Forza Horizon. We compare two of the most extreme Rennsport 911s ever – the second generation 991 GT2 RS and GT3 RS. Which is best in the real world? Story: Simon Jackson. Photography: Dan Bathie.
2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS 991.2 vs. 911 GT3 RS 991.2 As we welcome the new 911, we also drive the wildest versions of its predecessor… We compare two of the most extreme Rennsport 911s – the current iteration of 991 GT2 RS and GT3 RS. In the real world which is the best fast road 911?
A[/dropcap]cross the dimly lit hotel car park I see that, despite virtually subzero temperatures, one of the resident’s bedroom windows is ajar. It’s not long after 5am on a silent Sunday morning in late October and, a split second before I twist the 911’s ignition key a pang of guilt washes across me. I picture the sleeping occupants inside the room as I crank our Miami Blue 991 GT2 RS into life, its blare inevitably waking them with a nasty start. My guilt is shared with another. A couple of parking spaces over a colleague soon fires our Lizard Green 991 GT3 RS into life, turning my automotive solo into a musical double act the likes of which few in our sleepy Welsh hotel will appreciate – not least at this ungodly hour. Forward gears are quickly selected and, with as little further fuss as possible, we negotiate our way out of the hotel car park leaving our fellow guests with their unrequested alarm call.
Around the corner appears into view an old narrow street with rows of terraced cottages either side of the road, the bark of our combined 1,220 horsepower reverberates off ragstone walls and shakes sash window frames. A women giving her dog an early morning walk looks at our brightly-coloured convoy, with aerodynamic wings protruding from every angle, lashings of carbon fibre and searing LED headlights, with utter contempt. If this entire village hasn’t been rudely awakened by our Stuttgart sound-off then it will be some kind of miracle, but we have somewhere to be. Our destination is the Brecon Beacons for first light, a particular spot where we can photograph the sunrise bathing early morning light over the famous mountain range in South Wales and, most importantly, across the form of these two wild Rennsport 911s – amongst the most extreme road-going GT Porsches yet created.
“Our combined 1,220 horsepower reverberates off ragstone walls and shakes sash window frames”
Fast Porsches come in all shapes and sizes these days, but seldom do GT badged cars disappoint, in fact anything to emerge from the firm’s Rennsport department has for decades now not only proved a rewarding steer but game changing too. Just a few years ago we were treated to the first generation 991 GT3 RS, a hair-raising bit of kit that for many redefined the fast road / track car genre. The second-generation 991 GT3 is in many ways all the 911 you might ever need, and yet its toughened RS counterpart, released earlier this year, takes things a stage further.
This RS somehow manages to improve upon the perfection of its predecessor. The figures for the first generation GT3 RS and second generation GT3 are largely identical, such is the progress these cars make. Power from the 4.0-litre flat-six naturally aspirated engine is up from 500hp to 520hp between the first and this, the second generation RS, with a gain of 8lb ft to 347lb ft of torque. The old car revved to 8,250rpm, this latest car will hit a screaming 9,000rpm – Porsche says that this GT3 RS is as close to its track-only 911 GT3 Cup relative than any car before it – such comments it does not make lightly. The book figures serve to drive home the point; 0-62mph is chalked-up in 3.2-seconds, one-tenth of a second quicker than the old version, if you’re brave enough to keep your foot buried into the bulkhead it will reach a top speed of 193mph. But what does it actually feel like in the real world?
Unsurprisingly it feels quick – bloody quick. Despite running an almost unbelievable 180hp and 206lb ftdeficit to the Blue GT2 RS pictured here (which we’ll come to in due course), the naturally aspirated nature of the GT3 RS helps it deliver a driving experience which throughly heightens your sense of speed. But you don’t need to wind it all the way to 9,000rpm in every gear for it to feel fast, far from it. It is only available with a PDK automatic transmission (a specially-calibrated seven-speed affair) but even as it cycles up the gears on three-quarters throttle, its gravelly, screaming engine note blasts you between the ears. This second generation car benefits from subtly revised engine internals designed to make it feel tighter, rawer even, this is Porsche’s most powerful naturally aspirated engine to date but it’s also perhaps its most sensory – or have I just become accustomed to the world of quiet turbocharged 911s? Either way the sense of occasion that bursts from this engine combines with a reworked suspension setup to deliver a thrilling drive. The chassis takes inspiration from the GT2 RS in aiming to deliver what Porsche calls ‘agility’ – it has solid ball joints on all of its suspension arms which ultimately assist a more responsive, yet stiffer, ride than its predecessor. It is naturally more likely to be upset by imperfections in the road surface I find, translated through the (as usual) sublime steering. This heightens the ‘race car on the road’ feeling from behind the wheel and, somewhat oddly, adds to its appeal and credentials as a thoroughbred sports car.
