A special-series Cayman with the presence, rawness, drama and pace to mix with the very best

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Porsche’s Andreas Preuninger, the chief architect of every one of the company’s revered, hardcore GT sports cars since the original ‘996’ 911 GT3 of 1999, has described the subject of this week’s road test as “a wild child”.

Coming from someone well used to the savagery of so many Porsche 911 GT2 RS and Porsche 911 GT3 RSs, those sentiments land loud and clear – not that the car he was talking about needs much introduction.

That wing catches your eye, but the sheer amount of aerodynamic sculpture and venting around the front wheels is even more sensational. Can a road car’s front brakes ever have been better-cooled?

This week, then, the Autocar road test records the benchmark numbers without which the story of Weissach’s latest top-level hero sports car couldn’t be complete. We are about to document exactly how fast, how loud and how special is one of the most anticipated new Porsches of recent years: the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS.

The overhaul that takes this Porsche Cayman deep into track-day-ready supercar territory is the stuff of legend. A story of development carried out in clandestine fashion so the bean-counters and killjoys couldn’t abort the car before it had a chance to exist; and of a vision powered by gut instinct and pure curiosity but backed by the passion of a thoroughly enthusiastic team of engineers.

The GT4 RS is built by those who wondered: ‘Could we put a GT3 engine in a Cayman?’ The ‘should we?’ part, admits Preuninger, didn’t really figure until there was a working prototype and Weissach’s key decision-makers had been convinced, both by its mere existence and by the driving experience, that the car demanded a place in showrooms.

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Range at a glance

Porsche’s 718 range remains characteristically broad even six years into the current model’s life cycle. Both four-cylinder derivatives remain on sale, the T model having been added at a similar time as the GT4 in 2019.

An open-topped Porsche Boxster version of each of the above will cost a £2000 premium, the exception being the 718 Boxster 4.0 Spyder, which is slightly cheaper than an equivalent Cayman GT4.

Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman296bhp
Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman T296bhp
Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman S345bhp
Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman GTS 4.0394bhp
Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman GT4414bhp
Porsche Cayman 718 Cayman GT4 RS*493bhp

*Version tested


02 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 rear corner

We have had both 981 and 982 generations of Porsche Cayman, before which there were 986 and 987 generations of the Porsche Boxster and, latterly, Cayman. Given the way Porsche tends to couple up generations of its cars developmentally, leaving big technological shifts for alternate model leaps, we expected a fresh technical take for the next car anyway. With full electrification on the way for next year’s all-new Boxster and Cayman, we’re getting a pretty bold conceptual overhaul.

But for now we celebrate the old. The Porsche Cayman GT4 RS’s 3996cc atmospheric flat six is an entirely different engine from the 3995cc one used by the regular Porsche Cayman GT4. With a significantly oversquare cylinder design, an eyebrow-raising 13.3:1 compression ratio and rocker arm-driven valves, it produces 493bhp at 8400rpm and 332lb ft at 6750rpm, and it revs all the way to 9000rpm.

The standard Cayman’s rear quarterlight glazing is thrown out, replaced by vents for the induction of the 4.0-litre GT3 engine just inboard.

The engine is exactly as it appears in a Porsche 911 GT3, says Porsche. It produces slightly less peak power and torque here because it needs longer and more complicated exhaust tracts, each of which has a rear axle to navigate, than would any 911. But it’s not those exhausts that define so much about this car’s audible character, rather the engine’s new carbonfibre induction system, which sucks air through new intakes located directly behind your head, where the Cayman’s quarterlight side windows might otherwise be.

Downstream of the screaming flat six, meanwhile, there’s a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which uses the shortest gearset on the Weissach shelf (it was originally developed for the ‘991.2’ 911 GT3 RS) and should answer the many criticisms of the regular Cayman GT4 that it was over-geared. There’s also a mechanical limited-slip differential, because it would have been impossible to squeeze an active diff into the available space.

