Porsche 911 GT3 RS review: Street legal track weapon

    The latest iteration of the 911 GT3 RS is the most focused yet, but does that make it too compromised on the road?

    Published on Feb 03, 2024 08:00:00 AM

    14,794 Views

    Make : Porsche
    Model : 911
    We Like
    • High-revving engine an aural delight
    • Razor-sharp and rewarding handling
    • Aerodynamic and mechanical grip
    We Don't Like
    • Stiff ride and low ground clearance
    • Chassis deserves more power
    • Difficult to get an allocation

    Gleefully, I showed the gentleman the photo of our production car lap record time at the Buddh International Circuit. “And the previous record was in a GT2 RS?” he asked, eyebrows only lightly raised; I nodded to confirm. “Very good,” he said. “That means we have done our job.” The gentleman was Andreas Preuninger, whom I was lucky enough to meet at Porsche’s 75th birthday party – Icons of Porsche – in Dubai earlier in the month. He’s the head of Porsche’s GT division, the saviour of natural aspiration, and essentially the father of the car I’m driving today. And his words give even more credence to the absolute weapon that is the 992 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. We are, of course, driving it in its element, around a race track – the freshly paved CoASTT performance centre in Coimbatore – but also taking it out on the road to see if calling it a road car is merely lip service.

    It generates downforce comparable to a 911 RSR race car in Le Mans spec.
     

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS exterior

    And that’s a justifiable doubt, because with every iteration, the GT3 RS inches ever closer to becoming an all-out race car, to the point that it now looks like they’ve had to work backwards to make it road-legal. Just look at that swan-neck spoiler – it rises above the roofline (for the first time in a production 911) and its 6-foot wingspan dwarfs the hips of even this wide-body 911 chassis. Aerodynamicists appear to have gone at the bodywork with an axe, hacking vents into the front fenders, and taking chunks out of the wheel arches to purge turbulent air from the wheel wells. You’ll notice there are simpler (and likely lighter) pull-type door handles rather than the fiddly, electronically actuated lift-type ones on the rest of the 992 range, and that’s because the doors themselves are entirely different. They too are carved out to fit the aero package and are made of carbon-fibre, as are the roof, engine cover, front wings and the bonnet.

    Wing helps give 860kg of downforce, but also causes drag, limiting top speed.

    What’s under the bonnet is perhaps even more overt a statement of this car’s track-focused intent than the wing. Lots of cars have spoilers, but how many would sacrifice the entire boot in favour of a radiator and an S-duct to channel air? Combine that with the carbon roll cage where the rear seats once were and the pair of fire extinguishers in the front passenger footwell, and you wonder why they offer a Rs 6.9 lakh fitted luggage set as an option. Back to the aero, the central radiator means the sides are freed up for active aero flaps which function in tandem with the hydraulically actuated active wing and a flat underbody to give you F1-style DRS down the straights. When not in drag reduction mode, extreme downforce is the name of the game, and the car is capable of a totally ridiculous 860kg of it at 285kph – twice as much as the last GT3 RS, thrice as much as a standard GT3, and comparable to the 911 RSR race car in Le Mans spec! Again, let me remind you that this car wears number plates.

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS interior and features

    If paying the Rs 75 lakh premium for the hardcore RS over the standard GT3 wasn’t enough to show your commitment to the race track, you can then spend a further Rs 75 lakh on the Weissach Pack. This deletes the paint on the bonnet, roof and mirrors, exposing the carbon-fibre underneath, gives you carbon-fibre inside door grabs and six-point racing harnesses, changes the roll-cage and even some suspension components from steel to carbon-fibre, and gives you magnetically assisted magnesium shift paddles and forged magnesium wheels.

    Dark interior deliberately free from distractions. Still gets touchscreen and AC though.

    The pack sheds another 22kg, but overall, it’s actually a few kilos heavier than a regular GT3, owing to the wider chassis, body, tracks and suspension, larger wheels and tyres, and that wing, but as you’ll soon see, all the additions more than make up for that slight anomaly.

