For a car that occupies such a tiny niche within a niche within the vast 911 family, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS sure has become a massive thing.
The RS’s carbon-fiber fixed rear wing has grown to near-ridiculous dimensions; each recent generation has seen it become more conspicuous, the struts on which it’s mounted pushing the wing farther into the clear air. The body has swelled in every direction to the point that, piloting the car along the narrow paths that serve as roads on the Isle of Man, the new RS’s 74.0-inch width makes it feel as if it’s taking up three-quarters of the surface. So be mindful around those blind corners. The displacement of its naturally aspirated engine has increased over the years to 4.0 liters (up from the 2.7 of the original RS from 1973). The engine in the last-generation GT3 RS from 2016 also displaced 4.0 liters, but for 2019 the unit is substantially updated and awarded 20 more horsepower, for a total of 520.
Depending on your perspective, the RS engine gets a 20-hp boost compared to the standard 911 GT3 or the GT3 gets a 20-hp haircut compared to the RS. The engines are almost identical. Both receive new pistons and rings, a solid valvetrain with shims for valve-clearance compensation (in place of hydraulic adjustment), a stiffer crankshaft with a larger main bearing, wider and thicker connecting-rod bearings, and plasma-coated cylinder liners. Compared with the last RS, Porsche also bumped up the compression ratio, from 12.9:1 to 13.3:1. The 20-hp gap between the current GT3 and the GT3 RS comes down to electronics and a different exhaust system. The RS’s exhaust also gets titanium tailpipes, the inside of which turn the loveliest cobalt blue from prolonged exposure to heat. The car sounds so good at higher revs-you can twist the engine to 9000 rpm-that we let out a completely unintentional “Whoo!” once we reached the upper reaches of the tach, and our co-driver had to remind us to back out because of a quickly approaching corner. It’s that fantastic.
That extra power, we estimate, chops a whopping 0.1 second off the previous GT3 RS’s zero-to-60-mph time. The last GT3 RS we tested did the deed in three seconds flat.
Not that this, or any other RS, is a drag racer. This is a track-day destroyer. Its cornering grip is, well, massive. We weren’t able to run numbers on the car, but we’re willing to venture a guess that it’ll score higher than the 1.08 g that we achieved with the last RS. That grip starts with a new generation of either Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 or Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2 gumballs. Sized 265/35ZR-20 up front and 325/30ZR-20 at the rear, either tire is qualified for the track and acceptable on the road, assuming the weather is okay. The front and rear suspension systems use metal ball joints in place of all-rubber pieces (the last-generation RS retained some rubber up front). Stiffer front and rear springs quell body roll, despite the new RS’s less aggressive front anti-roll bar.
With its carbon-fiber rear ironing board, larger front spoiler, front fender-top vents, and new rear underbody diffuser, the RS produces double the downforce at 124 mph of the already pretty downforce-y standard GT3. The upshot is that the front end has more grip and feels better settled than any 911 we’ve ever driven. There’s a rock-solid steadiness-a seriousness-to the experience. Quicker steering than the previous GT3 RS and retuned rear-wheel steering give the RS a level of nimbleness that helps make it feel slightly less massive than it is.
In keeping with the theme, the brakes, are, yep, massive. Six-piston calipers up front and four-piston units in the rear squeeze 15.0-inch iron rotors. Or you could opt for carbon-ceramic rotors, 16.1 inches in front and 15.4 inches rear, for an additional $9210, like those on the cars we drove. The pedal feel is perfect.
The car feels like it could handle a lot more than 520 horsepower. That’s because it can. It’s essentially the same vehicle as the turbocharged 700-hp GT2 RS. We suppose there are probably circumstances in which you’d really appreciate the extra 180 horsepower, but believe us when we tell you that 520 is plenty in this car on public roads. Plenty.
Naturally, the GT3 RS is available only with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, because the DCT is faster than a manual on the racetrack, no matter who is rowing the gears. Want a manual? Well, it’s available in the regular GT3.
There are some modifications compared with the earlier GT3 RS, which was also based on the current 991 generation (technically, this car falls under the 991.2 designation). The frunklid is now pierced with NACA ducts that feed cooling air to the front brakes. There are actually brake-cooling ducts under the nose as well, but they are downsized from those of the last RS. The combination of the NACA and underside ducts results in greater air volume with lower aerodynamic drag. Also, NACA ducts look cool. The louvers of the fender-top vents now bulge proud of the top of the fender. But otherwise, the new car looks pretty much just like the last one.
The RS starts at $188,550, about $40,000 more than a GT3 and more than $100,000 less than a GT2 RS. If you want to spend more, you could always order the $18,000 Weissach package, which swaps the painted magnesium roof for a carbon-fiber panel and carbon-fiber anti-roll bars for the conventional ones. A splash of carbon interior bits and Weissach logos and plaques round out the bundle. Ordering the Weissach stuff unlocks the option for magnesium wheels, which cost an additional $13,000.
The RS’s look is, er, extroverted. Low and wide and accented with exposed carbon fiber and various aero addenda, the thing is never going to be pretty. But it is purposeful in appearance, and RS cars have always been the outgoing sort, offered in eye-popping color combos. That’s of course true of this new car, and if you want truly massive attention in your new GT3 RS, you’ll opt for the $4220 Lizard Green paint. It’s a green so green it would embarrass a Dodge Viper. It’s kinda perfect here.
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