Tested 25.10.17, Northants On sale December Price £207,506
Do 690bhp, rear-wheel drive and a razor-sharp driver focus make the most extreme 991-generation 911 also the best in breed?
Right, we can forget all about part-electric hypercars for a bit, because first the Lamborghini Huracán Performante and now the Porsche 911 GT2 RS appear to be quicker. At least, on that section of one-way public road in Germany they are and that is what some people seem to care about.
The Huracán is also, though, the fastest car we’ve put around our own test track, in glamorous Nuneaton, by quite a sizeable margin. This will all change, again, of course, one day. But for the meantime: lose the batteries and motors – internal combustion and light weight is what you need if you just want to go fast.
How fast is the new 911 GT2 RS, exactly? Officially, 6min 47.3sec around the Nürburgring, where we are not testing it, and nor are we at Mira, Nuneaton. Unofficially, however, it’s “f***ing ridiculous”, according to racing driver Richard Attwood, who turns up, unrelated to what we’re doing, at Porsche’s Silverstone experience centre, our base for this test.
If it wasn’t a chance encounter, you suspect he might have been briefed or ushered aside by a Porsche PR person: he hasn’t tried a GT2 RS, but he thinks it’s a pretty stupid idea to send 690bhp through only two driven wheels, through Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber, and put it on the road, to be driven by anybody at all. And Attwood likely knows a thing or two about ridiculous cars, having won Le Mans in 1970 in a Porsche 917, which probably counts as one.
The counter-argument, though, is that the GT2 RS is supposed to be a bit ridiculous. There are other cars in the 911 line-up that are not. There’s the Turbo, which puts this kind of power through all four wheels and offers the type of driving experience that AMG goes for – relaxed, shovesome, relatively low-effort.
Then there are GT models – the GT3 and upcoming GT3 RS – which are emulated by nobody particularly, but are closest in ethos to Ferrari’s Speciale or Scuderia models: razor sharp, unfailingly rewarding, track-focused and all kinds of wonderful.
The GT2 RS doesn’t just seem to want elements of both of these, it apparently wants to eclipse both. There is both more power and yet more focus than in either. Not so much best of both worlds, but destroyer of both worlds. An automotive death star.
Power first, then. GT2 RS means 690bhp (a round metric 700hp, at a round 7000rpm) from a 3.8-litre turbocharged flat-six, which will drive exclusively through a seven-speed PDK twin-clutch gearbox, to only the rear wheels.
“The steering is brilliantly communicative and fabulously responsive”
That’s a fairly whopping 118bhp increase over even the Turbo S, via a pair of new, larger turbochargers, a titanium exhaust and a charge-air water cooler, which has a little refillable tank in the boot (at the front) for its water sprays. Porsche says the PDK gearbox has been customised too, which presumably has something to do with the arrival of 553lb ft of torque. You’d think 182bhp per litre would be one of the laggiest, boostiest things around, but peak torque is made from 2250rpm, and stays to 4000rpm, which doesn’t sound that un-sensible. We’ll see.
The chassis, then. Blimey. Quite a lot of work has gone on here. There are helper springs on the front (where, as ever, there are MacPherson struts), which allows lighter main springs to be used on the front axle. A similar arrangement was made for the rear on the last GT3 RS – and is again here on the rear, where there is a multi-link set-up.
And there’s more: ride height, camber, toe angle and roll bars can all be tweaked a bit for driving on a race track. Every single chassis joint is a rose joint, which is usually superb for precision and feedback but terrible for refinement. Again, we’ll see.
Alloys of a rather splendid design occupy every last millimetre of the wheel arches. The wheels are shod with tyres that are also quite large; 265/30 ZR20 would seem like quite reasonable rear wheels for a sports car with lots of performance. Here, those are the fronts; the rears are 325/30 ZR21s. Carbon ceramic brake discs are standard.
The body hasn’t been left alone, either. There is a magnesium roof, and a carbonfibre bonnet, wings, bits of the rear end, parts inside, and any body addenda. Specify the optional Weissach package – and you will – and you’ll shave another 30kg off the kerb weight. The roof becomes carbonfibre too; as do both front and rear anti-roll bars, as well as coupling rods – apparently saving 5.3kg. There are magnesium wheels, too, between them saving 11.5kg over the regular versions. The Weissach kit costs £21,042, on top of the GT2 RS’s £207,506 list price. But given there will only be 500 made, I think you’ll get more than your £21,042 back come resale time if you fit it.