For its axles, the GT4 RS likewise mixes componentry from various GT and RS 911s. It retains MacPherson struts at both ends, although they are fully rose-jointed to the chassis for optimum feedback and wheel control. The car rides 30mm lower than a regular Cayman, and its coil springs are between 40% and 66% firmer even than those of a GT4 and feature helper springs at each end. The axle tracks are also wider and its PASM dampers and passive anti-roll bars have been uprated, the latter being manually adjustable, along with wheel camber and toe angle.

Lightweight door panels, lightweight glazing, lightweight ◊ ∆ carbonfibre bucket seats and carbonfibre-composite bodywork all save weight on the car, which comes in at a homologated 1415kg as claimed – some 35kg lighter than an equivalent Cayman GT4 PDK. The car could be lighter still, of course, allowing for optional carbon-ceramic brakes, magnesium wheels and various deleted interior fittings.

Our test car did without many of those optional lightweight touches but still weighed 1444kg fuelled and in running order. That’s 14kg heavier than the ‘992’ GT3 PDK we tested in 2021 but still light by modern Porsche GT car standards.


08 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 dashboard

The Porsche Cayman has always made a surprisingly usable, habitable kind of two-seater. The funny thing about the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS, wild and madcap as it undoubtedly is in so many ways, is that it doesn’t change that too much.

The car’s optional half roll-cage obviously hasn’t been fitted at the expense of any back seats. That swan-neck rear wing is connected to the usual hatchback bootlid, under which lies a reasonably useful amount of cargo space, even more of which can be found under the carbonfibre-composite nose panel.

The clubsport pack includes a steel half roll-cage; add the Weissach package and it’s made of titanium (although the titanium cage isn’t FIA approved for competition).

The car’s lightweight bucket seats are snug around the hips and need to be berthed a little carefully, but they are perfectly comfortable over longer distances. They are seats whose cushion thickness you can even have tailored to your own body shape and preference, if you like.

You’re couched down extra low at the wheel but feel intimately connected to and at close quarters with the car’s major mechanicals, just as you would want to be, with the steering wheel poking straight out at your sternum. The engine is an unmissable presence so clearly right behind your shoulder, and once the car is moving it rolls around an axis that feels aligned perfectly with your body’s own chest-high centre of mass. As one tester so astutely put it, driving a Cayman feels a lot like paddling a canoe.

The cabin around you is dark and its layout and specification undoubtedly betray the age of the 987-generation base car, with its dinky infotainment screen, mostly analogue instruments and button-busy centre console. In our test car, the whole dashboard came wrapped in dark Dinamica suede for that extra dose of race car flavour. There is carbonfibre decorative trim, too, but not too much of it. Neither is there much at all to take away the focus from what you’re here to do. The 9000rpm rev counter dominates the driver binnacle, while the steering wheel itself hasn’t got a single switch or knob on it. Quite plainly, Porsche isn’t expecting GT4 RS owners to care much about how easy it is to switch between radio stations.

Forward visibility in the GT4 RS is good by sports car standards, but the over-shoulder view is curtailed owing to those quarterlight air intakes and rear-view visibility takes a hit from the presence of that rear wing. Merging from offset junctions can be tricky as a result, at which point you will be worryingly aware of this car’s looming blindspots. It’s nothing you couldn’t tolerate, though, or that doesn’t come with such rarefied sporting territory.


14 Porsche cayman gt4 rs rt 2022 infotainment 1 1

The GT4 RS’s ‘PCM’ touchscreen infotainment system is pretty basic by contemporary standards. It has a 7in screen and wired smartphone mirroring for Apple handsets, but it offers nothing for other formats.

Some networked functionality is offered via a 4G data sim, as well as the PVTS+ vehicle tracking system. But the system’s most popular menus are likely to be those of the Porsche Track Precision lap-timing and performance logging app, which works very well. Regular circuit drivers should consider the loss of these before deciding to have the whole system deleted (as a no-cost option) in order to save weight.

Porsche includes an eight-speaker, 150W Sound Package Plus audio system as standard, which sounds decent and certainly is welcome on longer journeys. You can boost this to a 10-speaker, 505W Bose premium audio set-up, which will cost £834 and some additional weight.


16 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 engine

What the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS offers here, in a vaguely abstract sense, is one of the all-time great performance engines applied in a completely new way, ready to leave you dumbstruck and awe-inspired all over again.

