964 RS v 991.2 GT3 Tour­ing

The Tour­ing marks a new chap­ter for Porsche's GT3, but has this in­ven­tive new model beer in­spired by a 9H from the com­pany's past?

Total 911 - - Contents - Daniel Pullen Pho­tog­ra­phy by Lee Si­b­ley Writ­ten by

Lee in­ves­ti­gates how Porsche has looked to its past for in­spi­ra­tion on its new flatback GT sleeper

Porsche’s 911 GT3 has been on quite a jour­ney of late. Just five years ago, ‘Mr GT3’ him­self, An­dreas Pre­uninger, met with jour­nal­ists to talk through the com­pany’s lat­est, seem­ingly in­domitable GT3 in 991.1 guise af­ter its pub­lic re­veal at the Geneva Mo­tor Show. The venue is a long-time happy hunt­ing ground for Porsche to un­veil its hottest GT cars.

On pa­per at least, the car rep­re­sented some­thing of a tech­no­log­i­cal tour de force: Porsche’s new 991 was its most clin­i­cal take on a track-fo­cused GT3 yet. With an ac­tive steer­ing rear axle, elec­tri­cally as­sisted steer­ing through the wheel in­side plus a com­pul­sory seven-speed PDK gear­box, this was the do-it-all GT3, sup­pos­edly pro­vid­ing great­ness on both road and track. How­ever, de­spite this in­flux of tech and the plethora of in­evitable Porsche acronyms de­scrib­ing it, jour­nal­ists had just one ques­tion to ask: “Why no man­ual gear­box?”

Pre­uninger’s re­sponse, cham­pi­oning the mer­its of a clin­i­cal trans­mis­sion sys­tem in a car built for per­for­mance driv­ing, was of course per­fectly sen­si­cal, yet it drew lit­tle in­spi­ra­tion among hacks. Surely Porsche, the com­pany famed for its mantra of ‘it’s not how fast you go, but how you get there,’ wasn’t in the process of killing off the man­ual gear­box? That re­ac­tion from the press at Geneva, plus the en­su­ing wave of out­cry from the buy­ing pub­lic, forced

Porsche to re­con­sider. From there, the GT3’S story – and in­evitably, its fu­ture – has dras­ti­cally al­tered.

It be­gan with the 2015 Cay­man GT4, Porsche GT depart­ment’s first foray into fet­tling the com­pany’s mid-en­gined, baby sports car. It boasted the usual reper­toire for a car blessed with Weis­sach wiz­ardry, in­clud­ing a tuned en­gine, a healthy weight re­duc­tion and, for the first time in four years, a six-speed man­ual gear­box.

Need­less to say, the Cay­man proved a pop­u­lar ac­qui­si­tion. While there’s lit­tle doubt en­thu­si­asts were in­trigued by a mid-en­gined GT car built by Pre­uninger’s team, To­tal 911 also wit­nessed staunch Ne­unelfer cus­tomers ditch­ing the ‘un­in­volv­ing’ GT3 in favour of the ana­logue GT4. Es­ti­mated world­wide sales of up to 5,000 units later, Porsche had well and truly got the mes­sage.

Though the GT4 proved suc­cess­ful, en­thu­si­asts still cov­eted a light­weight, man­ual 911, which was cut from the same cloth. This duly ar­rived in 2016 with the 991 R. Con­sid­ered by many to be the 911 of the decade, its only problem was the fact it was largely un­ob­tain­able, with 918 Spy­der own­ers of­fered first dibs on a car with a lim­ited pro­duc­tion run of just

991 cars glob­ally. The de­ba­cle sparked wide­spread anger among long-time buy­ers of Porsche GT cars who missed out in favour of the super wealthy, many of whom didn’t share that pas­sion for the brand and who con­se­quently flipped the R for ob­scene sums of money. How­ever, Porsche was clearly get­ting warmer in its mis­sion to de­liver an ana­logue ex­pe­ri­ence in a mod­ern, blue-chip 911, but it still needed a launch that would re­ally appeal to the masses. That car came in 2017 with the launch of Porsche’s 991.2 GT3 with Tour­ing Pack which, for the first time since the 997 gen­er­a­tion, would come only with a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. The Tour­ing’s reper­toire is im­pres­sive: gone is the fixed wing and PDK gear­box re­splen­dent on that 991.1 car, re­placed by a dis­creet, tra­di­tional 911 sil­hou­ette and, of course, three ped­als in the driver’s footwell.

