New 911 GT3 RS driven

Cau­tion: 9000rpm lat-six be­ing ex­er­cised

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

THERE’S A PAR­TIC­U­LAR sound the GT3 RS makes, just af­ter 8500rpm. It’s a metal­lic-edged shriek, like an as­cend­ing fire­work over­laid with an old F1 car. It’s one of the best sounds any 911 has ever made, and once you’ve heard it, it’s a rush you’ll keep chas­ing again and again. And eight and a half is just the start – this new RS’s tacho nee­dle doesn’t meet a solid red line un­til it reaches the num­ber nine. It’s a sen­sory over­load kind of car, the GT3 RS. Au­rally, vis­ually, hap­ti­cally. If the stan­dard 911 GT3 is the purest driver’s 911 of the cur­rent range – no tur­bos, no rear seats, no muck­ing about – the RS is its ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion: wider track, wider body (with a few more holes for cool­ing), a rear wing that looks bor­rowed from a GT3 R race car, and a sim­i­lar ob­ses­sion with lap times.

It’s not the fastest, or the mad­dest, 911 in the range (the twin-turbo, near-700bhp GT2 RS plays that role) but it is the nim­blest, the most ag­ile – and po­ten­tially the most fun. That’s why we’re here, in the Scot­tish bor­ders, to let the RS stretch its legs on the kind of roads it was made for. This is also a cur­tain call for the cur­rent 991.2 gen­er­a­tion of the 911 be­fore the spot­light switches to the all-new 992 fam­ily, due to make its first ap­pear­ance later this year. The GT3 RS is the fi­nal 991 to get the .2 up­date, mak­ing this the con­clud­ing chap­ter of a 911 gen­er­a­tion that first ap­peared on the front cover of CAR in Jan­uary 2012.

It’s not go­ing qui­etly, that’s for sure. Lizard Green is the of­fi­cial launch colour (an­other eight hues are avail­able), and when I meet the car for the first time it’s so bright I swear I can see a glow on the hori­zon as it ap­proaches. Sub­jec­tively, it looks fan­tas­tic, es­pe­cially with ’70s-style stick­ers along its flanks. Stan­dard fit (or stick) for the 991.2, they’re the eas­i­est way to tell it apart at a dis­tance from its pre­de­ces­sor, 2015’s 991.1 GT3 RS. There are a few more clues close up – two ex­tra NACA ducts in the CFRP bon­net sup­ply air to the front brakes, and while there’s no miss­ing that rear wing, un­less you look closely you might miss its new end plates and sup­ports, mak­ing it sit even higher than be­fore.

Both bumpers are new, there are new tail lights, re­shaped vents to bet­ter chan­nel air, and a broader spoiler lip at the front that works to­gether with wider sideskirts to cre­ate a lit­tle ex­tra un­der­body sur­face area, and there­fore more down­force. That’s some­thing the GT3 RS never did lack. The 2015 RS gen­er­ated 350kg of neg­a­tive lift at 186mph – as much as the 918 hy­per­car on pa­per, yet with drag com­pa­ra­ble to the reg­u­lar GT3. The new car’s re­ported to pos­sess eight per cent more down­force, and a smidge less drag too. Not a bad ef­fort.

A us­able pro­por­tion of that down­force gets work­ing early, too, around half from 90mph. And that’s dis­count­ing me­chan­i­cal grip from the gi­ant tyres, which barely fit in the arches. Those stun­ning cen­tre-lock forged wheels, with flared, curv­ing spokes, mea­sure 21 inches at the rear and 20 inches at the front, giv­ing a slight rake to the RS’s widescreen stance, an­other in­gre­di­ent in its se­ri­ous kerb­side ap­peal. This par­tic­u­lar car’s wild lime theme ex­tends to the rims’ edges pin­striped in the same Lizard Green as the body – and half rollcage (a no-cost op­tion as part of the Club­sport pack­age), the dash­board stitch­ing, cot­ton cen­tre marker in the al­can­tara wheel, go-faster stripes down the gear se­lec­tor and fab­ric door pulls have all gone gecko, too. Noth­ing so heavy as an in­te­rior door han­dle adds to the RS’s kerb­weight, and even the usual hinged doorbins make way for minia­ture cargo nets.

Stripped it might be, but crea­ture com­forts re­main – air-con, the 991.2’s lat­est touch­screen – and the feel­ing of qual­ity and at­ten­tion to de­tail is quite some­thing. You get the im­pres­sion the de­sign­ers had as much fun as the en­gi­neers. The seats are a par­tic­u­lar high point: they’re sculpted car­bon­fi­bre shells, clad in a choice of fin­ishes – al­can­tara in this car, with clev­erly grad­u­ated per­fo­ra­tions grow­ing in di­am­e­ter un­til they ar­range them­selves into a sem­blance of racing stripes. It’s glee­fully over the top, yet some­how avoids be­ing gar­ish.

