Modified 996 fan boy, Steve Bennett, gets behind the wheel of RPM Technik’s new 996 Carrera 2 based CSR EVO, which moves the 996 modifying game up to a new level. Needless to say he likes it – a lot!
RPM Technik’s track focused CSR EVO takes the modified 996 concept to a new level
When it comes to the concept of Porsche 996 mods, I am the 'open door.' Not surprising, really, given that I have a modded 996. Indeed I am a staunch advocate/defender of the 996 as a real world 911 for those of us with real world aspirations and real world wallets, and that extends in particular to the 996 Carrera 2 as the purist’s modern 911 of choice. It's no surprise, then, that good, manual C2s are becoming more and more sought after, with prices edging upwards.
And I'm not the only one. In the really 'getting it' camp is RPM Technik. In a market of retro clones, restomods and Singer, the guys at RPM spotted a niche and created its CSR range, starting first with the 986 Boxster and then hitting the sweet spot with the 996. The first cars, with a mix of modern and retro touches, transformed the 996's oft criticised blandness into real head turners. RPM'S head honcho, Darren Anderson, pedals his own 996, while RPM tech guru, Ollie Preston, is also a modded 996 owner. These guys drive what they preach and, not surprisingly, with nearly 30 CSRS built, the latest CSR is a long way from the earlier cars. Enough to earn it an EVO tag. So enter the 996 CSR EVO in all its purple glory.
At the risk of repeating myself, the 996's aforementioned blandness is what makes it an ideal starting point and something of a blank canvas. If the 996 had been launched in the ’80s, then we wouldn't be able to move for Guards Red examples, but as it was the
late ’90s and into the 2000s this was the era of silver and grey, colours that rather accentuated the 996’s narrow physique. Which is why, seeing RPM'S CSR EVO in its Audi shade of Merlin Purple, is such an eye popping transformation. For some reason I can't get Hendrix and 'Purple Haze' out of my mind.
Whilst we're on the aesthetics, as befitting the EVO tag, this goes beyond a change of colour. While previous default options for body styling usually extend to the ubiquitous GT3 bodykit, RPM has developed bespoke front and rear aprons and melded them with the trademark CSR ducktail rear wing. The front apron accommodates an angled third, centre radiator, for additional downforce (and cooling, obviously). The rear apron, with black leading edge, is designed to showcase RPM'S newly developed centre exit twin exhaust. Both the bonnet and ducktail are carbon-fibre, as are the side skirts, and full weight loss for the CSR EVO equates to 45kg, and that's on a car that in stock spec is already lighter than a 996 GT3 gen 2.
EVO, of course, is shorthand for evolution, and it's also RPM'S nod to a more track focused CSR – and with it a whole host of new developments beyond the visual. For the first time RPM have opened the 996's engine and reworked the cylinder heads, hand finishing the ports and installing uprated camshafts to create a Stage 1 power kit. Combined with exhaust manifolds and centre exit system and a bespoke ECU remap, power is up to 350bhp, which is just 10bhp shy of a gen 1
“EVO is RPM’S nod to a ” rather more track focused CSR
996 GT3. To cope with track work, RPM have fitted a deep sump extension. And, needless to say, the IMS has been upgraded, while the centre radiator and Evans coolant aim to keep engine temperatures stable. Speaking of which, during our heatwave day with the CSR EVO, the engine temp sat resolutely at 80 deg, whether pounding the track or sitting gridlocked on the M25.
Complementing the engine upgrades is an RPM developed lightweight flywheel and clutch, plus a newly developed mechanical limited slip differential. Braking is a collaboration of RPM'S refreshed calipers in trademark orange, and Performance Friction floating discs and pads, while wheels are 18in OZ Alleggerita rims, with Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres, with an appropriate reduction in unsprung weight. Making the connection between the wheels and tyres to the bodyshell, are Rpm/eibach adjustable bottom suspension arms, plus KW Clubsport, 3-way adjustable coilover kit, adjustable anti roll bars and extensive use of polybushes.
That essentially is the parts list, but the ethos – as with all CSR machines – is to create a driver focused 911 that invites driver participation, albeit in a more track focused way than perhaps before. To that end, starting with a basic 2WD 911 of any era or generation is a smart move, and in the 996 Porsche created a particular sweet spot in terms of handling, grip and power, which RPM has exploited and improved on.
Sliding into the Recaro, fixed back seat and taking control via the deep dished, leather rimmed Momo wheel, with legs splayed to work the pedals and floormounted throttle, this is familiar territory. There is no other 911 in which I feel more comfortable than 996/997 era machines. A new spherical-topped, short shifter sits taller than the standard stick and in the rear
mirror a half cage hints at track intent.
The new exhaust has created a new harder-edged sound that lights up under acceleration, but fades at a steady throttle. The gearshift is quite the best 996 action I've experienced and in no small part thanks to a refresh of the linkage and the throw and weight of the short-shifter. And the steering feel is a reminder of what's been sacrificed at the altar of the packaging, marginal eco convenience and modern stop start functionality of an electro system. All that before getting to the exit barrier of RPM'S trading estate!