Sound fa­mil­iar? It should do, for while the

Tour­ing rep­re­sents new ground for Porsche’s GT3 lin­eage, there’s ev­i­dence to suggest the com­pany may have looked to its past for in­spi­ra­tion when build­ing it. We are talk­ing, of course, about the 964 RS.

In­tro­duced in 1991, it was the first 911 Rennsport since the iconic 2.7- and 3.0-litre RSS of the mid-1970s (21 ex­am­ples of SC RS were also built in the ’80s, though these were com­pe­ti­tion cars not per­mit­ted for the pub­lic road). While the 964 fol­lowed the early tra­di­tions set about by those first Porsche Rennsports, strip­ping weight and adding fire­cracker per­for­mance, it also broke new ground by main­tain­ing a hum­ble ap­pear­ance dis­guised, in the main, as a base Car­rera 2. The 964 RS,

avail­able in super-rare Tour­ing trim, which kept some lux­u­ries from the Car­rrera, or Light­weight, as here – is there­fore the grand­fa­ther to the ide­ol­ogy of be­ing a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing.

Re­splen­dent here in Guards red, the 964 sits along­side its iden­ti­cally hued prog­eny in the 991.2 GT3 Tour­ing, their colour con­trast­ing vi­brantly against the snow-cov­ered and tone-sat­u­rated land­scape around Spa Fran­cor­champs. The Tour­ing has been specced by its owner, War­ren Gar­diner, to match the 964 fore­bear it shares a sta­ble with, and so there are matte-black han­dles and win­dow sur­rounds, a black kick plate and sil­ver wheels present on both cars. It takes less than a sec­ond to de­cide they look ab­so­lutely gor­geous to­gether.

Aside from their more per­son­alised op­tions, there are plenty of traits clearly shared be­tween both 911s from a de­sign point of view. The most ob­vi­ous is their clas­sic, flow­ing sil­hou­ette, un­in­ter­rupted by any fixed aero ad­denda more fa­mil­iar to their re­spec­tive con­tem­po­raries.

In­stead, both utilise an ac­tive rear wing to in­crease down­force at a given speed, a dis­creet Gur­ney flap on the trail­ing edge of the Tour­ing’s mod­ule cast­ing a strik­ing re­sem­blance to the del­i­cate up­turn at the base of the 964 RS’S ex­ten­sion. A strik­ing black en­gine grille is oth­er­wise the fo­cal point of each car’s rump. In­side them both, a man­ual H-pat­tern gear shifter pro­trudes at the head of a trans­mis­sion tun­nel driv­ing be­tween two front Sports seats, the void be­hind them filled by noth­ing more than car­pet over the rear bulk­head.

There is, of course, some dis­par­ity be­tween these driver-fo­cused 911s, the most bla­tant be­ing size. The wide-bod­ied GT3 Tour­ing ab­so­lutely mon­sters the tiny, nar­row hips of the 964 RS, which looks more like a 911 Ju­nior when parked next to the 991, such are its com­par­a­tively di­min­ished pro­por­tions.

It is the chis­elled form of the GT3’S body­work which gives it a slightly racier ap­pear­ance than the en­tirely in­no­cent-look­ing 964. How­ever, by con­trast it is the air-cooled car which ben­e­fits from look­ing less bloated and more ap­pre­cia­bly sim­ple than its younger GT com­pa­triot. Pref­er­ences to ei­ther will only be found in the eyes of the be­holder, but we’re not here to judge merely on aes­thet­ics. To get the full pic­ture, we’d bet­ter com­pare their drive.

Though the kink of Eau Rouge and fa­mous rise of Raidil­lon lay just over the shoul­ders of snap­per Dan Pullen as he bags some early shots, our test to­day will take place on the flow­ing as­phalt around Bel­gium’s fa­mous Fia-ap­proved cir­cuit. The Tour­ing, af­ter all, is built with twisty roads in mind, while the 964’s 260hp is mod­est enough to ex­ploit away from the track.

