2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS First Test Review: The Ultimate 911


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“It’s the alpha animal of the GT stable.” In just eight words Andreas Preuninger, the man responsible for the creation of Porsche’s surgically precise 911 GT3 and the feisty Cayman GT4, neatly sums up the staggering new 911 GT2 RS. And just one full throttle run—riding a Saturn V surge of raw, unrelenting thrust as Weissach’s 700-hp weapon streaks past 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, 124 mph in 8.3 seconds, and 186 mph in 22.1 seconds, en route to an electronically limited top speed of 211 mph—obliterates any doubt: The GT2 RS is the ultimate 911.

The new GT2 RS is an intoxicating mixture of tradition and technology, defined by the brawny twin-turbo 3.8-liter flat-six nestled under its bewinged rump. The tradition is in the concept: A turbocharged, high horsepower, two-wheel-drive 911 that recalls the spirit of the fearsome 930 of the late 1970s and builds on the reputation of the formidable 2010 GT2 RS. The technology is in the execution. The 2018 GT2 RS is the distillation of everything the best and the brightest engineers at Porsche’s Weissach R&D headquarters know about making their iconic sports car go fast.

Preuninger freely admits the GT2 RS’ turbocharged engine lacks the exquisite throttle response of the naturally aspirated, 500-hp, 4.0-liter flat-six in the GT3 RS. But, he says, that’s the whole point of the car: “It’s about having an old school turbo engine with a little lag, and a sound that is typically turbo.” It’s also about delivering a different kind of 911 performance, on and off the track: “In a GT3 you have the work through the gears, wait for your moment to overtake, but in the GT2 RS you just push the accelerator and go, no matter which gear you’re in. The acceleration beyond 120 mph cannot be matched by a naturally aspirated engine.”

After taking the GT2 RS to the omigod side of 165 mph, we can vouch for that …

Preuninger’s engineering team focused on three key guiding principles during the GT2 RS’s development—reducing weight, increasing power, and improving drivability. Although he describes the GT2 RS as partly a 911 Turbo S and partly a GT3 RS, in no way could it be described as a simple mashup. True, there are some components shared with both cars, but the GT2 RS also has a myriad of unique parts and technologies, all expressly designed to make it the fastest, most powerful 911 in history.

Ponder this for a moment: Weighing just 3,241 pounds with a full tank of gas, the new GT2 RS not only boasts more outright power than the 612-hp Carrera GT— the shrieking, edgy, V-10 powered, carbon fiber-bodied hypercar Porsche launched in 2004 to fight Ferrari’s Enzo—but also a better power-to-weight ratio. And at 4.63 pounds-per-horsepower, that power-to-weight ratio is within 10 percent of that of Porsche’s current hypercar, the 887-hp 918 Spyder hybrid. But the real genius of the new GT2 RS is not in the raw numbers. It’s how it drives.

The old 930 was all binary states; sluggish throttle response that suddenly erupted into a ferocious onslaught of power and a chassis that vacillated between terminal understeer and hair-trigger oversteer. Driving that original 911 Turbo fast, finding the balance between engine and chassis, was like walking a tightrope blindfolded over a pit full of hungry alligators. The 2018 GT2 RS is still a car that demands respect when driven with serious intent—it does, after all, have more than two-and-a-half times the power of the first-gen 930—but exploring the outer limits of its extraordinary performance envelope is more a logical examination of the laws of physics than a sweaty-palmed leap of faith into chaos theory.

The revised suspension settings, unique wheel/tire package, rear wheel steering, and aerodynamics work in concert to keep the GT2 RS planted authoritatively on the tarmac. More importantly, though, this über-911 telegraphs its punches, sending a constant stream of sensory data back through your fingers, your toes, and the seat of your pants that lets you know when you’re approaching the limits of adhesion and helps you manage the transients when you overstep them. That said, the GT2 RS still requires your full attention when you let loose that mighty engine.

The all-wheel-drive system that’s standard on modern 911 Turbos helps deliver superb stability and traction. Our hot laps in the GT2 RS on the fast and demanding 2.9-mile Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal, revealed there’s still a subtle art to driving a high-powered two-wheel-drive 911. The GT2 RS builds speed so explosively and grips so hard in steady state cornering that the effects of its unique weight distribution are amplified; you’re aware of the mass of the engine slung out behind the rear wheels more than in any other modern 911.

