A flimsy air fence is the only thing separating my borrowed Porsche 911 GT3 RS from the baddest-ass racetrack on earth. The proximity is so tempting, you could hardly blame me for my smoldering fantasy to ditch the Nürburgring’s sterile Grand Prix circuit and hit the hallowed Nordschleife, unfettering all 512 horses on the forest-lined ber track.
I’m officially here to test Porsche’s newest RS model, but given the new Porsche’s large-scale aspirations, the Grand Theft Auto-style “What if?” becomes an irresistible reverie. The 690-hp 911 GT2 RS that plays big brother to the GT3 RS is the reigning king of the ‘Ring, with a blazing lap time of 6 minutes, 47.25 seconds, but the non-turbo GT3 RS, the most powerful normally aspirated 911 ever, is only nine seconds behind the twin-turbo range-topper. With a lap time of 6:56.4, it’s a shocking 22 seconds quicker than its predecessor and holds the third-quickest production car ‘Ring lap in history, ranking on top of the late, great, 887-hp 918 Spyder. Only the GT2 RS and Lamborghini Huracan Performante (6:52.01) have gone quicker here. Strange days, indeed.
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Comprehending the essence of the new GT3 RS requires a bit of mechanical context. Though this squat, big-winged, NACA-ducted and vented track rat bears more than a passing resemblance to the GT2 RS, its philosophical intent diverges significantly. Both cars fall under the lightweight RS (rennsport) category, claiming Porsche’s most aggressive, motorsports-derived engineering which gives it more in common with a purpose-built Cup car than a roadgoing passenger car. In fact, the GT3 RS produces 20 more horsepower than its race counterpart. Unlike the track car, the street model also packs niceties like air conditioning and a front axle lift system. But while both are configured with a purist-satisfying rear-drive layout, the GT2 RS saunters with a bit more exclamatory swagger.
“We have [customers] that are into GT cars because they like the intimacy, the immediacy of the cars,” explains GT line director Andreas Preuninger. “But there is a certain clientele for turbo and non-turbo engines. Some GT customers love the turbo punch—this animal, this King Kong car—and that’s the definitely the GT2 RS. The GT3 RS is used more as a track tool, a sport instrument. It’s more purposeful.”
To Preuninger’s point, the GT3 RS does indeed feel purposeful as it rumbles out of pit lane and onto the GP circuit. Grip the Alcantara wheel and bury the pedal, and the engine winds its way upward on a long-winded, 9,000-rpm trajectory. Unlike the GT2 RS, which emits unapologetically turbocharged wheezes, whirs, and burbles, the naturally aspirated engine explores its powerband with a linear, predictable escalation.
Cornering is an equally facile trick: turn-in with a progressive tug of the wheel, and the 3,153-pound car obeys submissively. There’s no four-wheel steer-induced exaggeration, no fat anywhere in the connection between the steering wheel and the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires—which has something to do with the rubber, but a lot more to do with the rear axle.