Noise, drama and pure intensity: we drive the Porsche 911 GT3 RS
JOHANNESBURG - There are a number of car companies that use the letters R and S as indicators of performance. Renault use R.S. on the cooking Clio and Megane, Ford used to use RS on the hottest Focus, and Audi uses it across a number of models, from the RS3 to the RS Q8.
As two letters, they mean nothing really, but on cars, they are fighting words; markers that signify that these machines aren’t meant to be driven with a light foot, but flat out, through twisting mountain roads and plummeting canyons. I love the letters R and S, and when I see them on any car, I must admit, I get a little giddy.
It’s when the letters RS appear on a Porsche 911, though, that the giddy feeling turns into a deep, rapid increase in heart rate and very sweaty brow.
If you’re a Porsche enthusiast, you already know what I’m on about, that an RS Porsche car is not to be treated lightly and that at the very limit it has the ability to bite like a rabid pit bull.
In fact, legendary motoring scribe Andrew Frankel once gave the Porsche 911 GT2 RS the ‘I almost died laughing’ award for the being the most entertaining and defining road-going 911 ever made. He was talking specifically about the 2017 991 GT2 RS, a car that I have not built the courage to attempt to engage with yet…
Enter the GT3 RS
This piece is not about Porsche’s manic turbocharged racing car for the, however, it’s a closer look at the car that sits one rung below the GT2 RS in the 911 pecking order, the naturally-aspirated 911 GT3 RS, a sports car that at wide-open-throttle sounds like nothing else on the planet.
For the latest 911 GT3 RS, which is available in 991.2 flavour only, Porsche has left nothing untouched, trimming the fat, shaping the body to cut through the air better, and adding the most punch it ever has in a non-turbo car for the road with more than 500 horses on call.
I picked up the test vehicle from Porsche Centre in Johannesburg after it had made the trip up from Cape Town only a few days earlier. It had already experienced a hard life at the coast, however, it was properly run-in, and with decent mileage on it, I did not mind revving it to the limiter once everything had warmed up.
Like the pre-facelift car, you get the latest 4.0-litre flat-six hanging behind the rear-axle but because Porsche has been refining this platform for so many decades, you’d be forgiven for thinking the car was mid-engined considering its ability to turn in sharper than any 911 I’ve driven before. Yes, at the very very limit with a little too much entry speed, the nose will push wide, but thanks to a hefty amount of instantly available power and torque on taps, you simply add a little more throttle to motivate the rear.
Depending on your driving style, you can take advantage of generous oversteer capability or you can slice through bends with precision and accuracy, either way, the feeling is so rewarding because of the buzz through the cabin, the noise of the engine climbing to 9k rpm and the thunks, clinks, a patter of stones and debris under the car.
Even with electrically-assisted power steering, there’s still some feel through the steering wheel, and you can tell exactly when the front of the car is about to let go through your fingertips. It’s such an odd feeling to have this level of feel in a modern car, considering most cars are so insulated these days.
I could hammer on about how amazing it is to drive for hours; the fact that each gear and each 1000 increment of engine revolutions sounds different and feels so different.
I can also hammer on about how the seven-speed PDK gearbox feels more like a sequential racing box from Sadev.
I can also hammer on about how the rose-jointed suspension makes it feel like no other road-going 911, which when combined with magnetorheological dampers gives you absolute control over the vehicle regardless of whether you’re cutting an apex at 60km/h or trying to keep it on the blacktop at 300km/h.
There’s that big wing on the back to keep the rear pinned as speeds increase, then there are those ducts on the bonnet to cool the brakes, the 21-inch wheels and tyres, perhaps the most-aggressive tyre package on any Porsche we’ve ever tested, and on top of all this, you get a Weissach RS pack (optional) that lightens the vehicle further through the use of carbon fibre instead of magnesium for things like the roof.
To put things into perspective in terms of how honed this car is for driving, Porsche has even done away with traditional embossed Stuttgart crest on the bonnet, opting rather for lightweight, streamline sticker to save weight.
There are so many refined ingredients in the 911 GT3 RS mix that you might think there’s too much going on, and I haven’t even touched on the four-wheel steering and the optional ceramic brakes on our test car.
Better than any turbo car
While the 911 GT3 RS produces some fantastic numbers in terms of sprints and stopping capability, the noise and the drama and the sheer intensity of the thing is what captivated me the most. It feels solid as if it were carved from a single piece of granite; not heavy but tough and rigid.
In some fast cars, there’s always this slight softness in either the engine or the handling at the very limit (Hello, BMW M8), after all, these are road cars, but the Porsche 911 GT3 RS doesn’t feel soft at all and in fact, it reminded of the very first racing car I had the opportunity to drive (a Ferrari 360 Modena) back in 2009. Unlike that Ferrari, I had air-conditioning and satellite navigation and a reversing camera - you know, real car essentials - in the 911.
Worth the asking price?
If you have around R5 million to spend on something that you can drive fast, relatively easily both as a daily and a weekend plaything, I’d suggest you try the Panamera Turbo SE and save some bucks.
If you want a car that’s going to challenge you every time you take it on a purposeful drive, buy the 911 GT3 RS.
You see, I recently tested the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 too, which is also fitted a naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six. It doesn’t rev as high or hard as the GT3 RS, but it’s fitted with a manual gearbox and as far as engagement factor goes, you can’t beat a third pedal and manual shifter.
Speed, well, the GT3 RS will be a heck of a lot faster than a Cayman GT4 around a track in the right hands and if you spend a lot of time on a track or plan to then go all out and buy the GT3 RS. If you want a fast car for the road, that feels racy and that will give you spine-tingling induction sounds and satisfying feedback, I still reckon the GT4 is the car of the moment.
If you’re in the market for a GT3 RS or for more information on the stock that’s available to secure a test drive of one, contact Porsche South Africa.