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Porsche 911 GT3 RS: Driven

We know the GT3 RS is phenomenally fast around the 'ring, but what's it like if you're not Kevin Estre?

By Matt prior / Friday, April 27, 2018

Er, yeah, so, spoiler alert: it's quite good. The new Porsche 911 GT3 RS, of second-gen 991 generation, is here. And it'll stay here until the next-generation 911 (the 992) knocks the current 911 out of production next year.

The accessibility stuff first: it's £141,346 and not strictly limited in numbers, per se, but you'll know how it is if you've tried to get one: there won't be enough. There's a Weissach Pack (28kg lighter) coming later too. Production is limited by supplier deals and how many Porsche can squeeze down the line while fulfilling other 911 orders, plus the fact that its emissions mean it's homologated for 1,000 units in the EU this year (registered before September), before it'll have to be fitted with a petrol particulate filter (which later on it will be).

Right. That sorted, now the interesting bits. The GT3 RS is, in a way, a GT2 RS but with a naturally-aspirated motor. Suspension is, like the 2, rose/heim/rod end bearing jointed, for immense precision. The bodywork employs Turbo rear fenders but with new, more efficient scoops, the rear wing and front aero are GT2 RS-ish, although overall this car makes more downforce (480kg at top speed) and more drag, because the 2 RS is regarded as a higher-speed machine, the 3 RS as a track car, in Porsche terms. They deal in very, very small detail at Porsche, as you know. But, as they say: lots of tiny details that each make a very small improvement, add up to a big improvement at the end. As we'll see.

The engine is a development of that found in the 911 GT3, which means it's basically a 4.0 Cup race engine that revs to 9,000rpm. It makes 520hp at 8,250rpm and if you want to get some idea of its character, be aware it makes only 347lb ft and that doesn't arrive until 6,000. It drives the rear wheels through a seven-speed PDK gearbox only - no manual option here. Wheels are the same size as the GT2 RS's, 9.5J x 20in at the front and 12.5J x 21in at the rear - the rear tyres (Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, 265/35 R20 at the front, 325/30 ZR 21 at the back) are a slightly different compound to the 2RS's because this car weighs less and the power delivery is different. Magnesium wheels will form part of the Weissach pack and are the reason it's coming later: Porsche has been surprised, I'm not sure why, by the fact that so many 2 RS buyers want the same pack - so that's where the wheels are going for now. There's active rear steer, PASM dampers, and spring rates that are way up on the last-gen GT3 RS, to GT2 RS levels.

As it is, then, weight is 1,430kg, about 40kg lighter than a 2. Stick a half-cage in it with the Clubsport pack and it gets a bit heavier, spec the PCCB ceramic brakes and it gets 16kg lighter, and so on. Details, again.

Either way, what you can definitely tell is that this car is lighter and more agile than a GT2 RS, which means it's more willing to turn than any sports cars this side of a truly lightweight track special. My first experience of it is as a passenger alongside Walter Rohrl, who describes it as "almost mid-engined" in feel.

I haven't driven it on the road. My only go at the wheel is an extended run on the Nurburgring GP circuit - wide, smooth, and from about halfway through, because it's Eifel and it's spring, at least partly damp. At first, though, it's dry, which is a GT3 RS's preferred operating condition.

And it's fabulous. The driving environment is pure GT Porsche: great driving position, spot on seats, a widely adjustable and round steering wheel. Visibility's good, the pedals are ideally spaced, and weighted, to make the most of the beautifully linear, really sharp, naturally-aspirated throttle response. Ooh, it's dead good.

At lower revs and with PDK left in 'D' it's all fine, though to be honest I didn't get a huge chance to try it. But when you ask everything of this engine it's mega, one of the finest production engines on the planet. Sounds great, goes well, revs up for downshifts in an instant. Straight-line performance isn't what the GT3 RS is about but 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 194mph isn't shabby, is it?

Where it's more impressive, though, is in the way it turns. The big difference between GT3s and GT3 RSs is often in the way the RS is more willing to turn in, and that's the case here. The agility is way beyond anything with its engine in the front, like a BMW M4 GTS, or Mercedes-AMG GT R. It still helps if you trail a GT3 RS's brakes into a bend, keeping that light front end slightly loaded, but there's less compulsion to do so than in a regular GT3. The agility and willingness is there either way.

In the dry there's barely any understeer. Turn too aggressively with no load on the front, especially if it's even mildly damp, and it can push onwards. But more likely is that if you turn with the front settled, you can unsettle the rear. Perhaps you want to. Rear-steer helping to pitch the back in presumably accentuates that, and it all happens pretty swiftly. The GT3's willingness to step beyond its limits is as quick as its reactions below them.

Somewhere between all of this there's a sweet spot of massive lateral grip, and the medium-weight, hugely talkative (and yet uncorrupted) steering. The whole chassis, in fact, is so communicative that you're totally aware, all the time, what state the car is in, how you got it there, and what you ought to do to get it out of it. There's nothing else on sale quite like it.

Perhaps a

turns with similar willingness, and has steering almost as good; though I think gives you fewer cornering options. A new

goes in and out of rear grip more benignly. A

is perhaps more adjustable. But none of these - nothing, in fact, this side of a Caterham, Radical, Ariel, BAC, etc - is ultimately so track happy, or tells you what it's doing with such vigour, or responds to your demands so quickly. I don't think any is, ultimately, as engaging overall as a GT3 RS. Nor, for my money, is a 2 RS - whose power is addictive, sure, but given the choice of more power or less weight, I'd take fewer kilos every time. Especially when the throttle response is like this.

I've driven a GT2 RS on the road and the ride was fine, and the steering clear. I'd want to try a GT3 RS on the road to say for sure, then, but I'm not in too much doubt: I think this is the best driver's car on sale today.


Engine: 3,996cc flat-six, petrol
Power (hp): 520@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 347@6,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.2sec
Top speed: 194mph
Weight: 1,430kg
MPG: 22.1
CO2: 291g/km
Price: £141,346

















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