, on that day, on those roads, the car flowed around those corners like it had changed to a liquid state. A very loud and angry liquid. The car feels like its pivot point is in the very centre of the car, with no hint of understeer from the front end. What a joy it is to use, when the situation presents itself.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||12.7L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||Not recorded|
|Fuel type||98-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||64L|
With the exception of the wipers and Apple CarPlay, the most used feature of the GT4 RS during our test was the car’s front-axle lift system, which allows the pointy end of the car to be raised by 30mm to clear driveways and things with the touch of a button. And it’s an absolute necessity in this car if you want to avoid damage to the front splitter.
Measuring 408mm for the front discs, the brakes were many standard deviations above our requirements for that day, and I imagine it would take a whole bunch of abusive laps on a hot day at Phillip Island before they would begin to show any sign of fade.
The front brakes are cooled by functional NACA air ducts at the bonnet that filter air to the callipers, with extraction of the hot spent air helped by the rounded lip below the 10 o’clock position of the front wheel arches. It’s a very subtle but quite beautiful design element of the GT4 RS.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was seeing the set of factory-fitted Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2 tyres on the car – 245/35 ZR20 to steer and 295/30 ZR20 to drive.
No shade on Dunlop – I was impressed by the grip on the dry Gippsland mountain roads I found that afternoon during a break in the weather. But the wet-weather grip I don’t believe to be as good as some of the most recent offerings from other leaders in the tyre industry.
However, when they broke traction in the heavy rain they were consistent and easy to read, and were fairly accurate to place on the apex thanks to the Cayman’s braille-like chassis (and likely some advanced computer processing providing digital assistance).
For most owners, though, I expect the Dunlops will be stored in a dark corner of the garage or thrown in the skip after the engine’s break-in period is completed – all in favour of a set of barely road-legal semi-slick track tyres.
Because, as Porsche will tell you and I have previously mentioned, this is a track car with a rego plate, and most of these vehicles will spend their time at racetracks and will likely never see any kind of serious rain event. Certainly, I can’t imagine there will be too many times in history where this or another GT4 RS will have to endure the kind of weather that assaulted us that day in the Yarra Valley.
|Key details||2023 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS 982|
|Engine||4.0-litre naturally aspirated six-cylinder petrol|
|Power||368kW @ 8400rpm|
|Torque||450Nm @ 6750rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||260kW/t|
|Brakes||408mm x 36mm discs, six-piston callipers (front)
380mm x 30mm discs, four-piston callipers (rear)
|Wheels and tyres||20×8.5-inch wheels, 245/35 tyres (front)
20×11-inch wheels, 295/30 tyres (rear)
Yet, I don’t believe any of the things I’ve mentioned are shortcomings. The tyres won’t be a factor for most owners, the hard ride will help with its track times, and nobody will be doing laps at The Bend wishing there were steering-wheel buttons. This is a deliberate car engineered for one main purpose – and driving on country roads in the wet wouldn’t have been part of the design brief.
On my way home, and after an unscheduled stop with some lovely gentlemen from the local constabulary, I gathered my thoughts. The GT4 RS is certainly usable for Australian roads, but it isn’t even close to being the first choice for a weekend sports car.
There really are only two types of people who should even contemplate buying a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS: collectors who’ll barely drive the car, and those who regularly race or participate in track days.
For everyone else, there are any number of utterly superb vehicles from the 718 line-up that make for a more sensible road car – including, I might add, one of my favourite cars of 2022: the Boxster 25 Years, which you can read a review of here from our man Tom Fraser. For those who want a coupe, the Cayman GT4 with its 4.0-litre engine is the one to look at, as Kez Casey noted in his review – and it’s almost half the price of the GT4 RS.
It seems impossible to me that the GT4 RS was given government approval, or that it even made it past the company bosses, because it is a properly bonkers vehicle. But it is spectacular. And despite its dogged track focus, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS can take its place in Porsche’s long and rich history of producing some of the world’s finest sports cars.