Turn the key and the en­gine buzzes into a rat­tly idle. This is a good sign; it seems a good rule of thumb that the more a 911 sounds like a bag of span­ners at tick­over, the bet­ter it’ll sound when it gets go­ing. Re­vised in­duc­tion, ex­haust and man­age­ment elec­tron­ics have helped the 4.0-litre flat-six’s power rise to 513bhp from the pre­vi­ous RS’s 493bhp, mak­ing it the most pow­er­ful nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 911 yet – although given Porsche’s ten­dency to un­der­play its numbers, most cus­tomer cars will likely de­velop even more power.

Gravel rat­tles in the arches like a rally car as we pull away, a prod­uct of the deleted sound dead­en­ing com­pared to reg­u­lar4

911. There’s some­thing else chat­ter­ing away, too. From the first hun­dred me­tres, it’s clear the steer­ing feel is a marvel. When elec­tric power steer­ing first ap­peared on 911s it felt a touch numb, wooden, but a lot of cur­rent’s flowed un­der the bridge since then. It’s com­par­a­tively light and ex­tremely sen­si­tive, but doesn’t feel ner­vous or darty. They make pot­holes big out here, and dodg­ing them is like play­ing an ad­vanced level in Space In­vaders – there’s not a hint of slack, the very first move­ment of your wrist met with an in­stan­ta­neous re­sponse from the tyres. And quite apart from the feed­back flow­ing through it, the wheel it­self feels great, its spokes free from but­tons and its rim clad en­tirely in al­can­tara, as is the top of the gear se­lec­tor.

The word ‘se­lec­tor’ gives the game away; the RS still can’t be specced with a manual gear­box. While the reg­u­lar 991.2 GT3 of­fered the op­tion of either a manual or PDK dual-clutch gear­box in re­sponse to cus­tomer de­mand, the RS re­mains PDK-only. It’s not the end of the world: the RS is de­signed to be the fastest mov­ing ob­ject around a track, af­ter all, and PDK’s ideal-shifts-every-time/both-hands-on-the-wheel re­mit fits per­fectly. The six-speed manual gear­box in the reg­u­lar GT3 is a thing of joy – short-throw, ul­tra-pre­cise, per­fectly weighted to the pedals – but the seven-speed PDK is an emo­tive thing to use in it­self, es­pe­cially in the RS, with its shorter ra­tios and swifter shift map than a stan­dard 911. Up­shifts at higher revs are dis­patched with a metal­lic ping, like you’re mid­way through a per­sonal-best game on a pin­ball ma­chine, and the crisper-than-crisp down­shifts feel no slower. When you’re not on the pad­dles in manual mode, select PDK Sport and it’ll shuf­fle down the gears faster than a pro card-shark through a deck, and in nor­mal auto mode it’s one of those rare self-shift­ing gear­boxes that ac­tu­ally chooses the right gear, at ex­actly the right time.

You can punch the se­lec­tor lever it­self for­wards to shift down or pull back to shift up if your hand po­si­tion means you can’t get to the shift pad­dles, but the RS re­quires so lit­tle lock to get around tight turns, you hardly ever need re­move your thumbs from the neatly shaped dim­ples at quar­ter to three on the wheel. That’s due largely to the GT3 RS’s rear-wheel steer­ing, a re­fined ver­sion of the sys­tem fit­ted to the pre­vi­ous car, and var­i­ous other 911 vari­ants.

It works un­can­nily well. Some high-per­for­mance cars with rear-steer – Merc-AMG’s GT R, for ex­am­ple – can take a lit­tle while to tune into, and oc­ca­sion­ally feel pe­cu­liar, the car’s over­all yaw rate out of sync with your in­puts to the wheel. The GT3 RS doesn’t. It feels nat­u­ral straight away, the only un­usual man­i­fes­ta­tion of the swivel-hipped rear axle an oc­ca­sion­ally slightly floaty (but not un­pleas­ant) feel to the steer­ing. You no­tice it too in the sur­pris­ingly tight, city car-like turn­ing cir­cle, where the rear wheels turn in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the fronts to help spin the 4.5m long RS around in an im­prob­a­bly small amount of real es­tate.

At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn minutely in par­al­lel with the fronts, ef­fec­tively length­en­ing the wheel­base for in­creased sta­bil­ity. That’s some­thing the GT3 RS has in abun­dance. With adap­tive dampers, dy­namic en­gine mounts stiff­en­ing and un­stiff­en­ing to trans­mit loads as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble, torque vec­tor­ing and an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial, not to men­tion all that aero, there’s so much go­ing on be­hind the scenes to put each and every horse­power through the rear tyres ef­fec­tively. Sus­pen­sion set­tings are now sim­i­lar to the GT2 RS, with spring rates hugely in­creased ver­sus the reg­u­lar GT3, and a whole bou­quet of rose joints de­ployed front and rear.4