Porsche has also tweaked the car’s rear axle steering system.
It all serves up a driving experience that commands respect, but one which quickly inspires confidence. The GT3 RS comes to life the further you push it, it’s as if you can feel parts of its makeup beginning to come to life underneath you as you build speed, attack corners and begin to drive it harder and harder. It keeps your ambitions in check though, constantly reminding the driver of its rawness and motorsport pedigree with a twitch here or a bite there. At times it’ll pick up ruts in the road and tram line in a way I don’t recall of the old car –perhaps the result of the larger 20-inch diameter wheels (and whopping 21-inches out back) with low profile tyres wrapped around each corner – but with that in mind Porsche has struck a balance that works here. The truly electrifying aspect of this car’s driving experience comes in the final 4-500rpm of the rev range, it dares you to keep your foot pinned as a rising crescendo of induction noise accompanies, but it’s also true that you’ll seldom get to visit that neck of the woods on the road if you at all value your driving licence. The ultimate (and perhaps final?) naturally aspirated 911, undoubtedly. The best modern Rennsport 911? Let’s see…
I’d been warned about the GT2 RS. Not only does it look aggressive but it drives that way too, I was told. Nevertheless I jump in and line it up for a blast across the Welsh mountain passes. It’s barely above three-degrees outside but, having just been injected with a dose of confidence from sending the GT3 RS across the same piece of road, I’m less intimidated than perhaps I should be. I launch it in a straightline, wheel diligently positioned at the ‘10-to-2’ position , right foot planted most (if not all) of the way to the floor. The torque from the 700hp 3.8-litre turbocharged engine arrives at about 2,500rpm, I can’t say if it was already sideways or not at that point but I do recall offering hasty correction on the wheel, backing off, changing up to second gear and then nailing it once again. The same process repeats, the rear stepping out as its tyres (designed to operate in far warmer climes) break traction for a second time, now while we travel a bit quicker – 62mph is racked up in just 2.8 seconds – and our exciting snake evens out into a slither, then a straight line as 553lb ft of torque powers us brutally up the road (side note: 99mph can be reached in 5.8 seconds!). If I wanted we could continue on to 211mph.
Undoubtedly it’s easier to be travelling quicker than you realise here, the turbocharged setup mutes the engine note and that acts a bit like having one of your senses removed, twisting your ability to determine speed.
Unlike the GT3 RS there’s no shrill roar, rather the whistle from the turbos seems to build in intensity as your pace increases. Air rushes and whooshes around the cabin – it’s deceptively quick. When it’s really on song the intake noise is honestly like an aircraft taking off, just a quarter throttle gets it building speed quickly. Through the view from the driver’s seat looks familiar, this is clearly a very different RS to the Lizard Green car I’ve just stepped out of…
The fastest and most powerful road-going 911 ever built does not, upon first inspection, look a million miles apart from its naturally aspirated GT3 RS relation. Both share the 911 Turbo’s wide hips, both wear spoilers and sport purposeful louvres, and yet there’s something extra aggressive, something more emotive about the GT2 RS. And it’s not just that this car, unlike its green friend, boasts the Weissach Pack. It just draws you in.
Porsche revealed the GT2 RS in the middle of 2017, taking as its starting point the second generation 991 Turbo S, it’s a model we haven’t seen the likes of since the 997 of the same name back in 2010. The new car’s credentials are impressive – as we know it can lap the 12.9- mile Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in six minutes 47.3 seconds – but this is more than just a 911 Turbo crossed with a GT3 RS, much more. The GT2 RS majors on handling and balance alongside dynamic engine technology, this has seen the 3.8-litre bi-turbo flat-six engine from the Turbo S fitted in this instance with larger turbos and a water spray system for the intercooler. The system sprays water onto the intercooler when the engine is under heavy load to cool its charge temperature, thus aiding performance. Not that this 911 should struggle with its breathing, vast front air intakes feed radiators and oil coolers, while vents on the rear haunches are joined by those enlarged ones on the rear deck lid and NACA ducts on the bonnet. They all direct as much air as possibly to the mechanicals.
