By Zaid Hamid @ GTSpirit.com
Put your prayer beads away, the cars not the almighty omnipotent up above – LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1. Three cars the represent the pinnacle, the greatest, the most desirable cars of the the latest generation of hybrid powered hypercars. To be driven and loved or locked away as assets, they all sold out and you will struggle to buy one on the used market for double what the privileged owners from new paid. Where there is the holy trinity there is another trio that I have branded ‘The Three Wise Men’, I’m good at this right? Ferrari have the 458 Speciale, McLaren the 675LT and Porsche the 991 911 GT3 RS. All are free of electricity and all a lot more accessible, all be it still at hugely inflated prices. I shall bore you with the old testament no more because I am in Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace to be precise, and I am with a man from Leeds who moved to Dubai and purchased a purple (ultraviolet) Porsche 911 GT3 RS. I met him for the first time 18 hours ago has given me the keys and gone away to lunch with friends. Right.
Back to the bible story. The three wise men have been hailed some of the best drivers cars in years. Without being charged with electricity and silly boost buttons they are simple, more humble machines. The GT3 RS was frowned upon when it was unveiled in Geneva a couple of years back. A pedal disappeared and two paddles sprouted from behind the steering wheel, the steering wheel that now turned all four wheels?! Had Porsche gone mad they cried. Then they drove it and cried tears of joy at just how impressive a machine it was, they said it was so fast that they wouldn’t be able to keep up if they had to depress a clutch and move a silly stick around. Enough of what they said, I am in Abu Dhabi with the key to a GT3 RS, a tank full of fuel and a belly full of what must be the most expensive Croque Monsieur in the hemisphere. Hey, it’s been a strange few hours.
So, what exactly is this aubergine colored speed freak with a wing nicked off a race car packing? As much as it looks like it came out of a cartoon, this is no child’s toy. Under the wing is new 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine which remains naturally aspirated, no batteries or Duracell batteries in sight. It has been tuned to deliver 493 hp (the same as the 997 GT3 RS 4.0) and delivers 384 lb-ft of torque. It set itself well above the already bombastic GT3, but lost a couple of hundred howling RPM at the top end in the process. Bend yourself, if you are of an average height unlike me, over the high edges of the bucket seats and a suitably sparse cabin wraps around you. The Clubsport package adds the roll cage to make it feel that little bit more racecar if the wheel arch vents and ironing board of a wing were not enough. Poke the stubby 911 shaped key into the ignition and twist and all is very mundane, the sound a little hoarse – I chuckled as I thought if ever a car could sound like Lil Wayne it would be this. Don’t depress the clutch and don’t put in into first, jab the brakes and squeeze the trigger on the PDK selector. Into D and you’re away. Well you might be, I wasn’t. The valet boys literally had to part a sea of Japanese tourists that had flocked to the car like children to an ice cream van. Who said all Porsche’s looked the same eh?
If driving the car was not enough to pinch myself, I was on the grounds of a palace that was built for the royal family but reallocated to be used as a hotel. Today it is the my car park – as I said, strange day. Onto the road, whack the gearbox into manual, sport mode, exhaust into loud and the first thing I do is pull a paddle, and another and one more. It is scarcely believable how fast this gearbox works. Yes, it is the same as a GT3s box, but it has been tweaked and the paddle movement is shorter. It’s that shorter paddles bit that literally had me playing a game to see if I could pull a paddle and have removed my finger tips from the cold metal surface before the gearbox could cut the throttle, disengage the clutch, match the revs and engage the clutch again. I did not win once.
It’s not just the gearbox that immediately impresses. This car sounds fantastic. Straight six engines are not known to be the best sounding engines in the world, but I was stunned by how stimulating the GT3 RS sounds, the titanium exhausts is a work of magic. It’s not just that exhaust noise that gets your attention, you can hear debris hitting the wheel arches and pebbles hitting the underbody, this is a racecar with license plates. The weight saving is apparent, there really is less sound deadening and the perspex rear window magnifies and resonates the sounds the car makes. As I continued onto the wider open highway I started to try and explore the atmospheric boundaries of the RS. Flatten your right foot and the car howls, the revs build and at around 5,500 rpm the noise is so rich and the car pulls so hard you reach for an upshift but there are still three thousand to go. In third, fourth and fifth you literally grit your teeth and squeeze the wheel in an attempt to hold your nerve as the speed piles on and on. Not for a second do I doubt that the RS will go from 0-200 km/h in 10.9 seconds or 0-100 in 3.3 as Porsche claim.
As I approach 250 km/h (on a private road) there is not even a hint of instability, the car is planted and the huge wing proves itself to be more than a fashion accessory. Typically when you start to really shift, the combination of power being fed through the rear tires and air rushing over rear wings would a car begin to pitch, something that made the Carrera GT so fearsome at speed. Porsche have since learned and combated the pitch with the vents scooped out of the front wheel arches which allow the turbulent air, that generates lift, to alleviate through the quirky solution. Combined with the teeny weeny arch gap, that you would struggle to squeeze a finger into, the GT3 RS becomes one of the stickiest and stable cars on the road this side of a P1 LM.
It’s not just in straight lines that the GT3 RS impresses. This is a track car that is made to corner like a GT3 car and this is machine with a bite to match its bark. Grip the alcantara wheel in your palms and it is as if you become one with the car. I was no in any way aware of the weight of the steering, it just steered like it was in rails, not too light, not too heavy and stupendously responsive. That being said, and it may have been the marble smooth road surfaces, there was not much feedback – I can moan about it forever, but hydraulic racks are a thing of the past. The ceramic brakes try to have you headbutting the horn when you need to scrub off copious amounts of speed but are not grabby and are progressive. As tempting as it was to continue to try and find the cars limits, I was curious to see how the car would handle cruising and menial mundane daily commutes. Back into auto, Sport mode disengaged and the loud exhaust button switched off, the car really settles down. Adrenaline subsides and the RS feels almost normal. Blindfold a passenger and take them for a drive and I’m sure they would never imagine they were in the purple car with a roll cage. Yes, this is no S Class, the ride is not meant to be the smoothest, but this is a car you could happily commute to work in every day. The 918 bucket seats hug you but will not have you reaching for a pillow like many other cars in the category do. In no way do I condone using your RS as a daily driver in traffic, but it’s good to know you can. There are creature comforts such as air conditioning, sat nav and radio, all of which can be deleted at no cost to make your GT3 RS even more hardcore.