For our track laps, Porsche had the rear wing on the track setting to generate maximum downforce over the rear axle but left the front splitter on the normal road setting. That helped balance the GT2 RS over Portimão’s fast midcorner crests and the slightly off-camber downhill sweeper onto the main straight, provided you maintained a constant throttle—lift off, even a fraction, and the rear end instantly started dancing. Patience is just as important as aggression in the GT2 RS; understanding this, knowing when to unleash the power and when to hold back, is the key to a fast lap in this car. And it will be fast: Andreas Preuninger says the GT2 RS is on average 15-mph faster than a GT3 RS on any given racetrack.

It’s not just the 700 horsepower that’s responsible. And it’s not just the mighty 553 lb-ft from 2,500 rpm to 4,500 rpm. It’s the way they come together. The 3.8-liter GT2 RS engine makes its peak power at 7,000 rpm, at which point it’s still developing more than 516 lb-ft of torque. That’s unusually high in the rev band for a turbocharged engine and is the reason the GT2 RS feels so astonishingly quick between 6,000 and 7,000 rpm. And although it might lack the scalpel-sharp throttle response of the naturally aspirated GT3 RS engine, the turbo motor’s weapons-grade torque, culminating with that dramatic top-end punch, arguably makes the GT2 RS easier to drive fast. Even, as counterintuitive as it might seem, in slippery conditions.

“You have to drive it differently,” concedes Preuninger when asked to compare the GT2 RS to the GT3 RS. “But because it has so much torque and such a wide rev band, you can make good use of it. You can be so quick in wet and damp conditions, short-shifting because you have so much torque, and because of that you get a more stable car.”

On the road, the GT2 RS recalibrates the space-time continuum. Torque and traction hurl you out of corners, and the lightning-quick shifts of the heavy-duty seven-speed PDK transmission—it uses parts from the 918 Spyder—barely interrupt the relentless acceleration. Porsche’s unquenchable PCCB carbon-ceramic brakes—16.1-inch rotors with six piston calipers up front and 15.4-inch item with four piston calipers at the rear—are standard on the GT2 RS, and they earn their keep, hauling the car down from ridiculous velocities with impeccable consistency. The GT2 RS is one of the quickest canyon road cars we have ever driven, right up there with the Ferrari 488 GTB and the McLaren 720S.

And when you’re not driving it hard, the GT2 RS is surprisingly amenable on the road. Switched out of Sport mode and left to its own devices, the PDK transmission shuffles quickly through the ratios, riding the torque to get into the highest gear possible as soon as possible for relaxed cruising. You’ll also want to make sure the shocks are switched out of the super-stiff Sport mode—that’s calibrated only for smooth, dry racetrack work—and that the exhaust is in normal mode to muffle any booming drone on constant light throttle. Although tight, the standard ride calibration is not uncomfortable. The biggest downside to long distance cruising is road noise, a by-product of using race car-style metal ball joints for all suspension. If you want a grand turismo 911, buy a Turbo S.

The $294,250 GT2 RS comes standard with air conditioning, sat-nav, and an eight-speaker, 150 watt audio system. You can order a 12-speaker Bose system with a 100-watt subwoofer as an option, but unless you intend on sitting in your driveway listening to tunes, it’s merely adding cost and weight. Alternatively, you could opt to delete the air, nav, and audio, and save about 40 pounds, but unless you plan on only driving your GT2 RS on the track, don’t bother. You’ll still be faster than most things on the road while staying cool and knowing where you’re going. We would spend the $31,000 on the Weissach package, however. The weight savings are real, and you can feel the difference, even on the road. The Weissach package-equipped cars are just that little more alert and composed into corners and on the change of direction.

The 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS makes you wonder whether there really is a law of diminishing returns. Just when you think Porsche couldn’t possibly extract any more pace and performance out of the 911, it turns around and builds a car like this. It’s tempting to suggest this GT2 RS might be the greatest 911 ever. But all we can say is, it is until the next one.

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