The 2010 Porsche 911 GT3. Photo courtesy of Porsche
As part of a series on what I consider top rides for the 2010 Minnesota summer, today I bring you one of Porsche's most insanely tuned and exclusive sports cars, the 911 GT3 RS.
When it comes to sports cars few manufacturers come close to purity in design than Porsche. The company produces some of the world’s most iconic and famous automobiles and without doubt the 911 range is probably the most recognizable shape in the auto industry today. For decades Porsche has fine-tuned the 911 in various guises to be conceivably better than the previous incarnation, yet the basic shape hasn’t changed dramatically enough to confuse even casual observers that it remains quintessentially, Porsche.
The 911 probably owes its basic shape to the 356 which Porsche first released way back in 1948. The design and concept of the 356 was so successful that within a month of its release it had achieved a motorsport victory in its class. By the end of the 1950’s, the 356, with its air-cooled, 1.5L, 4 cylinder engine, produced a little over 100hp, and was capable of reaching a top speed of 125mph.
(A 1956 356, now a classic shape which is still embodied in the modern Porsche range. Photo courtesy of Porsche)
Move ahead just 20 years and Porsche had achieved a world first with its now famous 911 turbo coupes, which were the first series sports car to be fitted with exhaust-gas turbo charging. Porsche’s standing in the sports car segment is so well established that given their reputation for reliable engineering, many people will seek out older, used models confident that mechanically, and barring maltreatment, the vehicle is likely to have many years of untroubled motoring left ahead of it.
(Classic Porsche's, such as this 1975 911 turbo coupe, still command strong prices and are prized amongst collectors and Porsche enthusiasts. Porsche has a reputation for fitting cutting edge technology into its vehicles making it a class leader. Additionally, today Porsche vehicles receive some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings according to independent auto analyst groups. Photo courtesy of Porsche)
Furthermore, in the 911, you know you’re going to have a handful of car when you throw plenty of power into a rear-engined format making it either potentially frightening in inexperienced hands, or in experienced hands, a boatload of fun! On this basis anyone looking to purchase a real sports car can’t go wrong buying a used or new Porsche and it’s on that premise that I simply had to add a 911 in my garage for a Minnesota summer.
One of the more “pure” forms of motoring perfection from the Porsche stable has to be their latest model of the GT3 series, the RS. As Porsche’s boss of High Performance Cars, Andreas Preuninger, mentions in the You Tube video below, the GT3 is as close to the race going GT3 cup car as you can legally get in a road going car. Just listen to that engine note!
The vehicle is equally comfortable on the track as it is on the road and as you can see in the video above, despite the shorter ratio, short throw gearbox, the car is capable of really moving in a straight line. What Porsche has done here, is take the GT3, which is already a light-weight, track happy car, reduced its weight further and fine-tuned the chassis and engine to deliver more punch, more power and quite literally more car. Porsche successfully increased the width front and rear to improve the cars handling and grip levels.
I knew I was on the right track with this car when Aaron Robinson from Car and Driver, said earlier this year, “The GT3 RS with its forged tungsten suspension? Well, that’s just for crazy people.” So what’s the fuss about this beast of a car which is designed for such a niche segment of the market place and what do you get for more than 130,000 bucks?
The 911 GT3 RS is powered by a water-cooled horizontally-opposed six-cylinder 3.8L engine which produces around 450hp and will hit 60 miles an hour in about 4 seconds flat and reach an insane 192 miles an hour. It has an unofficial time of 7:33 on the famous Nordschleif track in Germany, were it averaged a little over 100 miles an hour. That time leaves it sitting in good company behind the Pagani Zonda F and a split second ahead of the awe inspiring Keoniggsegg CCX. That makes this car one of the most perfect for a blast up to Minnesota’s famous Brainerd International Raceway and if you’ve any tires left after multiple laps, a quick trip home again.
While it's a Porshce, and we see plenty of them on the roads here in Minnesota, the GT3 RS is exceedingly exclusive. I spoke with Porsche USA's Dave Engleman and asked him if demand for new the RS is strong. He admitted that they sold "413 of the last generation 911 GT3 RS (2008-2009). Yes, demand has been strong for the new 2011 GT3 RS, as we've sold 72 between March and April...."
So, you ask, is it as practical as the Mercedes SLS AMG or the Lotus Evora, which I’ve already looked at? According to various reports from the lucky few who’ve driven it, you may be surprised. The car is tame enough to use as an everyday vehicle, thanks to a stiffer chassis, improved dampening and restrictions to engine movement and thus eliminating the sudden rear end snap away which some earlier 911 models were famous for. While it is track tuned and raw compared to the average road car, most journalists have been taken aback by its levels of comfort given its race pedigree.
Porsche therefore has not deviated from its anecdotal reputation as being one of the few producers of high-end sports cars which are reliable and predictable enough to use as everyday road cars. While no expense has been spared in injecting technology into just about every system you care to name, the 911 GT3 RS remains a drivers car, and is not adorned with needless creature comforts such as air-conditioning and ludicrously loud stereo systems - unless you ask for them. Otherwise these are superfluous optional extras, besides which, that engine arguably delivers one of the best sound tracks in the business. You’ll hear it loud and clear thanks to the light weight materials used in the car’s construction which eliminate excessive sound deadening materials enhancing the race car like ambience in the cockpit.
I spoke to Maplewood Import's Porsche crew about the 911 GT3 RS. Internet Sales and Leasing Specialist Tim Frederick had this to say about the RS: "Porsche first produced a Carrera RS in 1973 as a requirement to particpate in GT racing. The original plan was to produce 500 specially tuned, wider body and lighter 911's. Demand was so great that Porsche ran out of light weight materials. In all 1580 911 Carrera RS's were made.
Today's Carrera GT3 RS follows that same formula with the wide body, massaged motor, luxuries stripped out, big rear wing and a Carrera stripe down the rocker panel. The Carrera GT3 RS represents Porsche's racing history, Porsche's passion. The lucky few owners are going to experience the purest form of motorsport there is."
Without doubt there’s a certain wondrous automotive purity about this car which makes it a must have if you’re still looking for the “real deal”. While it commands a high price tag and is ludicrously rare here in the USA, it seems to me that with our internationally reputable race track at Brainerd, the 911 GT3 is precisely suited to my fantasy garage for the 2010 Minnesota summer.
Don't just take my word for it though. I'll leave you to listen to Evo Magazine's Chris Harris as he invites French rally legend, Francois Delecour, to make his assessment of this fabulous machine. I think Harris' facial expressions sum it up if you don't get Delecour's delightful French accent.
What others have said about the 997 GT3 RS:
Francois Delecour French rally driving legend: "Unbelievable" "The engine, incredible."
Piers Ward, BBC's Top Gear: "There are lots of fast cars out there, lots of stripped-back racers. But what Porsche and Preuninger have managed to do is save weight, still keep a smattering of luxury and make people feel like driving gods."
Mark Hales, Telegraph.co.uk: "The more surprising thing about this year’s RS is not so much its speed - which is the subject of no doubt whatsoever - but its civilised demeanour outside the Nürburgring."
Chris Harris, Evo Magazine: "It’s impressive, then, that it’s so damn good on the road too."
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