What better way to end the year than a blast up an icy mountain pass in the maddest Cayman yet?
By Cam Tait / Wednesday, 28 December 2022 / Loading comments
If you told me earlier this year that I’d be threading a mid-engine sports car along Welsh mountain roads with five other COTY contenders on a three-day road trip, I’d have bitten your hand off. Especially when said sports car is Porsche’s smash hit of the year – well, one of them at least – the utterly manic Cayman GT4 RS.
And yet, there I was on an icy Tuesday morning, struggling for traction in my Mk6 Fiesta ST in the residents’ car park, on my way to collect the RS from its maker’s UK media nerve centre. Of course, if a front-drive, 150hp hot hatch was struggling to find purchase, the Cup 2-clad GT4 RS would likely prove utterly useless by comparison. Accordingly, with conditions set to remain positively Siberian over the course of our expedition, my time with Porsche’s looniest Cayman to date would be less of a fact-finding mission, and more one of survival. Just. Don’t. Bin. It.
Thankfully, the one thing we don’t need is any more convincing of the GT4 RS’s abilities. Ever since the original Cayman launched back in 2005, its fans have been crying out for it to receive something like the same RS treatment as the 911 has enjoyed for several decades now. And boy, did Porsche deliver. Wild looks, a host of parts nicked from its GT3 sibling, and an options list that laughs in the face of the £113,700 price tag. Whether anyone will actually pay as little as that is a different subject…
The real party piece, though, is the engine. Unlike the regular GT4, Porsche has finally deigned to insert a no-holds-barred GT engine in the Cayman. Specifically, the same 4.0-litre naturally aspirated motor found in the back of the 911 GT3. And in a remarkably similar state of tune, with only a 10hp drop in power owing to an increase in back pressure as a result of the exhaust gases having farther to travel. Still, 500hp is nothing to scoff at, particularly as new intakes – and the engine being physically closer to the cabin – deliver quite possibly one of the greatest engine notes of all time. The noise generated as you work your way through the rev range is pure filth, and easily loud enough to drown out the screams of your passenger as you rapidly approach the 9,000rpm redline.
Admittedly, that’s easier said than done on a slippery mountain road with stone-cold semi-slicks. Had this been a regular GT4 with the manual box’s leggy gearing, I’d have struggled to go anywhere near the limiter. But the closer ratio seven-speed PDK – the only gearbox available on the RS – lets you experience the full range engine speed without constantly breaching triple digits. Yes, a manual option with closer gearing would be the icing on the cake, but the PDK suits the track-focused nature of the RS rather well. Dare I say, it did also make the RS considerably easier to drive through the many narrow, 20mph zones dotted through rural Wales.
On that note, in case you were harbouring concerns about the model’s usability, the ride quality is extraordinarily good. Something sporting an RS badge probably has no right to ride as well as the Cayman does. It’s firm, true – firm enough in fact to eject coffee all over the cabin when driving over the smallest of bumps in the road (lesson eventually learned there). But despite sitting 30mm lower than the GT4 – making the £1,835 front axle lift option the first box to tick – the RS feels right at home on the road. Carbon-backed bucket seats provide plenty of support, too, meaning you won’t be beaten up after a blast from Calais to the Nurburgring.
That doesn’t mean the GT4 RS is easygoing, of course. Even with a little bit of temperature in the tyres and a dry (albeit stone-cold) stretch of tarmac, the rear eagerly steps out with the faintest throttle input on tighter corners. Build up some speed in Wales in December and hit the carbon ceramic brakes, and there’s a very good chance you’ll have a momentary, heart-stopping lock-up. Obviously we can pin that on sub-zero conditions; ten degrees further into the mercury and the RS would’ve been glued to the road. Just don’t go expecting the traction control or ABS to interfere early if you overcook it, which I’m all for. It’s also nowhere near as complex as the GT3 RS, either, with the dampers, exhaust note and driver assistance being the only parameters with any sort of adjustability – and frankly the Cayman is all the better for it.
I could go on about how magnificent the GT4 RS is to drive – and certainly its incredible exhaust note and the wonderfully communicative steering are among the highlights – but it’s worth reiterating that one of the reasons the GT4 RS work so brilliantly as a high-performance road car, particularly in the UK, is its size. Compared to the BMW M4 CSL Matt brought along, the GT4 RS seems positively miniature. No matter what engine is doing the pushing, its familiar and perfectly-sized footprint makes it deliciously easy to position on a fairly slender bit of Welsh carriageway, which means you can focus on enjoying yourself without constantly dipping a wheel over the centre line. Because, honestly, what’s the point in having all the performance if you can’t confidently make use of it on the road?
That’s the crux of the Cayman GT4 RS, and why it’s my favourite car of 2022. Expectations for a hardcore Cayman have been sky-high for years. We knew it’d be blisteringly fast – that’s a given with GT-level Porsches – but would it still make for a good road car with even more circuit skills plumbed in? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The team responsible for it has managed to turn up the model’s capabilities without needlessly sacrificing what made the Cayman brilliant to begin with – namely the rapport it strikes up with a driver almost from the first moment. The fact that its size, inherent handling balance and feedback clarity are now accompanied by one of Porsche’s all-time great engines, means you spend the whole time filling the cabin (and your heart and mind) with the most exhilarating howl imaginable. Given the next chapter in the Cayman’s legacy will be one of near-silence, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate send-off.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 718 CAYMAN GT4 RS
Engine: 3,996cc flat-six
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],400rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],7500rpm
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,415kg (DIN)
MPG: 21.4 (WLTP)
CO2: 299g/km (WLTP)
- 2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS | PH Review
On the subject of singing six-cylinders, my runner-up for the year has to be the Lotus Emira. I can’t have been the only one worried about the future of Lotus, the definitive lightweight sports car maker, after it switched its focus to electric hypercars and ditched the beloved Elise. But that bitter pill was far easier to swallow when the Emira came along. A major car manufacturer offering a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 with a six-speed manual gearbox is becoming rare in this day and age, let alone one so vocally committed to an electric future. Couple that with passive dampers, expertly sorted by the boffins in Norfolk, and a surprisingly plush cabin (not just for a Lotus) and you’ve got a car that’s just as fun to drive to the circuit as it is on it. At a smidgen over £75,000 for the V6, Lotus has managed to carve out a gap in the market above the Alpine A110 and 718, and just below the 911. Stiff competition, but jam-packed order books prove Lotus is on to a winner with the Emira. Another fitting farewell to the ICE-powered sports car.
- 2022 Lotus Emira | PH Review
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