991 GT2 RS first drive

It’s the new king of the ‘Ring, but how does Porsche’s new 911 GT2 RS re­ally stack up?

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune Pho­tog­ra­phy courtesy Porsche Cars Great Bri­tain

Sil­ver­stone Porsche Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre. A trio of Le Mans-win­ning rac­ers parked out­side, the 917K, 956 and 919 Hy­brid an im­pres­sive sight, but merely a dis­trac­tion to­day. They are wait­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the 911 Bri­tish Leg­ends Edi­tion launch event that’s hap­pen­ing later, but we’ve been asked to get here early. Not to at­tend that event, but to drive some­thing else – a car that re­ally needs to be kept out of sight of the soon-to-ar­rive me­dia. There’s a 911 GT2 RS parked around the back, and it’s mine for a few hours.

It is not lost on me that Porsche’s lat­est 911 is a car that boasts a power out­put in ex­cess of two of the three race cars parked out front. The 700hp it pro­duces ex­ceeds the quoted out­puts of both the

917K and 956 – in their ear­li­est forms – the link with the 956 more tan­gi­ble, as both have con­nec­tions with the Nür­bur­gring.

The race car is still the fastest car to lap

Ger­many’s ‘Green Hell’, when in 1983, Ste­fan Bellof’s time of 06:11.13 set a record which re­mains un­matched to this day. Di­rec­tor, head of ve­hi­cle projects, Porsche GT Depart­ment, An­dreas Pre­uninger ad­mits the GT2 RS is a ri­poste to those peo­ple out there who say the GT Depart­ment has lost fo­cus, that it’s no longer about com­pe­ti­tion or lap times or that it needs to be seen to be the fastest.

Pre­uninger might be on record as say­ing Nür­bur­gring lap times are a lit­tle bit silly, but the time that the GT2 RS pro­duced leaves no doubt how se­ri­ously the GT depart­ment took that crit­i­cism. It lapped the 12.9-mile cir­cuit in 06:47.25 sec­onds, giving the fastest, most pow­er­ful 911 road car the pro­duc­tion car record around the test­ing track. It ab­so­lutely crushed Porsche’s early in­ter­nal goal time of 07:05.00, bet­ter­ing even the 918 Spy­der’s time by ten sec­onds, and the old 997.2 GT2 RS’S time by a stag­ger­ing 31 sec­onds. No­body ever got out of a 997.2 GT2 RS and thought it was slow.

This isn’t my first en­counter with the GT2 RS. Ear­lier this year I was lucky enough to ride in an early pro­to­type with Pre­uninger at the wheel. That car, said the GT man at the time, wasn’t pro­duc­ing all of its power, with a lit­tle bit more to come prior to pro­duc­tion. He couldn’t say ex­actly how much back then, but we now know, the GT2 RS’S 3.8-litre tur­bocharged flat six de­vel­ops 700hp and 750Nm of torque, courtesy of a se­ri­ously revised ver­sion of the Turbo S’s 3.8-litre unit.

Ask qui­etly and Porsche in­sid­ers ad­mit that those fig­ures are, as ever, a touch on the con­ser­va­tive side, mea­sured in less than per­fect con­di­tions for re­peata­bil­ity. Even so, to con­sider that’s 120hp over a Turbo S and 80hp more than its GT2 RS pre­de­ces­sor is all a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend. The numbers that power al­lows, be­sides that head­line lap­time, are sim­i­larly so, the GT2 RS record­ing 2.8 secs, 8.3 secs and 22.1 secs on the 0-62mph, 0-124mph and 0-186mph times re­spec­tively, with the top speed quoted at 211mph. Achiev­ing that is like its GT2 rel­a­tives be­fore it, an in­trigu­ing mix of 911 Turbo and GT3 spec­i­fi­ca­tions, though to write it off as a mere hy­brid of both would do the GT depart­ment’s ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail a se­ri­ous dis­ser­vice.

