Porsche’s GT3, GT3 RS and GT2 RS are the most hard­core of the 911 breed, but pitched head‑to‑head which will we crown cham­pion?


Three Porsches that de­fine the outer limit of how fast you can go in the real world

PORSCHE HAS AL­WAYS DONE EX­TREME 911s, but it’s rare for it to have three vari­ants on sale si­mul­ta­ne­ously. So in the in­ter­est of science – and be­cause what bet­ter way to cel­e­brate a 70th an­niver­sary – we’ve gath­ered to­gether the cur­rent GT3, GT3 RS and GT2 RS at An­gle­sey Cir­cuit to dis­cover which is the king of 911s.

GT3 first, and thanks to Porsche’s volte­face on its PDK-only pol­icy for GT mod­els, this a rare op­por­tu­nity to try a state-of-the-art car with a tra­di­tional man­ual trans­mis­sion. It doesn’t dis­ap­point. Porsche has con­tin­u­ously im­proved its seven-speed man­ual, but this six-speed ver­sion is even bet­ter. There’s a switch­able auto-blip func­tion, which gets some peo­ple very hot un­der the col­lar, but I ac­tu­ally rather like it, even if I do pre­fer to do the blip­ping my­self.

This Gen 2 991 GT3 re­ally is a great ex­am­ple of how Porsche squeezes the juice from a car so hard you can al­most hear its pips squeak. Go­ing from 3.8 to 4 litres brings torque ben­e­fits, but con­sid­er­able ef­fort was also made to re­duce fric­tional losses. The re­sult is 493bhp, 460Nm and a rev lim­iter at 9000rpm, plus a spine-tin­gling sound­track that’s taken straight from the race­track. Fin­ished in a stormtrooper scheme of white with black de­tail­ing this GT3 looks sur­pris­ingly re­strained, thanks largely to the mod­est rear wing and lack of ad­di­tional slots and scoops that pep­per the RSs. It’s still a bril­liantly fo­cused ma­chine, though: sim­ple, func­tional and supremely fit for pur­pose.

At first it feels strange to be pump­ing a clutch pedal and work­ing a gear­lever, but Porsche clearly hasn’t for­got­ten about the im­por­tance of matched con­trol weights and smooth, well-judged re­sponse. An­gle­sey don’t worry too much about noise, so it seems rude not to open the ex­haust, and as the sur­face is smooth it’s also right to crank the PASM into its stiffest mode.

The GT3 is a fab­u­lously com­mu­nica­tive car to drive hard. There’s a level of pli­ancy and pro­gres­sion to help you feel your way to­wards its lim­its, but also great depths of grip and trac­tion from which to draw. Hav­ing to change gear the old-fash­ioned way adds to the work­load, but it un­ques­tion­ably bonds you more closely to the process of go­ing quickly, not to men­tion gives you tremen­dous cause for sat­is­fac­tion when you nail your up­shifts and down­shifts for a whole lap.

Af­ter a cou­ple of five-lap runs the Vbox set­tles on a best of 1:13.9. That’s 0.5sec shy of the time I set in a PDK GT3 last year, which I don’t think is too shabby. The PDK car def­i­nitely has its own ap­peal, but the plea­sure of work­ing the man­ual trans­mis­sion more than off­sets the frac­tional sac­ri­fice in pace.

GT3 RS next, and there’s no point deny­ing it: I have the ma­jor hots for this car. Have done ever since I drove it on the launch. I sus­pect this love is not uni­ver­sally shared, at least not by those who have got used to the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion 3RS be­ing a gen­uinely ev­ery­day use­able car. Per­son­ally I’ve al­ways thought an RS should be hard­core. Or at least have enough at­ti­tude to make it too much for some to tol­er­ate. That the Gen 2 991 ver­sion goes this far is some­thing to cel­e­brate, for it shows Porsche is al­ways will­ing to push the bound­aries. It re­ally does have the heart and soul of a racer, and the looks to match – made even more at­ten­tion grab­bing by this ex­am­ple’s Lizard Green paintjob. It all helps cre­ate a greater

level of ex­pec­ta­tion and an­tic­i­pa­tion for the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to come.

