Simply Upside Down: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS

Why not use the 911’s top boxer as a mid-engine in the Cayman? Simple thought, elaborately wrought. The result is a Porsche of historic stature.
Text David Staretz
Photo Matthias Mederer ·

Now we’re truly doing something ingeniously simple: We take the naturally aspirated boxer from the 911 GT3 RS, this 520 hp grenade, and put the engine and transmission box into the 718 Cayman. Then no one will ever call it a café racer again!

This is how the basic idea for the 718 GT4 RS might have sounded when it was first formulated. And yes, it is of compelling sophistication! Even better: The idea worked out sublimely. The car stands there, very earthy and muscular, so mass-centered and at peace with itself that you think the essence of Porsche has been reinvented.

Admittedly, a reality check shows that there were many small problems to fix and complications to overcome until true simplicity is achieved.

For example, they put the gear wheels that match the 918 into the GT3 grommet, but – whoops! – now they had seven reverse and one forward gear because the thing is mounted upside down in the car. So an extra cog had to be added to reverse the whole gearshift. However, the 918 transmission couldn’t withstand the hours of Weissach test martyrdom at 9,000 rpm. So a pressure lubrication system had to be designed for the transmission main shaft, which took some engineering. And as if that wasn’t enough, the new detail required its own crash test to find out whether the line would stay tight and not splash flammable oil. We get a premier view into the perils of automotive engineering at the highest level. In this respect, we are not surprised that the power output dropped by 20 hp to 500 hp, which, according to project manager Markus Atz, has no model-political reasons whatsoever, but is due to the necessarily lengthened exhaust lines routed across the rear axle. “Aspirated engines are sensitive to this kind of thing,” as he says.

»The car stands there, earthy and muscular, so at peace with itself that you think the essence of Porsche has been reinvented.«

David Staretz

Hurray for the sensitivity of the naturally aspirated engine! Here in Estoril, where the engine can warm up at ideal temperatures and the air is already spring-fresh, the six-cylinder boxer breathes particularly deeply. That vibration at idle, the barely perceptible pendulum movements of the red needle at 850 rpm, the restrained evil sound that calls for caution and yet doesn’t reveal what it’s still capable of when revved up. Then, when only helicopter music pounds, this insane overlapping of frequencies and interference, the sound dissolves into pain. Into one of a kind that you want to hold on to until the fuel runs out or the track closes. Just in time, the Porsche crew was twenty-three seconds faster on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife than its predecessor. Easy going.

The combined best components seem made for each other. The result was a Porsche like Dr. Ferdinand would have appreciated, light and compact, balanced in center of gravity depth thanks to its mid-engine position, as reliable as a Porsche, and as close to a racer as is still roadworthy. “Digital detox,” says Markus Atz. Hardware rules. Of course, this is under the control of the formidable Porsche PDK, the transmission control system once approved by Walter Röhrl, which only throws in the lasso when you thought you’d lost the race. Because yes: Where you can still straighten your tie when drifting in the rear-defined 911 pendulum, the GT4 is limbo around the middle. Precision and feeling are required when braking and accelerating out. Or you can just throw it into the fire and wait for it to blaze out on the other side.

→ Read the full story of the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS in rampstyle #25

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