What is it?
It is the latest Porsche 911 to wear the historic Rennsport badge (sticker) and therefore one of the most eagerly anticipated cars of 2015. The engine in this new GT3 RS displaces the same as the iconic Mezger engine in the 997 GT3 RS 4.0-litre (3996cc) and puts out identical power and torque figures of 368kW and 460Nm.
There will be a full breakdown of all the wonderful lightweight, aero and high-tech details of the new RS in the July issue of evo Australia, but here are a few examples: The crankshaft is made from the same multiple remelt tempered steel as the crankshaft in the 919 Hybrid race car; the roof is made of magnesium that is just 1mm thick, saving 1.1kg over a standard Aluminium roof and 800g compared to a carbon roof; the vents on the (carbon) front wings of the car increase downforce over the front axle by a claimed 30 per cent; and the car as a whole is said to produce 80 per cent of the downforce generated by the 991 GT3 Cup car.
What’s it like to drive?
The car was launched at the inordinately fun yet extremely demanding Bilster Berg circuit in Germany. The numerous crests (there is one that makes Laguna Seca’s corkscrew look like child’s play), compressions and cambers could and should unsettle a 911 horribly, yet the RS is staggering in its stability and in the confidence it inspires. With the same huge wheels and tyres as the 918 Spyder, not to mention the wider front and rear axles courtesy of the engorged Turbo body, the new RS has simply monstrous amounts of grip.
The turn-in grip is staggering, the grip and poise under braking (even trail braking) is ridiculous. And yet while talk of huge grip can sometimes feel negative and dull, in the case of the RS it simply translates to breathtakingly exciting agility (and speed). You still have to drive it like a rear-engined car and you still enjoy the unique balance and the terrific traction inherent in a 911, it’s just that you feel like you can take previously untold liberties. Sadly we were under strict instructions not to turn the ESP off on the track, but thankfully they didn’t mention anything about doing the same on the road and on a few quiet corners it was clear that if you do manage to unstick the Michelin Cup 2s the RS won’t hang you out to dry, remaining supremely precise and controllable over the limit.
The GT3 RS’s engine has its red line at 8800rpm compared to 9000rpm in the GT3 and although the screaming top end is still very definitely worth reaching for you don’t get that final 500rpm banzai flourish. However, the trade-off is that the RS’s acceleration feels stronger from lower down the rev range, giving a greater sense of flexibility and muscularity that is much closer in feeling to the old Mezger engine.
With outright performance a priority in the GT3 RS it’s no surprise to find a PDK ‘box the only option and while we still miss the interactivity of a third pedal and a manual gearlever, there can be no complaints about the way PDK goes about its business. Shifts are ruthlessly fast, yet so clinically smooth that they never unsettle the car and the excitement of a full-bore upshift punching through and sustaining the onward rush almost seamlessly, is something I think it would take a long time to get bored of.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is how well all this translates to the road. With the lateral grip that it can generate you might think it would be simply too fast to enjoy on the road, but that isn’t the case. Certainly if you drive it to its limits you are going ludicrously fast, however it is still a rewarding car at legal speeds because of the way the whole car talks to you. With the clonks from the rose-jointed suspension, more noise reaching you from the engine and the immediacy of all the controls you feel constantly in touch and involved as the RS travels down the road.
The electric power-assisted steering has taken another leap on too, giving much more textural feedback to your hands and certainly in the dry conditions we had you really can’t pick holes in it. Given the alacrity of the chassis responses to inputs I also think the smaller 360mm diameter wheel (also from the 918) is a good match. Even the ride was perfectly acceptable in the softer of its two settings, actually feeling marginally better than the standard GT3 I drove in the UK a week earlier.
How does it compare?
The obvious rival to the $387,700 Porsche is the Ferrari 458 Speciale, although the Ferrari’s sticker price is a substantial $550,000. In other words, opt for the $21,590 carbon ceramics on your RS and you’re still close to $150k in front. Both have very different characters though – the Porsche feels like the more serious track tool, while the Ferrari is more exuberant and playful. But both are utterly brilliant.
Arguably the RS’s biggest rival comes from within its own Stuttgart stable, in the slightly less aggressive shape of the standard GT3. If you can afford one, however, the RS is undoubtedly worth the extra $94,000; not just for the added hardware, but because for all its extra performance, the usability seems largely unaffected.
Anything else I need to know?
As ever, the Club Sport pack, which includes a half roll cage (plus the fixings for a full cage) and fire extinguisher, is standard. Air con and a radio are also standard on this 991 GT3 RS, but like the Club Sport pack, they can be deleted at no cost. We don’t usually talk about colours, but in our opinion Ultra Violet (Purple) is definitely the one to go for.
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evo [Rating: 5.0]