With the new 991 GT3 RS now delivered to customers, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the car that it replaced. There is not many cars that are associated to racing as much the Porsche 911. As we all know the 911 has been in production since the early crusades in the 11:th century, and since then they have been renowned for their “unique” driving characteristics and racing pedigree. I had the opportunity to try out the mind-boggling 997 GT3 RS 4.0. The last incarnation of the 997-series before the newly arrived 991.
The 911 have since the beginning been regarded as the definitive sports car. In 1999 they released a hardcore, lightweight, road-legal track racer called the 911 GT3. In 2003 they released a more hardcore, more lightweight, road-legal track racer based on the GT3 called the GT3 RS.
Finally in 2011 Porsche decided to make a more hardcore and more lightweight version of the 997 GT3 RS called the GT3 RS 4.0. It’s assembled by bits and pieces from pure race cars like the GT3 RSR and also the bonkers GT2 RS. The result is a car that weighs 1370kg and the 4 liter power plant produces 500 naturally aspirated stallions! The thoughts about looks of the car differs alot from person to person. Personally i really like the 911 and especially the GT3 RS with the big but still proportional wing and beautifully curved hips. The addition of the small fins at the front gives it the appearance of a real racing car.
Other than the huge wing and wider hips, the car is not that different from other 997 Porsches on the outside. On the inside however, it’s a completely different story. When you open the door you are greeted with a steering wheel in alacantra, bucket seats, 6-point harnesses and a roll cage. You can feel already that this is a very, very serious car.
To the right, at the exact height and distance you want it, you have the alacantra-clad gear stick. It has a really nice feel to it, with distinctive gear positions and a satisfying short shift between the gears. This example had the front and rear roll cages, which really adds to the cars general sporty appearance. The Instruments are analogue and digital. The REV-counter resides firmly in the middle and to the left of it there is a small analogue speedometer, there is also a digital under the REV-counter. To start the car, it’s classical Porsche. Key to the left, dip the heavy clutch then start like a normal car.
On a side note, why the Porsche has the key to the left; During the classic “Le Mans starts” when the drivers ran to the cars in the start, you would use the left hand to start the car and the right hand to put it in to gear, just to gain a fraction of a second. The more you know.
When the 4 liter flat 6 rumbles to life you can feel how the car wants to get going and strangely, you are most happy to oblige. The engine is the one of the most powerful naturally aspirated engines that Porsche has ever produced, with 125hp per liter. It is also the largest engine fitted to a 911 to date.
First thing you notice when you start driving is that the ride is very, very stiff and the sound of the engine is a bit too high. Sure, it’s awesome when you drive short distances to hear everything the car does. However, if you drive for more than 50km, I recommend hearing protection. This example had a radio fitted, which you can’t hear anyway so I don’t know about the stereo quality. The GT3 4.0 has almost no sound dampening in the engine compartment. That makes the sound sublime at higher revs! However, at highway speed it transforms the cockpit to a resonance box. As a Grand tourer, this car is worse than a old range rover on the dirt roads in Tanzania.
But then, one day when you are out driving, cursing for yourself why you did not get the more comfortable car instead, you happen to be driving through the Eifel Mountains you will see this sign.
You can almost feel the car knows where it’s going and wants to show you what it can do. When you get out on the track, all the small foibles and irritating stuff with the car disappears completely.
How is it to drive on the track then? If you compare to the older models of the GT3 RS, the thing you notice the most is the extra low end torque and power of course. 50hp and close to 60NM extra, combined with a 10kg weight loss makes a lot of difference. The engine has a beautifully linear power delivery that gives you the courage to give a bit more throttle out of corners.
The small aerodynamic fin in the front also does their job at higher speeds. They don’t look like they do much difference. And I'm not sure they actually do. Maybe it's just placebo. On the older RS cars, I had to brake before the crest on the main straight on the Nürburgring because the front wheels simply lifted over the crest at 280+km/h. In the 4.0 though, I can go over without lifting the throttle at all. To the dismay of my passengers. This car is as stable at 30km/h as 300km/h it’s not even a shudder in the car.
I can tell you that I have driven a number of super cars, no other car, and I mean NO OTHER CAR comes close to the RS 4.0 when it comes to the driving sensation and feel. Sure other cars are faster, but for me the feel to drive is more important than lap times. When you use the 6-point harness correctly and your bottom is firmly fixed to the seat, you can feel what the car does and what it wants to do. 911’s has been known to be death machines to the inexperienced, sure this is also a handful if you use it incorrectly because of the tail-mounted engine.
This car does not want to kill me or work against me. I don’t have to wrestle the car around, it works with me and communicates with you through the seat like no other car that I have ever driven.
It’s in this car I have achieved the best feeling ever. When you drive as fast as you dare, then relaxes and drives only on your senses and gain that extra speed. I absolutely love it. This is the only car that actually feels alive for real. I almost spoke to it after the first laps around the Nürburgring when both of us cooled down. It’s a truly magical piece of engineering.
A lap on the 'Ring
So the question that remains is, will the 991 be as good? I have my doubts, since they have taken away the gorgeous manual gearbox and replaced it with a super-fast PDK-dual clutch box. The steering is electrical and they have added 4-wheel steering. Why do they have to computerize everything? Sure, do it in the other Carrera and Panameras that you drive on the road, no problem. But the GT3 model is supposed to be a pure driving machine. I don’t care if the newer supercars is faster and more comfortable; just don’t ruin the legend of the GT3’s driving sensation. However, I have no doubts that this new incarnation will be insanely fast and impressive in almost every way, I’m worried that the feel you used to get from the Porsches is gone. Maybe it’s true that the GT3 RS 4.0 is the ultimate 911.
The RS 4.0 is really, truly one of the best drivers car I have ever driven.
No, it is the best drivers car I have ever driven.