There’s cer­tainly more grit to its de­liv­ery than the GT3 and a sense that you’re one layer closer to the work­ing parts of the car – a re­sult of less sound­dead­en­ing to save a few more ki­los. It’s the first clue to the 3RS’s prick­lier char­ac­ter, which re­veals it­self more com­pletely once we’ve cleared the pit­lane and pow­ered out onto the cir­cuit.

Fab­u­lous though it is in the GT3, the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 4.0 flat-six has a more ser­rated edge and even more snap when you squeeze the throt­tle in the RS – de­li­cious, vis­ceral con­fir­ma­tion of the spec sheet gains of 20bhp and 8lb ft, tak­ing the to­tals to 513bhp and 470Nm. Out­right pace – if not driver in­ter­ac­tion – is fur­ther en­hanced by the manda­tory fit­ment of the su­per-quick-shift­ing PDK ’box.

The feel­ing of ur­gency and ag­gres­sion is cap­ti­vat­ing from the mo­ment you get some heat in the tyres – dou­bly so if, as here, they hap­pen to be Miche­lin’s freak­ishly ef­fec­tive Pi­lot Sport Cup 2 Rs. These are the tyres used to set Porsche’s Nür­bur­gring records, and when­ever you ask the RS to stop, steer or ac­cel­er­ate you can see why. They are voodoo.

We also try some laps on reg­u­lar Cup 2s, but the track is damp in places when these are fit­ted, pre­vent­ing the car from truly find­ing its feet. What’s clear from both ef­forts, how­ever, is the 3RS’s beau­ti­ful bal­ance and in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to sup­port quick changes of direc­tion – both ar­eas of im­prove­ment cred­ited to the RS’s rose-jointed sus­pen­sion and sig­nif­i­cant gains in aero­dy­namic down­force.

In­evitably this means a lit­tle more of the 911’s rear-en­gined traits have been erased in the pur­suit of poise and pace, but they’re still there to be ex­ploited if you’re pre­pared to dig deep enough and want to slide it around. Not that you’ll wish to do so on Cup R’s, for the thrill is bound up in the unique level of ad­he­sion they gen­er­ate.

It’s been a while since the dif­fer­ence be­tween GT3 and 3RS has been this marked. In­deed I’d say you need to go right back to the Gen 2 996 to find such an un­com­pro­mis­ing RS, but in cre­at­ing greater sep­a­ra­tion be­tween these closely re­lated mod­els Porsche has ac­tu­ally im­proved both.

We’ll take a look at the 3RS’s lap time shortly, but be­fore that, on to the GT2 RS. From the mo­ment you fire it up you know you’re in for a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. Clearly work­ing on the prin­ci­ple if you’re go­ing to be a bear, be a griz­zly, the GT2 throbs and pulses with anger and en­ergy. Its en­gine note is deeper and more malev­o­lent, even at idle. This is a piece of heavy ar­tillery, no ques­tion.

There are close sim­i­lar­i­ties in set-up be­tween the 3RS and the 2RS, so it’s no sur­prise to feel that fa­mil­iar­ity through the steer­ing and the seat of your pants. It’s lighter in your hands than you might ex­pect, but once you get heat into its Cup 2s it keys in and the feel be­gins to flow through your fin­gers.

What trans­forms the ex­pe­ri­ence is the ut­terly


dif­fer­ent de­liv­ery of the mon­ster twin-tur­bocharged mo­tor. Where the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 4.0 is ul­tra-sharp and builds to a wild crescendo of revs, this turbo’d 3.8 has a ballsier, more mus­cu­lar de­meanour. It thumps hard and early, wrap­ping you in a straight­jacket of lon­gi­tu­di­nal G-force and work­ing the chas­sis and tyres in a less lin­ear way. Of course, there’s still fi­nesse to the way it goes to work – this is no laggy, old school F40 – but the sheer torque on tap means you need to be a lit­tle more sym­pa­thetic to the rear tyres’ work­load and some­times pre-empt when the meat of the boost will ar­rive.

The GT2 RS places a dif­fer­ent em­pha­sis on your driv­ing, too. The dif­fer­ence in peak speeds along An­gle­sey’s mod­est straights isn’t mas­sive, but you do have to fo­cus a lit­tle harder on nail­ing your brak­ing mark­ers, as the ex­tra few mph (and the ex­tra few ki­los) place even more em­pha­sis on the brak­ing zones. You re­ally no­tice it head­ing through the ul­tra-fast up­hill kink on the ap­proach to Radar, as the speed is pretty eye-widen­ing. Just like in the GT3 and GT3 RS you can take the kink flat, but you al­ways end up strug­gling to get slowed for the tight left-han­der. It’s the most crit­i­cal brak­ing zone in the en­tire lap, and thanks to the way it plateaus it’s also the eas­i­est to make a hash of.

