► Flat-out Porsche 911 GT2 RS preview
► Ride onboard 991.2 sledgehammer
► 0-62mph in 2.8sec, 211mph, £208k
There was a time when Porsche fitted two grab handles to every 911, but those days are long gone. What keeps you as a passenger firmly locked in position in the latest 2017 Porsche 911 GT2 RS are Lucifer-red seatbelts, a bucket seat so tight that your ribs, once hugged, don’t quite return to their original shape, and an unshakeable belief in the power electronics have to prevent what should, by rights, be several large accidents per mile. Finally there’s the driving skill of the pro at the wheel, Uwe Braun, head of development for Porsche GT.
The veteran Porsche engineer reaches for the ignition key, flashes a polished ‘trust me’ smile, and pulls the transmission lever into road-melt mode. If you think the new 493bhp and 339lb ft GT3 peels tarmac like nothing else, you’re in for a shock. Re-classify the GT3’s output as cute and ready yourself instead for the pretty intimate way in which 690bhp of power and 553lb ft of torque grab you by the bowels.
Unspooling turbine-like energy with aggressive vigour, this 911 builds enough lateral force to unseat false teeth, summons braking to paste your wig to the windscreen and unleashes enough forward thrust to permanently tattoo the outline of your Ray-Bans to your face.
Despite the related nomenclature, the GT3 and the GT2 RS are worlds apart. It’s not merely a matter of turbocharged vs naturally aspirated engine, XXL vs XL wingwork and PDK vs manual gearbox. What makes the biggest difference is the combination of nearly 200bhp more and over 200 additional lb ft of torque. If you can summon the fortitude then the GT2 RS can accelerate from 0-62mph in 2.8sec and reach 211mph. Questions, anybody?
The twin-turbo 3.8-litre boxer six fitted to the GT2 sounds like Wagner in his relatively poorly publicised techno phase. Wicked, evil, thudding and dark, the twin-turbo 24-valver is an acoustic menace, and that’s with the exhaust in its neighbour-friendly setting. Open the flaps and you risk partial deafness. Wide-eyed and breathing heavily, as a passenger you register slight nausea followed by goose pimples sprouting over arms, neck and legs.
Uncage the boxer behind your back and it turns up the volume before climaxing in a tornado of decibels. Give it stick for a mile or two and the two catalysts lurking behind the four obese tailpipes start glowing dark red, as if externalising your emotional reaction to this incredibly focused feat of performance engineering. At this point, you might need a little rest.
The RS acronym stands for Racing Sport, which is the domain of Andreas Preuninger and his team. They’ve done a thorough job of tweaking the spring and damper rates on the GT2 RS to almost the same level as those of the Cup race cars, stiffening the suspension and drivetrain mounts, selecting ultra-high-performance tyres from Michelin and Dunlop, enlarging all cooling and ventilation ducts, and fitting an outrageous set of aero aids.
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A strict carbonfibre diet has kept the kerbweight under 1500kg (more money buys the 918-inspired Weissach performance pack, which sheds another 30kg thanks to a composite roof and anti-roll bars and magnesium wheels). You can delete air-con, sat-nav and the radio, or conversely you can pay extra for electrically adjustable comfort seats. After all, the engine will barely notice the difference.
Preuninger is crystal clear on the GT2 RS remit. ‘We wanted to make a really explosive turbo engine because that can be fun,’ he says, apparently ignorant of the trend for decrying turbo engines and their blunted throttle response. ‘When you make a turbocharged engine that explodes at higher revs that can be really entertaining. On this car there is a lot of emotional components, because the sound is really like a 930 from the 1980s. I really wanted it to sound a lot different than other Turbo models, more sporty and more like the turbo era of the race cars.’
Uwe Braun is more pragmatic. For almost an hour he is happy talking tech and telling anecdotes. Once he has lulled his co-driver into partial relaxation, however, Little Red Riding Hood suddenly turns into the Big Bad Wolf. A couple of clicks on the downshift paddle is all it takes to turn my world upside-down and inside-out. Full throttle in second gear, wah-wah, up to 7000rpm, 200rpm still to go to the limiter. Repeat in third: a hard kick in the butt followed by surreally violent forward thrust. Then it’s into fourth very briefly before this awesome tarmac devourer runs out of increasingly narrow road. Now hard on the brakes and then back in Drive until the digital speedo falls back to 75mph.