Hav­ing am­bled to our lo­ca­tion at the helm of the GT3 Tour­ing, it’s time to ac­quaint my­self with the con­fines of the 964 RS – which, at first, presents some­thing of a culture shock. Com­pared to the size­able 991, the 964 is a rel­a­tive shoe­box in­side: the more up­right wind­screen feels like it’s sit­ting just past the end of my nose, and I can com­fort­ably reach both doors from the driver’s seat. The door skins are plain and de­void of pock­ets, of course, with pull straps pro­vid­ing typ­i­cal Rennsport mise-en-scene.

There’s no rake or reach ad­just­ment on the 964’s steer­ing wheel, so I’ll have to work around its large cir­cum­fer­ence im­pos­ing it­self awk­wardly in front of my knees, but favour is found with the hard-backed Re­caro seat I’ve parked my­self into. One of my favourite thrones af­fixed to the floor of any 911, these leather-cov­ered buck­ets of­fer a great hold around the midriff (nomex-clad RS Club­sport seats are another 30mm nar­rower) and open up at the shoul­ders to pro­vide a well-judged blend of com­fort and sup­port. The ped­als, too, are per­fectly po­si­tioned – left-hand-drive cars don’t pos­sess the awk­ward off­set blight­ing right-hand-drive ex­am­ples. Al­ready I just want to drive.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to think An­dreas Pre­uninger hasn’t been in­flu­enced by the 964 RS mantra when creat­ing this Tour­ing”

Twist­ing the 964’s slen­der key in the ig­ni­tion sees the air-cooled M64/03 mo­tor rum­ble to life, its deep bur­ble on tick-over per­me­at­ing right through the cabin. Only a cus­tom­ary rat­tling of the car’s sin­gle­mass fly­wheel – sav­ing 7kg – in­ter­rupts the en­gine noise (the for­mer halt­ing when the clutch pedal is de­pressed). I se­lect the first of this G50/10 man­ual gear­box’s five for­ward ra­tios, quickly find the bite point and let the car spring for­ward. We’re off.

There’s a won­der­ful sim­plic­ity about the 964 that has long en­deared it to en­thu­si­asts. Ev­ery­thing about the car feels so me­chan­i­cal: it’s glo­ri­ously un­fil­tered, es­pe­cially in Rs-trim, giv­ing a ride that’s bril­liantly com­mu­nica­tive. Its steer­ing sys­tem in par­tic­u­lar, de­void of power as­sis­tance in Lhd-spec, is ut­terly mar­vel­lous, giv­ing oo­dles of feel through the four­spoke wheel.

In fact, ev­ery­thing about the 964 RS is just built to in­spire confidence – it teases you into a spir­ited drive. Plac­ing the car on the road is ef­fort­lessly easy, its sub­lime steer­ing, slen­der hips and pal­try 1,220kg weight mak­ing it feel slight and nim­ble. A squeeze of the right foot is met with a sharp turn of pace, the 964 RS’S throt­tle re­sponse be­ing leg­endary, and brak­ing is taken care of by am­ple Turbo-spec stop­pers with ABS. It’s not a car you can just jump in and thrash, though. This air-cooled Rennsport can get twitchy in re­sponse to reck­less in­puts, but a con­sid­ered ap­proach re­wards hand­somely with a car which comes alive the harder it is pushed. Surely such a feat can’t be re­peated by that her­culean 991 hog­ging the road ahead?

Sit­ting in its driv­ers seat an hour or so later, the GT3 ap­pears at first to be a wholly dif­fer­ent affair. You’re more cos­seted here than in the 964, with bulky ‘A’ pil­lars, a deep dash and ob­tru­sive centre con­sole sur­round­ing the driver’s elec­tri­cally ad­justable Sports seat. There are no Rs-spec ba­sic door cards, and start­ing the Tour­ing re­veals no clat­ter­ing of a sin­gle mass fly­wheel (Porsche says the car doesn’t need it, so never of­fered one). What it does share with the 964 though is a pro­nounced en­gine sound in

the cabin. The Tour­ing is noisy, more ag­gres­sively so than the 964 RS, a sig­nif­i­cant re­moval of sound dead­en­ing let­ting that thrum of the GT3’S 4.0-litre flat six re­ver­ber­ate right through your ear drums.