The tight left-right sec­tion that fol­lows (and the Corkscrew later in the lap) is where the 2RS’s ad­di­tional weight and softer en­gine re­sponse are most ap­par­ent. It’s far from lethar­gic, ob­vi­ously, but there’s just that frac­tion more in­er­tia to its direc­tion changes and you can’t make the fine throt­tle ad­just­ments that help to tickle the GT3s through with such deft­ness and pre­ci­sion. That said, it coun­ters with mon­u­men­tal shove out of the cor­ners and down the straights. It’s the kind that al­ways makes your heart beat faster and harder and gives rise to a slightly giddy feel­ing as your in­nards are shifted within your body cav­ity.

What’s more, the 2RS de­ploys this epic power (690bhp) and torque (750Nm) with as­ton­ish­ing ef­fec­tive­ness. Yes, you can light it up and bon­fire the tyres – fun if you’re not pay­ing for the re­place­ment rub­ber and tes­ta­ment to how well the 991 han­dles out­puts that would just a few years ago have seemed like lu­nacy in a 911 – but the mea­sured ex­ploitabil­ity of the 2RS’s per­for­mance is just as re­mark­able.

It’s in marked con­trast to the 997 GT2 RS, which was a real flick-knife of a car. Whether or not the new car could do with a lit­tle more of its pre­de­ces­sor’s fe­roc­ity is up for de­bate. The cur­rent car is cer­tainly more docile than you’d ever ex­pect from a near-700bhp 911, but I’m not sure I’d want it to be quite as ex­plo­sive as the 997!

It might not feel like it wants to kill you, but the 2RS is a big char­ac­ter. In fact it’s al­most two cars in one: civilised enough to work as a road car in which you’d be happy to cover big miles, yet wild enough to de­liver an in­tense adren­a­line rush if you’re pre­pared to hang it out.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to dis­cover the dif­fer­ences be­tween these three closely re­lated 911s. Taken in iso­la­tion each is a mag­nif­i­cent car, but step­ping from one to the other gives you a won­der­fully warped per­spec­tive. How else can you ex­plain feel­ing that the man­ual GT3 is the soft and friendly mem­ber of the trio?

Of course, it’s not soft by any nor­mal bench­mark, but rel­a­tive to the sig­nif­i­cantly stiffer and solid-mounted RSs it feels much more rooted in road use. The man­ual trans­mis­sion adds a layer of in­ter­ac­tion, but turns down the in­ten­sity a notch. The 4-litre mo­tor is mag­nif­i­cent, but it doesn’t quite have the fi­nal nth de­gree of re­sponse and ag­gres­sion pos­sessed by the RS GT3. And, of course, it doesn’t have the stonk of the GT2 RS.

And what of the com­par­i­son be­tween the two RSs? Hon­estly, de­spite the shared chas­sis set-up they are dif­fer­ent enough that you could eas­ily jus­tify hav­ing both in your garage. I love the 2RS’s po­tency and the fe­roc­ity of its on-boost ac­cel­er­a­tion. I also love the im­mense force with which it pulls a tall gear. It’s ev­ery­thing you want a hard­core tur­bocharged 911 to be.

How­ever, for me it’s the GT3 RS that leaves the big­gest im­pres­sion. Not just be­cause of its lap time on Cup R rub­ber – though, as you can see on the op­po­site page, it is ex­tra­or­di­nary – but be­cause it rep­re­sents the zenith of the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 911. How the up­com­ing 992 GT3 RS can im­prove the breed is hard to imag­ine. But then it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve thought that…

Op­po­site page, fromtop: GT2 RS’s mon­ster mo­tor brings ma­jor thump hard and early; GT3 RS has the heart and soul of a racer; GT3is bril­liantly fo­cused

Op­po­site page: GT3 RS just as lairy in­side as out. Above:GT2 RS can be more docile than the idea of a 690bhp 911 would have you imag­ine

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