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21st of November 2017

Automotive



2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS first drive: Purposeful perfection

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The 911 GT2 RS is too loud. At highway speeds, wind noise is quickly overwhelmed by burdensome tire whine, which itself is only outdone by the droning exhaust note. This is a cacophonous car, and if you have a long enough commute, your ears might ring. But then again, maybe you deserve ringing ears because you decided to commute in one of the most capable, exhilarating cars on our beloved earth. Shame on you for sullying this epic Porsche’s good name with such plebeian work!

New for 2018, the 991-chassis based GT2 skirted the schedule set by the previous 997 generation and jumped straight to the most extreme RS model embued with the most extreme specs. 3800cc’s of engine displacement generate 700 horsepower at 7000 rpm (for reference, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which we love, makes 707 hp, but does so with the help of an additional 2.4 liters). Equally mighty, there’s 553 lb-ft of torque available between 2500-4500 rpm.

Digging into the details, you’ll find the usual array of tech like variable valve timing and lift. But basically, Porsche powertrain engineers made this much power by cramming 22.5 psi of compressed air into all six cylinders all while maintaining a relatively high 9.0:1 compression ratio. I believe we have to thank modern computing power for precisely controlling combustion and mitigating detonation without the safety net of a lower compression ratio or reduced boost.

Only one transmission is available in the GT2 RS and it’s not a manual. The seven-speed PDK (dual-clutch transmission) is the gearbox du jour for the first time in any GT2. Power then channels through a trick, electronically controlled limited-slip differential and spins funny-car wide 325/30ZR21 rear tires on 12.5-inch wheels. 265/35ZR20 tires wrap around 9.5-inch wheels in front.

More than motor, Porsche rid most of the suspension of simple rubber bushings, replacing them with steel ball joints, that, along with lightweight suspension links yanked from the GT3 RS, bridge the gap of response between road and race car. Dynamic engine mounts stiffen up under high lateral loads to keep the engine from becoming a pendulum. And rear-wheel steering helps stabilize the GT2 at the high speeds common in a car with a weight-to-power ratio of 4.6:1.

Among the other highlights, the ceramic brakes are barely worth mentioning, but they come standard and are massive: 16.1-inch rotors in front, 15.4-inches in back. Yet they weigh about half as much as the iron system mounted on the 911 Turbo S. Seeking similar benefits, exhaust flows through a titanium system, saving 15 pounds. Even the inside door handle is a simple, and light, strap. Oh, and switching from all- to rear-wheel-drive helped too. Added together, the full-of-fuel curb weight is 3241 lbs., 286 lbs less than the 911 Turbo S.

Still too heavy? Well maybe you have $31,000 weighing down your wallet. In that case, opt for the Weissach package. Doing so changes the roof, front and rear anti-roll bars, shift paddles, and tie-rod ends to carbon fiber. Furthermore, aluminum alloy wheels are traded for magnesium. The package sheds about 40 extra pounds. Boasting of said shedding comes courtesy of a stripe on the front trunk lid and roof, as well as “Weissach RS” embroided on the seat’s headrest.

Weissach or no, the inside is full of purpose. The seats come with deep bolsters both low and high, so once you’re in, you’re snug. The down side, of course, is unavoidably awkward egress. The steering wheel is very comfortable in your hand. It tilts and telescopes its way to the perfect position. One nice touch, the red “tape stripe” that runs around the steering rim at the top, just like a race car.

Also like a race car, Porsche will sell you the GT2 without air conditioning or a radio, which, again, saves weight and gives you a little extra track rat credibility. The radio would not be missed -- this particular boxer six went through rigorous voice training and belts out a baritone beat with bravado. Air conditioning?  Well, depends on your local climate.

Porsche sent us to the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao Portugal to test track credibility and the GT2 RS delivered in spades. It provides neutral balance and confident braking and intense straight-line acceleration. Just be careful not to turn in too quickly, as the car responds to your inputs aggressively and will snap the rear loose, which in turn sends stability control ablaze.

Slow your hands down, however, and the rear-end remains stable, holding the road with duct-tape-like adhesion. Turn-in is what requires patience, in the relative sense at least, because the car behaves brilliantly at track-out. Feeding power in keeps the rear stable and the car can exit every corner with mega speed. You almost think it’s still has all-wheel-drive.

Braking, too, is highly competent and forceful. This is a good time to thank the engineers for all of the weight savings employed, since even if you brake deep, the pedal feel remains constant and linear. I felt zero fade. That’s despite reaching insane-for-a-road-car speeds down the Algarve front straight.

The pull seems endless; approaching turn one, a quick glance at the speedometer showed 274 kph (kilometers per hour) and my foot was still matted another few moments before stabbing the brakes with “I don’t want to die!” urgency. It was easily better than 280 kph, which is 173 mph, which is not slow for a jetliner taking off, let alone a car on the road.

Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Now I have something to say that may offend some: I didn’t miss the manual transmission.

Before the mob forms, hear me out. There’s so much power, shifts come quickly and changing gear would keep any driver quite busy on the track. The computer for the PDK, on the other hand, has the time and is like minded to my choice of gear and happy to take care of it. Secondly, the automatic gave me the chance to left-foot brake full-time, which I vastly prefer. Sometimes you want throttle, other times brakes, and you never know when you might change your mind in a hurry.

With a production car Nordschleife lap record under its belt, I’m sure the GT2 RS’ track prowess surprises no one. But it’s even better on the road; a splendid machine to experience. Even with all the intimidating stats, it’s easy to quickly feel comfortable and connected to the car. The whole 'man and machine as one' shtick totally applies here.

If forced to point out a fault, there is a small dead spot on-center in the steering at higher speeds, which is otherwise connected, solid, and fantastic. But in reality, it’s hard to find anything wrong with a Porsche possessing supercar capability (0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds, 0-124 in just 8.3, 211 mph top speed) and yet is no harder to drive than any other 911.

2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS This is the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Porsche used Goodwood’s 2017 Festival of Speed for the 2018 911GT2 RS global reveal.The 3.8-liter flat-six is based on the Turbo S. Porsche’s GT department added larger turbos and goosed ...

Epic cars like this do not come cheap, of course. $294,250 is the price of entry and the Weissach Package, too enticing to ignore, adds $31,000, so we have a realistic starting price of $325,250 -- well into Lamborghini, Ferrari, and McLaren territory. Hell, we’re not that far away from the latest Ford GT. But what makes the GT2 RS stand out is how approachable the performance is.

To call the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS good is like calling the Grand Canyon a neat hole in the ground. Truth is, despite its price tag, the experience it provides converges on priceless. If you ask Saturday Night Live’s Stefon, he’d agree, this 911 GT2 RS has everything: center-lock alloy wheels, an intercooler with its own water cooling system, up to 1000 lbs. of downforce at top speed, NACA duct brake coolers...maybe even MTV’s Dan Cortese.

Robin Warner

Robin Warner - Robin Warner is Editorial Manager at Autoweek. He once tried and failed to become a professional race car driver, but succeeded in learning about debt management and having a story to tell. A former engineer, Warner loves cars for their technology and capability. See more by this author»

Base Price: $294,250

As Tested Price: $325,250

Powertrain: twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter flat-6, 7-speed PDK, RWD

Output: 700 hp @ 7000 rpm, 553 lb-ft between 2500 - 4500

Curb Weight: 3241 pounds

0-60 MPH: 2.7 seconds

Options: Weissach Package, $31,000

Pros: Amazing car to experience, beautiful to drive

Cons: More than triple the price of a base 911

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