Car enthusiasts often cite noise as a reason for not considering an EV for their personal car. Range and/or charging times are also often cited as explanations for the unsuitability of electric vehicles for motorsport. Porsche wants to correct the record. The Mission R concept showed enthusiasts what an electric race car could look like, while the new GT4 E-Performance – essentially an electric 718 Cayman GT4 – aims to demonstrate the performance of an electric race car. We’ve driven the Mission R, and now we’re driving the new GT4 Shotgun.
Our GT4 experience came with Formula E and Indy Car driver Simona de Silvestro behind the wheel at the Porsche Experience Center in Franciacorta, Italy. Before we get into how it was, a quick look at the GT4 E-Performance itself is warranted as it is a fascinating piece of engineering.
Based on a 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, the GT4 E-Performance is a state-of-the-art competition machine inspired by Porsche’s road cars, race cars like the 911 RSR and the company’s new entry-level Generation 3 Formula E. The GT4 E-Performance swaps out the Cayman’s 420-horsepower, mid-mounted flat-6 for the same two engines that power the Mission R concept. With one front and one rear axle each for the two-motor all-wheel drive, the powerful duo delivers 1,073 hp in qualifying mode and 603 hp in range extender race mode.
The engines are juiced by 82.0kWh worth of batteries squeezed aft of the cabin and in the floor of the passenger area. The battery is a 900-volt unit like those found in the latest Formula E cars and can be charged from 5 to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. In comparison, the 2023 Porsche Taycan has a state-of-the-art (for a road car) 800-volt electrical system and can charge from 5 to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes. A special system that routes oil through batteries, motors and power electronics keeps things cool, saves weight over glycol and helps the GT4 E-Performance maintain its peak power for half-hour sprint races. It all makes for one devilishly fun ride.
If you’re worried that racing or high-performance cars will become boring when we turn to electrification, don’t worry. The 718-based GT4 E-Performance proves that electric racers are just as exciting as their petrol-powered counterparts. Maybe even more.
Take our safety briefing, for example. It covered how to get out of the car quickly in an emergency, a pretty standard forerunner to these ride-sharing schemes. Unless there was three different possible strategies. In the first case, a high-voltage failure could cause some lights to come on on the dash, and de Silvestro and I would have to wait for the pit crew to give the all-clear. If the electrical systems get breached, we’d have to get out immediately. In this case, we’d pull ourselves out of the racing buckets, bend through the roll cage, and get onto the doorstep. Then, to avoid completing the circuit and tasting 900 volts of electricity, we would have to jump out of the car without touching it and the ground at the same time. We’ve done it twice without ever coming close to elegance. The third scenario is battery thermal runaway. At this point, like you would in a gas-powered car if it catches fire, the key is to get out and get away. Like right now.
Our drive, as you would expect from a 1000hp race car, was short, brilliant and brutal. The GT4 E-Performance exploded out of the pit lane, filling the cabin with a shrill roar of engines and straight-line gears. With no gear changes, the Porsche is smooth in a way, even if the g’s it’s capable of under acceleration will peel your lips back into a big smile.
With all-wheel drive and about 3,500 pounds to handle (vs. about 3,000 pounds for the gas-powered Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport), we noticed that de Silvestro treated the GT4 E-Performance very much like we would a high-performance AWD supercar. Slowing corners sooner than she could have done in a lighter car, she braked into the corner and started applying power early, relying on the front engine to defy physics and tear the car down the next straight. De Silvestro was clearly proficient in this method, as it regularly took the GT4 near a transmission-limited top speed of around 150 mph on any straight.
Despite Porsche’s robust customer motorsport program, the GT4 E-Performance is just a technology demonstrator at this point. The automaker plans to take it on a world tour over the next year and introduce such cars to potential owners, teams, circuits and promoters. Although some people still see speed with gas the way Charlton Heston did with firearms, Porsche doesn’t see it as an either-or situation. As the company says, it’s had incredible success in racing with internal combustion engines for decades – but it’s also good at it.