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2018 Porsche 991.2 911 GT3 RS performance review

By Dylan Campbell, 28 Apr 2018 Reviews

2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS review feature

Porsche creates its mightiest naturally aspirated car ever in the new GT3 RS

The 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS takes the sublime 991.2 GT3 and injects it with a bit of mongrel to create one of the most exciting road cars on sale today.

After driving the 991.2 GT3 we thought naturally aspirated Porsche engines couldn’t get any more responsive or muscular, but that’s exactly what they’ve done with the RS.

We thought the PDK couldn’t possibly get any quicker, but it’s even more instant in the RS and with a crisp aggressiveness we’ve not felt from a PDK before.

And we thought there was no way the GT3 could get more precise, agile or stable, and then we drove the 991.2 GT3 RS.

The RS is the GT3, perhaps unsurprisingly, wound to eleven, with ostentatious styling — including that rear wing — more power, more downforce, more feel and more noise.

READ NEXT: 2019 Porsche 991.2 911 GT3 RS review

Let’s start with the styling. In the flesh, the new GT3 RS is an uppercut to the eyeballs particularly in the new bright Lizard Green hero colour and contrasting carbon-fibre of the optional Weissach Pack, wearing enormous staggered 20-inch front and 21-inch wheels barely hiding humungous 410mm front and 390mm rear optional Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brake rotors.

There are ducts and gills and a protruding front lip, titanium exhaust tips, and did we mention the rear wing?

Downforce is the big ticket item with this new car; the 991.2 GT3 RS has more downforce than any production Porsche ever made. More than the GT2 RS which is held back by its prodigal cooling requirements and even more than the fabled 918 Spyder supercar. Yikes.

With both the front diffuser and rear wing adjustable, in its most aggressive setting there is a whopping 586kg of downforce at the GT3 RS’s drag-reduced 307km/h top speed, split 30 per cent front and 70 per cent rear. It’s an absurd amount for a road car and more than twice as much as the 991.2 GT3, itself a car that made a big deal out of its increased downforce.

A Carrera Cup car has only 14 per cent more downforce than a 991.2 GT3 RS.

And it’s with the Cup car the GT3 RS shares its engine, almost identically so excluding the airbox and exhaust system. The Cup car also does away with the new-for-991.2-GT3 variable intake which ensures maximum inlet air-flow no matter the engine speed.

That can be as high as 9000rpm. With a new dry sump system incorporating seven scavenge pumps, and a fixed valvetrain replacing the previous 991 3.8-litre’s hydraulic tappets, the GT3 RS’s 4.0-litre unit is bulletproof.

With 383kW and 470Nm it is also the most powerful naturally aspirated production series engine in Porsche’s history. To extract the extra 15kW and 10Nm from the 991.2 GT3, Porsche needed only fit the Turbo widebody to the RS — as has become tradition — and used its side intakes to create a ram air effect. The variable cam timing software is also tweaked and presto, more power.

Every person on earth, man, woman, young, old, must experience the 9000rpm roaring might of the new 4.0-litre horizontally opposed flat-six GT3 engine at some point in their life. It’s a dreamy experience, the rev-hungry engine combining with a 13.3:1 compression ratio to produce unbelievable grunt and response. This is a sensational engine that utterly dominates the car and whose sound is truly unmistakeable from a Carrera Cup car, in note and volume. It’s really loud.

Though we only got eight laps around the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit in the new GT3 RS, it was worth flying halfway across the world for them as we staggered from the car mumbling messes, lost for words, shaking slightly and facing a comedown that would rival the most potent narcotics.

On a circuit, the new GT3 RS is totally spellbinding — and face-bending. Power? Immense. Traction? Prodigious, thanks to the rear-engine layout and huge 325mm-wide rear Cup 2 tyres.

The noise? Pornographic. Then there’s the engine’s responsiveness, low-down flexibility and torque we’ve not felt in a naturally aspirated engine before, the front end’s precision and the perfectly judged weighting of every control.

Aside from the slight extra power, shift speeds from the PDK are at another level, and we didn’t think there was another level after driving the 991.2 GT3. Upshifts are instant and a little bit angry. Downshifts are scary fast, letting you grab lower gears in brutally quick succession. It’s a brilliant transmission.

A revised all-wheel steering calibration brings a new apex-greedy eagerness to the entire GT3 RS chassis. As you tip into a corner, less steering lock is required than you first think as the car rotates quicker than you’re expecting.

But the real magic begins as you carry more and more speed into tight corners, asking more of the front-end mid corner and expecting understeer or oversteer, but instead the car responding and rotating even more in a way that feels spooky, or like you have 20 per cent more grip than what you actually have, making for an incredible sensation.

There’s a lot of grip, too. Interestingly, Porsche is planning to offer another tyre for the GT3 RS, an even-stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup R taking grip to another level beyond the Cup 2. Road legal, and probably diabolical in the wet, we can’t wait to drive on it, although it’s not confirmed yet for Australia.

Possibly the most irrelevant part of the new GT3 RS for the road is the aero, but its performance is very real on the track. It’s not until you’re well beyond 150km/h that a surprising stability emerges as the towering rear wing does its thing.