The 4.0-litre flat six has all of the dizzying strengths that prior experience of a Porsche 911 GT3 would lead you to expect: big power, supreme response and transformative range and freedom of operation. But here it hits new heights for noise and sensory rawness. You might not expect to read this of a near-500bhp Porsche Cayman, but there may not be another sports car in the world that better bears witness to the relative insignificance of outright power and torque compared with the impact of such a dramatic style of delivery.

Above 7500rpm, the GT4 RS makes a noise that can’t fail to inspire expletive exclamation. If you thought this engine sounded good in the back of a 911 GT3, imagine sharing an oxygen chamber with it.

The car’s turbine exhaust howl is one that fast 911 owners are likely to recognise instantly; likewise the rhythmic chatter of rocker arms, and the percussive stab of revs and instant sneeze of mechanical activity that come with every paddle-shift gearchange. No other sports car sounds as alive with almost hypnotic mechanical commotion as a Porsche with this motorsport-derived engine.

The proximity of the flat six to your ears puts all of the audible theatre at even closer range than you are used to, accentuating every beat and flare. Then there’s the new induction noise: a symphony of sucking and hissing of air, and of reverberating combustion hammer, which is unlike anything that the vast majority of owners of modern performance cars will ever have heard before.

Is it fast? Every bit as much as it needs to be, both on the road and the track – although there are, of course, more rapid sports cars you could spend this kind of money on if going fast is your ultimate priority. The car’s claimed 0-62mph time of 3.4sec would need to be matched on the super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres that are available as an option. On a dry and hot test day, and on Porsche’s standard Cup 2s, the car only managed a two-way average of 3.9sec to 60mph, and it needed 8.3sec to hit 100mph – at which point, thanks to that engine, it’s only just out of third gear. Even so, a full-fat 911 GT3 is less than a second quicker to that point, while a BMW M4 Competition is a tenth slower.

Our test car’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes have good bite as well as impressive outright power and great fade resistance. The crispness and speed with which you can row up and down ratios on the PDK gearbox as you play tunes on that engine, meanwhile, is incredible.

But it’s the otherworldly combination of smoothness, rev-hungry operating range, fizzing outright mechanical animation and addictive dramatic character of the GT4 RS’s whole powertrain that stays with you. It feels like an agent of performance driving from a higher plane.


18 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 front cornering

Porsche’s track record with its RS products suggests you might be in for an uncompromising experience, but the Porsche Cayman has always been a subtly suspended sports car that has never needed firm chassis rates or a highly strung temperament to achieve its dynamic aims.

The Porsche Cayman GT4 RS splits the difference between the two. There’s an edge to its alertness and adhesive tenacity, even on regular Cup tyres, that will reassure Cayman regulars that they’re experiencing something special, but there’s a shortness and firmness about the ride that can get a little spiky on a choppy B-road and over bigger low-speed inputs. There’s plenty of unfiltered road noise, too, and connected feel from both axles.

The swan-neck rear wing is the very same as the one on the 911 GT3 but for the model branding on the side. It adjusts through three pitch settings; all you need is a set of Torx screwdrivers.

Nonetheless, the car’s suspension deals with most UK road surfaces amazingly well, keeping close control of body movement without a jiggle or nag, remaining settled and steady when you’re touring and generally declining to ram home its track-tuned purposes except along those kinds of roads and surfaces on which you would expect a car of this nature to begin to come unstuck.

Like other Caymans, this one steers with measured pace, but it also displays a new level of weight and feedback that allows you a really clear tactile connection with the road and a real gauge of the available grip level from, and the load going through, the front contact patches. On an uneven surface you’ll need to keep both hands on the rim, and then use plenty of physicality on track. But while there aren’t many bumps that the chassis will willingly engage with, few seem to disturb it or jar the chassis.

The car’s outright grip level, even on standard tyres, is very high, and its directional responsiveness and chassis composure at normal road speeds are both such that it can seem unchallenged by normal driving. Even so, it is by no means aloof or uninteresting.

