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The 2023 Porsche Cayman GT4 RS is the best sports car on sale today

Transplanting the 911 GT3's flat-six engine created a remarkable car.

A yellow Porsche Cayman GT4 RS
Enlarge / Everyone always said Porsche would never put its best flat-six engine in the Cayman or it would overshadow the 911. Maybe that's exactly what's happened.
Bradley Iger

Judging by recent projects like the Mission R and 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance, Porsche looks poised to introduce an electrified version of the Cayman in the not-too-distant future. While it's likely that such a sports car will raise the bar for certain measures of performance, it's also safe to assume that the driving experience will be altered significantly. Thus far, high-performance EVs have struggled to deliver the kind of emotional connection that enthusiasts have grown accustomed to from their ICE-motivated counterparts—a factor that's undoubtedly top of mind for the designers who are working on the next generation of the automaker's lineup. In the meantime, though, the folks in Porsche's GT division have ensured that the current era of the Cayman will not go gentle into that good night.

A vocal contingent of the Weissach faithful long insisted that a model like the GT4 RS would never be produced. Since its introduction in 2005, the Cayman has been positioned as Porsche's entry-level sports coupe relative to the 911, and many posited that this mid-engine platform would never realize its full potential due to concerns that it might upstage its iconic older brother. Although the debut of the 981-generation Cayman GT4 back in 2016 was arguably the first piece of evidence that effectively refuted this theory, the 718 GT4 RS puts the notion to bed. Not only is this the most visceral and capable Cayman ever produced, it also makes a strong case for itself as the most compelling sports car on sale today, full stop.

The GT4 RS benefits from a wide variety of upgrades, but the engine is undoubtedly the star of the show. While it shares the same displacement as the naturally aspirated 4.0 L flat-six in the standard 718 GT4, it's actually an entirely different engine that's borrowed from the latest 911 GT3. Output is down slightly from that rear-engine application due to the backpressure created by the Cayman's longer exhaust system, but peak figures of 493 hp (368 kW) and 331 lb-ft (449 Nm) of torque still make this the most powerful factory-produced Cayman ever offered by a wide margin and bestow it with a searing 9,000 rpm redline.

It's not like anyone needed this window for visibility.
Enlarge / It's not like anyone needed this window for visibility.
Bradley Iger

In contrast to other Caymans, the side scoops located just behind the driver and passenger doors are used for engine cooling in the GT4 RS, while a pair of new RS-specific intakes are installed where the rear quarter windows would normally be found to feed fresh air into the throttle bodies. And because the engine is mounted backward in comparison to its orientation in the 911 GT3, a new seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission was also developed specifically for this application.

While it's the sole gearbox on offer here—sorry, three-pedal fans—it utilizes same track-focused gear and axle ratios as the previous-generation 911 GT3 RS, and the dual-mass flywheel comes directly from the GT4 Clubsport race car. Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels, and the combination gets this 3,200-lb (1,450 kg) coupe to 60 mph from rest in a scant 3.2 seconds on its way to a 196 mph (315 km/h) top speed.

The additional horsepower is supported by increased spring rates and revised damper tuning, ball joints for all of the connection points on the front and rear axles, and the integration of the previous-generation 911 Carrera 4's front structure to bolster chassis rigidity. Downforce is also increased by up to 25 percent at 125 mph (200 km/h) versus the standard GT4 thanks to aerodynamic elements like an adjustable front diffuser and a new fixed rear wing with swan-neck supports, while braking is enhanced by way of larger standard cast-iron/aluminum composite discs borrowed from the 911 GT3. New wheel well air guides and NACA ducts on the hood are also on hand to help manage the heat more efficiently.

Channel Ars Technica