Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: OL­LIE MAR­RIAGE / PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: RICHARD PAR­DON

Is the RS a track-day car with no road man­ners? Ol­lie Mar­riage heads to Wales to fnd out

Is the GT3 RS so track-fo­cused you can’t use it on the road? Only one way to fnd out. Go for a drive. A long one

As I write this, the GT3 RS is parked out­side my win­dow. I’m fnd­ing it a strug­gle to re­main in­doors. It’s a lovely warm day, I could just take of, go and get another hit.

It’s not long since my last. I got home at 3am this morn­ing, hav­ing driven 700 miles in two days all over north Wales. And all I want to do is drive some more.

It pains me might­ily to ad­mit it, but I mis­judged the GT3 RS when I drove it on its launch in Ger­many and re­viewed it on our web­site. “I can’t help think­ing it’s a bit of a shame you have to be go­ing so fast to get your kicks,” I wrote. Wrong. It felt like that in Ger­many be­cause on smooth roads the car never seemed to have to work any­thing like as hard as the driver, and on track… well, as you can read on page 97, that was a difer­ent mat­ter.

Now I’m in Wales, on the same roads I took the stan­dard GT3 to al­most ex­actly two years ago. Partly to play spot the difer­ence, partly be­cause the roads around Bala are just spec­tac­u­lar.

I got here in the same way, too – via the tan­gle of road­works, con­ges­tion and identi-aw­ful ser­vices that is Bri­tain’s mo­tor­way net­work. The new GT3 RS is only avail­able, like the GT3, with a PDK gear­box. It goes a long way to con­vinc­ing you that you could live with the GT3 RS as an ev­ery­day car.

Just be­cause you could doesn’t mean you should, though. You’d even­tu­ally be­come ir­ri­tated by it, and that would be a shame. Your spine would hunch into the seats, you’d never hear Chris Evans over the white noise of road roar and you’d finch at ev­ery cat’s eye. Con­stricted, deaf and numbed, you’d sufer a slow slide into masochism and lose sight of why this car is so great. So don’t do it to your­self.

And be­sides, who on the M42 is go­ing to ad­mire the car­bon bon­net, boot and rear wing? The plas­tic win­dows, sticker-for-a-badge and mag­ne­sium roof panel (30 per cent lighter than alu­minium)? No one, that’s who. It’s tempt­ing to view all this as un­nec­es­sary sparkle, de­signed to sucker in the geeky and fetishis­tic. If Porsche had stuck with a con­ven­tional alu­minium roof, the car would have weighed 1,421.1kg in­stead of 1,420kg. And yet they per­se­vered with this world frst, a com­po­nent that’s 1mm thick, made from mag­ne­sium sourced in Malaysia, shaped in Canada and fnally ft­ted in Ger­many. All for a sin­gle saved kilo.

But as I’m sure you’re aware, ev­ery lit­tle helps. And lots of lit­tle even­tu­ally adds up to some­thing big. Porsche has put the same at­ten­tion to de­tail into ev­ery­thing. It’s highly un­likely you’ll ever see the ti­ta­nium con rods or the crankshaft, made of the same V361 su­per-high-pu­rity steel as the 919 Le Mans car’s, that had to be remelted mul­ti­ple times in or­der to achieve the strength and grain it needs. But they’re there. Like­wise the dry-sump lu­bri­cated en­gine that now has a 4mm longer stroke,

“THE GT3 RS WEARS ITS MOTORSPORT BACK­GROUND CLOSE TO THE SUR­FACE”

tak­ing the 3.8-litre en­gine out to 4.0 litres, gain­ing 25bhp and 15lb ft. And the ball-jointed sus­pen­sion. And the (ad­mit­tedly op­tional) light­weight lithi­u­mion bat­tery. And the ti­ta­nium ex­haust. What you can see is the car it­self. Oof. Where does Cup car end and road car start? How are those rear whee­larch clear­ances le­gal? It doesn’t look self-con­scious or vis­ually overblown (no par­ody of a rac­ing stripe here), it just looks mighty. It looks, to be frank, like the com­po­nents are too big for the bodyshell. Those wheels pop out of the arches, you could host a state ban­quet on the rear wing, even the head­lights seem more pro­nounced, ar­tif­cially en­hanced by the newly sculpted bon­net and roof. For two days solid, pho­tog­ra­pher Richard Par­don and I can’t stop star­ing at it. There’s not a bad an­gle on it.

