Of course, turbocharged engines get better fuel-economy ratings, too, if not better fuel economy when that boost is actually used. This combination of factors is likely why the world will not see another naturally aspirated GT3 RS, and that’s a shame. Heck, even today’s base 911 Carrera—yes, the one with a piddling 370 horsepower—is getting uncomfortably close to the GT3 RS’s performance, with a 3.4-second run to 60 mph and an 11.9-second quarter-mile.
Employing the wide-hipped bodywork from 911 Turbo models means the GT3 RS is 1.1 inches wider than the GT3, and Porsche replumbed the GT3 RS to breathe through the ducts in the rear fenders that, in the Turbo, feed air to the intercoolers. And the wheel wells are truly packed full with 20-inch front and 21-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, in sizes that match those of the 918 Spyder (265/35 front and 325/30 rear), adding 20 percent more contact patch than the GT3 possesses. It works: At the track, it took a while to convince our right foot just how much throttle could be applied when accelerating out of corners. The front splitter, deep ducktail shape of the engine cover, and massive, three-position-adjustable rear wing that stands more than five feet off the ground are part of the comprehensive aerodynamic work that conspire to create three times more downforce than the GT3.
NA for the Last Time?
Speaking of purity, this particular, exceptionally stripped-down example is closest to the original RS’s ethos, even if it’s not how customers typically order Porsches—even GT3 RS models. Porsche basically built this one specifically to compete at Lightning Lap, and it has all the weight-saving options and almost no luxury add-ons.
Running the vent fan blows air that is always substantially hotter than ambient, and cracking a window in 90-degree heat provided a “cool” respite from the cabin temperature. Those 26 pounds saved in deleting the A/C may well pare a few more pounds from the driver in short order via dehydration. And we caution against forgoing air conditioning not purely out of frailty or vanity, but also safety, as it’s nearly impossible to combat window fogging without drier, conditioned air. In addition, tire roar at highway speeds and occasional thundering resonance coming up through the stiffened suspension over sharp impacts also would make us wary of using it as a daily driver.
Of course, PDK also enables an exacting launch-control program, which helps the GT3 RS leap to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds flat and through the quarter-mile in 11.1. Still, driving a McLaren 570S and a Ferrari 488GTB back to back with the GT3 RS—such were the riches available at our Lightning Lap shootout this year—actually made the Porsche feel significantly down on power against similarly priced supercars. Now, we realize just how ridiculous it is to complain about the acceleration of a car that’s two tenths away from a quarter-mile time in the 10s. But it’s not hyperbole: The Porsche felt instantly, considerably, clearly, obviously slower than those cars. It’s not even close.
Did we mention it’s loud? To put its insane noise level in context requires a little explanation. The decibel scale represents exponential changes in sound intensity, which can lead to an underappreciation of the size of the difference when making comparisons. An increase of 10 decibels equates to a doubling of perceived loudness to the human ear, and increasing by 20 decibels is a quadrupling. That means that our GT3 RS, screaming at a cochlea-searing 108 decibels at wide-open throttle, is more than four times louder than the last Dodge Challenger Hellcat we tested and more than twice as loud as a Ferrari 458. If your job was to drive a GT3 RS—you’re us, say—the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would recommend less than 15 minutes per day spent near redline to avoid permanent hearing loss.
Once it gets going, that is. Like other Porsche flat-sixes, the GT3 RS’s has a rather unflattering and initially disconcerting mechanical clatter at startup. There’s lots of whirring noise from the transmission and grinding from the rear axle, too. How much sound deadening was removed from the RS, anyway? A quick prod of the throttle yields a dramatic, almost Darth Vader–esque chuffing noise emanating from its new side-breathing setup. Once underway, though, the concert begins; a tight, pure, escalating wail that sounds exactly like the 911 RSR race cars that circle Le Mans. It reverberates throughout the car and penetrates deep into your skull, even with a helmet on—at times we seemed to be feeling the sound as much as hearing it—but with none of that trying-too-hard bombastic flatulence when backing off the throttle. An exhaust flap opens up at 4000 rpm, and tapping the sport-exhaust button just seems to force it open earlier. The sound is so invigorating that it’s practically impossible not to fully run up through a few gears when accelerating, but take-away-the-keys territory is never far away, as the top of second gear is good for 73 mph, and third can reach 100 mph.
We’re a bit conflicted on Porsche’s excellent dual-clutch automatic transmission, dubbed PDK, which is the only gearbox now available in the GT3 RS. On one hand, our hot-lapping daydreams tend to involve a manual transmission. But the PDK’s lack of torque interruption during shifts and on-track clairvoyance that requires no manual intervention certainly improve lap times. And we continue to be blown away by the bandwidth of this gearbox: Driving gently in stop-and-go traffic serves up creamy 2000-rpm shifts, but flatfoot the throttle while cruising at 3000 rpm in seventh gear (that’s 75 mph), and it executes a seven-to-three downshift so quickly that you get the sense it was thinking, “What took you so long?” as the car rockets away. The default shift mode in the GT3 RS equates to the Sport mode in lesser 911s, so be careful selecting the more assertive Sport mode. Do so in this car, and it will aggressively grab first gear right as you’re setting up for the turn into the Whole Foods parking lot.