The 3.8-litre en­gine’s vari­able vane tur­bocharg­ers are larger, there’s an ex­pan­sion in­take man­i­fold and a wa­ter jet sys­tem that sprays atom­ised wa­ter on the charge air cooler to re­duce charge air tem­per­a­tures by as much as 20 de­grees. It’s fed by a five-litre tank, which, around Weis­sach, al­lows 12 laps un­der full load be­fore need­ing fill­ing. The en­gine’s in­ter­nals are mod­i­fied for the in­creased loads, spe­cially de­vel­oped pis­tons al­low­ing a slight re­duc­tion in com­pres­sion. The air fil­ter breathes more eas­ily, while the com­pletely new ti­ta­nium ex­haust not just re­moves spent gasses more ef­fec­tively, but saves a not-in­signif­i­cant 7kg in weight.

Wear­ing an RS badge, weight re­duc­tions are ap­par­ent in ev­ery el­e­ment of its de­sign. Porsche quotes its weight as 1,470kg with a full fuel tank, that achieved by Rs-typ­i­cal means of chip­ping off weight wher­ever pos­si­ble. Car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic is used in the body­work, and there’s the mag­ne­sium roof of the GT3 RS. LED lights can be spec­i­fied for free, be­ing placed as an op­tion be­cause they add 3kg of mass over the stan­dard bi-xenon units. There’s light­weight glass re­lated to that you’ll find on your smart­phone screen, it of­fer­ing bet­ter scratch and break­ing re­sis­tance than poly­car­bon­ate, and low­er­ing bulging at high speed. In­side, there are light­weight door cards and seats, while the stan­dard PCM and cli­mate con­trol can be deleted if you’re de­ter­mined to save ev­ery pos­si­ble gram.

For the very light­est spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the op­tional Weis­sach pack­age is avail­able, it in­com­pre­hen­si­ble that any­one would or­der a GT2

RS with­out it – not just for the weight sav­ings it rep­re­sents, but the vis­ual boost it de­liv­ers. And hell, does it de­liver. The GT2 RS makes even the overt GT3 RS look rel­a­tively meek in com­par­i­son. It ham­mers home its al­pha sta­tus in the 911 lineup, be­ing a vis­ual riot of aero­dy­namic ad­denda, punc­tured in­takes, slot­ted vents and NACA ducts, wear­ing its ex­otic con­struc­tion as an unashamed con­trast­ing car­bon fi­bre state­ment. Adding to re­move, Weis­sach cars gain mag­ne­sium wheels fin­ished in satin-white gold, th­ese drop­ping the com­bined un­sprung mass by 11.5kg and look­ing sen­sa­tional at the same time.

The mag­ne­sium roof panel is changed for a car­bon fi­bre one, Weis­sach-equipped cars hav­ing a cen­tral body-coloured strip run­ning up the bon­net and over the roof. The rear wing gains Porsche let­ter­ing over its high-gloss car­bon weave fin­ish. That wing, com­bined with the rest of the GT2 RS’S aero­dy­namic en­hance­ments, brings 340kg of down­force at its 211mph max­i­mum speed – some 240kg of that at the rear axle. Make use of the ad­justable el­e­ments and the air rush­ing over all that look-at-me aero kit adds up to 450kg.

It’s not all shouty, ob­vi­ous tech. El­e­ments you’ll never see, like the anti roll bars and cou­pling rod el­e­ments in the sus­pen­sion, are made of car­bon fi­bre, a first for a pro­duc­tion car. Th­ese alone equate to a fur­ther 5.3kg sav­ing. The Club­sport’s rear steel cage is changed for a ti­ta­nium one with Weis­sach for an­other 12kg drop in mass. Should you need your GT2 RS’S roll cage to be FIA ap­proved, it’s pos­si­ble to have the Weis­sach fit­ted with a steel cage, with the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­tend­ing to a full roll cage to the front of the car.