The GT3 RS wears its motorsport back­ground so close to the sur­face that oc­ca­sion­ally it bursts through. It’s the frst of Porsche’s nat­u­rally as­pi­rated GT cars to use the wider Turbo body, which brings wider track widths (good for grip) and side air in­takes (the ram-air efect is good for power). The broader bodyshell can’t help but add weight, yet thanks to all those mar­ginal gains, it’s 10kg lighter than the GT3.

And much more aero­dy­nam­i­cally efec­tive. Those slats above the front wheels vent high-pres­sure air from the whee­larches, al­low­ing the front spoiler to do its job more efec­tively, gen­er­at­ing 110kg of down­force at 125mph. In turn, this meant the engi­neers could ft a big­ger rear wing to bal­ance things out. Ex­cel­lent. Another 220kg of down­force.

In to­tal, the GT3 RS gen­er­ates 80 per cent of the down­force of the Cup rac­ing car. Still not enough grip? Those vast 21-inch rear wheels are wrapped in com­i­cal 325/30 Miche­lin Pi­lot Su­per Sport tyres and, to top it all, don’t for­get the fat-six hangs out the back, too.

Grip, frankly, is lu­di­crous. There’s an on-board g- me­ter. We took a pic­ture of it. Have a look at the read­ings. Trac­tion is equally daft. You can come out of a hair­pin in frst gear, give it ev­ery­thing, and you still won’t un­stick the rears. I know, I tried. Re­peat­edly. In fact, the only way to do the side­ways stuf is to in­dulge a se­cret Porsche PDK trick. Pull both pad­dles and you get neu­tral, give it a dose of gas, re­lease the pad­dles which dumps the clutch, the tyres un­hook, and the noise and drama be­gins. Porsche isn’t quite so overt about what the pad­dle-neu­tral func­tion is for. The line in the bumf says it is pos­si­ble “to in­fuence driv­ing dy­nam­ics by a rapid on­set of propul­sive power when en­gag­ing the clutch… the rear of the car can be in­ten­tion­ally desta­bilised for dy­namic turn-in be­hav­iour when cor­ner­ing”. Hmm, Porsche needs to learn when to call a spade a spade. Pre­cis: it’s a short­cut to hero mode.

Skids and burnouts aren’t re­ally a key facet of the RS’s reper­toire. This is not a mus­cle car, it’s a pre­ci­sion in­stru­ment. It will do the silly stuf, and it’ll do it with ut­ter fo­cus, but to re­ally un­der­stand the GT3 RS, all you need to do is drive. And keep driv­ing. Then drive some more. Be­cause driv­ing is what the GT3 RS does beau­ti­fully. This is not a Lam­borgh­ini-es­que piece of street theatre, it doesn’t have the drama of the Fer­rari 488 GTB or the ride com­fort of a McLaren 650S. It has no fall­back po­si­tion.

It doesn’t need one. Where the stan­dard GT3 is sur­pris­ingly mag­nan­i­mous, the GT3 RS is ruth­less. Don’t worry – it’s on your side, but its take-no-pris­on­ers at­ti­tude to roads is some­thing to ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not feral, be­cause that im­plies some­thing wild and out of con­trol. No, this is some­thing im­pla­ca­ble, hint­ing at con­tained vi­o­lence, but never hot-headed. It’s the Ter­mi­na­tor of roads. Lousy flm ref­er­ence, but you get the idea.

This makes it sound rather cold, but it’s not. The way it goes down the B4391, one of my top fve roads ever, is de­li­ciously, in­tensely in­volv­ing. I was wor­ried from that frst drive in Ger­many that the min­i­mal sus­pen­sion travel would make it brit­tle and snatchy over here – and it does skip un­der power oc­ca­sion­ally as it fghts the run­k­led sur­face for avail­able grip. But you soon re­alise that, far from be­ing fright­en­ing, this is a mark of how much in­for­ma­tion is com­ing back at you.