Although weight reduction is always a worthy cause, a complicating factor in this case is that 100 of those 137 pounds saved over our comparison-test GT3 RS were removed from the front axle, further unbalancing the already rear-heavy 911. The biggest savers include the $2300 lithium-ion battery (30 pounds), air-conditioning delete (26 pounds), stereo delete (17 pounds), and the lack of the front-axle-lift system (9 pounds). Even mainstream front-drive cars such as a Honda Civic have their weight more evenly spread between their axles than our GT3 RS’s 38.3/61.7 percent front/rear distribution, and it shows. At VIR, it was notably reluctant to turn in to low-speed corners, even with its new rear-axle steering helping the cause. Perhaps fiddling with the adjustable anti-roll bars could’ve helped compensate for some of the imbalance.
A turbocharged GT3 RS also likely would lose some of its memorable sound, as did Ferrari’s flat-plane-crank V-8 in the transition to turbocharging. While the current model is dead for the 2017 model year, we anxiously await Porsche’s next move. But for now, let’s celebrate one of the world’s best cars with one of the most spectacular engine notes. So long as we can still hear it anyway.
Ever larger and heavier, with more luxury accoutrements, the latest, 991 generation of the 911 has lost some of its dynamic purity. Anyone who’s driven a previous-gen 911 (997) back to back with the latest-issue 991 will agree that some of the steering’s sharpness and immediacy has been lost. The GT3 RS, however, dials back in all of that directness and then some, via stiffer powertrain mounts, dampers, and suspension components, as well as overall weight loss. And sure enough, the steering wheel dances and twitches over undulating roads in a way that’s been lost in most modern sports cars.
Parsing the acceleration figures more closely shows what we’re feeling. While comparing the conventional metrics doesn’t help much—the GT3 RS is just a tenth behind the 570S to 60 mph, a gap that grows to only 0.4 second at the quarter-mile—take a look at the time required to accelerate the next 60 mph, from 60 to 120 mph, a zone much more relevant on a road course or even on the road. There, the boosted McLaren handily beats the GT3 RS, 5.6 seconds to 6.8.
Automatics for Everyone
Sitting atop the hard-core branch of the sprawling Porsche 911 hierarchy, the $178,250 GT3 RS seemed a great candidate for some testing of its track-day mettle. So we spent three consecutive days pushing it to its limits—and sometimes slightly beyond—at our tenth Lightning Lap competition at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), before hopping back into its carbon-fiber bucket seat for the 700-mile trek back to our Ann Arbor, Michigan, office. We then put it through our full battery of performance tests. Almost more surprising than its admirable performance at the track—planted, predictable, and consistent, with a lap time among the top 10 of the more than 200 vehicles we’ve now run at Lightning Lap—was its unexpectedly forgiving ride quality on the street.
Speaking to the RS’s nature, this latest one is the first to finally succumb—now that it’s mandated—to employing stability control. Other highlights from this latest RS include a magnesium roof and carbon-fiber front fenders, trunklid, and rear engine cover. (See here for an up-close look at the GT3 RS’s mechanicals.)
Although it’s odd to see any car pushing $200,000 that’s lacking a leather-covered dash, at 3155 pounds this GT3 RS is 137 pounds trimmer than the loaded car we ran in a comparison test earlier this year. Even as it has grown in every dimension, that curb weight, impressively, is 25 pounds lighter than our 997 GT3 RS test car from 2007.
Continuing the line of hard-core GT3 RS models dating back to the 996 generation in 2003 (which wasn’t sold in the U.S.), this latest edition, as before, ups the track-performance ante with more tire and lots of aerodynamic work.
But it could use one more air duct, one directed at the driver, because every jaunt in the A/C-less GT3 RS feels like a full-body-sweat track day.
On the lumpy track at VIR, we still kept the suspension in its softest setting, as the firmer one caused it to skip too much over curbing and trigger unwanted anti-lock-braking activity. It took a while to acclimate to just how much braking power the GT3 RS harnesses through its massive carbon-ceramic rotors (a $9210 option) and Pagid pads. And the fixed-backrest carbon-fiber seats are the best sport seats in the business, with excellent lateral bracing yet sufficient width and comfort to accommodate tall and/or wide bodies for extended-mileage stints.
PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS
Now based on the pre-turbocharged-era 911 engine, rather than the storied Mezger engine from the GT1 racer of the mid-1990s, the reciprocating heart of the GT3 RS features a 4.0-millimeter (0.16-inch) stroke increase to arrive at 4.0 liters and 500 horsepower. That’s versus 3.8 liters and 475 ponies in the GT3. The RS’s engine has an intensely quick-to-rev nature that’s no doubt enhanced by lightweight titanium connecting rods, and its center-mounted titanium muffler emits an otherworldly wail up near the engine’s soaring, 8800-rpm redline.
Hard-Core since 2003
Copyright © cartype.info