What in the world was that? Less than nine seconds from zero to 125mph, and a level of excitement that’s off the chart.
The car I’m riding in (as opposed to the one you’re looking at) is one of 18 prototypes. It only has about 4000 miles on the clock, but the bodywork’s telltale scarring shows that those 4000 have been extremely hard miles. Braun lowers his visor and starts working the paddles, making the transmission clap its lightweight friction plates. A sudden lift-off prompts a metallic clonking, and when they’re cold the sombrero-size carbon-ceramic brake discs chafe noisily. The tyres (265/35 ZR20 and 325/30 ZR21) join in, smacking and drumming on the road in sync with the supernaturally effective suspension.
'We briefly see 217mph on the speedo'
On a three-lane stretch of autobahn, we very briefly see an indicated 350km/h (217mph). 217mph. It feels like the next step is actual lift-off, but in fact maximum downforce is a formidable 350kg, two thirds of which is down to the wide tail rudder alone.
Our breathless road test route takes us east to west across the rollercoaster landscape of the largely unpopulated Swabian Alb, which even today is 90% nature. When the wiry wizard from Weissach puts the hammer down hard, this 911 reveals itself to be at heart an old-school high-octane tearaway that commands the road with elegance, reassuring exactness and extreme excitement. The GT2 RS is unapologetic in its hedonism, and almost retro in the purity of its ambitions – there’s no rounded remit here, just a wanton desire to sate your appetite for unholy power with complete control.
This Porsche doesn’t just outperform would-be rivals, it does so in a way that leaves you gasping. The steering reads the road like a 3D plotter. Input equals output, irrespective of velocity and terrain. Get brave with your corner entry speeds and you’ll find unimaginable lateral grip; for me, it exceeds every threshold built up over a long life in fast cars.
And just when you are absolutely certain that the moment has come to pay the price for playing fast and loose with that insane 39:61 front:rear weight distribution, the rear-wheel steering steps in with a casual stabilising gesture. The brakes blend into-a-wall power with easy modulation and instant feedback.
Watching Uwe Braun pushing his baby to what I assume to be the very limit – and feeling the g-force tugging on any nerve ends it can grab – eventually I relax and just start believing. The variable rear diff lock puts the torque down without fail. The tyres just grip. The rear axle, located on uniball joints, is actually tracing the front axle with uncanny accuracy. The aero kit seals the bond of trust between man and machine. In seventh gear, riding the torque wave all the way from Nürtingen to Illertissen, this widebody 911 stakes its claim as the new grandmaster of unflappable poise. Can we forgive the jarring low-speed ride and the anti-social noise? Yes. Yes, we can.
It really takes a racetrack to enjoy the 911 GT2 RS to the full. And no matter where you go, the standard Cup tyres limit ambitious driving to double-digit temperatures and dry weather. In addition, it takes patience and practice to adjust to the quicker bite, the faster pace and the less forgiving nature of the baddest modern 911.
Preuninger confirms that this is – you won’t be surprised to hear – the most track-focused 911 ever: ‘The message is simple: we want to compete on the track, and we want to compete on lap times. When we did the 911R and the Cayman GT4, they were more on the emotional side and we didn’t care about lap times. We wanted to shift, and that’s an important distinction. We didn’t forget about performance, but we had our competitors saying, “Ha! Look, now they’re concentrating on stick-shift cars because they’re not fast enough!” And this is the proof positive that their thinking is completely wrong.’
The naturally aspirated GT3 may be almost as challenging and rewarding as the GT2 RS but at the end of the day the 200 additional horsepower, the relentless push, the instantaneous PDK action and the awesome aero build the GT2 RS a pedestal of its own. We have seen it coming for some time and now here it is: the most extreme high-performance road-going manifestation of the turbocharged six-cylinder boxer engine. The 911 unshackled, and barely recognisable.
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