Porsche SA has been on a bit of a GT/RS binge recently, having launched the 911 GT2 RS in South Africa a few months ago, and the new 911 GT3 RS only a few weeks ago.
I travelled to the Western Cape last week to sample the latest 911 GT3 RS, (in ‘Lizard Green’), to see if the hype behind the nameplate is worth the millions of rand that Porsche asks for it. But, before we get to whether it’s worth the dosh, let me describe what it’s like to drive.
At this juncture I must confess that prior to spending time behind the wheel of several iterations of 911 in recent years, I was one of many that joked about its engine being in the wrong place. After all, mid-engined sports cars just felt better to drive, for me, which is probably why I love the old Porsche Cayman R, Lotus Exige S and Audi R8 V8 manual. Over time, though, I’ve come to appreciate how the rear of a 911 feels and transitions when pressing on the throttle out of a corner, requiring alertness to catch it should you hit a patch of standing water or loose sand.
The latest 911 GT3 RS (with rear-wheel drive) requires even more alertness, what with 383kW at 8250rpm and 470Nm at 6000rpm at its disposal thanks to a manic 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six engine hanging behind the rear axle. The engine is fitted with marvellous technologies such as VarioCam, giving an old-school VTEC (for lack of a better denominator) kick at 4000rpm, but with more aggression, off course.
Revs, revs, glorious revs; the GT3 RS is one of the most satisfying road cars to drive in anger. Stretching through the gears from a standstill means you can touch 9000rpm on the rev counter before grabbing another gear for the drama to begin again. It’s PDK too (with seven forward ratios), which means you don’t have to negotiate with a third pedal when pressing on. Floor it, pull the right flappy paddle, and let the symphony unfold as you turn 95 unleaded into Pantera’s greatest hits.
I throughly enjoyed the car in PDK Sport mode, with the exhaust flaps open, revving it out along the twists and turns of Franschoek pass. It’s so fast, and so capable, that I was actually nowhere near the limit in most instances, except for tight corners that arrive before you know it. In these instances, ceramic brakes scrub off speed like no other road car that I’ve driven before, and the sheer amount of grip from the tyres give the confidence to try and take the next corners faster and faster (with bigger grins to match).
When it starts to slide, the body manners are predictable, but you need to act fast to ensure you don’t overcook the angle and end up back-to-front in a gravel trap on the side of the road.
Like all GT cars, the new 911 GT3 RS is stripped down, pared back, and fitted with a roll-cage, showing its intent as a track toy or weekend warrior. Sure you can use it everyday, and potter around in traffic with no issue, but that would be a solid way to waste the engineering that’s gone into this car.
At road speeds, within national limits, it’s straining at the leash, wanting you to give more throttle, and at 120km/h on the highway, it’s noisy and bouncy and uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good noises; you can hear that flat-six sucking in air, and you can hear the sound of gravel pinging inside the wheel arches. There’s also this distinctive ‘whine’ that rocks the cabin under full throttle acceleration that almost gives the impression that the car is supercharged.
You’ll think it’s supercharged too, when you look at the speedo and suddenly realise you’re going way too quickly.
Porsche claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 3.2 seconds, a 0-160km/h sprint of 6.9 seconds (bye bye GTI chancers), and a maximum velocity of 312km/h. That’ll do.
More impressive, turn in is so sharp and accurate that you simply steer by intuition, or so it feels, and thanks to the rear-drive bias of the drivetrain, there’s a slight moment where you get on the power and it feels like the car’s about to break traction, but it just grips and slingshots out of the corner. There’s no whack of torque to unsettle your throttle inputs, and you can quickly learn to predict how the engine’s power and torque is going to impact your trajectory out of a bend.
Like all 911s, the GT3 RS is packed with engineering and technology, but its the mechanical nature and feel of the car that makes it such an exquisite machine to pilot. The sound of the diff, the smell of the brakes, the backfire of the exhaust as you suddenly lift your foot from the throttle pedal; all so intoxicating.
About 300km into the 400km test drive, a friend called me to ask how it was going (and probably to check that I hadn’t been over zealous with the performance on offer). He asked the apt question: ‘What’s it like’, to which I responded...‘Imagine your cat, being attacked by a grizzly bear; claws out when turning, but ready to sprint like a cheetah on Red Bull when the opportunity presents itself’.
As a road car, the 911 GT3 RS is an epic drive, but you really need to be on a race track to experience the downforce wizardry it has to offer (and the grip that it has been engineered to deliver). It’s packed with luxury items (our test unit had sat-nav, an aircon and a decent multimedia entertainment system), the latter which remained turned off for the duration of the test drive.
We didn’t get to try the car’s launch control system on the road, but we can tell you that it will easily thrash any pesky V8 twin-turbo sports sedans or hot hatches in a drag race between the lights in the dry. The thing is, the 911 GT3 RS is not about drag racing, or show-boating; it’s about the joy of driving...and driving fast at that. If you enjoy revving a car to its limit, and exploring where grip runs out and where handling begins, this is the car for you.
Pricing? Well, Porsche SA says that’s dependent on exchange rates when ordering, so give them a call if you’re interested and they’ll let you know what sort of price you’re looking at.