    For the rigorous diet this car has been put on, it still gets a touchscreen, climate control and semi-digital instrument cluster, none of which can be de-specced this time; they’re simply too integral a part of the 992 platform. But don’t for a second think this has turned into a luxury car, because the interior still feels single-mindedly focused on the driving experience. It’s covered in dark Race-Tex (similar to Alcantara) and though you can spec some leather, the only colour is black, with some concession being contrast-colour stitching and seat belts.

    Weissach pack brings harnesses and carbon roll cage, among much else.

    Similarly, while you can spec comfier 18-way powered sports seats for no added cost, what you want are the standard carbon-backed, single piece buckets. They’re crazy low, snug, light on cushioning and do not recline, but you’ve gone so far already; why stop now? Other indications of performance intent are the return of a proper gear lever (no tiny toggle switch), centre marker on the steering, tiny netted door pockets, fabric straps instead of door handles, a DRS button in place of the voice command switch, and a ‘minimal’ setting that takes all distracting info off the screens.

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS electronic aids

    Harness strapped in, seat adjusted as much as it will allow me, and wondering if I should’ve brought a helmet and racing gloves, I’m now daunted by the quartet of rotary dials newly added to the steering wheel. The familiar drive mode dial returns, but the three new ones – which become active only when you twist the first into Track mode – read ESC/TC, PTV+ (Porsche Torque Vectoring) and PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). And no, they’re not simple on/off switches but regulator dials – 9 levels here, 6 levels there, plus individual control for damping and rebound on each axle! It’s a bit much for a casual enthusiast like me, but I’m told it’s been setup for a less-than-perfect surface with fast-flowing corners, like we have at CoASTT today. 

    Race-derived knobs allow for granular chassis and diff adjustments on the fly.

    I can appreciate that racetrack regulars chasing the perfect lap time would love this level of on-the-fly adjustability to fine-tune their settings for each corner, but for the rest of us, a programmable shortcut button for your favourite settings – like on BMW’s M cars – would have been nice.

    It takes mere inches of tyre travel to realise this is a far more serious tool than any other 992, and possibly any road-going 911 before it. The weight, the feedback and the speed of the steering are immediately felt, as is every contour in the tarmac beneath. Even just a quarter way up the rev range and at part throttle, the GT-spec 7-speed PDK (no manual here; fastest shifts only) slams gears in with noticeably more purpose than the garden-variety 8-speed unit, while the 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat six growls with unfettered aggression. Its 525hp and 460Nm outputs are not just lower than many might expect at the price, it’s only 15hp up and actually 5Nm down on the GT3. But as they say, if you know, you know, and as I make my first concerted push into a corner, I am made fully aware.

    You can save your manual; GT3 RS is PDK only for fastest possible shifts.

    Those few seconds are a heady mix of agility, brutality and god-tier grip, courtesy not just all that aero, but also the ultra-specialised Michelin Cup 2 R tyres. In fact, I’m being extra cautious because CoASTT doesn’t have any run-off areas yet, and the rubber has already done its best work setting a new production car lap record at the BIC just last month. It’s a powerful RWD car at the end of the day, with a strong rear weight bias no less, and with all the electronic aids off, you’d imagine you’d breach the limits of adhesion and let the tail run free pretty easily, but no. It just grips harder and harder the more you push.

    Immense grip, low power means it’s not easy to slide.

    Where in other cars the tech works silently behind the scenes, here it all comes to the fore – including rear-axle steering which is felt with every turn of the wheel. As I bring myself to pile in more and more speed into each corner, I’m being encouraged by tangible positive feedback from the wheel, pedals and seat.

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS engine and performance

    Grabbing at those race-bred magnesium paddles elicits a satisfying ‘clack’ that neatly punctuates every rise and fall in revs. Yes, the revs. The headline is the redline, and though max power is made a little lower at 8,500rpm, you’ll constantly find yourself chasing after the magic 9,000. And what better reward could there be than that beautiful flat-six wail that few other cars today can serve up. It’s actually not as loud as in the 718 GT4 RS, whose mid-engine layout and window-mounted ram air intakes put you basically inside the engine bay, but it’s more than dramatic enough.

