996 CSR first drive

RPM Tech­nik’s lat­est project is built with the track in mind, but can it hold a can­dle to a GT car from Weis­sach? To­tal 911 puts the CSR EVO to the test…

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune Pho­tog­ra­phy by ali Cu­sick

It’s the most track-fo­cused CSR project yet. Kyle For­tune puts RPM Tech­nik's lat­est project to the test at Bed­ford Au­to­drome

There’s a very nice 996.2 GT3 sit­ting in the RPM Tech­nik show­room when I ar­rive early on a Wed­nes­day morn­ing. There’s a track booked, but the GT3 will be stay­ing here. In­stead RPM Tech­nik’s com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Dar­ren An­der­son hands me the keys to the com­pany’s CSR EVO. The CSR name has been around since 2010, RPM of­fer­ing the CSR as a pack­age of up­grades on 996 and 997s which can be done at once or over a pe­riod of time, depend­ing on bud­get and ex­pec­ta­tions.

With the EVO the fo­cus is more on track driv­ing, it ob­vi­ously a more hard­core, ad­justable car that of­fers the se­rial track day en­thu­si­ast some­thing they can drive as a daily, yet track mer­ci­lessly. As An­der­son him­self says, the EVO “has the broad­est re­mit of any CSR”.

RPM Tech­nik ad­mits that to qual­ify as a CSR there has to be a min­i­mum of work done to give the name its due. Ob­vi­ously the Mer­lin pur­ple demon­stra­tor, build num­ber 22, has the full EVO pack­age on it, but if el­e­ments don’t chime with your de­sires or needs then you don’t have to have them. Add all the EVO changes up and you’re look­ing at around £55,000, which is a not-in­signif­i­cant amount, es­pe­cially as you need a 996.2 Car­rera base car in the first in­stance. In­deed, that pushes the CSR EVO into the league of that afore­men­tioned 996.2 GT3.

That’s per­haps a moot argument as, re­gret­tably, the like­li­hood of buy­ers walk­ing into RPM’S show­room, buy­ing a GT3, chuck­ing a lid and some Nomex cloth­ing un­der the bon­net and head­ing to a track day are past. Blame the spec­u­la­tive na­ture of

the Porsche mar­ket­place for that, and in par­tic­u­lar the ‘value’ of the GT cars.

The CSR EVO rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity: this is a car that a gen­uine en­thu­si­ast can buy and use as they like, that in­deed be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant part of its ap­peal. That it’s based on the 996 only makes it more in­ter­est­ing, a car that the mar­ket’s tra­di­tion­ally de­scribed as unloved. I’ve never sub­scribed to that – a good 996 de­liv­ers a won­der­ful drive, yet as with any car there’s scope for im­prove­ment, which is where RPM comes in.

The list of changes on this CSR EVO is lengthy. It’s very ob­vi­ously pur­ple, which is de­lib­er­ate given its demon­stra­tor sta­tus, An­der­son want­ing it to stand out among other cars. The like­li­hood is CSR EVO cus­tomers will leave their cars in the stan­dard hue, though RPM will be only too happy to take on a colour change. Overt colour aside, the body­work changes are rel­a­tively sub­tle. There’s a vented CSR EVO front bumper with duct­ing be­hind it feed­ing an ad­di­tional third ra­di­a­tor, a car­bon duck­tail and sideskirts and rear bumper with vented in­serts, and a cen­tral exit for the twin ex­haust pipes. There’s a car­bon bon­net, upon which there’s a stick­ered Porsche badge, in keep­ing with the light­weight ethos.