The GT2 RS’s poise, agility and approachability on a race track is overwhelming
Anyhoo, all of that, you might think, would point to the GT2 RS being one of the most – let’s admit it – ridiculous road cars you can imagine. Hard, unrefined, boosty. People have given GT2 RSs unkind nicknames in the past, on account of how wayward they were, and Porsche factory race driver Nick Tandy admitted he was quite surprised, at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, when he launched the car, hooked second gear, and it lost traction again. That sort of behaviour is unusual in a rear-engined car on 325-section tyres.
And on first acquaintance, no question, the GT2 RS is loud. Whatever they haven’t put into that exhaust makes it boomy, and whatever they’ve removed from the cabin – there are carbonfibre-backed seats, a magnesium roll-cage – means the kerb weight is just 1470kg; only 40kg more than a GT3, which has a naturally aspirated race engine.
If you have a passenger, then, make it one you know so well you don’t need to talk to, or one you dislike enough that you don’t want to, because at 70mph you have to shout over the din.
But when it comes to a lack of refinement, that’s as bad as it gets. Porsche and Ferrari both have a knack of doing this recently: taking their most focused road cars and giving them perfectly acceptable levels of ride comfort.
I don’t think the GT2 RS is quite as supple as the 458 Speciale, nor even a current 911 GT3, but given the size and profile of its tyres and how stiff it is, it’s better than it has any right to be. (We’re talking relative terms here, by the way. None is nudging a Mercedes-Benz S-Class for isolation, but what it does mean is that conventional English back roads don’t kick the GT2 RS out of kilter.)
Despite the ball-jointing, the steering is neither fierce nor full of disruption, either. It’s just relatively lightly weighted, brilliantly communicative and fabulously responsive. All of a sudden, the battle for the accolade of ‘best power assistance on the planet’ has a new contender in its midst.
And the power fits into all of this where, exactly? Remarkably, wherever you want it to. There’s some turbo lag – it would be impossible for there not to be – but this engine is phenomenal, with a level of responsiveness and linearity that not many years ago would have been unthinkable on this kind of turbocharged output.
Here, you ask for a certain amount of poke and, after a (very) short amount of time, you get it: no more, no less, at any revs, right through to the 7200rpm limit.
And if you ask for it all? Goodness me. The official numbers clock this car at 2.8sec to 62mph and at 211mph flat out. It feels every bit as responsive and urgent, to me, as a hypercar. Our test route took us from Silverstone, to Millbrook, and back again, where it finished with some laps of the National Circuit. The 911 GT2 RS’s level of control on back roads is terrific. The ferociousness of the performance on Millbrook’s high-speed bowl never gets boring. And the poise, agility and approachability on a big, flat race track is overwhelming.
But here’s the thing: the ridiculousness is kept, largely, checked, unleashed only when you want it to be, and even when you do give this car everything, it isn’t wayward, it isn’t outrageous, it isn’t dangerous. I don’t think Porsche knows how to do anything other than ‘honed’ these days, even in a car with a larger-than-life character and with such absurdities of performance.
Is it ‘the one’? I’m not sure. I think you get smidgen more responsiveness again out of the lighter, revvier, GT3 on track. And you’d get a suppleness and sufficient involvement from a GT3, or even a GTS, on the road, that makes the GT2 RS a car for certain conditions.
It is not, to my mind, the 911 defined as the perfect sports car. It’s a car for ridiculous circumstances. And, in those, there’s still nothing else quite like it.
THE 911 GT2 RS GOES WITH THE (AIR) FLOW
There are two NACA ducts in the bonnet. Open it up and peer into the tubes that spear off the ducts and you’ll see the floor, through the front wheel arch. The air that comes in here is designed to feed to the front brakes, because you want a lot of cool air channelled through the wheel area.
There are vents atop the wings that help remove air from the wheel well and reduce pressure in there, but here’s another thing: don’t fit aftermarket wheels. The standard wheels are designed to suck air out of the wheel well as they spin. Aftermarket wheels aren’t necessarily designed to do that. Worse than them having a neutral air profile would be if they pushed air into the wheel well, which would increase front end lift.
That nice Porsche idea of fitting deformable plastic front splitters to cars also continues, so you don’t break £3000 of carbonfibre every time you look at a speed hump.
The all-embracing seats, superb driving position and round, unencumbered steering wheel show the 911 GT2 RS is a car built by drivers, for drivers. MP
PORSCHE 911 GT2 RS
Everything a 911 GT2 RS ought to be. As fast and thrilling as ever, but less likely than ever to want to hurt you
Engine 6 cyls, horizontally opposed, 3800cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power 690bhp at 7000rpm
Torque 553lb ft at 2250-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight 1470kg
Top speed 211mph
CO2, tax band 269g/km, 37%
Rivals Lamborghini Huracán Performante, McLaren 720 S