    Though max power comes at 8,500rpm, you’ll constantly be chasing the magic 9,000.

    I let it have a good scream down the main straight, but a quick glance at the screen reveals I haven’t been committed enough to meet the conditions for DRS to auto engage (including 95 percent throttle travel for a sustained period), so on the next pass, I activate it manually. It’s like a speed restrictor has been removed as the car cuts a cleaner line through the air, and I don’t need to check the dials to know that I’ve arrived at the corner with far more speed as a result. Immediately I’m on the brakes, which show no signs of protest – just the brutal face-pulling negative g-force that a set of carbon-ceramic discs can deliver. It’s clear I’ve not even scratched the surface of what this car can do, and perhaps never will.

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS suspension and handling 

    It’s clear the 911 GT3 RS is near peerless on the track, but in its quest for that lofty achievement, has it lost its ability to be a road car? I crawl it slowly out of the circuit and onto the highway to see for myself, and immediately encounter its greatest foe – a speed breaker. The Weissach Pack might help your lap times, but for less than a tenth of its price, a far more essential option is the nose-lift kit. With just 100mm of unladen ground clearance though, even when the front axle is raised, you have to nurse it carefully over, and in extreme cases, simply plan a different route.

    Nose lift a non-negotiable option for on-road use.

    The Coimbatore-Salem highway is not perfect, but still has a largely smooth surface. In a GT3 RS, however, it feels like a rally stage. The stiff chassis and stiffer suspension cause it to fidget beneath you, while expansion joints elicit a small skip if hit too quickly. It settles as you go faster but you don’t get the same sort of compliance as, say, a 911 Turbo S. You also need the reflexes of a racing driver out on the road to quickly dodge sudden potholes, lest you damage those expensive Michelins, or worse, the magnesium wheels. Thankfully, they’ve left a tiny bit of play at the straight-ahead position that you barely notice on the track, but is hugely helpful on the road. 

    Even with nose lift, it has to be nursed over speed breakers.

    Ironically, you can potentially get a comfier ride by putting it in Track mode and dialling the suspension settings all the way down, but at the cost of the added powertrain aggression, it doesn’t feel worth it. Normal will suffice, but even here, you’ll have to put up with considerable road and engine noise. Combine this with the lack of luggage space  (you can de-option the roll cage if you really must), and it’s clear the GT in GT3 RS doesn’t stand for Grand Tourer.

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS verdict

    The GT3 RS is not a new concept in the Porsche line-up; in fact, 2023 marks 50 years of its hallowed lineage that can be traced back to the Carrera RS 2.7, a homologation special of the first-gen 911. It’s just that this newest version has pushed so far into track territory, its compromises shed and its abilities so tightly focused, that its use case has narrowed to a fine point. Sure, you can drive it on the road, but you won’t enjoy it. You’d think that might disqualify it for Indian buyers, but you’d be wrong, because owners of previous iterations absolutely love taking their cars to the race tracks, of which CoASTT is the latest to join the ranks.

    Firm chassis and suspension means every road imperfection is felt at the wheel.

    If your intention is everyday use, walk away and look instead at a Turbo S – it’s more powerful, just as exotic, and far more forgiving. And probably easier to get hold of too, as GT3 RS allocations are few and far between. But if you’re among the committed minority that lives to better your times around a track, hone your skills as a driver, and be rewarded by the car for doing so, there is nothing that comes close. Until Weissach goes and one-ups itself, of course. “So, you beat the record with 175 horsepower less,” Mr Preuninger said. “Wait till you see our next GT2 RS.”

    Also see:

    Porsche and Autocar India set new production car lap records at BIC

    How the Porsche 911 GT3 RS lapped the BIC in under 2 minutes

    Tech Specs

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