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Hardcore new 911 variant generates more downforce than the GT3 Cup racer, but does it also generate fun?

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Midway through 2020, photos emerged of a prototype sports car bearing an inconceivably large rear aerofoil. At the time, we were unsure whether this machine was an incoming version of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS undergoing testing, or indeed a test bed for one of the race cars. In a way, the latter seemed likelier. The wing was colossal.

As it happens, this prototype was, in fact, a road car and the finished article is before you now. The GT3 RS of the 992 generation is the most ambitious 911 yet intended for the public. As is tradition at Weissach, it is an evolution of the Porsche 911 GT3. The difference this time around is that so capable, advanced and searingly quick is the GT3 that many of us wondered how much room Porsche had left itself for manoeuvre for an RS. As we’ll soon detail, Porsche’s approach wasn’t more power or weight-saving but brute downforce. 

Porsche’s laser focus on aero for this car even extends to redesigned suspension links and wishbones, each of which has a wing-like profile and helps to produce some 40kg of that 860kg of peak downforce all on their own

And boy would this car seem to deliver in that regard. The GT3 RS makes three times more downforce than the GT3. Extraordinarily, it is said to generate a similar degree of downforce to the rarefied GTE-class RSR when Porsche’s top-billing race 911 is in Le Mans trim. It is the first GT3 RS to use active aero elements at both ends and the first in which the quest for downforce extends even to the profile of the suspension wishbones. This car also marks the debut of new in-cockpit controls for the dampers and differential. 

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Clearly, the new GT3 RS sets out to redefine the track-day 911. On paper it is a fascinating machine and in the flesh looks wilder than even serial owners of previous GT3 RS iterations could have predicted. But is it all too much? Has Porsche sacrificed everything to achieve ultimate lap time, or have Andreas Preuninger and his team somehow crafted a car of truly unprecedented focus but also genuine, 911-style breadth and usability? Time to find out.

The Porsche 911 range at a glance

ModelsPowerFrom
Carrera380bhp£97,000
Carrera 4380bhp£103,000
Carrera T380bhp£107,700
Carrera S444bhp£110,000
Carrera 4S444bhp£116,000
Carrera 4 GTS473bhp£128,000
Turbo573bhp£159,000
Turbo S641bhp£180,600
GT3503bhp£146,400
GT3 RS518bhp£192,600
S/T518bhp£231,600
Gt3 R racing car558bhp€613,000

Even ignoring the Porsche 911 Dakar and Turbo-engined Sport Classic, the current 911 line-up is enormously broad. The GT3 RS is the most track-oriented, and with Porsche struggling to homologate a version of the GT2 RS for the 992, it’s possible it will remain that this, although nothing is certain.

DESIGN & STYLING

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 02 panning side

The 992-generation GT3 RS has innovations to spare but it is also the first GT3 RS to be heavier than its GT3 underling.

Granted, with the Weissach pack fitted, the difference is only 15kg on paper (but 45kg on our scales versus a Clubsport-pack GT3 with carbon buckets and ceramic discs), and when you consider that the RS has a wider body and axles, and bigger wheels, as well as the electric actuators for its active aero systems, the difference starts to look impressively slim. But still, a heavier car is not the traditional RS philosophy.

Forged magnesium wheels are part of the Weissach package and as a set are 8.7kg – or 20% – lighter than the standard forged aluminium wheels. Track-day tyres are from Goodyear, Michelin or Pirelli – but you can’t choose which brand your car arrives with.

The reason the difference isn’t greater is because of the extensive use of CFRP. The GT3 already has a carbon bonnet but the RS also uses it for doors, front wings, roof and engine cover. Weissach pack cars also have carbon rear axle parts.

In terms of powertrain, changes are incremental. For the GT3 RS, the dry-sump, naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat six is lifted from 503bhp to 518bhp by way of hotter cams. With individual throttle bodies, it spins to 9000rpm and operates through a seven-speed PDK gearbox. There is no manual option as there is in the GT3 because an RS product is all about outright performance.

Suspension is by wishbones at the front and multiple links at the rear. The car’s elongated, drop-shaped front links are aerodynamically optimised and contribute 40kg to total downforce. That total is an astonishing, McLaren Senna-beating 860kg at top speed, with 409kg offered at just 124mph. The RS also wears carbonfibre anti-roll bars far chunkier than those of the GT3.

