After a half-century of 911 RS models, Porsche could be suffocated by success, bumping the ceiling of what a gasoline-powered sports car could do. The 2023 911 GT3 RS, though, is a naturally aspirated glutton for (and spectacular example of) fresh air.
Sure, the GT3 RS generates 518 horsepower from its 4.0-liter six, and 342 pound-feet of peak torque. And all that is best unleashed on a circuit such as England’s Silverstone, an F1 amphitheater that highlights this superstar’s 9,000-rpm vocal range and gripping performance. The latest RS brims with carbon fiber, including a skyscraping rear wing, most of the body panels, Race-Tex clad bucket seats, and with an optional Weissach package, the anti-roll bars. A ‘Ring-ready suspension is every racer’s dream: Aside from 50-percent firmer springs than a standard GT3, it allows on-the-fly adjustment of front or rear rebound and compression from four intuitive steering wheel knobs. Porsche Torque Vectoring offers a similar plus-minus range of settings for the electronic differential, for either coasting/braking or lock-up on corner exits.
Air is the GT3 RS’s stock in trade, the cooling breeze, vivifying oxygen and crushing downforce that links it directly to the GT3 R racer that glowers in the Silverstone paddock. Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche GT vehicles explains the obvious saying, “from the first look at the GT3 RS, you know: It’s all about aerodynamics.”
That first look socks your eyeballs like a young Mike Tyson. Another jab comes with a $225,250 price, even before the inevitable knockout blow of dealer markups. Add stuff like ceramic-composite brakes and a $33,250 Weissach package — which trims 33 pounds from U.S-spec models, to 3,235 pounds — and one Porsche here tops $304,000.
Between track sessions, I cruise the British countryside in a right-hand-drive GT3 Touring; the wingless wonder that, to the untrained or indifferent eye, could pass for a base-model Carrera. This RS will never pass, with that well-endowed wing, lurid color schemes (even the center-locking forged wheels are finished in boldly metallic crimson or blue shades) and boastful “GT3 RS” door script. Add a disemboweled hood and enough black-plastic aero bits to stock a Corvette racing shop, and this Porsche is Exhibit A in shattering those deluded souls who claim that all 911s look alike.
Porsche’s active aero management is practically a German engineer’s doctoral thesis. It starts with an industrial-size central heat exchanger that supplants the luggage frunk of a standard 911 and its three-radiator layout. The single-radiator concept is straight from Porsche’s RSR racer.
Cooling surface area drops by 32 percent, necessitating efficiency everywhere else. The radiator is tilted at an angle of 43 degrees from horizontal, to catch air through an S-duct and generate front-axle downforce. Deflecting vanes in the enormous hood nostrils prevent waste heat from shooting straight over the roof and into rear engine intakes. Some redirected air stubbornly flows up and over doors, so a pair of roof fins deflects it again. The design cuts intake temperatures to preserve at least 15 horsepower. Bladed inlets reduce pressure in front and rear wheel arches, a nod to the LeMans-winning 911 GT1. Even the signature rear fender cleavage of a 911 plays a new role, creating a vacuum to smooth aero, rather than drawing combustion air.
To pancake the rear end, the swan-neck-suspended wing is 40 percent larger than the previous RS, its upper section hydraulically activated by visible pistons. With those side radiators eliminated, a two-piece active front diffuser takes their place, pivoting to increase downforce by up to 80 percent. It works in sync with the rear wing that’s taller than the roof, another production-Porsche first, that also functions as an air brake.
There’s actually a bit more drag than the 991.2-gen RS. But the vast spectrum from the most-slippery profile to full downforce is in sight of GTE racers, and a new league for a street-going Porsche. How new? At 177 mph, max downforce of 1,895 pounds more than doubles that of the last RS, and triples a standard GT3. It exceeds the McLaren Senna’s pavement push by 131 pounds.
The racing gods, or unjust British weathermen, dampen my initial track foray, pissing rain on the historic 3.7-mile circuit just as I’m leaving the pits. That doesn’t stop me from ripping through gears, via a seven-speed PDK with shorter gearing than a regular old GT3. Sometimes, downforce gets in the way of a car that can scorch 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, an estimate that feels oh so conservative, and crack 184 mph at the top end. To goose my speed past Silverstone’s grandstand, Porsche’s new Drag Reduction System (DRS) flattens every wing. DRS automatically engages above 62 mph, 95-percent throttle, 5,500 rpm and less than 0.9 lateral g’s. Confident types can push another steering-wheel button to summon DRS, mainly for blinding sweepers where excess downforce would slow the car.
Woolen-gray clouds part for an afternoon stint. On my first-ever trip to Silverstone, where damp patches still have the RS losing traction, and mistakes in one hurricane-force corner compound irrevocably, it’s no time to play F1 hero. But I chase a Porsche factory driver anyhow, nipping 150 mph on the long straight. This RS generates tremendous mechanical grip, even on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, versus the ultra-aggressive Cup 2 R’s we’d be using on a drier, toastier surface.
The RS’ arsenal of weaponry, the alertness of its steering and chassis, recalls the Porsche Cup race car. The supple engine, whose reworked cams and shafts add 16 horses versus a GT3, turns delightfully nasty above 6,000 rpm, its redline as addictive as a lab rat’s nicotine button.
I’m not usually big on right-seat hot laps with pro drivers; they tend to feel like what I’m doing, only faster. I almost never write about them. A trip around a full F1 circuit with Jörg Bergmeister is different. The former Porsche works driver, LeMans GT-class winner and five-time-consecutive ALMS champ led driving development for the RS, and may know it more intimately than anyone alive. With the track nearly dry, minutes from closing, Bergmeister escorts me at at a violent, madcap pace, using every millimeter of Silverstone surface, nearly putting a wheel off at one point. His scary late-braking heroics make my eyes widen and organs leak fluid; there’s no way a street car can stop this quickly. But it does.
“That’s where the downforce works the most for you,” he shouts over the shrieking engine and tires. He’s having a ball. I’m wishing for one more go, and for Bergmeister to be my driving coach.
The GT3 RS has more bandwidth than any other showroom 911. It’s an onion with many sulfuric layers that will require time, skill and patience to peel, and tears for drivers who skip steps and overestimate their abilities. As for collectors and dilettantes who will happily overpay for one and barely scratch its speedy surface — or never once drive on track — to them, I wish a 911 Cabriolet with Comfort seats and leather air vents. For myself, a GT3 RS, and a long residency at Silverstone.
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