Porsche’s 911 GT3 has always represented a distillation of racing pedigree and panache, and the latest incarnation, well, that continues true on that trajectory as evidenced by the manual variant I was privileged to drive this time last year. Now the lighter, even more focused and hardcore variant in the form of the RS has broken cover and LERATO MATEBESE took it for a whirl.
The perennial benchmark sports car, the Porsche 911, continues to aspire many a competitive manufacturer to push the boundaries in an attempt to depose it from its throne. And while many have come exceptionally close, very few have managed to nail the brief to the mast as it were.
Now on its last legs before an all-new 911 is ushered in come 2019, the swansong of the current model comes in the form of the GT3 RS, which, in its latest guise, takes the basic recipe of its GT3 sibling of a normally aspirated engine, in this instance a 4.0-litre flat six that revs to the heavens, and dumps unnecessary weight overboard while cranking up that zingy powerplant to deliver even more power.
Easily identified by its GT3 side lettering on either side of the car, a scaffolding spoiler at the rear, which not only works as an ornate item, but also aids to push the vehicle to the tarmac at speed. There are fins and jutting valances to give the model a very racy look, while the 20” and 21” front and rear wheels respectively are covered with sticky slivers of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that, once up to temperature, offer prodigious grip levels that leave you gobsmacked in disbelief.
The cabin, meanwhile, is purposefully sparse with carbon fibre shelled bucket seats only adjustable for legroom, while the titanium roll cage occupies the space where the rear seats would usually be. Even cloth door opening handles have been espoused instead of the conventional plastic/metal items, while a fire extinguisher on the passenger foot-well adds to the race car heritage of the model.
To shed even more weight, owners can also ask the manufacturer to dispense with the air conditioner and sound system. Thanks to some carbon fibre and magnesium materials used on the skin of the vehicle, the GT3 RS weighs only 1,430kg in standard guise, giving it an impressive weight-to-power ratio of 3.74 kg/kW.
Forward motivation, as mentioned, comes in the form of the 4.0-litre boxer engine that musters 383 kW at 8,250 r/min and 470 Nm at 6,000 r/min. It is sent to the rear wheels via a swift and slick shifting seven-speed PDK automatic transmission. Of course, a six-speed manual will also be on offer, but the PDK gearbox is so well-sorted that not once did I feel as though I needed a manual.
Also, thanks to the PDK’s launch control function, the GT3 RS can romp from rest to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds on its way to a terminal speed of 312km/h. While the GT2 RS we drove earlier in the year is more powerful at 515 kW and will reach 100km/h from rest in 2.8 seconds and top out at 340km/h, it is the GT3 RS that will remain firmly etched in mind.
For the most part, it is the intoxicating howl of the normally aspirated engine that gets under your skin and unleashing it on some of the best roads in the Western Cape, as I found out at its launch, is something to experience.
The sonic sensation begins when the engine fires up, barking into life in a raucous, boxer-engine timbre that, while deliberate for the most part, does not quite convey the imminent aural assault on your senses when you finally depress the accelerator.
DRIVING A GREEN MONSTER
With our green test car decked out with both the six-point harness racing seat belts – ideal for on-track racing exploits – and the conventional three-point seat belts, it was the latter that I opted for due to its easy to use setup when getting in and out of the car.
Riding slightly firmer than the standard GT3 I drove last year, the GT3 RS also feels less insulated with small stones brushing under its wheel arches adding – instead of detracting – to the uncompromising, race car-feel that chief engineer, Andreas Preunninger and his team set out to achieve.
Press the right sequence of buttons to get the Sport PDK to swap through the cogs at its quickest rate, set the exhaust to loud-mode and leave the suspension setting in Comfort. Now, get ready to revel in one of the most compelling and memorable driving experiences yet.
Once done with following slower moving traffic, just flick the left steering-mounted pedal to find a lower gear or two (preferably third) and watch the tachometer needle shift to around 4,500 r/min. Push down on the throttle and you can almost feel that normally aspirated engine gasp for a lung full of air before it lunges forward with feral intent while the rev-needle climbs to its 9,000 r/min ceiling.
Not that the engine is docile in the lower echelons of the rev range, quite to the contrary, as it pulls with quite some gusto from the onset. However, it’s once the needle sweeps past the 6,000 r/min twilight zone that the true character of the engine comes to the fore. It fizzes, from a bellow emanating from the bowels in the beast’s baritone, and culminating in a crescendo that is both addictive and aurally splendorous and begs you to do it at every given opportunity.
Then there is the crisp and responsive handling, thanks to the trick suspension that includes ball joints at each corner to give the most responsive, seat off the pants driving experience.
Thankfully, the tiller is equally impressive, responding with an almost granular feel that lets you place the vehicle exactly where you want it on the road. Of course, the Porche’s grip levels remain considerably high and you are left wondering just how far you can push the vehicle before those rear gumball tyres – measuring 325/35/R21 – in particular, decide to relinquish their adhesion, but then, luckily, sanity prevails.
As I dial back on my enthusiasm and ponder the existence, and sheer engineering genius, of the GT3 RS, I can come to only one conclusion: Vehicles are becoming ever-so-efficient what with turbo-charging steadily becoming the norm in an attempt for manufacturers to achieve that elusive target of performance and efficiency. As such, cars that throw all caution to the wind and deliver a driving experience that is so enchanting and memorable, such as that of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, should be celebrated to no end.
Sure, there are sports cars that are considerably quicker than the GT3 RS, but that is not the true essence of what this car represents. From where I stand, it is a car that immerses you and connects man and machine, offering a scintillating driving experience that words can hardly describe – you have to experience it yourself to truly comprehend what its capable of.
Yes, it really is that good.
Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © Porsche AG