Sitting atop the hard-core branch of the sprawling Porsche 911 hierarchy, the $178,250 GT3 RS seemed a great candidate for some testing of its track-day mettle. So we spent three consecutive days pushing it to its limits—and sometimes slightly beyond—at our tenth Lightning Lap competition at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), before hopping back into its carbon-fiber bucket seat for the 700-mile trek back to our Ann Arbor, Michigan, office. We then put it through our full battery of performance tests. Almost more surprising than its admirable performance at the track—planted, predictable, and consistent, with a lap time among the top 10 of the more than 200 vehicles we’ve now run at Lightning Lap—was its unexpectedly forgiving ride quality on the street.
Ever larger and heavier, with more luxury accoutrements, the latest, 991 generation of the 911 has lost some of its dynamic purity. Anyone who’s driven a previous-gen 911 (997) back to back with the latest-issue 991 will agree that some of the steering’s sharpness and immediacy has been lost. The GT3 RS, however, dials back in all of that directness and then some, via stiffer powertrain mounts, dampers, and suspension components, as well as overall weight loss. And sure enough, the steering wheel dances and twitches over undulating roads in a way that’s been lost in most modern sports cars.
Speaking of purity, this particular, exceptionally stripped-down example is closest to the original RS’s ethos, even if it’s not how customers typically order Porsches—even GT3 RS models. Porsche basically built this one specifically to compete at Lightning Lap, and it has all the weight-saving options and almost no luxury add-ons. Although it’s odd to see any car pushing $200,000 that’s lacking a leather-covered dash, at 3155 pounds this GT3 RS is 137 pounds trimmer than the loaded car we ran in a comparison test earlier this year. Even as it has grown in every dimension, that curb weight, impressively, is 25 pounds lighter than our 997 GT3 RS test car from 2007.
Although weight reduction is always a worthy cause, a complicating factor in this case is that 100 of those 137 pounds saved over our comparison-test GT3 RS were removed from the front axle, further unbalancing the already rear-heavy 911. The biggest savers include the $2300 lithium-ion battery (30 pounds), air-conditioning delete (26 pounds), stereo delete (17 pounds), and the lack of the front-axle-lift system (9 pounds). Even mainstream front-drive cars such as a Honda Civic have their weight more evenly spread between their axles than our GT3 RS’s 38.3/61.7 percent front/rear distribution, and it shows. At VIR, it was notably reluctant to turn in to low-speed corners, even with its new rear-axle steering helping the cause. Perhaps fiddling with the adjustable anti-roll bars could’ve helped compensate for some of the imbalance. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Michael Simari