That en­thu­si­asts hail the Tour­ing as a purists’ car be­cause of the pres­ence of a six-speed man­ual shifter is very much a sign of the times, for the

GT3 is still wrought with tech­nol­ogy. Switch­able maps be­tween ‘normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes for the en­gine and sus­pen­sion are a case in point; the 991’s steer­ing col­umn re­mains elec­tri­cally as­sisted and ac­tive steer is still pro­vided at the rear wheels.

Clearly there are mu­ta­tions in the DNA, but the GT3 oth­er­wise dis­plays traits that con­firm it as a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the 964’s ide­ol­ogy.

That first sim­i­lar­ity is the gearshift. Like its air­cooled stablemate, the Tour­ing’s shift is won­der­fully slick, glid­ing ef­fort­lessly through each gate with­out fuss. There’s no notch­i­ness or re­cal­ci­trance to its move­ment, yet it doesn’t feel su­per­fi­cial ei­ther. The GT3’S steer­ing sys­tem is re­sound­ingly positive, too, eas­ily marked out as one of the best of the cur­rent range. It doesn’t quite let the nose hunt for ev­ery nook and cranny in the road’s sur­face like the 964, but there’s a wel­come level of in­tel be­ing fed from the floor to my fin­ger­tips.

Per­haps the crown­ing re­sem­blance in the cars’ be­hav­iour, though, lies in their chas­sis. A lit­tle on the firm side around town, dial some speed into the mix and it’s clear both cars like to move around, and the Tour­ing can be weighted up into cor­ners in much the same way as the air-cooled RS – the only dif­fer­ence be­ing the speeds at which this hap­pens, which of course is much greater in the 991. Sim­i­larly, both cars dis­play a ten­dency to feel floaty at high speed, only the Tour­ing’s def­i­ni­tion of high speed is again shifted on some­what com­pared to the 964, it lack­ing the ad­di­tional down­force pro­vided by a fixed rear wing pre­vi­ously at­tached to a GT 911’s rear.

There are cor­re­spond­ing com­pro­mises to both cars too, the chief draw­back be­ing loud­ness. The 964 RS’S acous­tics means it isn’t a car for long drives, while the au­di­ble smat­ter­ing of stones con­stantly flick­ing up into the GT3’S arches is some­thing you’d only read­ily ac­cept in a track-fo­cused Rennsport.

I’m also not sure if I’d rather have the 964’s pedal po­si­tion­ing and gen­eral light­ness in­cor­po­rated into the GT3 Tour­ing’s set-up, or just the thump­ing 4.0-litre flat six of the 991 shoe­horned into the back of the 964. Pro­vid­ing plenty of torque south of 4k and pulling strongly past 8 grand all the way to its red­line at 9,000rpm, it is with­out doubt the best ever en­gine fit­ted to a 911 for the road.

No mat­ter, for these are vis­ceral 911s high on driver en­gage­ment, and there’s clear lin­eage in how they go about achiev­ing this. Park­ing them back up at the end of a fun day blast­ing around the Ar­dennes, it’s dif­fi­cult to think An­dreas Pre­uninger hasn’t been in­flu­enced by the 964 RS mantra when creat­ing this Tour­ing. Sep­a­rated by 25 years of Porsche engi­neer­ing, they are blood broth­ers. It just goes to show, some­times you need to look back to move for­ward.

LEFT Al­can­tara from Club­sport GT3 is re­placed with smooth leather in the Tour­ing, though all other op­tions – in­clud­ing Chrono Pack­age – are avail­able. Black cloth seat cen­tres are unique to the Tour­ing, too

RIGHT In­te­rior of 964 is pure Rennsport, with ba­sic door skins, man­ual win­dow winders, and sup­port­ive bucket seats all present

BE­LOW Tour­ing’s Gur­ney flap is rem­i­ni­scient of pro­file on 964 RS’S ac­tive rear wing

ABOVE There’s clear syn­ergy be­tween the GT3 Tour­ing and 964 RS’S ap­proach to a vis­ceral driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

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