Sit­ting in­side, gripped tightly by Porsche’s fixed­back light­weight Sport bucket seats, it’s fa­mil­iar. I’m on the same side as I was last time I sat in that GT2 RS pro­to­type, only be­ing a RHD car there’s a steer­ing wheel, in­stru­ments and ped­als in front of me. Red Al­can­tara cov­ers three quar­ters of the wheel’s rim, with a red marker sig­ni­fy­ing straight ahead. The wheel has 200g-lighter Weis­sach pad­dles to shift the seven-speed PDK trans­mis­sion, the op­tional Sport Chrono Pack not bring­ing any mode switch or push to pass but­ton on the steer­ing wheel spoke, in­stead adding some lap tim­ing Porsche Track Driv­ing app con­fig­u­ra­tion if you’re some­thing of a track day stato. As if you’d need those 20 sec­onds, ei­ther…

The red paint on the tachome­ter starts at 7,000rpm, the speedome­ter’s numbers stop­ping at 250mph. To­day there’ll be noth­ing ap­proach­ing that on the speedome­ter, though hav­ing been deep into three fig­ures on the au­to­bahn in that pro­to­type pre­vi­ously I’m well aware of its lu­di­crous big-fig­ure ca­pa­bil­ity and sta­bil­ity. There’ll be no track time ei­ther – to­day the GT2 RS is go­ing out on au­tum­nal Bri­tish roads, which is about as big a test of a car’s abil­ity as there is.

I’ll ad­mit to some trep­i­da­tion. The GT2 RS has a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion. Frankly, any­one get­ting into some­thing with 700hp driv­ing the rear wheels – even ones shod in 325-sec­tion tyres – who doesn’t ex­pe­ri­ence a ten­ta­tive fris­son, needs help. Start­ing the flat six re­veals the un­der­ly­ing char­ac­ter that’s fa­mil­iar to any 911, but with a com­plex mix­ture of ex­otic res­o­nances and thob­bing in­ten­sity that’s quite dif­fer­ent in char­ac­ter to any­thing wear­ing ei­ther an RS badge, or even a Turbo one. A dis­tinct, but

in­trigu­ing note, press­ing the Sports ex­haust to open flaps in the rear adds vol­ume rather than in­ten­sity, the GT2 RS’S en­gine vo­cal given its forced in­duc­tion. There’s no ques­tion it lacks the tin­gling im­me­di­acy of its nat­u­rally as­pi­rated GT re­la­tions, that con­firmed by flex­ing my right foot, the revs not flar­ing with quite the speed and fe­roc­ity. But that’s no sur­prise, the Turbo en­gine is part of the GT2 RS’S make-up.

So too is an un­com­pro­mis­ing track-bi­ased sus­pen­sion set up. The sus­pen­sion links are all ball jointed, that an­other first in a Porsche road car, the height, cam­ber, toe and sta­bilis­ers all able to be in­di­vid­u­ally tuned for track driv­ing. Es­sen­tially, the GT2 RS runs 911 Cup race car sus­pen­sion set up for the lumps and bumps of the Nür­bur­gring. It pro­vided sur­pris­ing sup­ple­ness on the roads in Ger­many from the pas­sen­ger seat, but Bri­tish roads are a more dif­fi­cult test. There’s a stretch I know nearby that’ll up­set just about any­thing, but the GT2 RS runs over it the first time with im­punity, shrug­ging off the dif­fi­cult com­pres­sions, cam­ber and rough sur­faces with ease, a sec­ond run through to make sure only driv­ing home the point.

It is un­de­ni­ably taut, to the enor­mous ben­e­fit of body con­trol, roll and yaw all but nonex­is­tent, that in­cred­i­ble sta­bil­ity not com­ing with a cor­re­spond­ing trade-off in ride com­fort. The damp­ing, an area Pre­uninger ad­mits to spend­ing a great deal of time on, is beau­ti­fully set up, the GT2 RS re­mark­ably civilised for some­thing so fo­cused.