One corner on the Nurburgring GP circuit, a fast right-hander more a corner than a kink, has you thinking “lift” in the psychotically fast GT3 RS, but it’s possible to take it flat thanks to the downforce on offer, if you are brave enough. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most exciting feelings in driving this side of a fourth-gear power-slide.

As with all 991 911s, the GT3 RS is superbly balanced particularly for a rear-engined car, responding to your inputs with a sensitivity that takes you by surprise at first. It likes deft and measured inputs. Driving a GT3 RS is relatively easy to about seven or eight tenths but extracting more beyond that is an exponentially more difficult challenge, but a fun one. This is a fun car.

It’s also very difficult to fault. We didn’t drive it on the road so for all we know, those enormous 325-section rear tyres roar with noise on motorways; and perhaps the firmer spring rates in the GT3 RS have done all sorts of unspeakable things to the ride comfort. But we doubt it.

Tested and rated on MOTOR Reviews

Perhaps if you were going to wonder one thing about the GT3 RS it would be — like all other 991 911s — what other planet it might be on if it weighed 1300kg. But that is pure pointless fantasy.

At 1430kg, one of the big differences between RS and GT3 is Porsche’s obvious efforts to reduce weight as much as possible. While there’s a part-titanium exhaust as standard (with gorgeous discoloured tips), a magnesium roof and a new type of lightweight glass for the rear window and rear side windows (a polycarbonate alternative that is more rigid and scratch-resistant), the GT3 RS still weighs about as much as the old one. 

Rich, crazy people will option the diet-obsessed Weissach Package. At $41,990 it cuts another 28kg from the RS’s curb weight thanks mostly to forged magnesium wheels (-11.5 valuable unsprung kilograms) which are identical to the standard 20/21-inch rims save for a stamp; but also carbon-fibre swaybars and drop-links (-5.3kg) and a titanium cage replacing the steel item of the no-cost-option Clubsport Package (-9.6kg). Get the optional $21,590 Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brake package and it’s possible the GT3 RS’s weight will dip below 1400kg.

We’ve listed the other Weissach weight-saving items below.

We should probably mention how fast the new GT3 RS is on paper, as well. Perhaps you heard that it casually dipped below the seven-minute mark at the Nordschleife the other week with a how-is-that-even-possible 6:56.4 laptime. That’s just quicker than a 918 Spyder (6:57sec). And somehow 24 seconds faster than the 991 GT3 RS and that was hardly a car you’d describe as sluggish, although the 991.2’s time was set on the new Michelin Cup R tyres, which probably says a lot.

Meanwhile, heading further into the zone of exponentially diminishing returns, the 0-100km/h time is now 3.2sec with launch control, 0.1sec quicker than the 991 GT3 RS.

But you don’t need to check the on-paper figures to know that this is a seriously fast car. In fact, driving it on a racetrack, you need to actively remind yourself that you’re in a road car. The GT3 RS will presumably work in freezing temperatures of the snow to the searing heat of the desert. It will idle away in a traffic jam for hours if need be; it will likely last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

You can’t say all this about a Carrera Cup car, and yet the new GT3 RS does a mighty good impression of one. And that kind of says it all.

2018 Porsche 991.2 911 GT3 RS specs

Engine: 3996cc horizontally opposed six-cylinder, DOHC, 24v
Power: 383kW @ 8250rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 6000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch automatic, electronically locking differential
Weight: 1430kg
0-100km/h: 3.2sec (claimed)
0-200km/h: 10.6sec (claimed)
Top speed: 312km/h (claimed)
Price: $416,500
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

2018 Porsche 991.2 911 GT3 RS Australian options
Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes — $21,590
Sport Chrono — $1190
Weissach Package including forged magnesium wheels — $34,390
Weissach Package including forged magnesium wheels, with titanium roll cage — $41,990
Reversing camera — $1690
Front lift kit — (standard)
Clubsport package — (no-cost option)

*Pricing correct as of April 2018.

Weissach Package 28kg weight savings
Forged magnesium wheels — 11.5kg
Carbon-fibre swaybars and droplinks — 5.3kg
Titanium rollcage —9.6kg
Side mirror shells in unpainted carbon-fibre — 300g
Rear wing in unpainted carbon-fibre — 800g
CFRP roof — 500g
CFRP shift paddles — 200g
Lightweight carpet with cutouts — 200g

5 other facts we didn’t mention

1. The bonnet NACA ducts are new and feed fresh air to the front brakes to aid cooling. Removing brake ducts from the front bar (which was the set-up for 991) allowed the aerodynamicists to optimise the front diffusor for more downforce.

2. The 991.2 GT3 RS spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours in Porsche’s new high-tech wind-tunnel in Flacht. There are two front downforce settings, adjusted by adding or removing a blanking panel. The rear wing has three settings ranging from 280kg to 350kg at top speed. In max attack downforce mode, top speed is reduced from 312km/h to 307km/h.

3. There are around 11,000 parts on the new GT3 RS.

4. There are new GT3 RS-specific calibrations for the PDK, all-wheel steering, torque vectoring electronically locking rear differential, ABS, PASM adaptive dampers and PSM electronic stability program.

5. While the RS retains the GT3’s active engine mounts — which firm to improve response on the track and soften for comfort on the road — all suspension joints are solidly mounted. Ride height, camber and anti-roll bars are all adjustable.