A 50-mile road trip to our favoured Longcross test track is ample time to get on terms with the CSR EVO from a road point of view. RPM are keen to make it known that the spec shouldn't compromise day-today driveability, and in terms of clutch and gearbox it's a lot easier than a 996 era GT3. Engine we'll come to, but suspension is obviously a personal thing and the KW Clubsport package as tested here was more firm than fair for me, but then I know (as will regular readers) that I'm particularly hard to please, and besides there are almost endless set-up permutations and if you wanted a more road biased set-up then KW'S Variant 3 is hard to beat. (Note to self: Remember this is a track-biased machine and the roads around the South East are particularly Third World.)
The engine? Well, it's got more of everything. The extra power hasn't come at the expense of torque, and nor is it noticeably any higher up in the rev range. It might lack the savage top-end bite of a Mezger unit, but it makes up for it with flexibility and its own soundtrack. There's no coughs and fits from the revised cams. It just feels like a stock, factory engine, but better. And it’s just the right amount of power for the chassis and the grip on offer, too, which is important.
You see, while 350bhp might not sound like a lot these days, it's not all about power. Modern 911s have oodles of the
“The engine? The extra ” power hasn’t come at the expense of torque
PRICE OF PERFECT
Obviously, as RPM'S demo car, this is a no expense spared build starting with a good, sound donor, which was then stripped to a bare shell for its purple power respray. Nevertheless, minus the donor car the sum of the parts, plus fitting, is a not insubstantial £55,460 inc VAT. Yes, that does sound a bit steep, but then imagine a similar restomod type build with an air cooled car. Or a £1.5m Singer?
The point here is that you're unlikely to drop your 996 round to RPM'S place and tell them to just get on with it. Here is a menu of parts that you can dip in and out of. You might just want the suspension, or just the engine work, minus the visual stuff. Indeed, if you were in the unfortunate position that your 996 needed an engine rebuild, then RPM'S 350bhp rebuild at £10k would make a lot of sense.
Indeed, there are many 996 owners out there who have modded there 996s and taken inspiration from RPM'S efforts, but with their own take on the concept. Despite my own enthusiasm for the CSR machines, my own 996 features only RPM'S adjustable bottom suspension arms, but I must say I'm hugely tempted by a set of the OZ Alleggerita wheels! Aesthetically, though, I'm inclined to go my own way and probably stick with the 996’s simple, standard lines. Do love a ducktail, though!
Bottom line: Modding Porsches has never been cheap, but on the bang for buck spectrum, there’s not much to beat the 996 as a starting point and RPM are to be commended for being utterly upfront as to what the full package costs. Pick 'n’ mix to create your own perfect 996:
stuff, but with more power comes massive wheels and tyres and correspondingly huge brakes and extra wide bodywork. None of this enhances the driving experience, it just puts it further and further out of reach. The 996-based CSR EVO is light on its already lightweight 18in OZ wheels and Michelins, and narrow and small enough to be wieldy.
Of course, the track allows a more intense work out. Even here a modern, 20/21in shod 911 has to be pushed to extremis to entertain, but again the 996 based CSR engages, but in a safer environment. Power and grip are on talking terms. Push a bit too hard and you'll find the edge, but in a more convivial sort of way. It moves, it dances, it talks – you can feel it through the wheel and your backside. You can play with it, find and mess around with its limits, appreciate and explore the famed and fabled 911 balance of power and handling. You don't have to drive it beyond the edge of reason to enjoy it.
Gushing praise from the resident 996 fan boy? Well, yes, guilty as charged, but really, what's not to like and what would make a better starting point than the last of the lightweight analogue 911s with a manual, non vario steering rack? Really, it's a no-brainer... PW
“Gushing praise from a ” 996 fan boy? Guilty as charged
CSR EVO interior is a good place to be for 996 fan boy, Bennett. Driving position, with dished wheel and Recaro seat, is spot on. The perfect position for exploiting the EVO’S performance
Eye poppng Audi Merlin Purple comes alive in the sunlight and gives the 996based machine a new lease of life
Front apron is exclusive to RPM and accommodates centre radiator for extra cooling. It’s also angled for extra downforce
Recaro seats and dished Momo steering wheel add to interior ambiance. RPM’S newly developed shortshifter adds weight and feel to the gearshift
996 cabin is compact by modern 911 standards. Centre console delete a popular modification, for that GT3 vibe
OZ Alleggerita rims are shod with Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres, making for a lightweight and grippy combo
Kicking up a dust storm! Centre exit exhaust requires RPM’S new bespoke rear apron. Looks terrific
Engine bay looks stock, but engine has been reworked, with hand finished heads and cams, to give 350bhp
CONTACT RPM Technik Old Airfield Industrial Estate Cheddington Lane Long Marston HP23 4QR Tel: 01296 663824 rpmtechnik.co.uk
Carbon rear lid with CRS ducktail wing plus carbon bonnet contribute to 45kg weight loss