That car­ries over to the in­side: there’s a lower dash delete, RPM moving the win­dow switches up from be­tween the seats to the cen­tre dash, the ash­tray also be­ing re­moved. Out of that neater tun­nel be­tween the Re­caro Pole Po­si­tion bucket seats is a longer gear­stick at­tached to a mod­i­fied link­age for an im­proved shift, while ahead of you is a deep-dished, leather-rimmed MOMO wheel with a yel­low strip

at 12 o’clock. With­out an air bag the view of the in­stru­ments is im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly, the rev counter fin­ished in grey, an or­ange CSR logo match­ing the liv­ery out­side, with the red­line ap­par­ent at 7,200rpm.

There’s a rear seat delete and half cage in this car, though you can do with­out the cage and leave those use­ful pews in if you need them. RPM Tech­nik de­signed the CSR’S har­ness bar in such a way as to al­low race har­nesses with the rear seats in the car, an­swer­ing that long-held gripe of GT cars for the breed­ers among us. There’s no stereo, though the air con is re­tained, the in­te­rior ex­hibit­ing pur­pose rather than feel­ing com­pro­mis­ingly stripped, even though Dar­ren says RPM Te­hc­nik has man­aged to shave around 45kg off a 996.2 Car­rera 2’s mass.

Re­mov­ing the stereo might seem a step too far for the every­day us­abil­ity goal, but fir­ing the en­gine cre­ates all the sound you could want. The ex­haust shrieks out a bark un­like any 996 I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced, its note cul­tured but men­ac­ing with a deep res­o­nance that’s got a racer’s edge at idle with­out the re­cal­ci­trance of a com­pe­ti­tion en­gine. Blip the ac­cel­er­a­tor and the 3.6-litre M96 unit flares im­me­di­ately, that helped by the 7kg re­moved from the fly­wheel. There’s the slight chunter from the trans­mis­sion that you’ll be fa­mil­iar with if you’ve ever driven a GT3, the clutch re­lease bear­ing au­di­ble, though that’s a good thing.

The flat six has been given a thor­ough se­ries of mod­i­fi­ca­tions to both im­prove per­for­mance as well as en­sure longevity. Re­vi­sions in­clude what RPM de­scribes as a CSR preser­va­tion pack and stage one pow­erkit con­sist­ing of new cams, that ad­di­tional ra­di­a­tor, gas flowed and ported cylin­der heads, an

IMS up­grade, deep sump ex­ten­sion, the CSR cen­tre ex­haust – this alone sav­ing 9kg over a stan­dard ex­haust – and im­proved in­duc­tion for an en­gine that’s pro­duc­ing 350hp at 7,100rpm. Torque stays pretty much the same, though the way it’s pro­duced is dif­fer­ent: the de­liv­ery is stronger from lower revs for a fat­ter, flat­ter twist that, as well as the overt keen­ness to rev, makes for the key dif­fer­en­tia­tors over the unit it’s based on.

Today’s track in ques­tion is Bed­ford Au­to­drome, 40 miles away from RPM Tech­nik’s Long Marston base. We cut across coun­try as much as pos­si­ble, though the dual car­riage­way punc­tu­ated with the many round­abouts it’s fa­mous for sees us tra­verse Mil­ton Keynes, too. The roads around Long Marston can best be de­scribed as chal­leng­ing for any car, let alone a 911 that’s got an eye on track work. The sur­face is the stuff of chas­sis set-up night­mares.

There are some fierce dips and crests, a high crowning cam­ber and usu­ally poor but oc­ca­sion­ally downright ap­palling tar­mac with the odd hole or size­able crack ap­par­ent, too. Throw in the nar­row­ness typ­i­cal of a Bri­tish coun­try road, some spa­tially un­aware traf­fic and veg­e­ta­tion keen to re­con­quer the road space and it should be a hor­ri­ble in­tro­duc­tion to the CSR EVO.