The gentle, effortlessly checked pitch and roll that normally characterise a Cayman’s handling need really big track speeds to present themselves, but the GT4 RS’s steering and handling are so perfectly pin-sharp that you feel totally immersed in the car’s motive mystique in any case.

You hardly think about the mechanics of driving this car. It’s almost as if you guide it by impulse, as an extension of yourself, feeling plugged into the chassis by your synapses in the same way as you are to that incredible engine.

Comfort and isolation

19 Porsche cayman gt4 rs rt 2022 rear cornering 1

The GT4 RS delivers greater touring comfort than you might expect. It isn’t quiet, but you would never criticise it for lacking refinement, and its rawness and buzzing mechanical feel are at the heart of its appeal. Apparently, that carbonfibre induction system used to be a lot noisier before steps were taken to reduce its harshness – at its worst, the noise was compared by those who experienced it to that of a chainsaw cutting through your temples.

Even in its finished state, with the car’s tacho needle approaching 9000rpm and the exhaust in ‘noisy’ mode, our decibel meter recorded 109dBA in the cabin – a figure the likes of which we had never recorded until we assessed the Caterham Seven 420 Cup a fortnight ago. A McLaren Senna makes 101dBA in cabin at maximum revs in third, the roofless Ariel Atom 4 only 105dBA.

Typical cruising noise levels are much lower and wouldn’t necessarily induce you to only ever drive the car with a full face helmet and ear plugs.

Track notes

Porsche cayman gt4 rs rt 2022 track notes

The GT4 RS makes perfect sense on track where the chassis, which can feel so within itself on the road, hits a spectacular stride. Handling is perfectly balanced; it’s stable on a trailing throttle in a way that Caymans tend not to be, so you can attack braking zones hard, trail brake to apices and carry huge speed. Mid-corner grip and stability are titanic, with a progressive breakaway from the rear if you approach it gradually.

Handling is less forgiving if you approach the limits less judiciously, and the hardcore temperament needs quick, deliberate responses to stabilise it at times. But there’s still an exploitable character. New-found grip and precision has first-order pace and composure layered over the top of it.

The supreme powertrain plays its part. Such a linear delivery and a wide, high-rev range make it possible to take corners at close to 9000rpm when you might otherwise expect to need a higher ratio and lower revs.


01 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 lead

It is a universal truth that you don’t choose to buy a Porsche GT car. Rather, you are chosen. It’s not a limited-series car, but with time for the ‘982’ Porsche Cayman running out and only about a year of production left, the chances are that if you haven’t got an order for your Porsche Cayman GT4 RS now, you won’t be making one. Weissach expects to make about 7000 examples, with a fraction of that likely to come to the UK.

If you have got an order in, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the ownership proposition. CAP’s residual forecasts on exotic cars are a little conservative if anything, but even they expect very slow depreciation indeed.

Spec advice? We would have a Weissach package (no roll-cage) in dark metallic Gentian Blue with magnesium wheels (£10,521), ceramic brakes (£5597) and a nose lifter (£1835), plus model designation and PCM infotainment deleted (no-cost option).


20 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS RT 2022 static

The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS is one of the most thrilling and special Porsche GTs yet. Its configuration makes it more raw and exciting, arguably, than any fast road-going Porsche 911, while its mid-engined chassis gives it a dynamic purity and instinctive handling poise that few sports cars have known, the best 911 GT3s included.

What this car represents is every bit as wonderful as what it does: a new way to immerse yourself in the character of a truly wonderful combustion engine and savour and cherish its every detonation, vibration and impulse. That feels like a particularly timely invitation, and whether Weissach intended it that way or not, you can’t help interpreting this Porsche as a celebration of the combustion-engined sports car at the most vivid and affecting height that it may ever reach.

Even if you’ve waited 17 years for a GT Cayman, I can’t imagine the GT4 RS could disappoint. Getting one might well be impossible if your name’s not down already, but this must count as a special production worth special efforts to acquire.

Yet you don’t need sentimentality to build a case for a five-star score here. Few sports cars have offered such a spectacular blend of dizzying dramatic performance, supreme handling accomplishment, sublime track-day purpose and all-round sensory involvement as this spine-tingling new RS. It deserves every plaudit we can give.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.