The first hint that the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance is no ordinary racing 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 sitting on the door sill before jumping as far away as possible. If we make the mistake of touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time, warns Porsche, we could get a shock, possibly ending in a brittle char as if we’d personally angered Zeus.
The second clue is the noise. What starts as a monotonous hum as you walk down pit lane becomes a shrill scream the moment our chauffeur—Porsche Formula E reserve driver and IndyCar hotshot Simona de Silvestro—nails the pedal. Despite the Cayman nameplate, there’s no sonorous rumble of a flat-six here, but rather a high-pitched squeal as the ePerformance’s two electric motors take the car into the first corner of the track at the Porsche Experience Center Franciacorta, Italy, shoot in.
Revealed earlier this summer, the Cayman GT4 ePerformance prototype is a follow-up to the radical Mission R concept we drove last year. While that concept focused on a futuristic design, the GT4 ePerformance serves as a testbed for Porsche’s electric powertrain development, a preview of what’s next for Porsche’s customer GT racing program and hints at what we might see from the upcoming electrified 718 Boxster and Cayman.
The GT4 ePerformance’s shape is familiar, mimicking the curves of its gas-powered counterpart and riding on the chassis of a 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. But the body, built from a natural fiber composite and stretching 5.5 inches wider than the Clubsport on which it’s based, hides a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup capable of producing up to 1073 horsepower.
That figure represents overall qualifying mode, but even in Racing mode the ePerformance is capable of 603 horsepower. The 82.0 kWh battery is divided into three sections—one mounted in front, one behind the driver where a Cayman engine would typically be found, and the final pack located in the passenger footwell, forcing us to sit with our legs angled upwards like a Formula 1 driver. In Racing mode, the battery lasts about 30 minutes, and thanks to a 900-volt electrical architecture, Porsche claims that the prototype charges from 5 to 80 percent in 15 minutes at a maximum rate of 350 kW.
Acceleration in the GT4 ePerformance is head-snappingly violent, the heaps of horsepower pinning you to the seat and compressing your organs as the vehicle launches forward. Even de Silvestro, who makes a living piloting high-performance track monsters at top speed, seems impressed. “It has a lot of power,” she says, with the added thrust of four-wheel drive making it “quite fun.”
On the track, de Silvestro doesn’t hold back, swinging the ePerformance from corner to side, the electric motors’ instant torque hitting full force before hitting the brakes, the four-point harness deploying to keep us from flying through the track. windshield The ePerformance devours corners, attacks the curbs and glides quickly through the tight and winding track. With around 3400 pounds to move, the ePerformance takes some wrangling, but the sheer amount of power keeps the car from feeling flat-footed.
As we turn back onto the main straight, the ePerformance shoots forward at a mind-boggling pace. We push to 150 mph, and the world turns into a blur, as if we were aboard the spaceship Enterprise after Commander Sulu activated warp speed. The ePerformance squirms under hard braking in Turn 1, generating energy while keeping us clear of the wall. While a road car can only recover about 3 percent of energy through braking, prototype project manager Björn Förster tells us, the ePerformance is able to recover about 50 percent of the juice it spends on acceleration. Having four-wheel drive helps acceleration, but as Förster explains, the main advantage of the front-mounted motor is extra energy regeneration under braking.
While the performance of the GT4 electric prototype is incredibly impressive, it’s the sound that stands out the most. The whine may never elicit quite the same soul-crushing response as the resonant howl of a Porsche flat-six, but the rise and fall of the rpm of the electric motors is compelling and otherworldly, building to a swell like the ePerformance accelerate, the audio cues that help make sense of the tremendous speed. Unlike most road-going EVs, where the lack of sound doesn’t match the power of acceleration, the GT4 prototype offers the audible acting to match the stunning performance.
After the rollercoaster ride, we ask Förster which aspect of the ePerformance he is most proud of. Is it the immense amount of power? The energy recovery? Or the fast-charging 900-volt architecture?
It is none of that, according to Förster. It exceeds expectations for an EV and shows car enthusiasts that electric cars can bring the emotion and character that made us fall in love with cars in the first place. The future will certainly look, feel and sound different, but if the 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance is any indication, we have reason to be excited.
This content is imported from OpenWeb. You may be able to find the same content in a different format, or you may be able to find more information on their website.