Hero worship: Does the Porsche 911 GT3 RS live up to the hype?
What's all this 'magic' chat really about?
A big part of this job involves driving cars that have only just gone on sale, or that aren't actually yet available for the likes of your mum and her weird obsession with buying every possible Lotus special edition. You know what she's like.
But sometimes it's vital to take a step back from the churn of modern cars and drive something slightly older.
Why? Well, it's fun, but also because it's important to have some context for everything that's new and shiny. It helps you realise that newer isn't always better, and that – often – a car that was great 20 years ago is still as entertaining today. Over the next few months I'll be putting this to the test in an irregular series of videos and reviews where I drive some proper hero cars to see if they're any good.
First up is the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the most recent RS from Porsche, although it's not been on sale for a year or so now. We've seen the upcoming 992-gen GT3, but we're still some way away from the hardcore RS version of it. Is that a good enough excuse to have a go in this one? Probably.
Why is it a hero?
When it was first announced in early 2018, it was the most powerful naturally aspirated Porsche road car ever, thanks to a 4.0-litre engine spitting out 520hp and 470Nm of torque. But the real reason this car's engine sits alongside the Carrera GT's V10 in the hall of fame, is that it revs to 9,000rpm.
It also weighs just 1,430kg – which isn't bad considering the 991.2-gen car only came with Porsche's exquisite PDK automatic gearbox – and four-wheel steering is standard. A magnesium roof helps keep the centre of mass low, and it's obviously adorned with go-faster aero kit that scream 'lap times'.
Needs more aero
That's also the reason there was no manual gearbox option, because a clutch pedal would only get in the way of setting outrageous times around the world's most famous loops of Tarmac. This generation GT3 RS posted a 6:56 time around the Nurburgring. That's outrageously quick.
So what's it like on the road?
There are lots of words you can use to describe your initial impression of the GT3 RS – but 'special' sums everything up.
From the incredibly loud blare of the Titanium exhaust on a cold start to the way the engine's lumpiness rocks you in your super-rigid-but-comfy carbon-backed bucket seat. Sure, you've got a decent touchscreen infotainment system, but everything else about this car is crass, hardcore and sticks two fingers up at normal roadcar comforts.
A body-coloured key was a £251 option 🤓
That said, the dynamic dampers feel incredibly expensive (and are, presumably), taking the sharpest edges off bumps but still providing such an incredibly tied-down and stiff feel that means you will get all four wheels off the ground without really meaning to when you're driving like a knob.
But despite the RS' noise and visual bluster (hello Viper Green paint), it only takes a few fast corners to work out that the GT3 RS' real magic lies in its chassis.
We saw that coming a mile away
Yes, obviously a GT3 RS will go around corners very well, but it's the sheer confidence it gives you that's unlike anything else. The electro-mechanical steering is arguably the weakest part of the package, but even so it's perfectly weighted and communicates enough to really lean on it. A Lotus Exige does steering better, but even the Norfolk sportscar can't compete with the Porsche for how flat it stays during fast direction changes.
What about the performance?
A heavy throttle pedal wires you directly to the engine. Every millimetre of travel shoves a bit more lighter fluid on the raucous flat six over your shoulder. And it doesn't take long until you work up the confidence to slam your right foot to the floor and find out what that engine is really about.
As usual, there's bugger all to see in the 911 GT3 RS's engine bay – but the noise that emanates from under this panel is extraordinary
As the revs hit 7,000rpm, you'll feel like you should change up a gear, but hold on through 8 and onto 9,000rpm and the engine note hardens – as will your language, at least the first few times you explore that hallowed ground of the tacho.
There's very little sound deadening in the GT3 RS, so you can hear stones pinging off the inside of the wheel arches, but it also means the engine is incredibly loud in the cabin. It'd be wearing after a while, but when you're driving quickly the sound makes you feel for all the world like you're chasing after R8 GT3 cars through the drizzle of the Nurburgring. It's a hugely evocative noise, and one that you'll downshift needlessly to enjoy.
Yup, the Porsche badge is a weight-saving decal
Speaking of downshifting, Porsche's PDK is on its best form in the RS, and it's a stand-out highlight of the car. Even in default auto mode it knows when you're driving aggressively, and as you delve into the brakes before a corner it downshifts at exactly the right moments, as if it's reading your left fingers just as they're flexing to shift themselves. In manual mode the gearbox shifts aggressively, but there's so much traction from the rear-engined layout and those fat back tyres that there's never the worry it might shock you into a slide.
Will the GT3 RS slide about? Sure – there's enough torque to spin the rears up in the first two gears, but the car's natural poise is to grip and bugger off. And there's a chance that you're not spending £150,000 on a 911 if all you want to do is slither around.
So it's fast and handles well. Big surprise. What else do I need to know?
Well, there are a few other bits to the GT3 RS recipe that you might not have thought of. The four-wheel steering, for example, works quietly in the background, helping you thread through twisty roads without really having to take your hands off the wheel. It adds to the RS' nimble handling and is unobtrusive. It helps make this feel like an incredibly darty car, albeit one whose front axle can be leant on like a railing at the front row of a Slipknot concert.
Centre-lock wheel nuts will always and forever be cool
The brakes are phenomenally strong, yet you need to work some heat into their carbon ceramic surfaces to get the most out of them, as evidenced by us nearly sailing into the road when we first pulled out of Porsche GB's car park. But once up to speed and dialled into the car, the pedal is reassuringly firm, with a soft enough initial bite to let you drag little bits of speed off, settling the nose of the 911 into corners at higher speeds.
Should I buy one?
Given that most reviews of the GT3 RS were originally performed on track or in countries where the bread contains olives, it's easy to think it's only going to be at home on smooth Tarmac. But a couple of hours spent on twisting, turning, bumpy and broken British roads showed that you can still have a huge amount of fun in the ultimate 911.
It's certainly a car for the committed. It's firm, it's loud and it's forever egging you to yelp down four gears and smear the fat back Michelins into the road.
However, driving one is an experience you'll never forget – so owning one must be an absolute privilege. This is Porsche at its very best and it'll be interesting to see how the 992 GT3 RS eventually moves things on.