STUTTGART, Germany — We are finally face-to-face with the upcoming, 700-horsepower Porsche 911 GT2 RS, and this isn’t just a Turbo with some extra grunt. Indeed, a wild ride from Stuttgart over the Swabian Alb to Munich suggests this latest forced-induction 911 is about to turn the high-performance sports car world upside down.
The days when Porsche fitted two grab handles to every 911 are long gone, but that doesn’t mean passengers are chucked out the window during hard driving. Thank the GT2 RS’s red safety belts, deep bucket seats, and firm belief in what modern technology can do for active safety. Not to mention the driving skills of the pro at the wheel, Uwe Braun, project manager of Porsche’s GT car development department.
If you think the new 500 hp/339 lb-ft 911 GT3 peels tarmac like nothing else, you’re in for the shock of your life as soon as the GT2 RS’s 700 hp of power and 553 lb-ft of torque grab you by the bowels. Despite the related nomenclature, the GT3 and the GT2 RS are worlds apart thanks to the power and torque differences. Just consider: the GT2 RS, Porsche says, can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds and reach 212 mph. The GT3 needs 3.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, and tenth or two more to reach 62, and tops out at 197.
While the GT3 engine is a dedicated player of high-mech music, the GT2’s 3.8-liter unit sounds more like Wagner meets techno: wicked, evil, thudding, dark, and rumbling. The twin-turbo 24-valver is one loud acoustic menace, and that’s with the exhaust in its conservative setting. Open the flaps, and a sudden scream-screech-shriek attack introduces you to partial deafness in one easy lesson. Wafting hoarsely through villages at a bassy 2,000-rpm roar is so intensely resonant that it almost hurts. But as soon as you unleash the engine, the boxer turns up the volume as it coordinates this quite specific soundtrack which climaxes in a real decibel tornado. Give it serious stick for a mile or two, and the two catalysts behind the four obese tailpipes begin to glow dark red. Think of it as visualized emotion, almost in the blink of an eye.
The RS acronym, as you might know, stands for Racing Sport, the domain of GT division boss Andreas Preuninger and his team. They did a thorough job radicalizing spring and damper rates to almost the same effect as the Cup-spec race car, as well as stiffening the suspension and drivetrain mounts until most of the compliance was gone, selecting ultra high-performance tires supplied by Michelin or Dunlop, enlarging all cooling and ventilation ducts, and fitting a set of extrovert aerodynamic aids which look wilder still on the real thing. Even though a strict carbon-fiber diet helps keep the curb weight at less than 3,300 pounds, extra money buys a 918-inspired Weissach pack that sheds another 45-plus pounds. The pack includes composite sway bars, a titanium rollcage, magnesium wheels, and a thinner roof skin. While masochists may delete air conditioning, navigation, and radio, coach potatoes are invited to pay extra for electrically adjustable comfort seats.
For almost an hour in the car, Braun is happy talking tech and telling anecdotes. But a couple of clicks on the downshift paddle, and the GT2 RS roars itself awake. Full throttle in second gear, wah-wah-wah up to 7,000 rpm, 200 rpm still to go to the limiter. Repeat the action in third, which produces a hard kick in the butt followed by an everlasting fast-forward thrust. Then the car is into fourth very briefly before it finally runs out of increasingly narrow road. Now hard on the brakes, Braun holds them until the digital speedo reads a socially and legally acceptable 75 mph. What in the world was that? Less than nine seconds from zero to 125mph? This is truly unreal stuff.
BB-PW 7743 is one of 18 prototypes. It has just more than 3,800 miles on its clock, but if the bodywork’s condition is anything to go by, this GT2 RS has spent most of its life driving to and from torture chambers. As soon as Braun lowers his window, the partly camouflaged black hull fills with sounds that resemble an orchestra rehearsal gone terribly wrong. Downshifting a gear makes the transmission clap its lightweight friction plates; sudden lift-off prompts a metallic clonk-clonk not unlike rattling a sack full of antlers; and when still cold the carbon-ceramic, sombrero-size brake discs chafe like hungry beavers. Completing this trademark street music are the tires (265/35 R20 front and 325/30 R21 rear), which smack and drum and trumpet in sync with the suspension.
On a three-lane stretch of autobahn, we very briefly witnessed an indicated 217 mph, which felt like the final phase prior to lift-off, but the car’s maximum total combined downforce has actually increased to about 770 pounds, two-thirds of which rest on the wide tail. The next stage of our drive takes us East-West across the roller-coaster landscape of the Swabian Alb which even today remains 90-percent nature and only 10-percent cultivations. Again Braun puts the hammer down hard, fusing longitudinal and lateral acceleration to stunning wide-eyed episodes which get a lot of clicks over the next few days on the YouTube channel inside my head. After all, this 911 is in essence an old-school, high-octane machine which rides the road with elegance and reassuring exactness.
This Porsche can do a lot of things wannabe rivals fail to match. But what really separates the GT2 RS from the flock is the way it delivers these goods. Take the steering, which reads the road with the accuracy of a 3D plotter. In this car, input equals output, irrespective of velocity and terrain. Entry speeds into corners are fast-forward viral videos; lateral grip exceeds all physical and mental thresholds gathered in the course of a long life at the wheel of fast cars. And just when you are absolutely certain the moment has come to pay the price for the driver’s folly and for the insane 39/61-percent front-to-rear weight distribution, the rear-wheel steering interacts with a casual stabilizing gesture. The brakes combine deceleration that feels like you’ve crashed into a wall with tactile modularity and instant feedback.
When Braun starts pushing his baby to what I figure must be the limit, the experience is all about trust and wonder. Trepidation recedes eventually, and my brain and muscles relax. After all, the fully variable rear differential lock puts the torque down without angry gestures. The tires feel as though they must have been developed in close cooperation with a superglue manufacturer. The rear axle, located on uniball joints, traces the front axle with uncanny accuracy. The aero kit produces enough downforce to keep the car’s nose riveted to the blacktop and to suppress any trace of waywardness. In seventh gear, riding the mighty torque wave, this wide-bodied destructor qualifies as the new grandmaster of poise.
Still, with so much power and speed available, a racetrack is required to enjoy the 911 GT2 RS to the full. True, you could check a suitable stretch of public road for loitering police before embarking on a no-holds-barred return run. But a residual risk always remains, and it is not worth taking. No matter where you go in this car, you must bear in mind that the standard cup tires limit ambitious driving to reasonably warm temperatures and dry weather. In addition, it certainly will take patience and practice to adjust to the quicker bite, the faster pace, and the less-forgiving nature of the baddest modern 911 — a car that was sold out long before the order books opened. The 2018 GT3 RS may be almost as challenging and rewarding, but at the end of the day it’s the 200 extra horses, the relentless push, and the prompt PDK-gearbox action that put the GT2 RS on a pedestal of its own. We have seen it coming for some time, and now here it is: the definitive incarnation of the turbocharged six-cylinder boxer engine, and of Porsche’s range-topping sports car.