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Driven: Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.

Driven: Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Is the mighty GT3 RS the absolute pinnacle of the 991.2 Porsche 911 range?

 



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Porsche 911 GT3 RS

5 5 5 5 5

We've already sampled the insanely brilliant 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 RS in its natural habitat, namely on track - or, more specifically, the Nürburgring Südschleife. But how will this astonishing creation handle the slippery, slimy roads of autumnal Great Britain? Time to find out...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche 911 GT3 RS 991.2
Pricing: 911 from £77,891; GT3 RS from £141,346; car as tested £159,096
Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, seven-speed PDK twin-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 291g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,070 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 22.1mpg
Top speed: 193mph
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Power: 520hp at 8,250rpm
Torque: 470Nm at 6,000rpm
Boot space: 125 litres

What's this?

It's Lizard Green, in case you're wondering. Hard to ignore it, really, isn't it? A bright green Porsche 911, which also happens to be sporting the sort of wheels and aerodynamics kit that make it look like a competition machine has snuck off a circuit and cheekily tried to pass itself off as a road car. It's the 911 GT3 RS, code number 991.2, and it'll be the final evolution of the ultimate, normally-aspirated 911 for this shape of the sports car - the 992 911 is inbound for 2019, so fans of Porsche's vaunted GT department are going to have to wait until the GT3 models of that start appearing, most likely in the 2020s, for their next hit. And that 'hit' might even be (whisper it) turbocharged, so we could be looking at the end, the zenith, the culmination of a very glorious era, right here.

The 991.2 GT3 RS, no matter what colour you paint it (strident Lizard Green, at £2,525, is the 'signature' shade for the 991.2 RS), singularly conveys its intentions before you've so much as got within 50 feet of it. Like all RS models, it has the wider, more aggressive Turbo bodyshell of the 911, when compared to its regular GT3 sibling. But it also has thoroughly revised aero, even when held up to its 991.1 predecessor, with a towering rear wing borrowed from the mental GT2 RS. As the GT3 gained the 500hp 4.0-litre flat-six in its evolution from 991.1 to 991.2, then the RS had to have its version of the same engine enhanced by 20hp and 10Nm, leading to peak figures of 520hp and 470Nm and standing it slightly apart from the non-RS.

This car has rose-jointed suspension. Most of the downforce of a full-on racing 911. The ability to have feather-light magnesium wheels fitted, as part of the hugely-in-demand Weissach Pack. The Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes, bolted on here, will set you back £6,498. It is, in short, an extremely purposeful track vehicle that you can (just about) use on the road. And, once you've swung its lightweight door open and dropped into the figure-hugging CFRP bucket seats, taking up a low-slung driving position that's about as spot on as spot on can be, then the anticipation levels ramp up even further. Time to drive it.

How does it drive?

Having sampled a 991.2 GT3 manual earlier in the year, and fallen helplessly in love with it, then it's kind of hard to imagine how the RS is going to move the game on significantly - certainly on the roads, at any rate, because the 520hp model is so obviously optimised for the circuit. For starters, its front wheels are 20-inch items with 265/35 sports tyres, while the rears - now 21s - have ridiculous 325/30 rubber. Oh, and said tyres are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, the most track-oriented of road equipment.

Porsche says that RS customers will take the hit in ride quality that the 911's uncompromising suspension set-up will bestow, in favour of its dynamic prowess, but as we roll out onto the M4 to head away from Porsche GB's Reading HQ towards the superb driving roads criss-crossing the North Wessex Downs near Wantage, the surprise here is that the GT3 RS is a lot more bearable than you might imagine it to be. It's firm, quite noisy and the 4.0-litre engine feels like a chained, savage beast at 70mph, but actually it's by no means an uncomfortable car to cruise in and, even with its glittering chassis operating in a totally unstressed dynamic situation like this, you're already feasting on a wealth of crystal-clear feedback about what each corner of the car is doing.

This relayed information is crucial to unlocking the genius of the GT3 RS, because - when the time comes to veer off the motorway and find a lumpen, challenging B-road flowing north across the hills from the M4 corridor - it'll take a huge amount of courage for you to lean on everything the 911 has got from mile one, especially on a damp and grey, drizzly autumn day. By crikey, the difference in intensity between the RS and the 500hp GT3 is huge. It has an immediacy of response to its stiletto-sharp throttle and simply gorgeous steering that makes it feel almost hyperactive and telekinetic as you fling it around through a few exploratory bends, so there's less of an 'instant rapport' with it as a driver than you get from the more forgiving GT3. This is a car you need to respect and learn, not jump in and drive as if you've owned it for years.

But when you finally do decide to unleash Hell, as Russell Crowe once said, the GT3 RS is thoroughly magical; even on the roads, where it feels ever so slightly like you're using an RPG to knock down nothing more rigid than a house of cards. One chief asset in the RS's armoury is the PDK, which shines. It has enhanced shift and throttle control, resulting from an evolved interface between the gearbox and the engine. And that really does mean you never once lament the lack of a clutch pedal and a manual option, because the PDK in this application is practically instantaneous, allowing you to access precisely the right gear for any given situation in the merest fractions of a second.

Knowing that the transmission has always got your back allows you to concentrate on the sheer torrent of undiluted information the chassis is throwing your way. Front-end grip is immense and turn-in is near-immaculate, while the traction is hugely impressive too - such power and torque from the 4.0-litre flat-six can occasionally make the rears spin in second, third and fourth in greasier conditions, but when it happens the Porsche telegraphs the impending breakaway so clearly that you're already dialling in the corrective lock needed to compensate. Be bolder with the GT3 RS and it's quite exceptional - incredibly, it's raw and polished in equal measure, involving you thoroughly in the driving experience and rewarding those who are prepared to push a little further with it, yet not coming across as snappy or ill-resolved in any single dynamic department.

The engine, too, remains a genuine masterpiece and while it's subjectively difficult to exactly pinpoint the additional punch of the extra 20hp/10Nm over a GT3 without resorting to timing gear, there's more of an intoxicating urgency to the way the RS punches towards its monumental 9,000rpm, more of a feeling that it will just keep pulling and pulling and pulling all the way to its 193mph top speed in remorseless fashion. The spine-tingling sound of that motor, the way it lacks for any inertia whatsoever, the blistering performance it bestows on the 911... all of this alone would almost serve to make the 911 GT3 RS's price (as tested) of £159,000 worth the entry fee, but the fact that the drivetrain is backed up by one of the finest chassis ever to issue forth into the general motoring sphere is just the icing on the cake. We take the RS back to Reading along the old A4 and we're buzzing; those two letters meant it needed to be better than a GT3, which is the toughest of tough asks. Turns out the RS managed to achieve the almost-impossible.

Verdict

An unusual verdict to come to here: the 991.2 Porsche 911 GT3 manual is the better road car, out of it and this 520hp RS. It's just that tiny bit more tractable, that tiny bit more exploitable in all conditions, than the ferocious GT3 RS. However, to suggest that the RS's dynamics are anything less than startlingly brilliant would be disingenuous and, if you can get this particular 991.2 to the right location (i.e. a track), then it will offer an even more thrilling, rewarding and technically superior driving experience than a 500hp GT3. That's a quite remarkable achievement. And, even though the empirically faster 911 Turbo models and the forced-induction GT2 RS both exist within this generation of Porsche's legendary sports car, it's abundantly clear that the GT3 RS is the greatest 911 of them all. It's absolutely tremendous.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 22 Oct 2018









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2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.

2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Image by Porsche.








 

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