The Porsche 911 GT3 RS takes the rear-engined legend from Zuffenhausen to new heights … and widths.
WHAT IS IT?
An even more extreme 911 GT3; more engine, more rubber, more downforce and less weight. This purposeful Porsche has a new 368kW 4.0-litre atmo flat six, huge wheels and tyres, an outrageous (and effective) rear wing and bodywork that’s a smorgasbord of lightweight materials. It’s the ultimate track-ready road-going 911.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
It will be August before the 911 GT3 RS arrives in Australia, so we leaped at the offer from Porsche to attend the recent international launch of the car in Germany.
Although priced much higher than the $387,700 911 GT3 RS, the Ferrari 458 Speciale is the most natural match-up for this sharp and polished Porsche. Both these rear-drivers are more track-focused than the all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 and its almost-ready Audi R8 V10 sister, or the front-engined Mercedes-AMG GT S. The scrawny little Caterham Seven 485 might be considered a rival for track-day prowess, but not day-to-day driving.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Porsche, you’ve done it again! The 911 GT3 RS is simply brilliant. Not just for its grip and power, but also for the supernatural precision of its steering and throttle, and the stunning speed of its seven-speed double-clutch transmission. These make it something special on a racetrack, but the 911 GT3 RS is also surprisingly civilised on the road as well. This is a car with a truly awesome breadth of talent.
PLUS: Engine; transmission; steering; brakes; handling; looks; engineering
MINUS: It’s $50,000 more than the previous 997 Gen II 911 GT3 RS
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THE PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS is a car with a behind of eye-popping prominence. Massive rear tyres fill almost to bursting the broad curves of its 911 Turbo-derived haunches. Remove that impossible to ignore wing, and you're looking at the automotive equivalent of Kim Kardashian in skin-tight jeans. But this is a cruel and unkind metaphor. The Porsche, of course, has talent.
We've come to Bilster Berg, a private racetrack in the north of Germany, to find out what it can do. This circuit packs a lot of rise and fall into its 4.2km length. There are slithery curves over crests, grippy compression dips, off-camber exits, visually deceptive entries, little chance to relax and greenery all around. It’s like a condensed version of the Nürburgring.
The 911 GT3 RS has already clocked a 7m20s lap of the Nordschleife. This is better than any of its predecessors, and nine seconds quicker than the Carrera GT, with its mid-mounted 5.7-litre V10, managed back in 2003. Andreas Preuninger, Porsche’s director of high-performance cars and motorsport, confidently predicts that the new GT3 RS will shave a few more seconds off its current Ring record when more favourable summer weather arrives in Germany.
It doesn't take many laps of Bilster Berg to understand why the GT3 RS is a lord of the Ring. This Porsche combines outlandish grip, superb steering, muscular brakes and precision delivery of pungent power in choir-like harmony. With the sense of connection through the car's Alcantara-bound steering wheel and carbonfibre shelled seat, you simply have to sing along.
Preuninger says he really, really wanted the same-size wheels and tyres as the Porsche 918 Hybrid for the 911 GT3 RS; 265/35ZR20 on 9.5-inch rims at the front and 325/30ZR21 on 12.5-inch rims at the rear. These bring 20 and 18 percent respective increases in contact patch area compared to the GT3, which has narrower 20-inch wheels front and rear.
The grippy rubber – both Michelin and Dunlop supply tyres – is just the beginning of the story. To extract more mechanical grip from them, both front and rear axle tracks are increased. The RS has front guards 50mm wider than the GT3, and 911 Turbo guards at the rear make the RS almost 30mm broader in the beam.
The need for new front guards apparently presented an irresistible opportunity for aerodynamic improvement. Adding wheel housing air outlets to the carbonfibre guards increases front axle downforce by around 30 per cent. Also made from carbonfibre, the rear wing is positioned and shaped for strong downforce with minimal drag. The result? High-speed downforce can total 345kg, mainly from the rear, with a reasonable 0.34 coefficient of drag.
So they say. Bilster Berg offers no Le Mans-like opportunity to assess aero effectiveness at the 310km/h top speed of the GT3 RS. But you can sense the results of the weight-shaving program the car was subjected to. Despite the weight increases imposed by the Turbo body panels and larger wheels and tyres, the RS is 10kg lighter than the GT3 thanks to the widespread use of lightweight materials.
The GT3 RS's 368kW 4.0-litre engine must surely be the world’s greatest naturally aspirated road car six. This effectively new engine isn’t related in any way to the same-capacity and same-power ‘Mezger’ engine used in the 997 Series II 911 GT3 RS, of which 600 were produced between 2011 and 2012. It is a glorious thing.
Amazingly tractable at low revs, it also has a sweet mid-range. But the frenzied intensity available from 5000rpm all the way to its 8800rpm cut-out is special. The surgical precision of its throttle response makes it a perfect partner for an equally precise chassis.
This GT3 RS is the first with Porsche's double-clutch transmission. For the very simple reason that it delivers better lap times. It's adept as an auto, especially in ‘PDK Sport’ mode on a track, and manual paddle shifts are practically instant.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the rear-biased visuals of the 911 GT3 RS are reflected in the way it drives. Grip is surer at the rear end, where an electronically controlled diff lock, torque vectoring system and electric steer system all labour to keep things tidy. While understeer can perhaps be found a little earlier and more often than expected, messages from the evenly weighted electric-assist steering are loud and clear.
No surprise that a 911 GT3 RS works brilliantly on a circuit, but this latest startles with the way it drives on the road. On German country blacktop outside Bilster Berg, ride comfort is much better than not bad. Noise levels are acceptable if you avoid high revs and the induction system’s drone zones. It truly feels like a car you could live with day after day, savouring its specialness each and every time. In fact, it could probably teach Kim Kardashian a thing or two about how to create a lasting relationship.
Model: Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Engine: 3996cc horizontally opposed 6-cyl, dohc, 24v
Max power: 368kW at 8250rpm
Max torque: 460Nm at 6250rpm
Transmission: 7-speed double clutch automatic
0-100km/h: 3.3sec (claimed)
On sale: August