2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS review

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This is it, the top dog in the Porsche 911 family tree. Meet the new Porsche 911 GT2 RS, a track-focused weapon affectionately dubbed 'the widow maker'.

With a sky the colour of a depressed elephant and Portugal’s weather forecasters pointing at maps covered in raindrops, it’s fair to say that the omens aren’t good for experiencing a 700hp rear-driven Porsche 911 for the first time. And especially not one wearing a GT2 badge.

Since its first use in 1993, the GT2 badge has become associated for those of Porsche’s Motorsport-engineered roadcars which put more emphasis on power than chassis finesse, cars that use turbocharged engines to deliver brutal performance. The 996-generation, the first made in significant numbers, was wayward enough to earn itself a “widowmaker” moniker; the 997 GT2 and its RS spin-off were partially tamed, but both needed to be treated with serious respect at the limit.

The new GT2 has skipped straight to track-focussed RS spec; there won’t be a regular version. It’s also massively more powerful than any of its predecessors and considerably faster. Did I mention it was about to start raining?

The new RS showed just how much quicker it was earlier this year when it reclaimed the Nordschleife production car record for Porsche, a best lap of 6:47. That number is an astonishing 31 seconds quicker than the 997 GT2 RS managed and 10 seconds inside the previous record set by the Porsche 918 Spyder. On that basis, the new GT2 probably qualifies as a bargain, however outrageous the pricetag when it reaches Australia next year, we can be confident it will be cheaper than its hybrid stablemate.

While earlier GT2s were relatively crude beasts, the new car gets what looks, on first impressions, to be a technology overload. The 3.8-litre engine makes its astonishing peak power figure thanks to the help of a water injection system, similar to the one BMW fitted to the M4 GTS, which cools the intake charge by spraying distilled water from a reservoir at the bottom of the front luggage compartment.

Like the GT3 it has rear-wheel steering plus most of Porsche’s usual assortment of stability enhancing driver aids. Weight has been reduced wherever possible, both through lightweight materials, including the option of a carbon-fibre bonnet and roof, as well as extra thin side glass, but also clever new features including carbon-fibre anti-roll bars which come as part of the mass-trimming Weissach Package. In its lowest weight configuration, which includes doing without both air con and an audio system, the GT2 RS weighs just 1470kg on Porsche’s numbers.

It looks suitably serious, with the same top-vented front wings that were fitted to the last GT3 RS and a bonnet featuring the welcome return of that old motorsport staple, the NACA intake duct. The rear wing is huge and user adjustable, the front splitter is the biggest and most aggressive yet fitted to a road-going 911, and the exhausts have been designed so that you can see the catalysts glowing at night after hard use.

The cabin is similarly stripped-and-whipped, with lots of carbon trim but also a fair crop of switch blanks. Fabric door pulls instead of conventional handles are a nice touch, as is the Alcantara-rimmed steering wheel. If you want more toys, then you can always save a bundle and buy a Turbo S.

Any fears that Porsche might have chosen to dilute the GT2’s character to broaden its appeal are soon dispelled. The engine fires into a brooding, angry idle and throws bass-heavy harmonics through the cabin as soon as you move off.

The suspension uses motorsport grade steel ball joints instead of rubber bushings, resulting in much better precision, but also creaks and vibrations that would never be allowed in a lesser 911. The ride is very firm, even over Portugal’s normally smooth tarmac and with the switchable dampers in their standard setting. But, adding speed and increasing loading actually helps to calm the ride down.

The engine is the star feature. Motorsport Division’s road car boss, Andreas Preuninger, says he didn’t want to follow rival manufacturers in trying to hide evidence of forced induction, his development team told to build a car which celebrates turbocharging. They’ve been successful.

The engine pulls cleanly at low revs, but with little enthusiasm, with the tacho needing to be showing at least 2500rpm before the turbos start to spin. Then things start to happen very quickly as boost arrives with the suddenness of a police raid, giving the GT2 the feeling of exponential urge as its rate of acceleration starts to accelerate, and occupants start to feel increasingly serious longitudinal g-forces. Peak power arrives at 7000rpm, just 200rpm shy of the limiter. The bellowing top-end soundtrack and savagery of the engine’s responses makes any trip to the red line, or even the end of the throttle pedal’s travel, feel like a genuine achievement.

It’s hugely fast. Porsche’s claim of a 2.8-second 0-100km/h time doesn’t stand out too far in an era when even two-tonne electric saloons dip into the twos, but bigger numbers arrive with jarring suddenness as well. Porsche says 0-200km/h takes a scarcely feasible 8.3-seconds, and 300km/h arrives from a standstill in just 22.1-seconds.

Yet, it feels even quicker than those statistics suggest, hoovering the horizon and shortening long straights like a sportsbike. Gearing has been shortened compared to Porsche’s stratospheric norm, second runs out at an indicated 100km/h, and the speed at which the GT2 rips through its ratios adds to the sense of timewarp acceleration. I didn’t get to confirm the presence of a speed limiter, but the GT2 is one of the few Porsches to have ever had one: 340km/h, corresponding to the peak rating of the track-biased Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2 tyres.

The sky is overcast, but the rain holds off for long enough to experience what the rubber is capable of on road. The answer is almost total adhesion, the sort of grip that normally gets likened to Velcro, or something noxious stuck to a blanket.

Steering is lighter than you might expect from something so hardcore, but responses are perfectly proportional and feedback is excellent. The GT2 RS’s chassis is capable of developing seemingly impossible longitudinal g-forces in everything from slow corners to fast sweepers, where those huge wings start to work at generating serious downforce. But even tight roundabouts failing to produce any of the understeer that 911s often manifest at low speeds, an affliction that the 996 GT2 suffered from particularly badly.

Nor is the new RS snappy; too much throttle will tip it into slight oversteer, but stability and traction control systems intervene seamlessly well before it becomes scary. Turning those off proves that the GT2 does still possess a serrated edge, and the ability to smoke its rear tyres in a standing start, but you have to consciously choose to unleash its dark side.

There’s only so much you can discover about a GT2 on road, which is why Porsche also laid on a track, the 4.7-km Portimao track which sees little actual racing, but which is favoured by European car manufacturers as a launch venue. With a good combination of corners and elevation changes that make it something close to a Portuguese equivalent of Bathurst, it’s an outstanding place to find out more in the brief window before the long-threatened rain arrives.

The RS steps up to the challenge as well as you’d expect. Performance is towering, but what’s more impressive is the ability to deploy so much of it so often. Porsche chose to use a 918 Spyder as the event’s follow-me pace car, and although the superior skills of its instructor pilot ensured it was never in danger of getting passed, the GT2 clearly has the legs on the hybrid exotic on Portimao’s main straight, heat haze pluming from the rear of the Spyder as it struggles to fend off its little sister.

Track loadings prove the RS will indeed understeer slightly if you try and carry too much speed into a tight turn, and the back will slide if you get too keen with the throttle too early. But that’s on you; the car itself is a model of consistency, the carbon ceramic brakes tireless and without a hint of fade after multiple hot laps, the tyres gripping without complaint beyond the point I was expecting them to start to go off.

A GT2 RS’s driver is likely to get flustered long before the car does, the limiting factor for a full-fang track session is likely to be the phenomenal rate at which the engine drains the fuel tank under hard use. (A 64 litre tank is standard, but I suspect every buyer will tick the box for the optional 90-litre version.)

Just as my track session ends, the heavens open. Rain really does stop play, the downpour effectively closing the track and – on the local roads – reducing this 515kW monster to the pace of the slowest of the doddering rental cars. The aggressive tyres lack the depth necessary to deal with standing water, and even greasy surfaces result in a dramatic loss of grip. But the limits stay well flagged and the GT2 remains predictable as it approaches them.

But reduced loadings also reveal what it is the normally brutish RS lacks when compared to lesser 911s, and especially its GT3 sister: the sort of feedback that makes even slower progress feel like a proper adventure.

Road loadings struggle to wake the GT2’s chassis up, and the huge mechanical grip masks many of the subtle messages you get as standard in a lesser 911. Nor will this engine ever get close to the acoustic appeal of the GT3’s high-revving naturally aspirated power plant. The GT2 is the ultimate 911 in terms of performance, but not necessarily overall experience.

Not that you can expect too many buyers to be put off by the rawness of the über-Porsche’s raw appeal. It’s the best GT2 so far, and the fastest Porsche of all, for now at least. If you want the top dog, this is it.

Click on the Gallery tab for more photos of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS.

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