Driven: Porsche GT3 RS 4.0

If there's a world at Porsche beyond ever more hardcore 911 GT3 and GT2 variants (nine and counting on his watch), GT cars boss Andreas Preuninger doesn't appear to acknowledge it. Indeed, it's hard to imagine his department hanging out with colleagues on the Cayenne and Panamera production teams, or even giving them the time of day in the staff canteen.

It's that kind of single-minded focus that results in cars like the GT3 RS 4.0. It's not clear whether Preuninger is voicing the official line or his own personal view when he declares the RS 4.0 the ultimate 911. But it's clear there's bittersweet satisfaction that this car represents the conclusion of 12 years of expertise building GT3 911s.

Of course if you're a 911 fanboy you'll likely already know all about the GT3 RS 4.0. But, even if you've got the necessary £128,466 there's some bad news. They're already sold. All 600 of them. Of that number our contact at Porsche was somewhat vague on how many would be coming to the UK, eventually conceding it would be "around one per Porsche centre" but "less than 10% of the overall production run." So that'll be a number greater than 32 but fewer than 60 then.

That spec sheet statisticians won't find a whole lot to get excited about in the seemingly minor performance upgrades over a regular GT3 RS is to be applauded. After all, if Autobahn blitzing and spec sheet willy-waggling are your thing you still need a 911 with forced induction, the GT2 RS taking this to its most extreme conclusion.

No, the GT3 RS 4.0 is about details. Details resulting in the famous 'Mezger ' engine's capacity creeping up 200cc to make it the biggest ever fitted to a roadgoing 911 and boosting power over the regular GT3 RS from 450hp to 500hp and torque from 317lb ft to 339lb ft. The 4.0's additional aero - nine degrees of rear wing over the RS's six and front bumper mounted 'flics' to reduce resulting front-end lift - mean top speed is only 1mph up at 193mph and 0-62mph down a tenth to 3.9 seconds. But what was that about meaningless stats? The changes to the 4.0 can be better appreciated in just one corner on Silverstone's International Circuit.

On the advice of the bloke in the passenger seat - 1970 Le Mans winner and occasional 'Porsche Driving Consultant' Richard Attwood no less - I try short-shifting from third to fourth before turning into the new pit straight following the Club chicane. Where the regular RS would bog the 4.0 digs deep into its newly expanded torque curve and by the time I exit the corner I'm fast approaching the 8,500rpm redline, grabbing fifth and arriving at Abbey 20mph faster than I did on the last lap. Yikes!

Preuninger admits the 3.8 RS's flat six is "not a tractor engine" but by increasing the stroke - there was literally not enough metal in the block for any increase in bore - with the same crank as used in the half million pound RSR race car they wrung out those final few hp and lb ft. New heads, cams and shorter, wider inlet tracts also play their part in the astonishing 125hp per litre specific output. Oh, and if you're worried about durability part of the test programme was running flat out for 3,000km at Nardo.

The thing that strikes you from the wheel of the 4.0 is both the incredible response such a highly tuned, normally aspirated engine gives and the way detail improvements to the RS's already fabulous chassis help you exploit them. Sure, there's the usual PASM adjustable damping but Attwood's advice is to leave it in the standard setting and be done with it.

Like the GT2 RS, the 4.0 gets additional rose joints on the suspension arms and uprated coilovers with compensator springs to allow a shorter, lighter main spring. None of this fancy pants hardware can overcome those inherent 911 handling quirks though and the 4.0 still has that 'will it, won't it' light-nosed feel on turn-in that, assuming you've not totally overlooked the additional speed you arrived with (see above), can be bled off with a little bit of trail braking. The fierceness with which the engine responds has you wary of being too early on the power but, inevitably, even when you think you're being brave you're actually being a wuss and everyone will know about it, so loud is the exhaust when you're on properly on it. Dig deeper and the response is so accurate, the communication so undiluted that you can actually feel the differential begin to lock up and fire you out of the corner for that classic 911 slingshot effect.

Traction and stability control are there and can be independently disabled but drive with the smoothness and accuracy the 4.0 encourages and you'll only see them wake up at the very extremes of the handling envelope. At which point you'll most likely be glad of them.

Again it's the engine that dominates, the rate with which revs and speed build requiring serious mental recalibration. Like all 'proper' Porsches this is a car that makes demands of its driver and assumes a certain level of competence before giving its best. There's no Ferrari style ego massage here.

And though the stickers, plank-like rear wing, roll cage and aero flics mark you out as a bit of a tragic wannabe away from the track from the driver's seat you won't mind. Because, like the regular RS, the 4.0 is surprisingly viable as a road car. A road car that doubles, trebles even, speed limits in the blink of an eye admittedly. But it rides well, bumps, cambers and ridges clearly communicated via wheel and seat of the pants but the feedback so clear and faithful it's never intimidating.

It's on the track where this car really gives its best though and if there's one measure of the improvements that'll really count to aficionados it's that all-important 'ring lap time. And here it really shows, the 4.0's 7:27 six seconds faster than the 3.8 RS and 13 seconds quicker than a regular GT3. Matching performance like that will require a pair as steely as Röhrl's. But the satisfaction of knowing the car can do it - even if you can't - and would be perfectly acceptable for the long schlep home across Belgium is the kind of credibility an RS Porsche thrives on. This final swansong edition more so than ever.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (95) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ps01 10 Nov 2014

    Amazing cars. Even better investment. Re-reading this today and I'd forgotten that the original list price was 128k and they now sell for 300k+ ...

    Edited by ps01 on Monday 10th November 10:03

  • nutbehinddawheel 21 Aug 2014

    I have owned both 996 and 997 GT3.
    I have owned many Ferrari including Stradale,F40 and currently 458Spider and Scuderia.
    All have been / are fantastic and great to drive.
    I love the FI box-the Stradale being the first of this type to really deliver and since 2004
    the F1 box has just got better and better.
    All have and continue to put a smile/grin on my face.
    I found the box on the GT3 and the drive and sound to be much more organic,so much more satisfying.
    So is the Scud !
    A 991 GT3 arrives 29th August and I am looking forward to how that drives etc.
    You pays your money and you makes your choice.

  • 911Thrasher 20 Jun 2011

    Corsair7 said:
    you think? Last time I saw a couple of RS's at bedford they were black flagged for noise levels. Sent packing, no refund. Standard exhausts.....
    I've tracked Bedford numerous times in my 997.1RS and never got black flagged along with other 997RSs, so did many 997GT3s

  • mnk303 19 Jun 2011

    Dr S said:
    Did you ever drive a 7 GT3 variant? This is neither no frills nor trackday only. I'm using my 7.2 GT3 as a daily drive, it is absolutely easy to live with day to day. The RS is no more hardcore than that. The ride is even more compliant.

    If you want harsh, no frills and track day then you need to go down the Radical (or similar) route...
    Spot on mate in find mine the most comfortable car I have ever driven

  • davislove 18 Jun 2011

    one day Porsche will run out of 911 taglines!

    Inner Strength
    A Legend in top form
    Strict Discipline
    Inner Strength. To the Power of 4
    Power of Attraction
    Completely New. Yet true to its core
    Only three figures describe this feeling
    Street of dreams

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