But it isn’t. I’ve driven th­ese roads many times in var­i­ous 911s, and the CSR EVO doesn’t feel in any way out of its depth. That’s a real sur­prise, as all the talk un­til pulling out of the es­tate had been about this EVO be­ing the most track ap­pro­pri­ate CSR yet. It’s taut, un­ques­tion­ably, but there’s real fi­nesse to the way the chas­sis deals with the hor­ri­ble sur­faces running un­der­neath it at ever-in­creas­ing ve­loc­i­ties. Where a stan­dard 996 would be running out of ideas, the CSR EVO keeps track­ing straight and true. It takes a mo­ment to re­cal­i­brate, the wince you wear as you an­tic­i­pate a cor­rupt­ing jolt, thud or crash just not ap­par­ent. You’re busy, but it’s de­tail not dis­rup­tion, the CSR EVO deal­ing with the sur­face with real com­po­sure.

Try the same road at the same speed in a GT3 and you’d be back­ing off, the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the CSR’S sus­pen­sion ev­i­dent here in its con­trol, it en­abling progress rather than deny­ing it. That’s down to RPM Tech­nik spec­i­fy­ing KW three-way Club­sport coilovers which of­fer plenty of scope for ad­just­ment, RPM having come up with a Csr-spe­cific set-up that works re­mark­ably well on the roads around its base. To those coilovers there are hol­low Eibach ad­justable anti-roll bars, th­ese be­ing light yet stiff for greater con­trol, while the lower arms of­fer some ad­just­ment and poly­bush­ing fea­tures, too.

Light­weight OZ al­loy wheels help re­duce un­sprung mass, be­hind which four-pis­ton Cs­rde­tailed calipers pinch float­ing discs with high­per­for­mance pads. The pedal feel is spot on. It’s firm and pro­gres­sive, giv­ing a use­ful plat­form to roll your foot over to the ac­cel­er­a­tor to heel-and-toe down­shift. It works per­fectly in tan­dem with the en­gine’s im­me­di­acy, backed with the rous­ing shriek of the en­gine as the revs flare. I’ll ad­mit to be­ing scep­ti­cal of the longer shift lever for the six-speeder, the norm for more fo­cused cars be­ing a stub­bier lever which brings a shorter throw as a re­sult. The CSR’S throw isn’t long, shift­ing through the gate with speed and pre­ci­sion – that it’s that bit nearer the steer­ing wheel is no bad thing ei­ther, as you’ll want all the time with your hands on the wheel.

That’s not a re­flec­tion of be­ing overly busy or fight­ing tra­jec­tory, but in­stead to revel in the

“Try the same road at the same speed in a GT3 and you’d be back­ing off, the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the CSR’S sus­pen­sion ev­i­dent here”

sen­sa­tions com­ing through it. I’ve yet to drive any car with a MOMO steer­ing wheel that’s not had an im­me­di­ate in­crease in steer­ing de­tail, but when you’re start­ing with a car that’s al­ready noted for fine steer­ing then the ef­fect is mul­ti­plied. Add RPM Tech­nik’s sus­pen­sion trick­ery and it’s im­proved fur­ther, the way the CSR EVO’S front axle works ar­guably be­ing its most ap­peal­ing el­e­ment. Not the dom­i­nant one, as that would sug­gest it’s not op­er­at­ing as a pack­age, the front axle work­ing as a co­he­sive whole with the EVO’S other re­vi­sions, the limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial at the rear no small part; it’s just that when you’re sat hun­kered into the race seat the great­est sen­sa­tion is com­ing though your hands.

Es­cap­ing the va­garies of a typ­i­cal Bri­tish coun­try road and trans­fer­ring across the speed­way that is Mil­ton Keynes is rev­e­la­tory. I’ve had one of my most mem­o­rable drives ever in a 911 through here: a 996 GT3 RS, the UK’S most modern of towns be­ing an un­likely driv­ing nir­vana. In the CSR EVO there are ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties, though with it I can take more lib­er­ties on en­try into the many round­abouts, more con­fi­dent in what the steer­ing wheel is do­ing. Sim­i­larly in ex­it­ing, of­ten over a dif­fi­cult cam­ber which would spit an RS out of line, the CSR EVO’S line re­mains res­o­lute, in­form­ing you of the sur­face to­pog­ra­phy with­out de­mand­ing any cor­rec­tive ac­tion.

