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Best Engine of 2016: Porsche 911 GT3 RS

By Scott Newman, 20 Dec 2016 Features

Best Engine of 2016: Porsche 911 GT3 RS

The thrill of atmo-spheric acceleration

If cars could be compared to humans, then the engine would definitely be the heart. For many of us, this is where our love affair with cars started.

Purists may preach about precise handling and feelsome steering, but nothing stirs the emotions like a barking exhaust and the feeling of acceleration forcing you into your seat, and on these two sensations our ‘Best Engine of 2016’, the 4.0-litre flat-six from Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS, delivers in spades.

Porsche 911 gt3 rs bonnetMuch has been written, including by MOTOR, about the demise of Porsche’s iconic ‘Mezger’ engine, which powered every one of Porsche’s hardcore ‘GT’ 911s until the awesome 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0. For die-hard Porsche-philes, this was the last ‘real’ 911; oh sure, subsequent GT3s would no doubt be faster and more efficient, but they wouldn’t have the same feel and character. Well, in the words of Mr Trump – "Wrong!"

The regular 3.8-litre GT3 quickly proved our fears unfounded. With a sky-high 9000rpm redline and searing Le Mans soundtrack, not to mention unbelievable pace, it left us wondering where Porsche could possibly go with the GT3 RS. Bigger was the answer. An extra 200cc revived the ‘4.0’ badge, but it takes much more than a slight increase in displacement to liberate 18kW/20Nm from what is already a very highly-strung atmo engine.

Almost all of the internal parts were changed, including the conrods, camshafts, cam springs, pistons and oil system. The crankshaft is made of special hardened steel, identical to that found in Porsche’s 919 LMP1 Le Mans cars. Using the wider Turbo bodyshell allowed the use of side air vents in the rear guards, increasing air flow through a new intake system.

Ferrari 488 GTBThe net result is officially 368kW at 8250rpm, however Porsche Motorsport boss Andreas Preuninger admits the actual figure is closer to 380kW. This explains how it can rocket from 0-100km/h in 3.3sec and across the quarter mile in 11.2sec. Even on well-worn tyres, we managed 0-100km/h in 3.71sec and an 11.6sec quarter mile at 201km/h, which makes it one of the fastest cars we've tested in 2016.

What the numbers don’t convey is how different the on-road experience is between the 3.8 and 4.0. Whereas the former thrives on revs, exploding across the last 2000rpm, the latter feels much more muscular in the mid-range. It still revs to 8800rpm, yet while it also still has a killer top-end rush, it doesn’t feel as spectacular as by the time 4500rpm hits the tacho, you’re seriously moving.

There are a couple of new-age turbo contenders worthy of consideration, most notably the latest V8s from Ferrari and AMG, but neither quite offer the same thrill of climbing a seemingly never-ending naturally-aspirated hill. In the end, it’s the atmo heart of the GT3 RS that makes our own beat faster.