The aero package is the result of more than 1500 simulations and 250 hours in the wind tunnel, on top of the existing knowledge derived from decades of racing downforce-generating 911s in top-tier motorsport. Central to the concept is an S-duct at the front of the car. Instead of three smaller radiators, the GT3 RS uses a single, inclined unit that occupies the space normally reserved for the 911’s luggage compartment.

This is the same concept found on the 911 RSR and GT3 R. It frees space at the flanks for active aero blades inside the venturi tunnels that can pivot through 80deg in just 0.3sec, dramatically altering front axle load. It also allows for optimised brake cooling. The rear diffuser is mostly GT3 spec, but the RS gets a fully panelled underbody.

In an unprecedented move, the driver is able to electronically adjust damper bump and rebound as well as power and coast characteristics for the limited-slip differential.

INTERIOR

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 17 interior

Drop down into the GT3 RS and it takes a moment to quell a sense of awe and get familiar with the place.

You’re nestled low, embedded in a theatrical machine. There’s a whiff of silhouette racer, which is both intimidating and exciting. It’s an atmosphere enhanced by the view forward, to industrial-looking louvres erupting from the front wings almost at eye level, and also by the view backwards, past the roll-cage and to the vast wing, with looming endplates visible not through the rear screen but through the side windows. This is a Porsche 911, but as few will have known it.

The Weissach pack brings magnesium shift paddles with magnetic haptic elements for a "crisper force-path curve". They're inspired by those in the 911 GT3 Cup, and have real tactility in the action

Ahead of you is a version of the GT3’s 360mm wheel – now with rotary controls for the adjustable suspension, driveline and chassis electronics. Beyond that, a physical tacho reads to 10,000rpm and is flanked by displays that show all manner of information but that can be reduced to the bare essentials for undistracted driving on track. To your left sits the old-world, manual-aping PDK gear selector that Porsche reserves for its GT cars. 

In the details, RS is similar to GT3. Copious Race-Tex (similar to Alcantara) is deployed, although you can have the dashboard and steering rim in smooth leather. The most exotic elements come with the Weissach pack. Filigree carbonfibre door handles that, when gripped, subtly enhance the general air of lightness; a carbonfibre-finished roll-cage that seems almost too beautiful to be functional; six-point harnesses, if you want them; and, of course, embroidered headrests.

The cabin of the GT3 RS expertly treads the line between luxury and race-ready sportiness. Storage is mediocre, mind. There’s a tiny central cubby and nets in the door cards, but that’s it. With no ‘frunk’, this is the first 911 with hot Lambo reserves of utility (ie almost none).  

Multimedia system

The new 911 GT3 RS is the first of its lineage not to offer owners the chance of going without the PCM system. This was a move traditionally done to save weight, although the ability to talk about one’s commitment to the lightweight cause was perhaps more significant than one’s ability to discern the cut kilograms…

For the 992-gen model, the infotainment system is simply too deeply ingrained into the overall functionality of the car for it to be ditched. It therefore stays, and a fine system it is too, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and a 10.9in touchscreen display neatly integrated into the dashboard. There are also USB ports in the central cubby and the only concession the RS makes to the regular GT3 is that the voice command button on the steering wheel has been supplanted by one that triggers the DRS, which is fine by us. 

The eight-speaker 150W audio system is just about adequate but struggles to cope with the car’s road roar. A 570W Bose system is optional, priced at £1152. 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 34 cornering rear richard lane

Straight-line performance and character in the GT3 RS is nearly a mirror image of the GT3’s, meaning the power delivery has a divine linearity about it.

There is also pin-sharp throttle response and occupants are treated to that distinctive, intake-generated fizz-wail as this engine approaches about 7000rpm. Things only intensify through the head room that exists thereafter, the noise hardening into a clenched fist of screaming metallic song at 9000rpm. Letting an RS rip is never anything less than memorable.

