Compared to every other Porsche Cayman to have come before it, the 718 GT4 RS has air intakes in a different place. On the face of it, this sounds like a dull, inconsequential detail. In fact, this is a fundamental change that makes Weissach’s latest special the most exciting thing Porsche currently makes. Given what’s in the line-up right now, that’s no small feat.
Normally, air makes its way to the mid-mounted flat-six via those big vents just behind the doors. But now, there’s a pair of ducts where the rear three-quarter windows used to be. This means all of the oxygen getting gulped by the naturally-aspirated engine is rushing just behind your ears, into an engine that pretty much lives in the cabin with you – the carpeted cover normally sitting on top has been binned to reveal the top of the new airbox arrangement.
This is particularly crucial as the power plant wedge in the middle of the mightiest Cayman in history is a 4.0-litre unit borrowed from the 992 911 GT3. It hasn’t been artificially turned down, either – the 10bhp drop relative to its big bro is merely down to the exhaust system being a little longer.
So, you have 493bhp to play with, giving a whopping 79bhp gap between this and a boggo GT4. What’s arguably more important is where that figure arrives – at 8600rpm, which is 800rpm later than in the GT4. The rev-limiter doesn’t cut in until 9000, up from 8000.
The last bit of the rev range has to be the most exhilarating 1500rpm of any car right now. You can keep your Lamborghini or Ferrari V12s – that flat-six screaming its heart out is an unbeatable tribute to internal combustion in its twilight years.
You’re also given ample opportunity to venture up that end of the rev counter, too, as the gear ratios are shorter here than in a GT4. Leave those shifts a little too late, and the flat-six angrily bounces off a brick wall-like hard limiter. Lovely.
493bhp is also plenty for the GT4 RS to feel shockingly fast after every full-throttle application despite the linear delivery associated with naturally-aspirated engines. Almost vicious responsiveness certainly helps in this regard. Performance figures seem very much besides the point for a car like this, but if you’re interested, the 0-62mph time is 3.4 seconds, and the top speed is 196mph.
There is, of course, far more going on here than the GT3 engine living behind the seats. The chassis is broadly similar to the GT4’s, providing a great starting point with a 991 GT3 front suspension setup and a bespoke multilink rear. Upgrades come in the form of a 6mm wider front track, 911 GT2 RS spring rates, bigger brakes and centre-locking wheels.
For the first time on any kind 718, you also get the option of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres, otherwise, those lovely 20-inch centre-locking wheels are shod in regular Cup 2s. On the Rs, lateral grip and traction levels are – as you’d expect – sublime. Even with both of these reduced a tad on a track drive with the non-Rs, I’ve no doubt the RS would still shine.
Like the best Porsche GT cars, the GT4 RS is the perfect amount of scary, feeling like a car you need to work up to, but not one that’ll bite your head off if you overstep the mark. It might not have quite as communicative a front end as the 992 GT3 with its double wishbones, but it’s not far off.
Whether it’s the front or the back end about to let go, you know well enough in advance that a feathering of throttle is all that’s needed. In the dry, you’ll probably never get out of shape enough to require steering intervention. Plus, when you are approaching the limit, the GT4 RS feels friendlier than its rear-engined sibling.
Out on the road, the RS feels barely less usable than a GT4 despite the more focused chassis. The ride is firm and the ‘Sport’ damper mode is best avoided away from a track, but there’s a surprising amount of compliance. Bigger imperfections can make the RS feel nervous and edgy, but for the most part, it’s all in hand.
You have even fewer opportunities to deploy the 493bhp on offer here than you do the GT4’s 414, but thanks to the new airbox, you no longer need to be giving it the berries to enjoy that sweet, sweet flat-six soundtrack. Even when barely tickling the right-hand pedal, the RS delivers an angry, soul-stirring soundtrack most other sports cars could only dream of.
The same goes for the chassis. So well-sorted is the GT4 RS that driving at any speed is a joy, thanks in large part to the natural-feeling, very linear steering. It’s how the RS feels to drive at slower speeds that’s just as important as how it handles being heavily loaded up in a fast, fourth-gear right-hander. There’s only so much time you can spend at track days, after all.
It’s at this point I’d normally like to rattle off a list of bad points, but with the GT4 RS, that’s a struggle. One of the few things that come to mind is the age of this platform – Porsche can play around with the generation number designations all it wants, but there’s no escaping that this is a 10-year-old car under the skin.
This does show in places, particularly with some of the less than fresh-feeling switchgear. But to quibble such details seems like barking up the wrong tree, particularly since it all works just fine. Plus, I’d rather have the mostly analogue instrument cluster than the fancy pants, 80 per cent digital setup in more modern Porsches.
Sharing a cabin with that airbox means you get some less pleasant noises along with the heavenly stuff, even though Porsche has done its level best to tune it all out. There’s quite a bit of clatter between 1000 and 3000rpm, but hey, I’m happy to consider that ‘character’ which I’ll happily live with for the full-throttle payoff.
Perhaps the biggest chink in the RS isn’t anything to do with the car itself – we’re talking about the usual issue of Porsche GT products supply not quite aligning with demand. Probably just as well, as those without the means – like me – might find themselves deciding whether or not they need a house and if a 718 GT4 RS and a tent might be more fun.
Whoever’s able to get hold of one can consider me spectacularly jealous. It’s so good and so complete, Porsche is trolling the sports car world here – nothing else has a hope in hell of measuring up.
While there are technically superior Porsche GT cars to have emerged in the last few years, and no doubt more to come (like the new 911 GT3 RS), for anyone who gives a damn about driving, that doesn’t matter. For pure enjoyment, for celebrating all that’s good about sports cars and making the most of what little time big N/A engines have left, this is the pinnacle. And probably always will be.