Added to this comes a free-flowing titanium exhaust system which is more straight-through than around the houses – the use of titanium shaving 7kgs off the car’s total weight (1470kg). These advents combine to see the GT2 RS running 120hp more than the Turbo S with which it shares its engine – enough to propel your average family hatchback with relative ease. A revised seven-speed PDK gearbox deals with all that, offering seamless gear changes with no option for a manual – but that’s by the by as you truly wouldn’t want a manual ‘box here anyway. For the avoidance of doubt despite using the wider four-wheel drive 911 Turbo shell, only the rear wheels are driven on the GT2 RS, and that’s partly what makes this car such an animal. In a bid to keep it on the road Porsche has provided four-wheel steering and a reworked stability control system specific to the model, and of course there are all those functional aerodynamic elements working away to keep the thing sucked to the ground. The bonnet, front wings, mirrors, and rear vents are all crafted from carbon fibre, like the GT3 RS here the roof is made from magnesium. However, the £21,042 Weissach Package (as fitted to ‘our’ Miami Blue car here) shaves weight – 30kgs to be exact. That is mainly achieved via the fitment of carbon fibre front and rear anti-roll bars (as opposed to steel items), a carbon fibre roof and magnesium wheels. Inside the roll cage is lighter too being made from titanium not steel, to finish the paddles and spokes on the steering wheel are carbon fibre too. As you’d expect PCCB carbon ceramic brakes are standard issue – handy when you’re trying to stop something with 700 horsepower…
“When it’s really on song the intake noise is like an aircraft taking off…”
Any road car with this kind of power is going to seem quick, but with 100hp more than even the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Series – the more powerful special edition of the common or garden Turbo S – the GT2 RS feels utterly mighty. The way it translates its power to the road is impressive to say the least, but moreover despite its similar appearance it manages to feel like an entirely different car to the GT3 RS. That’s really driven home to me after driving the pair back-to-back. Following the GT2 RS along the road in the GT3 RS it’s possible to kid yourself into thinking that they’re in the same performance league – in reality the GT2 RS is on a higher plain. As it takes off from a rolling start on our cold Welsh mountain range, the GT2 RS coughs condensation from its massive exhaust pipes, clearing its throat before disappearing up the road. From the driver’s seat it moves around a lot, you feel the road surface intimately, more so with the Sport chassis engaged – mostly this should be reserved for track use. This level of communication between road surface and steering wheel serves only to make the whole experience more visceral, heightening your sense of speed. The car feels lighter than the GT3 RS, especially on its nose, yet this Weissach Pack car is actually 10kgs heavier than our GT3 RS. The steering is generally lighter though I feel which makes it all seem lean and purposeful. Ultimately though there’s a technological vibe while driving this car, it’s as if you can feel the CAD assisted boffins calculating airflow live as you drive, when you jump out after a hard blast it continues to roar as its intakes suck air into their huge vents, its an aggressive, almost living thing this car – like an athlete who has just finished a 100 metre gold medal sprint.
We set out to determine which of these fast GT 911s is best in the real world – it’s perhaps an impossible task to compare vehicles of this calibre. Ultimately both feel like racing cars toned-down just a smidgen for the road, not road cars with racing DNA. Importantly choosing which is the most exciting or rewarding on the road shouldn’t simply be a case of determining which is faster. Porsche sports cars have long been about more than mere outright speed, they’re about the driving experience they deliver as a whole – they’re about the senses they transmit to the driver, how they make you feel just as much as they’re about how they go about their business. As mighty as the GT2 RS is, as devastatingly quick and technologically impressive as it might be, its turbocharged nature means it doesn’t have the same soulful feel as the GT3 RS. The way the naturally aspirated car howls its way down the road at 9,000rpm is true Porsche thoroughbred in my book. Hair raising stuff. That said, as amazing as the GT3 RS is in every respect, it doesn’t feel as special, overall, as the GT2 RS – when you drive the turbo GT car here you feel totally invincible, it redefines your notion of what constitutes a fast car. Put simply you know you’re piloting something amazing – a car for the coffee table books, supercar annals and history books.
That point was hammered home to me during our photoshoot – a whole day of messing about with these two amazing machines in South Wales. I lost count of the number of people who stopped to talk to us, admire the cars, take pictures, to ask if their kids could sit in them or to request we rev them in order to draw smiles across their faces. All of those people, even those who didn’t quite know what they were looking at, all of them gravitated towards the mighty GT2 RS over the GT3 RS. I guess what I’m saying is that even if you don’t know all the facts it’s clear to see that one of these two has that something extra special, something truly stirring… The 991.2 GT2 RS is a true Porsche tour de force.
“You know you’re piloting something amazing – one for the coffee table books”