As the winter sun rises on Silverstone racetrack, the twinkling layer of frost covering the newest and most desirable Porsches in the world outside resembles wrapping paper on Christmas morning hiding the eagerly awaited presents within.
I have waited a long time to test these sensational new Porsches, namely the Boxster Spyder, Cayman GT4 and the holy grail that is the ballistic 911 GT3 RS, and while I should be inside Porsche’s Silverstone Experience Centre nibbling fresh pasties and making small talk, I simply cannot let the opportunity to hear these beasts awaken with the thunderous roar of their similar yet distinctive cold starting exhaust notes pass.
None of them disappoint, as the metallic howl of Porsche Motorsport-spec flat-six engines bark into life and echo across the mist filled countryside. Anybody within a five-mile radius that wasn’t awake certainly is now.
The Porsche Experience Centre offers prospective and existing Porsche owners and enthusiasts the opportunity to test drive the company’s latest models around a purpose-built technical circuit and a recently added handling track, and it is on the latter that I find myself first, sitting in the most eagerly awaited model of them all, the race-bred 911 GT3 RS, the car poised and ready to launch itself down one of the main straights.
918 Spyder hypercar aside, the GT3 RS is the pinnacle of Porsche’s supercar line-up. With its wide 911 Turbo-style body, massive rear spoiler and front wing-mounted air vents, this is the most menacing and purposeful looking machine to leave Stuttgart in some time. The car is founded on the principle of developing each and every component such that it performs precisely as required, and this attention to detail is evident from the design of the intricate and adjustable rear wing to the weight-saving magnesium roof, carbon-fibre body panels and Porsche decal as opposed to badge gracing the bonnet…every gram matters, and Porsche’s efforts have shaved 10,000 of them from the weight of the already lightweight GT3. No picture or YouTube video can prepare you for the visual impact of this car real world surroundings – it is simply stunning.
But back to the track, and the metallic sound of the manic 500 bhp and remarkably, naturally aspirated, six-cylinder engine screams before I release the brake and the car momentarily squirms on the greasy surface before hunkering down and launching into the distance with an acceleration so ferocious that my innards have surely been left back where I set off.
Words cannot describe the pace at which this car sprints off the line, nor its surgical precision in tearing around tight corners and hairpins at ludicrous speeds, aided by both its rear-wheel steering and fully variable rear-axle differential lock. The 911 GT3 RS blasts through the 100 km/hr barrier in just 3.3 seconds, and reaches 200 km/hr an astonishing 7.6 seconds later.
All of this is of course amplified by the sonorous howls of the engine behind you, filling the alcantara-lined cabin with a sound that could only have its roots in motorsport. The roll-cage, deep bucket-seats and view of the car’s rear wing and air intakes in the mirrors only adds to the sense of occasion of the entire experience.
For some however, the GT3 RS could be too much, too hardcore, a car you’re more afraid of than keen to push to a limit that likely exceeds your driving ability, and for this scenario, Porsche have developed the absolute riot that is the Cayman GT4.
What a fantastic toy the Cayman GT4 really is, a car that finally exploits the full potential of the Cayman’s mid-engined layout and inherent handling balance.
The GT4’s RS inspired rear wing, aggressive aero and purposeful stance resting on its beautiful GT3-style 20″ alloy wheels lend the Cayman a fantastically brutish appearance.
Inside, the car’s 918-style steering wheel, carbon-fibre bucket-seats and roll-cage amplify the sporting vibe of the driver-focused cabin. I could nitpick and complain that like nearly all Porsches there are far too many buttons on the centre console, the sat-nav isn’t exactly the best in the business and the standard equipment list could be generously described as miserly, but all of this pales into insignificance when one experiences how exciting this car is to drive.
The Cayman GT4 immediately feels less intimidating than its larger GT3 siblings, and this encourages the driver to exploit the car’s insane performance and sublime handling. The GT4 rockets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds yet feels even faster.
This is one of the most enjoyable road cars I have ever driven, and the high pitched howls of its fast-revving Carrera S derived 385 bhp 3.8L flat-six engine are intoxicating to the point where on a twisty road, second and third are the only gears required.
The GT4’s gear-changes are executed via a super slick six-speed manual ‘box, and as a major fan of Porsche’s double-clutch PDK paddle-shift transmission I was pleasantly surprised by just how rewarding the Cayman’s manual transmission was – it perfectly suits the addictively sporting character of this absolutely riotous little car.
The GT4 is also no mere Cayman S fitted with a larger and more powerful engine, as it shares a host of technology and hardware with its GT3 sibling such as its front suspension setup and brakes.
And so to the Boxster Spyder, the fastest and lightest Boxster ever made, powered by the same engine as the Cayman GT4, albeit de-tuned to 375 bhp. With its ‘streamliner’ bubbles on the rear deck leading up to the headrests and manually operated fabric roof, the Boxster Spyder harks back to the classic Porsche Speedsters of old. Its Cayman GT4 bodykit adds a healthy dose of aggression to a design that stays on the right side of retro.
The lightweight stripped-out theme continues on the inside, with lightweight seats and usually standard features such as a radio and air conditioning remaining on the options list.
True to its roots, the Boxster Spyder is fitted exclusively with a manual transmission and with performance stats on par with its Cayman sibling, is a scintillating drive if not quite as hardcore an experience.
The roof mechanism, while still a manual process, has thankfully been improved over that of its predecessor, and can be removed and stowed away within 60 seconds.
While all three of these Porsches are fantastic cars in their own right, it came as much of a surprise to me as it will to you that the car I’d take home if I had the choice wouldn’t be the 911 GT3 RS halo-model. Personally, I just wouldn’t get as close to exploiting its potential as frequently as in the car I would take home, the intoxicating and addictively thrilling Cayman GT4.
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