Of these hardcore 911 GT3 RSes, which one would you take home?
You might remember that we were on the Isle of Man to drive the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Well, Porsche used that as an excuse to bring along some other playthings. One example of every GT3 RS yet made. Except a 997.2 RS 4.0. They made up for that with the Carrera RS, the granddaddy of them all.
This was fascinating, the opportunity to drive each of them back to back clarified their characteristics and allowed you to trace personality traits back along the line. The first car that Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT cars division was wholly responsible for was the 996 GT3 RS, the first RS of the modern era. So each and every one has his mark on it.
First, let’s take you even further back…
1972 Porsche 911 Carrera RS Touring
Insured for £750,000, but what a sweetie to drive. This particular car is the one that pointed at the sky from the tip of the sculpture at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013, which gives you some idea where Porsche rates it in its pantheon of models. It’s a honey, not nearly as dated in its dynamics as you might expect, nor as frighteningly tail happy as legend would have it. Still swift enough to keep a hot hatch on its toes in a straight line, and way more enthralling when you get to a corner.
Price when new: £7,193
Engine: 2.7-litre flat six, 207bhp
Transmission: 5spd manual, RWD
Max speed: 240km/h
2003 Porsche 911 996 GT3 RS
Built as an homologation special, the first GT3 RS was never initially intended to become a permanent addition to the range. And then people drove it. Despite the fact that fewer than 120 came to the UK and only 680 or so were built in total, the reputation it developed meant its future was assured.
Killer fact: the 3.6-litre engine was rated at the same 381bhp as the standard GT3. In reality, the mods made meant every car left the factory with well over 400bhp. You can tell. This still feels a fast car. Soaring flat six, sweeter manual shift than the 997 that replaced it, but the later cars also make it feel a bit simplistic, not quite so thoroughly developed. The front end doesn’t have the same bite as later cars, so the chassis balance errs towards understeer. You can tell this was a starting point.
Price when new: £84,230
Engine: 3.6-litre flat six, 375bhp
Transmission: 6spd manual, RWD
Max speed: 305km/h
Nürburgring time: 7mins 47secs
2006 Porsche 911 997.1 GT3 RS
With the 997 came added seriousness. The 996 had been based around a standard 2WD bodyshell. A desire for extra grip meant wider tracks were needed, so the 997 used the shell of the 4WD versions. The engine was still a 3.6, but official power now broke the 400bhp barrier.
The 997 GT3 RS generation is the purist to drive. Simple as that. When Porsche came round to revisit the RS, it could see what it could improve and the result is a thrillingly mechanical, raw car to drive. It’s superb, the 997.1 RS, but for one thing…
2009 Porsche 911 997.2 GT3 RS
…the car that replaced it. This is peak GT3 RS as far as I’m concerned. The later cars have more downforce, cornering speed and a steely-eyed racetrack focus. This is all about thrills and it doesn’t really matter where you get them. The engine had grown to a 3.8-litre, and sounds like a clatter of loose cogs until the revs rise. Then it’s pure magnificence. Yes, the gearchange is awkward and stiff (always has been), but that just makes it all the more satisfying when you get it right.
But whatever it was they put in Weissach’s water supply system in 2009, the result is utter magic. The quality of the damping, the way it relishes the road every bit as much as you do, the eagerness to attack, the steering, the effort you have to put in and the reward you get out. This one, please.
2015 Porsche 911 991.1 GT3 RS
A quest for further speed and performance led Porsche to use the Turbo body for the current generation. And then covering it with slats and wings. This is where Porsche got serious about aerodynamics. Where the original 996 GT3 RS’s wing had developed a modest 35kg of downforce at 200km/h, and the 997 was designed to have no more than negative lift, the 991 was all about the downforce. 330kg of it at maximum speed. That’s now risen to 500kg for the latest car.
More controversially, this was also the car that introduced the PDK twin clutch gearbox, thus creating Porsche’s current manual vs PDK dilemma and leading to the creation of machines such as the 911 R. A different, more polished driving experience to the earlier cars, but still, in the grand scheme of things, right up there.
Price when new: £131,296
Engine: 4.0-litre flat six, 493bhp
Transmission: 7spd PDK twin clutch, rwd
Max speed: 310km/h
Nürburgring time: 7mins 12.7secs
2018 Porsche 911 991.2 GT3 RS
Anyone else think this might just be the best looking GT3 RS of all? Maybe it’s the Naca ducts in the bonnet. Another point in question: you’d imagine that the big jumps in GT3 RS development would come from one generation to the next, and yes, that’s where the fundamentals change – the switch to PDK gearboxes and so on. But these mid-life updates are astonishing for how they hone and sharpen the character and abilities of the car. It happened with the 997, and it’s happened again with the 991.
A rethink of the suspension set-up has made the front end way more precise and helped the car have a much more mid-engined balance. Gone is the understeer of the original 996 GT3 RS. With this one there are no foibles you have to drive around, just a hardcore focus on speed. The question for Porsche is surely where to take the next generation GT3 RS. Perhaps mid-engined like the RSR racer? Thoughts below, please.
Price when new: £141,346
Engine: 4.0-litre flat six, 513bhp
Transmission: 7spd PDK twin clutch, rwd
Max speed: 312km/h
Nürburgring time: 6mins 56.4secs
Story OLLIE MARRIAGE