|Ultra-sharp handling, superb balance, exceptional feel. Plus that searing 9000-rpm motor|
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There’s a danger of being blasé about the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS. For many years the default choice for fans of hardcore road and trackday cars, successive generations of Weissach-Flacht’s most celebrated export have defined the genre and dominated group tests. Much to the dismay of rival car makers, Porsche has not sat on its laurels: the evidence being the scant three years between the introduction of the first 991-generation GT3 RS – a car which moved the game on in every respect – and the arrival of this, the second 991-generation GT3 RS. Can it possibly improve on such an acclaimed car?
Engine, transmission and 0-100 time
The new RS shares its 4-litre flat-six engine with the regular GT3, but enjoys gains of 20bhp and 8lb ft over that model – and the previous RS, too. The 9000rpm red line (up from 8250rpm) grabs headlines, but it’s the way in which this remarkable engine delivers its 513bhp and 347lb ft that’s most impressive.
Yes, it’s a screamer, but there’s meaningful motivation at half that elevated red line and you can make devastating progress without going much above 7000rpm. Wound right up it’s a spine-tingling experience. One perfectly matched by the PDK transmission, which punches home up- and downshifts faster than ever and with more precision. There is no manual option, but in truth paddles complete the intensified 2018 RS experience.
The engine has more swept volume and lower-friction internals, and offers more revs, sharper response and increased outputs, but what about the rest of the car?
The biggest changes centre on the chassis and aerodynamics, plus greater scrutiny applied to weight savings, as befits the RS moniker. The chassis benefits from a set-up philosophy first explored on the GT2 RS. Stiffer springs (double the rate of the previous RS at the front end, 50 per cent up at the rear) deliver sharper responses and increased feel, the trade-off being a slight loss of ride quality – a sacrifice Porsche believe RS buyers will be happy to make.
What’s it like to drive on road?
The pleasure of driving the new RS begins long before you slip behind the wheel. The Weissach Pack cranks-up the drama, especially when finished in a bright colour to contrast with the exposed carbonfibre, but whatever the spec the GT3 RS is a real rock-star of the road.
The stance and aerokit send an explicit message. One that creates a palpable feeling of anticipation as you drop into the hard-edged bucket seat. The 911 has changed much over the decades, but the essential simplicity of the driving environment is always welcome, for the lack of fuss focuses you on the driving experience.
As soon as you start the engine there’s a feeling of getting down to business. Perhaps a frisson of intimidation, too – at least on damp roads, where you can’t help but consider the width of rubber and the promise of a chassis that’s even more responsive and aggressively set-up than the previous RS’s.
Respect is more certainly due, but you soon relax into the driving, largely because you quickly feel so completely connected to each corner of the car. There’s just something about the blend of steering weight, front-end response and the clean, filtered yet highly detailed feel you get through your hands that tells you exactly where you are. Even at low speeds.
Yes, there’s a palpable muscularity to the suspension, the sense of springs that crave some dynamic loading to settle into their operating window, but there’s enough pliancy to the damping that the RS will take the edge off the UK’s frankly rotten road surfaces. One thing is clear, though: you really don’t need to touch the PASM button unless you’re on track.
The PDK ‘box is also perfectly happy to be left to its own devices, but it’s testament to the enthusiasm the RS fosters in you that it feels more natural to pull the selector across the gate and use the paddles. It really is an uncannily good transmission, with shifts that snap home rapidly but also effortlessly at modest speeds and throttle openings, yet crack home with synaptic immediacy when you’re absolutely on it.
And on track?
An RS should always work on the road, but it should excel on track. The 991.2 GT3 RS shines with rare brilliance, even by the standards of its celebrated predecessors.
Free to work quickly towards the limits of grip you’re struck by many things: the responsiveness of the steering, the bite and hold the front Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 generate, how well matched the chassis feels front-to-rear. It all combines to create a sense of the car being under you from the first corner.
You feel a difference in pretty much everything this latest GT3 RS does, but especially in those moments of transition between brake and throttle – the moment when an experienced 911 driver will want to feel not only that the front end has initiated the turn, but that the rear end is settled.
We came to 991.2 GT3 RS wondering how it could possibly improve on its predecessor. We come away wondering how Porsche has managed to make it this much better.
Price and rivals
As ever it’s hard to find another car with the RS’s capabilities and desirability for similar money. That’s why you could argue that the $194,775 2018MY RS’s biggest rival is its immediate predecessor. However, as those customers ‘on the list’ with their Porsche dealer tend to swap out of their outgoing RSs just ahead of the new model’s arrival, this is largely academic. What’s important – and hugely impressive – is that none of those lucky souls are likely to be disappointed.
Intra-brand rivalry aside, the hardcore $197,410 Mercedes-AMG GT R is an obvious and formidable foe, though being front-engined and turbocharged it has a very different character.
This article originally appeared at evo.co.uk
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