A 6ft-wide, swan-neck wing is the centrepiece of the aero package. Some 40% larger than that of the last GT3 RS, it is the tallest point on the car and wider than the glasshouse. Motorsport-grade hydraulic pistons enable DRS

And that’s just as well. With peak torque of 343lb ft arriving at 6300rpm and 518bhp available only at 8500rpm (100rpm higher than in the GT3), this is an engine that needs to be exercised, despite the marginally shorter final drive fitted to the RS. On an enjoyable road, any gear above third – which tops out at 105mph – slightly neuters proceedings, although this isn’t an issue on track, where the car thrives, feeling utterly at home. 

Porsche’s GT model-specific PDK ’box is by now familiar, shifting with an alacrity that leaves the flow of torque to the rear wheels essentially uninterrupted. It’s an unsung hero, rev matching with nothing less than sublime accuracy, and in Weissach trim it is controlled via magnesium shift paddles with new haptic magnetic elements derived from those in the 911 GT3 Cup race car. The action is meatily sprung yet clinical and accompanied by an emphatic click. It really does feel ‘motorsport’.    

Numbers? For a non-turbo car weighing 1476kg as tested (with a full tank), the GT3 RS is explosively quick. It sprinted to 60mph in 3.2sec and reached triple figures in 7.1sec. Granted, this is behind more powerful alternatives from Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren, but RS products have never been about straight-line pace alone and this is particularly true of the new GT3 RS, whose aero limits top speed to 184mph (versus the GT3’s 198mph).    

In any case, the Porsche has a secret weapon when it comes to shedding speed. Its braking performance is exceptional – particularly above 50mph, when all that downforce comes to bear. In dry but cool conditions, just 38.8m was required to come to a standstill from 70mph. This puts the Porsche in the realm of considerably lighter, even more uncompromising and equally aero-focused machines such as the Dallara Stradale and McLaren Senna.

On the road, this is of little relevance, but on the track? The ability of the GT3 RS to maintain stability while dive-bombing into corners on a forcible trailing brake can be mind-blowing.

Track Notes (Anglesey Circuit, International)

No road-legal Porsche 911 has had track driving so central to its remit. However, as a downforce car with deep configurability in its suspension and driveline, the RS isn’t as simple to hop aboard and start enjoying as the regular GT3.

You need to acclimatise to what the downforce can do in the fast corners, and the sometimes shocking amount of mid-corner throttle it permits even in slower corners. It’s the same with braking: from big speeds, you can hammer the pedal with what seems like impunity.

Gradually, you get on terms with it – with its confounding precision even under extreme dynamic duress; with its ultimately benign, front-limited balance that encourages you to push. So you lap, and you lap, and you lap.

As for lap time, Porsche claims the RS is 10sec quicker than the GT3 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. On the shorter, slower Anglesey Circuit, our car went 1.1sec quicker than the GT3, and did so in tricky conditions, with plenty of damp around. Impressive.

RIDE & HANDLING

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 02 panning side

So specialised has the 911 GT3 RS become that we will dedicate more column inches to exploring its full on-circuit capability at a later date.

For now, let’s talk about how this car works on the road – because while it wears registration plates, there are several sobering statistics for anybody who believes the 992 GT3 already flirts with being too severe.

The fruitier cams of the RS don’t just increase headline power. Look at the torque curve of this car compared with the GT3 and you will see that while the RS has lower peak torque, it actually punches harder in the upper mid-range portion of the rev range. That’s ideal for exiting corners

At its leading axle, the GT3 RS is 29mm wider in track width than the GT3. It is therefore automatically a touch harder to place on tortuous B-roads. The RS also has more substantial contact patches than not only the GT3 but even the monstrous GT2 RS of the last generation. It means you will need to work harder to access meaningful adjustability. Most concerning is that spring rates are increased 50% over those of the GT3. You begin to wonder whether this RS will even be drivable on public roads. 

Remarkably, it is. Yes, you have to be in the mood. And, no, it never stops feeling a little like a fish out of water. But if you counterintuitively avoid Normal and Sport modes, and remain in Track, where you can soften off the dampers, the RS (with its taller sidewalls than the GT3) can be pliant and deft and sometimes more forgiving than the comparatively luxurious Porsche 911 Turbo.  

