2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS First Drive Review: Makes a Hero Out of You

The GT4 RS isn’t here to steal the GT3’s crown. Rather, it’s a different beast altogether.

byMar 22, 2022 7:01 PM
2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS First Drive Review: Makes a Hero Out of You
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There are cars that are legendary because of how difficult they are to master. Ones that come immediately to mind are ‘80’s-era 911 Turbos, Shelby Cobras, and Reliant Robins. Then, there are cars that are legendary because of how cool they look: ‘80s Lamborghinis, any-era Aston Martins, and Reliant Robins. And then there are cars that are legendary because they make their drivers look and feel like heroes every time they get behind the wheel. The 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS isn’t just on that list. It is that list.

These days, there are a plethora of cars that can make their drivers look good by employing all sorts of electronic trickery to help the loose nut behind the wheel attempt to disobey the laws of physics. Electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, and a boatload of other safety nets help hide the basic fact that the person in control of the car is, in fact, not actually in control of the car. The car itself is doing most of the heavy lifting by keeping you from decorating large swaths of the landscape with its body parts.

Don’t get me wrong—these systems are beneficial and necessary for people to learn how to drive a car fast. But the frustrating bit is that with these aids doing all the work, people are also forgetting how to actually drive a car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve coached drivers that grandstand about their so-called track-driving skills only for me to get in the right seat to find the safety systems kicking in, saving us from certain demise in virtually every corner. 

Fortunately, Porsche has given us the antidote to that. 

2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $143,050 ($195,190)
  • Powertrain: 4.0-liter flat-six | 7-speed PDK | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 493 @ 8,400 rpm
  • Torque: 331 lb-ft @ 6,750
  • Seating capacity: 2
  • Cargo volume: 4.4 cubic feet (front) | 4.8 cubic feet (rear)
  • Curb weight: 3,227 pounds
  • 0-60: 3.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 196 mph
  • Quick take: Very little hold it back from being the perfect sports car.
  • Score: 9/10

Finally: What We've All Been Asking For

One of the things that I’ve always admired about Porsche is that every new generation of its cars has a whole host of incremental upgrades that make them better in almost every way from their predecessors. But as the GT4 RS has no predecessor, I was very interested to see what the mad scientists at Stuttgart had cooked up. And as good as Porsche’s engineers are, it turns out they didn’t actually have to cook up much; instead, they chose to take the best bits from other performance cars in the lineup to spice up the already-good Cayman GT4 to create the RS.

For literally decades, Cayman fanatics screamed that Porsche was intentionally disadvantaging the midship platform by equipping even the most powerful of Caymans with engines of lesser output than even the base 911’s. Internet conspiracy theorists claimed that Porsche didn’t want a more powerful Cayman to steal sales from the venerable 911. 

The truth—at least for recent models—appears to be much less nefarious. It seems that the 991 911 GT3's engine couldn’t easily fit into the Cayman without some major reworking of the platform due to its cast-aluminum dry-sump oil tank. However, the new 992 911 GT3's engine was developed with a composite dry-sump tank that was specifically designed to fit the Cayman. That enabled Porsche to shut everybody up by dropping the naturally aspirated 4.0-liter straight-six from the GT3 right into the Cayman. 

Making 493 horsepower, 331 pound-feet of torque, and revving to 9,000 rpm, the 4.0-liter is an absolute beast and the heart of the GT4 RS. (By the way, for all you conspiracy theorists still lurking around Reddit, that 10 hp difference between the rear-engined GT3 and mid-engined GT4 RS is primarily due to the different length and routing of the exhaust and cooling systems. It is NOT because Porsche wanted to thwart the Cayman’s challenge to GT3’s track supremacy.) 

Robb Holland

Pairing the GT3’s 4.0-liter with the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox designed specifically for the GT4 RS (but with the even shorter gear ratios and control unit and software nipped from the 991.2 GT3 RS, along with a limited-slip taken from the 991.2 GT3 parts bin) allows the GT4 RS sprint from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 196 mph. 

But engine power is only part of the equation here. The front clip, taken from the 991 Carrera 4, was integrated into the 982 GT4 RS chassis for the first time and means the GT4 RS’s entire chassis was specifically built for the RS. That integration has a number of benefits including the ability for Porsche to fit the front-axle lift system from the GT3. Additionally, the GT4 RS gets new specifically designed dampers and uses ball joints for both front and rear suspension points. Larger front brakes—a whopping 16 inches in diameter—and revised rear calipers improve braking performance, especially with trail braking, which is one of the regular GT4’s few weaknesses.

On the aerodynamics side of things, the GT4 RS has 25 percent more downforce than the regular GT4 at 125 mph. The list of what Porsche has added or upgraded to produce that much of an increase is long. A massive new rear wing with side plates and swan-neck supports, fender wheel well air vents, adjustable front diffusers, and a revised front and rear facia all contribute to the car’s newfound downforce.

But what does the addition of all those go-fast bits mean for weight? Well, the brakes, wing, spoiler, and facias add 23.5 pounds to the RS. But to counteract that increase, Porsche has managed to shave off 72 pounds by forming the front hood and fenders out of lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers, swapping out the rear windows for lighter air intakes, reducing the sound deadening materials used, changing out the standard seats for the carbon fiber ones, and using lighter-weight, forged aluminum wheels. Also, the 992 GT3 engine saves a fair bit of weight over the 4.0-liter found in the GT4. 

All of that weight reduction allowed the Porsche engineers to meet their weight goals for the car, as the GT4 RS weighs in at a svelte 3,227 pounds. If you’re keeping track, that’s 49 pounds lighter than a standard GT4 with PDK. 

If you want to save even more weight, the optional carbon-ceramic brakes and magnesium wheels (only available with the optional Weissach Package) save a massive 59.5 pounds. These savings are even more important than the standard weight reduction, as all of the weight that is being reduced is unsprung rotating mass that will have an exponential effect on acceleration, braking, and handling.   

But enough of all the tech geek chatter. We can talk all day about specs and data, but it's how all this stuff comes together that makes the GT4 RS so incredibly special. 

Driving the Beast

I got a chance to spend several hours at the freshly repaved Streets of Willows circuit at Willow Springs with Porsche’s new über Cayman, and at the end of the day, I came away thinking that everyone who takes driving seriously should have a chance behind the wheel of this car. [Ed. note: I know, Robb. I know! -- KL]

It’d been more than 10 years since I drove on Streets, so I planned on taking it easy the first session. But by Lap 2, I knew that I probably needn’t have bothered. I normally run these manufacturer launches with the electronic nannies on because these days, they are so good that they really don’t kick in unless you’re doing something very silly (and the last thing I want to do is wreck a launch car. That gets you permanently disinvited from other launches). But the GT4 RS is so good at telling the driver exactly what it’s up to that there is no reason to have them on. 

I personally have never been in a car that was so incredibly easy to get up to speed in. The more comfortable a driver is in a car, the easier it is to push that car to the limit, and more importantly, the easier it is to keep it there. That confidence comes from a machine that transmits everything it’s doing to the driver at all times and you will never be surprised by it. You know what the car is going to do before it does it because it’s doing exactly what you’ve asked it to do. Racers call it being “ahead of the car.”  

Mid-engine cars, with their 50/50 weight distribution, are naturally very well balanced. But the GT4 RS takes this to a whole new level. With spherical bushings throughout the suspension, you can feel so much more of what the car is doing that it feels substantially more balanced than the base GT4. 

But the thing that jumps out is the power. It smacks you in the ass like a giant hand coming down from the heavens. Its the power that we all knew the Cayman needed but we never dared to dream that it would ever get it. All of that power is connected to a super responsive throttle that feels as if you could control the car in one-rpm increments if you wanted. 

Hauling the über Cayman down from speed barely takes a thought. But more important than outright braking force is the control that the GT4 RS’s upgraded braking system gives you. On the regular GT4, the rear brakes have a habit of overpowering the fronts, which makes it very difficult to trail brake into a corner. The RS’s system suffers no such issues and allows you to trail brake all the way to the apex of a corner without upsetting the balance of the car.

All this adds up to a car the is supremely controllable and insanely fun to toss around the track.

There are a couple of corners around the top of the Streets circuit that have a bunch of runoff and allow a driver to get it a bit wrong but not risk damaging the car at the same time. I used this runoff to chuck the GT4 RS into the corners with a bit more speed and aggression to get a feel for what it would do beyond its expectedly prodigious limits. 

And what did it do? Nothing. It just stuck to the track as if it was one of the Scalextric slot cars we used to play with as kids. So in the next corner, I pushed harder and more aggressively… only to be met with the exact same result. It was like that for the rest of my out lap. If I’m being honest, I was actually pretty pissed that I hadn’t been able to unsettle the car in the slightest. I wasn’t quite finished yet, though.

If you’ve ever been to Streets of Willow, you know that the end of the lap happens on a very large patch of asphalt that basically doubles as a huge skidpad. So I said, screw it, and threw the GT4 RS in at a speed where I knew there was no way in hell the car could stick. What was the worst that could happen? I’d spin and embarrass myself in front of Porsche’s PR department, a bunch of well-known automotive journalists, and Porsche hot shoes Mark Hotchkis and Pat Long? 

Okay, well, clearly I didn't really think that plan of attack out very well before I jumped in with both feet. But it turned out not to matter much—if at all. I turned in to the last corner while carrying an insane amount of speed, the car went into a very neutral, very controllable, four-wheel drift, and left me on the perfect line for getting into Turn 1—right on Hotchkis’ bumper. 

Oh, it was on, Buttercup.

I haven’t had more fun in any car at any time than during those laps I spent at Willow, alternatively chasing Hotchkis and Long. I didn't give a damn about lap times or perfecting my line. This was more about the pure joy of driving a car fast—flinging it into a turn and figuring out what it was going to do after the fact. I’m an awful musician, but I’ve got to imagine it was like being in a great jazz band, with everybody riffing off of everybody else and everything just flowing together as if all the musicians are in each others’ heads.

Just Two Downsides

The downsides to the RS? There are just two. It doesn’t come with a manual and it doesn’t have the GT3’s double-wishbone front suspension. Neither one of these omissions are dealbreakers, they’re just the only things I can think of that stop the GT4 RS from being the perfect sports car. 

When loaded up in a corner, the GT4 RS has that slightly numb feedback that is inherent in a strut suspension. But because the car is so well-balanced, it doesn’t affect things the same way the last-gen 991.2 GT3’s setup did because that car’s rear-engine weight bias really demanded a front end with a lot of feedback. Conversely, the GT4 RS has such a wide window to work with that it can afford to provide a bit less feedback without it ever biting the driver.

As for the manual transmission, it would just be the cherry on top. Yes, the PDK is by far the better, faster gearbox, and shines when you’re behind the wheel of a car so demanding that taking your attention off the task at hand—even for the split second it takes to change gears—is detrimental to going fast. The GT4 RS is not that car. It imparts so much confidence that the driver doesn't need to focus 100 percent on making sure the car’s doing what they want. Rather, the car affords them the pleasure of having to shift gears the way God intended—if only Porsche intended three pedals, too.

Because That’s What Heroes Do

Is the 911 GT3 a more engaging car? Sure, if by “engaging” you mean more difficult to drive. There is a certain satisfaction one gets hustling the GT3 around on a good lap, but honestly, 99 percent of all drivers will probably be faster and have more fun (and do less crashing) behind the wheel of a GT4 RS. Isn’t that what we all want? To be faster and have more fun? 

Obviously, because it’s Porsche, that fun comes at a price. Base Cayman GT4 RSes start at $143,050, but the Arctic Gray test car I drove came with optional paint ($3,540), the front-axle lift system ($3,040), the Weissach Package ($13,250), carbon-ceramic brakes ($8,000), and forged magnesium wheels ($15,640). The total MSRP for the test car came to $195,190. Nobody said fun was cheap.

But I see now how Porsche factory driver Jörg Bergmeister set his insane Nürburgring Nordschleife time of 7:04.511 in the RS—an astonishing 23.6 seconds quicker than 982 GT4. The Nürburgring is one of those tracks that demands that a driver show up with a car they have absolute confidence in. The GT4 RS is that car.

What does all this mean to the average driver? The exact same thing that it does to the pro driver. In fact, it probably means even a bit more. It’s as I said at the beginning of this review: The more comfortable any driver is in their car, the faster and harder they can push it. And when they do go beyond the limit, it’s easier to reign that car back in on pure skill, without help from any electronics. In short, it makes you a better driver.  

The 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS is the one that allows everyone—everyone who’s lucky enough to drive one, anyway—those pleasures. It's the car we all deserve because it makes us heroes as soon as we get behind the wheel. 

Robb Holland is an American race car driver and automotive journalist. He has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, Pikes Peak, the World Touring Car Championships, and more.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Robin was made by Renault, not Reliant. We regret the error. 

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