I’ve done Bala, and now I need more. Roads, scenery, driv­ing – I can’t help my­self, I don’t want to stop. So I’m of fur­ther north mak­ing my own com­pi­la­tion of Wales’s great­est hits. It’s mes­meric on smooth, wide A-roads such as the A470, strug­gles slightly on the small stuf due to width rather than body com­po­sure. It’s a very wide car. But I like it best on a two-lane B-road. Enough room to play with, but with plenty to keep you oc­cu­pied. And still the GT3 RS goes ex­actly where I point it.

Speed of at­tack is al­most ir­rel­e­vant. It doesn’t un­der­steer, it just turns. Per­son­ally, there’s a part of me that misses the bob­ble and snif of old 911s, the way the nose searched out cam­bers and ruts. Part­nered with that was gor­geous steer­ing feel, but also a hint of fear that all might not be well, that the grip might run out. The longer wheel­base has shifted the weight dis­tri­bu­tion, so the rear end no longer acts like such a lever for the front, plus there’s four­wheel steer­ing and dy­namic en­gine mounts and down­force, all of which has helped make the front end ul­tra-pos­i­tive and re­as­sur­ing. It hasn’t helped nat­u­ral steer­ing feel, but in this in­stance, with zero slack any­where in the chas­sis, you get more in­for­ma­tion that you can pos­si­bly process.

And in­for­ma­tion is the RS’s se­cret. As a re­sult, I re­solve to give my­self in­for­ma­tion over­load by driv­ing ev­ery­where with the dampers hard­ened up. It’s strangely ad­dic­tive and not nearly as masochis­tic as I feared. Be­cause this car is about driv­ing, you don’t worry about any­thing else. As a re­sult, I’ve no idea what the sound sys­tem is like, nor did I bother with the new Pit Speed func­tion. This, not the wide boy Turbo S, is the ul­ti­mate 911. It com­pels you to con­cen­trate, to just press ped­als and turn steer­ing. And the re­ac­tions you get from the con­trols are so in­stant, so per­fectly tuned into your move­ments that you and the car fow to­gether, ac­cel­er­at­ing, brak­ing, turn­ing. And re­peat­ing. Ideally ad infni­tum. Or un­til the petrol runs out.

You fnd your­self cel­e­brat­ing the skips and bumps, be­cause noth­ing ap­pears to be able to throw this car of line. You rel­ish the ruth­less at­ti­tude, as you’re so ab­sorbed in the driv­ing. And you don’t have to be a great driver to en­joy it, you just have to give your­self over to the car. It feels bombproof, both in its abil­i­ties and its me­chan­i­cal ro­bust­ness, a hun­kered-down gutsi­ness un­der­pins the whole car. And the cabin. It might have a lot of equip­ment, but I can’t think of a bet­ter driv­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

I can’t stop driv­ing. We’re way be­yond Bala now, hom­ing in on the Llan­beris Pass, the sheer­sided heart of Snow­do­nia. The sun is set­ting and the mighty fat-six is chunter­ing and yelp­ing and howl­ing and soar­ing: 8,800rpm, that’ll do. It’s tight as a drum, yet burst­ing with energy and rips through the rev band like a whip crack. And the sound­track, as it echoes of the slate and rock, is spec­tac­u­lar. Nat­u­ral as­pi­ra­tion. There’s sim­ply noth­ing to beat it. Why would you need to go faster? Hon­estly, the speeds this car could ratchet up are in­sane.

I’m be­com­ing ad­dicted. Up and down the Llan­beris Pass I drive, while a drone fies above me and shut­ters click in the hill­sides. Just one more pass? Oh, go on then. This is a difcult, treach­er­ous road, lined on one side with vi­cious slabs of hewn rock and on the other with the roots of the moun­tains them­selves. The RS snarls along here, never puts a foot wrong. It hasn’t in two days.

I was wor­ried the GT3 RS had be­come so ca­pa­ble that at road speeds it would seem bored, grumpily in­sis­tent that it had to be taken to a track to give its best. In­stead it’s mes­meris­ing. Time to drive some more.

The GT3 RS rel­ishes a bumpy Bri­tish B-road. Who’d have thought it...

Front spoiler gen­er­ates

110kg of down­force; rear wing makes 220kg

What does 1.7g feel like? Like your neck isn’t strong enough to cope

Llan­beris Pass, 9pm. Imag­ine the sound. It was bet­ter than that

Big brakes are es­sen­tial for such big power

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