Two things stand out. First, the bodyshell feels incredibly rigid. No previous 911 has imparted a sensation of such millimetrically precise wheel control. Second, and related, is that the steering response is both rapier-sharp and crystal-clear.

The rack in the RS is perhaps more vulnerable to deflection than its counterpart in the GT3, but the accuracy and sense of agility this car conjures truly is something else, and negates the generous width of the body. That is the essence of the GT3 RS: absolute precision.

Naturally, on cold or damp roads, it can struggle for purchase, and judicious use of the throttle is called for, but which track-day special doesn’t become spiky in unkind conditions? In the right conditions, the GT3 RS is balanced, fluid and locked onto your chosen line.

And while it is less inherently playful than the GT3, there are moments where, once you’re acutely dialled into the car, even on the road you can just about detect the rear wing doing its thing. Such moments are not only novel but also just a little magical.

Comfort & Isolation

On the road, the RS is broadly as loud as the GT3 and a touch quieter than the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS. It is boisterous and enveloping, but not outrageously so, and long journeys aren’t too attritional for a car of this ilk.

At track speeds (noise measured at maximum engine speed in third gear) the GT3 RS recorded 98dBA, which is identical to that of the GT3 but less ear-splitting than the 109dBA doled out by the GT4 RS – an Autocar road test record for anything with a solid roof. On track, earplugs are useful because of the piercing resonances that arise when wearing a helmet.

In terms of outright comfort, the ergonomics are beyond objective fault. Even over distance, testers found the carbon-shelled buckets agreeable. Visibility is also excellent despite the Isambard Kingdom Brunel-esque arches of the Weissach package’s roll-cage. 

Ride quality is a more intriguing matter. The GT3 is already at the limit of what might be considered acceptable for a road-legal 911, and you would expect the RS to up the ante.

However, by selecting the configurable Track mode and setting the bump and rebound behaviour of the dampers to the most leisurely ‘-4’, you will find the RS better able to breathe with the road and conjure a surprising degree of forgiveness on tricky surfaces. It’s still no S-Class, mind.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 04 tracking front low

That the lowest-priced car listed on Porsche’s UK pre-owned inventory at the time of writing costs £349,950 – and isn’t even equipped with the Weissach pack – tells you all you need to know about scarcity and demand.

Its original owner would have paid around £200k. Clearly, residuals for this most hardcore 911 are Herculean in their strength, and anybody unable to get a build slot is looking at an almighty premium on the secondary market. Lightly used versions of the previous GT3 RS look a relative bargain at £175k.

You can order the Weissach package without a roll-cage. That will save you £4000 and free up much-needed luggage space behind the seats. But could you really bring yourself to leave it out?

As for ownership, the RS comes with a four-year warranty, for which track driving won’t automatically preclude coverage. Service costs are sensible for a machine of this ilk, too, and the biggest-ticket consumable is the brakes: a set of discs and pads costs roughly £18k. 

Regarding efficiency, at a steady cruise the GT3 RS managed 26.7mpg (versus 29.2mpg for the less draggy GT3). On track, that fell to 8.1mpg, translating to 114 miles on a tank – enough for nearly 90 minutes of pure hedonism on a typical UK circuit. 

VERDICT

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porsche gt3 rs review 2023 35 static rear

So effective and often uncompromising is the regular 911 GT3 that Porsche looked to have little head room in which to conceive an even more formidable proposition.

Well, it has created the necessary head room. The GT3 RS explodes upwards into the realm of serious motorsport, mostly in respect to its aero. Never before has a road-legal 911 offered not merely an insight into but genuine exposure to race car-grade downforce, with all the high-speed precision and stratospheric commitment it can engender on track.

Along with its stellar powertrain, this is simply an epic 911 – one capable of guiding owners down an exhilarating path they are unlikely to have before trodden. Make no mistake: for fervent track-day goers, this is a five-star car.   

However, those seriously considering the GT3 RS should ask themselves two questions.

First, can you honestly live without any luggage space? A motorsport-style radiator and roll-cage rob this 911 of meaningful storage capacity, which is a shame because the RS is a surprisingly deft and compliant road car. More pertinently, might you not derive greater net enjoyment from the more playful, less ostentatious, already mighty GT3? Decisions. 

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat.