Porsche 911 GT3 RS Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Monday 29th May


What is it like to drive?

Let’s face it, given the hot-streak Porsche’s GT department has been on, and this car’s GT3-shaped starting point, it was unlikely to be a disappointment. But it’s a car you need to buy for the right reasons. Sure you can do some serious peacocking with that towering wing, but If you’re not intending to take it on track, or only very occasionally, then a 911 GT3 will give you the hardcore-911-for-the-road experience for a lot less – or a 911 Turbo might be more what you’re looking for. But first we must talk about conditions…

The conditions?

It was wet. Not ideal when a car is all about high-speed downforce and wearing Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that need temperature in them before they start to work. During our driving stints around the Silverstone GP track we pushed as hard as our sense of mortality allowed and in some of the faster, sweeping bends you could definitely feel the downforce helping to pull grip from the surface. In other corners, particularly the final right-hander before the start-finish straight, it was like driving on ice, complete with armfuls of unprovoked oversteer.

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But whereas with some track-focused supercars driving in these conditions would be a pointless exercise, the GT3 RS has a trick up its sleeve. Toggle up through Normal, Sport and into Track mode and four new dials on the steering wheel give you fine control over chassis settings that usually require a spanner and getting your jeans dirty. The spring rates are already 50 per cent stiffer than a GT3, but compression and rebound for the front and rear dampers can be adjusted through nine stages each with a twiddle of your thumb and finger, and it can be done on the fly. Similarly, the e-diff has nine settings for both Coast (the amount of rotation from the rear on the way into a corner) and Power. Finally, you can keep the ESC fully on, or switch the dynamic mode and play with the nine-level traction control… or just turn it all off.

That sounds hugely complicated.

It is, but really it’s totally intuitive, and given that wet conditions exaggerate angles, playing with the settings becomes a fascinating exercise. We could have lapped for hours tweaking the exact angle of attack on entry and the amount of tail wag on exit, despite the moist surface preventing us from getting anywhere near the car’s true limits. It’s an expensive toy, the GT3 RS, and this level of easily-accessible adjustability is a masterstroke at keeping both pro drivers and amateurs interested because the conditions, the track and your mood will always require a subtly different setup. Get it right, shave a tenth off your lap time and the satisfaction is immense.

As is the simple fact of revving this engine to 9,000rpm, and pinging up and down the flawless seven-speed PDK gearbox, especially with the crisp magnetised paddles. The only real improvements over a GT3 are a harder charge to the limiter above 6,000rpm, but that’s fine by us. Could it do with more power? It could certainly handle and exploit it, there’s definitely a lack of urgency on the straights compared to stuff like the Ferrari 296 GTB

Just a note on the active aero, specifically the DRS system, which you can override with a button on the wheel for the full F1 experience on the straights… but you don’t need to. At all times the car is calculating in the background, and will auto activate DRS only if your speed is above 62mph, if the throttle is more than 95 per cent pressed, if revs are above 5,500rpm and the lateral acceleration is less than 0.9G. Brake and turn into a corner and it knows you need the downforce, snapping shut in a third of a second.

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Did the track dry out?

It did. During a catch-up with ex-F1, ex-Porsche endurance star Mark Webber, he’d sworn quite a bit in an effort to describe the GT3 RS before concluding that it was a miracle the thing is eligible for number plates. And he’s bang-on: we don’t recall an – in inverted commas – road car that’s so brain-bendingly good on a track. Silverstone, at that, a high-downforce power circuit, where the harder you push the faster you go.

Although, as we’ve noted already, the GT3 RS trades ostensibly straightforward straight-line urge for maximum wizardry in the corners. The amount of speed you can carry through Copse, Maggots and Becketts is initially difficult to compute, even if you’re a track day regular or have competition experience. Sure, Michelin’s Cup 2 rubber is very special indeed, but we’re clearly way beyond pure mechanical grip here and into territory in which you have to put your faith firmly in the Gods of aero. The results are mesmerising. The manner and speed with which the GT3 RS changes direction, the accuracy of its movements and the detail it provides to your hands, feet and backside, are all extraordinary.

Porsche has worked hard to achieve the optimum balance between the front and rear axles, and the GT3 RS has significant anti-dive properties. For example, the front ball joint of the lower trailing arm sits further down on the front axle, so under hard braking a torque is created that counteracts any deflection. Porsche says that the ball joints on all the chassis bearings are motorsport-derived; the result is a car that harmonises all the elements, and this being a Porsche, the major controls feel like precision-engineered, competition-grade items.

And the brakes?

Cast iron 408mm diameter discs with six-piston calipers are standard issue, 380mm at the rear. But really, you want the Ceramic Composite jobs (a £6,498 option), with 410mm discs upfront and 390mm at the rear. You will definitely want these if ever you’re lucky enough to bag a few hot laps with Jörg Bergmeister, a class winner at Daytona and Spa, among others, in the 911 GT3-RSR, and one of the main development drivers on the new car. Don’t know how he’d configured it, but as he had a hand in the hardware and probably co-wrote the software, he can make this thing dance like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

We’ve never braked later at the end of Wellington Straight in anything ever, or sling-shotted harder out of Becketts, slip angles deftly dealt with. Sure, there are faster cars out there, and plenty with more power and greater high-speed agency, but if you’d imagined that Porsche’s aero efforts on this thing would add up to greatness, you imagined right. This is a singular and spectacular experience.

And on the road?

Not yet. Porsche claims the cars they flew to the UK for the launch event aren’t registered for road use yet. Whether that’s totally true or not, the initial messaging is clear – this is a track car first and foremost, and that’s how they want it to be experienced for now. That didn’t stop Andreas Preuninger, boss of the GT department, enthusing about how usable it is on the road “so long as you don’t mind dragging that wing around", and how if you put it in track and dial the damper compression right back it's actually softer than in ‘Normal’ mode, so that’s how Preuninger drives everywhere on the road.

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