The en­gine warmed through, the road un­furl­ing into fast, pot­hole-free sweeps ahead of the lou­vred front arches, an­other up­shift pinged away, you could be mid-stint in the Nür­bur­gring 24 Hour. The brake pedal’s po­si­tion presents it­self to your left foot as read­ily as your right, and it’s full of feel. The ABS can be trig­gered com­par­a­tively early, but the pedal is so easy to mod­u­late, you can hold it just on the thresh­old of in­ter­ven­tion. Front-end grip is colos­sal, and there’s huge trac­tion out of cor­ners, too. And there’s some­thing spook­ily right about the gear ra­tios; not too long, not too short. Brief straights dis­ap­pear in one lunge to­wards the red­line, 4.0-litre flat-six shriek­ing through its new ti­ta­nium ex­haust like a ban­shee mic’d up to a Mar­shall stack. Every de­gree you flex your Achilles ten­don nets an­other rpm. That lin­ear­ity (and that sound) is why the GT3 doesn’t have tur­bos, the last re­main­ing 911 to hold on to nat­u­ral as­pi­ra­tion. On a cir­cuit some chinks might ap­pear in its ar­mour – it must have some – but on the road, it’s mighty. As much as the GT3 RS has the abil­ity to con­sume the road ahead like a video set to two-times speed, you can en­joy those same sen­sa­tions at a rel­a­tively gen­tle pace, flow­ing down the road, en­joy­ing all that sen­sory feed­back – the sound, the touch-points and all those mes­sages from the chas­sis you’re con­stantly plugged into. And you never miss an apex, be­cause the steer­ing and front-end grip are so good. This par­tic­u­lar car was fit­ted with Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup 2s, although many cus­tomer cars will be fit­ted with Dun­lop Sport Maxx Race 2s, which prom­ise com­pa­ra­ble per­for­mance.

The thin­ner glass and lack of sound dead­en­ing means the cabin echoes a bit, and on coarser sur­faces you might need to raise your voice to chat with a pas­sen­ger, but oth­er­wise al­most ev­ery­thing that makes the reg­u­lar 911 such an us­able sports car still ap­plies. The ride is sur­pris­ingly sup­ple, even with the dampers in the firmer mode. The seat­ing po­si­tion is low-slung, but vi­sion past the up­right, rel­a­tively slim wind­screen pil­lars is good and you quickly feel com­fort­able. Up ahead you can just

nd about see the tops of the front wings, glance in the mir­rors and you can see those gi­ant rear arches either side. As for the wing, it’s so high you look clean un­der­neath it. There’s still de­cent space un­der the front lug­gage lid, and it’s so light you fear you’ll throw it over the roof when you first lift it. The car­bon shell­back seats should be a one-size-fits-some com­pro­mise, but they’re sur­pris­ingly comfy over a long jour­ney, helped by elec­tric tilt ad­just­ment for their base, and they can be heated as an op­tion.

As the GT3 RS ticks cool, it’s an­other chance to drink in its de­tails: the new ti­ta­nium tailpipes, grad­u­ally turn­ing a deeper shade of blue with use; the gi­gan­tic com­pos­ite brake discs (the full-house PCCB ceram­ics are a fur­ther £6k op­tion); the three sec­tions that make up the mag­ne­sium roof (car­bon is an op­tion as part of the Weis­sach pack, to­gether with mag­ne­sium wheels); the scoops in the rear arches to ram air into the gi­ant rear air­box. They’re an easy way for 911 spot­ters to clock the RS at a dis­tance if they’ve missed the stick­ers, an­other be­ing the ex­trac­tor slats over the front whee­larches, con­tribut­ing to front-end down­force.

On the sense-of-oc­ca­sion scale, the GT3 RS is like a royal wed­ding on Christ­mas day. Is it worth the near £30k pre­mium over a reg­u­lar GT3? The vanilla GT3 is still a very spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence to drive, and in some ways a purer one than the ex­cess-all-ar­eas RS, which is harder, faster, stronger. But jump­ing in the RS is like see­ing the road through new lenses, where ev­ery­thing’s sharper, faster, and re­sponds as fast as you can think.

By push­ing the bound­aries of the 911’s plat­form with the GT3 RS, Porsche has stretched the en­ve­lope of what’s pos­si­ble for 911-kind to achieve in terms of dy­nam­ics. The GT3 RS is one of the great­est driver’s cars on sale, maybe even the great­est. It sums up ev­ery­thing we love about Porsche, be­cause it en­gages every sense in a way few other cars can.

A ti­ta­nium mega­phone for 4.0 litres of lat-six to shout down. Lovely

Part-cage is a no-cost op­tion. Es­sen­tial for full RS vibe

RS just did 6:56.4 at the ’Ring. Quite quick at Kielder too

4.0-litre can’t go all the way to 11, but gives it a damn good go

Looks like it’s just driven o a track; feels to­tally at home on Bri­tish B-road

Per­fect seat, al­can­tara rim, and lots and lots of glo­ri­ous noise

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