Porsche Cayman Gt4: a Complete Thrill Ride
The first hint that the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance is no ordinary race car comes during the safety briefing. If the dashboard lights turn red, Porsche’s handlers explain in an ominous tone, we will have to exit the car by perching on the door sill before leaping as far away as possible. If we make the mistake of touching the vehicle and ground at the same time, Porsche warns, we may be in for a shock.
The second clue to Cayman’s performance is the noise. As we accelerate out of the pit lane and onto the track at the Porsche Experience Center in Franciacorta, Italy, the car’s ePerformance electric motors shriek a high-pitched scream as they rocket us into the first corner.
Earlier this summer, Porsche unveiled the Cayman GT4 ePerformance as a follow-up to the visionary Mission E concept that we drove last year. While that concept focused on a futuristic design, the GT4 ePerformance acts as a test bed for Porsche’s electric powertrain development, previewing what’s next for Porsche’s customer GT racing program and suggesting what we might see from the upcoming 718 Boxster and Cayman.
The GT4 ePerformance is based on the same platform as a 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. But the bodywork, constructed from a natural fiber composite and stretching 5.5 inches wider than the Clubsport upon which it’s based, hides a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup capable of up to 603 horsepower. That figure represents the all-out Qualifying mode; even in Racing mode, the ePerformance is capable of 1073 horsepower.
The 82.0-kWh battery is split into three sections—one mounted up front, one behind the driver where a Cayman’s engine would typically be found, and another located in a space behind your seat which forces you to sit with your legs angled upward like a Formula 1 driver. In Racing mode, the battery lasts approximately 30 minutes; thanks to a 900-volt electrical architecture, Porsche claims the prototype charges from 5 to 80 percent in 15 minutes at a maximum rate of 350 kW.
The GT4 ePerformance’s acceleration is so violent that it pins you to the seat and compresses your organs as the vehicle launches forward. Even professional racecar driver and team owner de Silvestro, who earns a living piloting high-performance track monsters at top speed, seems impressed. “It’s got a lot of power,” she says, with the added thrust of the all-wheel drive making it “quite fun.”
On the track, de Silvestro doesn’t hold back. She slings the ePerformance from corner to corner, the electric motors’ instant torque hitting with full force before she slams on the brakes. The four-point harness strains against us as we fly through the windshield. The ePerformance devours corners, attacking the curbs and rapidly slithering its way through the tight and twisty track. The car weighs 3400 pounds, but the immense amount of power prevents it from feeling flat-footed.
As we turn back onto the main straight, the ePerformance shoots forward at a brain-scrambling rate. We push toward 150 mph, and the world turns to a blur as if we were aboard the starship Enterprise after Commander Sulu activated warp speed. The ePerformance squirms under heavy braking into Turn 1, recovering around 50 percent of the energy it spent on acceleration. Having all-wheel drive helps acceleration, but as project manager Björn Förster explains, the main advantage of the front-mounted motor is extra energy regeneration under braking.
While the performance of the GT4 ePerformance prototype is impressive, what stands out most is its audio. The whine may never elicit quite the same soul-stirring reaction as a Porsche flat-six, but the rise and fall of rpm from its electric motors are riveting and otherworldly, building to a swell as it accelerates. Unlike most roadgoing EVs, where the lack of sound fails to match the force of acceleration, the GT4 prototype provides audible theatrics to match its mind-blowing performance.
We ask Förster what aspect of the ePerformance he is most proud of. Is it the prodigious amount of power? The energy recuperation? Or the fast-charging 900-volt architecture? He tells us that none of these things is what he’s most proud of. He is proud that the 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance has met and exceeded the expectations for an EV and has shown enthusiasts that electric cars can bring emotion and character back to driving.