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?
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