That chas­sis, as well as the fit­ment of the PDK trans­mis­sion – the 997 GT2 RS be­ing man­ual – com­bine to al­low the GT2 RS’S per­for­mance to be ex­ploited. You’ll rarely, if ever, find your­self slow­ing down be­cause the chas­sis is run­ning out of ideas, in­stead you’ll do so be­cause you’ve glanced down and re­alised back­ing off might be pru­dent. The en­gine, so re­lent­less in its force, de­liv­ers its mas­sive urge from low revs thanks to max­i­mum torque ar­riv­ing at 2,500rpm, stay­ing un­til 4,500rpm be­fore it marginally tails off as the en­gine speeds in­crease. The gear­box’s ra­tios are uniquely matched to suit it, sev­enth no mere over­drive, it the gear that’ll run out to the GT2 RS’S top speed. PDK Sport ups the fe­roc­ity of down­shifts and al­lows higher rev speeds dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion, with peak power de­liv­ered at 7,000rpm.

That it’s fast is no sur­prise, the en­gine’s might shift­ing the GT2 RS with re­lent­less urge. If there is a but, it’s just that it’s a lit­tle bit too easy, the GT2 RS lack­ing some of its nat­u­rally as­pi­rated re­la­tion’s re­ward for your ef­fort, the prodi­gious low-rev per­for­mance mean­ing you can af­ford to be a lit­tle lazy and still gen­er­ate eye-widen­ing pace. Yet, to crit­i­cise the GT2 RS for that seems fu­tile. It’s a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal by de­sign, though one that shares, and in­deed sur­passes, the usual dy­namic del­i­cacy that de­fines Porsche’s RS mod­els.

In that re­spect, the GT2 RS is bet­ter, the best RS yet, the chas­sis is re­mark­able, the steer­ing weight and ac­cu­racy su­perb, the load­ing and feel it brings al­low­ing huge con­fi­dence, the turn in hav­ing no slack, helped in no small part by the stan­dard rear-wheel steer­ing sys­tem and the dy­namic en­gine mounts. The trac­tion, in the dry at least, is phe­nom­e­nal, the grip huge, but there’s still that feel­ing of play­ful­ness to the chas­sis which sug­gests that with more space you could have some fun.

Ridicu­lous as it might sound given 700hp, it’s the car’s agility that is the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic, for me at least, the en­gine play­ing a sup­port­ing role, al­beit a bom­bas­tic, huge-per­for­mance one. The brakes are be­yond re­proach in their stop­ping power and feel,

which when you’re pack­ing the sort of per­for­mance the GT2 RS dishes out with im­punity can only be con­sid­ered a very good thing in­deed.

As an answer to those hard­core buy­ers who de­mand Porsche makes the fast-lap­ping, huge-power flag­ship it’s an un­equiv­o­cal re­sponse, that re­mark­able lap time ab­so­lutely un­der­lin­ing that. As a sig­ni­fier of progress it’s in­cred­i­ble, the per­for­mance it brings not so far re­moved from those three Le Mans cars that re­main parked out­side the PEC when I ar­rive back to drop it off. I’m tempted to park it along­side them – it re­ally wouldn’t look out of place. That it can do all that yet drive with ci­vil­ity on the road is lit­tle short of as­ton­ish­ing, yet if I had to pick just one GT prod­uct it wouldn’t be it. Just as well, the typ­i­cal GT2 RS buyer isn’t ever likely to have to make that choice, and can park it along­side ev­ery­thing else to use when the mood takes them. I can think of a few places where that might be, and that timed stretch of Ger­man tar­mac is cer­tainly one of them. Job done, and then some.

BE­LOW RIGHT Kyle is the first jour­nal­ist to put the GT2 RS through its paces on UK roads

Left 991 GT2 RS is ei­ther a cheap race car or a very ex­pen­sive road 911

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