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.

Simply Upside Down: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS

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.

Simply Upside Down: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS

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.

Estoril is a wellness racetrack, unrepentant, forgiving, without nastiness and blind curves. Did I change gears just now using the paddle shift or did the DSG? Wham, wham, wham – from 260 at the end of the start-finish straight, the drive shudders down into second gear to speed ninety. Right into Curva Uno, no 918 transmission has ever been so short and forwarding, second gear reaches up to 124 km/h and is thus a trait in the back road biotope. With the bone-dry sports steering wheel, you encompass the world. You don’t have to be a moralist, though, if you think it’s better to be waved off by the checkered flag than by traffic patrol. Simply Upside Down: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS

Too fast at any speed, you might say, looking at the hunkered-down body, here with the ultra-blue magnesium rims and the exposed carbon of the Weissach package. Splinters, rails and guiding fins not visible on the underbody. Two NACA ducts in the front hood supply cooling air to the brakes. Another close look: the actual precision instruments in reality check. You wouldn’t believe how much and how long you brake in a Porsche and how little impulse and effort it takes to catapult it back up. 450 Nm build up in the plateau, peaking at 6,520 rpm. Maximum power is available at 8,400 rpm, and the redline is at 9,000 rpm. There’s no substitute for speed; such an enchanting mechanical mystery must be experienced with the senses. Fun, joy, driving pleasure? All these words fall short. The car is elemental; it’s not about the much-cited grin on the driver’s face, but about literary tremors in real time, about the contemplative, catapultive “I” in being and the bucket-seat view on the matters of life. Gladly with a six-point harness, if only to absorb the g-forces during braking.

Simply the best: The engineers were able to reach into full shelves, much of it comes from the GT3s of the last and penultimate generations, chassis parts such as the MacPherson struts from the 991 (II), for the first time there is central locking on the 918, for the first time the race and road-compatible Michelin Cup 2 R, larger discs at the front, wider track at the front and rear in the 6-8 mm range. Expensive titanium rims in a 935 look. Titanium tailpipes. The Clubsport package with steel or titanium cage (minus nine kilos) also includes a fire extinguisher and six-point harness. Here, too, the solution is simple: if you don’t feel like harnessing up, simply pull over the automatic seat belt. Keep it simple!

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS/ Engine six-cylinder boxer/ Displacement 3,996 cc, Power 493 hp (368 kW) at 8,400 rpm, Torque 450 Nm at 6,750 rpm, 0–100 km/h approx. 3.4 s, Top speed 315 km/h

Read all about it in rampstyle #25, entitled “Keep It Simple and Smart”.

rampstyle25 Cover EN scaled

We tend to experience our world as not only somewhat complicated, but also extremely complex. And while complicated systems offer themselves to our understanding through clearly defined connections of individual elements, this unfortunately does not apply to complex systems. Here, everything is unpredictable. And there we are, more or less merrily in the middle of it all. Which is why we love minimalist solutions. In short, the KISS principle applies: “Keep it simple and smart.” An entire issue devoted to the matter. So we simply asked Bryan Adams if he wouldn’t like to photograph singer-songwriter James Bay exclusively for us as part of our interview with him. (He did.) We also have a great story about Tom Ford, interviews with George Clooney and the designer Sir Paul Smith, and we spoke with the director Quentin Tarantino and with author Christian Ankowitsch, who wrote a book titled “The Art of Finding Simple Solutions”. The conversation turned out to be more complicated than expected. But just as entertaining as we imagined.

more ramp articles

Text by David Staretz for ramp
Photos by Matthias Mederer/