In the straights that sep­a­rate the round­abouts the 3.6-litre flat six howls with real vigour to its red­line, it feel­ing very lin­ear in its pull, with urge ev­i­dent all the way from low revs up. That flex­i­bil­ity is to its credit, par­tic­u­larly as a car that’ll po­ten­tially be used as a daily, it lack­ing the peaky, de­mand­ing na­ture, yet re­tain­ing the im­me­di­acy and thrill of the chase to the red­line. Ar­riv­ing at the track it’s more than ably demon­strated it’s an ac­com­plished fast-road car – ur­gent, im­me­di­ate, taut and con­trolled. A cir­cuit should, in com­par­i­son, be a cinch.

With the speeds ex­po­nen­tially higher, if there are any vices they’ll be­come ev­i­dent here. Bed­ford’s a quick track, lack­ing in gra­di­ent and de­mand­ing some big stops and rapid changes in di­rec­tion. On ar­rival An­der­son re-sets the coilovers for greater con­trol, it easy enough to do so, the click wheel on the bot­tom al­low­ing re­bound ad­just­ment for bet­ter con­trol on the track, or should you want to change to a dif­fer­ent wheel and tyre pack­age. The set-up is such you can run the CSR EVO on semi-slicks, or ag­gres­sive, track-bi­ased Miche­lin Pi­lot Cup 2 tyres if you’re af­ter ul­ti­mate lap times. Today it’s rid­ing on Miche­lin Pi­lot Sports, not the Cup 2s.

The CSR EVO feels en­tirely at home on the track, that ob­vi­ously en­hanced when you’re trussed up in the bucket seat with the race har­nesses on. All the el­e­ments that made it a hugely en­ter­tain­ing road car are sharp­ened here: the way the en­gine picks up, the im­me­di­acy of its re­sponse to your right foot, the confidence-in­spir­ing front axle and the strong brakes. It would be quicker still on some more ag­gres­sive track tyres, but part of the joy of it is feel­ing it moving around un­der you as you work the tyres up to and beyond their lim­its, the CSR EVO never any­thing less than com­mu­nica­tive.

En­ter­ing a cor­ner hot and back­ing off al­lows the usual 911 trait of weight trans­fer, the CSR EVO’S rear com­ing into play. It’s ex­ploitable, the limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial aid­ing con­trol, it only need­ing a bit of catch­ing when it tran­si­tions back to the straigh­ta­head, though that’s some­thing that could be di­alled out with a bit more set-up work. Ev­ery­where else it’s hi­lar­i­ously good fun, fast rather than bal­lis­tic, this a car that en­cour­ages you to ex­ploit all of its per­for­mance rather than tip-toe around in the mid­dle, or fear­ful at the top.

Leav­ing the track and driv­ing it back to RPM it feels no dif­fer­ent. The brakes are fine, only the sus­pen­sion is a touch busier, sim­ply be­cause we didn’t take the five min­utes to re-set it back to the pref­er­en­tial road set-up.

Ar­riv­ing back at base it’s dif­fi­cult not to be im­pressed. Yes, I still want the GT3 they’ve got, but then the CSR EVO makes a strong case as a sup­port­ing act, not merely as an un­der­study. With the GT3 you’d want to keep the miles off it, with the CSR EVO you’ll do quite the op­po­site, and that’s very much the point and, th­ese days, a con­sid­er­able part of its ap­peal.

“All the el­e­ments that made it a hugely en­ter­tain­ing road car are sharp­ened on the track”

Be­low 9kg lighter ex­haust sys­tem with dual cen­tre-exit tailpipes looks and sounds sen­sa­tional

Be­low Kyle puts the 996 CSR EVO through its paces on track at Bed­ford

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