Porsche goes supercar hunting with its naughtiest 911. How successful is it?

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Variously faster, wider, stiffer, more powerful and more ‘motorsport’ than any road-going 911 that Porsche has yet made, the 911 GT2 RS – Weissach’s range-topping GT-car godfather – steps up for examination by the Autocar road test microscope this week.

With this car, Porsche comfortably surpasses the official engine output of even the 1990s-era 911 GT1 in competition trim. Leaving aside tuner specials, this is by some margin the most potent version of the firm’s celebrated sports car ever fitted with numberplates.

Carbon weave finish to the bonnet and roof is a signifier of the Weissach pack. A brightly coloured car would look a bit less garish without them

And you’re about to find out if it can, in line with its well-publicised success on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, eclipse Lamborghini ’s Huracán Performante to become the fastest road car we’ve timed around a lap of our dry handling circuit.

In the hands of Porsche test driver Lars Kern, the GT2 RS recorded a lap time of 6min 47.3sec at the Nordschleife last year, making it the fastest road-legal car to be timed there. What’s less well known, and arguably even more impressive, is that its record-setting lap was one of five flying laps done in the same stint, all of which were under the 6min 50sec marker – and any of which would have been quick enough to steal Lamborghini’s thunder.

The new GT2 becomes the latest in a line of five namesakes, the first of which appeared in 1995 as a homologation version of the 993-generation 911, built to allow Porsche’s motorsport department to make 911 race cars to suit GT2 sports car racing regulations, hence the derivative suffix.

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Although the original GT2’s 444bhp of peak power would hardly worry a modern supersports car driver, this was the car with handling wild enough to earn the GT2 the nickname that follows it around to this day: the widowmaker. Uniting all GT2s that have been sold since is a mechanical recipe consisting of a fiercely blown turbocharged flat six, lightweight construction, stiffened motorsport suspension and rear-wheel drive.

And yet none has turned the performance dial up to 11 quite as boldly as this new 691bhp 991.2-generation GT2 RS. So is this a car of fearless brilliance or just one to be a bit afraid of?

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Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review hero rear

The 691bhp 3.8-litre flat six in the GT2 RS is Porsche a development of the current 911 Turbo engine, which itself first appeared in a mid-life refreshed version of the 997-generation 911 in 2009.

However, Porsche’s engineers have produced 40% more power from the unit for this car than they conjured from the same engine block and cubic capacity almost a decade ago. The new GT2 RS also improves on the headline power output of its immediate predecessor (which used Porsche’s older 3.6-litre turbo engine) by a pretty healthy 80bhp.

Real quad exhaust tips are easily visible behind the ‘dressing’ of the rear bumper. If it’s an expensive, weight-saving titanium system, we’d prefer to see it

The engine uses bigger turbochargers than the 911 Turbo’s, new pistons for a lower compression ratio, and new charge air intercoolers that are cooled by a water spray system fed from a five-litre tank located in the bottom of the car’s luggage compartment and allow the engine to maintain its peak outputs even at high temperatures and under demanding load conditions.

That it has a 7200rpm redline, Porsche claims, makes it exceptionally free-revving among similar turbocharged performance engines, although the fact that Ferrari’s turbo V8 488 Pista engine will spin to 8000rpm, and McLaren’s McLaren 720S turbo V8 faster still, rather gives the lie to that claim. Both key rivals are also lighter, more powerful and have more torque than the Porsche.

The car is rear driven in typical GT2 mould, but it’s the first GT2 to be fitted with a paddle-shift dual-clutch automatic gearbox instead of a manual.

Downstream of the gearbox, the GT2 RS has the same PTV Plus electronic locking differential as Porsche’s other 911 GT cars. It is steered via the same four-wheel steering system as the 911 GT3 and the 918 Spyder.

The GT2 RS’s suspension hardware is almost identical to that of the new 911 GT3 RS (although the tuning of the PASM adaptive dampers is different) so the front MacPherson struts and rear SLA multi-link arrangements both feature helper springs for finer wheel control under extremes of load and both are mounted rigidly to the car’s body-in-white via ball joints instead of rubber bushings.

The suspension is adjustable for ride height, wheel camber and toe angle, and the primary suspension coil springs are made of exactly the same lightweight material as those of Porsche’s 911 GT3 R competition car.

Weight-saving measures include a titanium exhaust (7kg lighter than a 911 Turbo’s); forged alloy wheels; a bonnet, front wings and engine cover made of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic; polyurethane bumpers; and back and rear side window glazing in lightweight Gorilla Glass.


Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review cabin

Standard specification includes fixed-backrest bucket seats and Porsche’s Clubsport package (half roll-cage, six-point driver’s racing harness, fire extinguisher, battery cut-off preparation). So having taken in the car’s swollen and steroidal-looking exterior modifications, the distinguishing features of the interior just build your sense of anticipation even higher for the driving experience that’s about to come.

You can swap out those seats for either less deeply bolstered buckets with folding backrests or Porsche’s 18-way electrically adjustable Sport Seats Plus, but there’d be little reason to do so on comfort grounds. The fixed-back items are fine over longish distances, not feeling narrow or restrictive, and they have electric base height adjustment.

Stitching on the seat headrests shows you’ve splashed the cash on the Weissach package. The titanium cage behind them is a dead giveaway too

Porsche has kept the number of distinguishing features around the cockpit of the GT2 RS quite low, knowing that its customers will add their own pretty freely using its Exclusive Manufaktur customisation scheme. Via that route, you can have the car’s body colour echoed by the fascia trim if you want, although our test car had the carbon weave trim instead (which also appears on its gearshift paddles, steering wheel and elements of the exterior as part of the Weissach package) and looked nicely understated and businesslike.

The 911 GT2 RS comes with the 7.0in touchscreen Porsche Communication Management infotainment system as standard, which got networked navigation and more sophisticated gesture control logic as part of Porsche’s 991-gen Porsche 911 facelift three years ago. The system has an integrated 4G data connection (accessible by subscription) and does Apple CarPlay mirroring.

The standard audio system is Porsche’s Sound Package Plus set-up with eight speakers, 150W of power and DAB radio. If you want to upgrade to Porsche’s Bose 12-speaker, 555W system, it’ll cost you £1002. Equally, if you want to delete the car’s on-board audio and communications systems to save weight, Porsche will oblige you free of charge, leaving you a handy storage cubby where the infotainment screen used to be.

The car’s navigation system is displayed clearly and easy to use and its standard audio system is adequate although not brilliant at drowning out that exhaust note when it becomes monotonous.

Porsche As in all 911s, you get a fine driving position that, while not as low or inboard as in a mid-engined supercar, still makes you feel perfectly integrated into the heart of the car yet also gives you visibility that’s better than in the average supercar.

Meanwhile, the GT2 RS’s purposeful-looking steering wheel, devoid of any extraneous stereo or trip computer controls, is a joy to look at, to hold and – because it’s round – to feed through your hands.


Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review engine

Given how rare hardcore supersports cars with manual gearboxes have become, it would have been a bigger risk for Porsche to stick with a manual here than to move the GT2 RS onto paddles, especially since this car’s PDK gearbox is no ordinary dual-clutch transmission.

There’s a typically efficient launch control mode to use on track, as you’d expect. But, as with the current GT3, the GT2 RS also has a ‘paddle neutral’ function that allows you to fully disengage whichever clutch is selected by pulling both paddles simultaneously and holding them in – to re-engage it the instant you release them.

Doesn’t sound as special as you’d expect a 911 GT car to sound - and disappointingly, the exhaust’s noisy button just adds volume

That means you can have the fastest possible getaway if you want, or you can switch out the car’s traction control, dial up some extra revs and spin up the driven axle if you’d rather, as part of what feels like a more manual, interactive, analogue process than most paddleshift supercars offer.

Even with plenty of practice with that ‘paddle neutral’ mode, however, you can forget about improving on the standing-start pace conjurable using Porsche’s launch control system. Although the GT2 RS’s power delivery feels appealingly linear through the middle of the rev range, this car will happily spin up its huge 325-section rear tyres in the dry and keep spinning them into fourth gear if you let it.

Reined in and perfectly electronically governed, it hit 60mph from rest in a two-way average of 3.0sec and 100mph in 6.1sec. Lamborghini Both a Huracán Performante and a McLaren 720S will dip under 3.0sec for the former and 6.0sec for the latter; and as much as carbonfibre supercars might seem like unfair competition for any 911, that’s the water Porsche is swimming in with this £200,000 special.

From behind the wheel, the GT2 RS feels very rapid indeed, although perhaps not quite in the ultra-quick performance league it aspires to. As much as the engine’s outright potency impresses, the progressiveness of its thrust and its near-perfect throttle response both seem equally remarkable for what’s a very highly stressed engine of significantly oversquare cylinders.

That there’s no sudden rushing wave of force erupting through the wheels as the crankshaft hits peak torque might take the edge off your perception of the sheer violence of the car’s acceleration – but it also makes the car feel more precise and less thuggish than you might have expected it to be; at least until you start switching off electronic aids.

It’s a pretty rough, thuggish-feeling thing in respect of the noise its engine and suspension make on the road, though – the roll-cage making the rear axle appear all the coarser and seeming to convey every pinging stone and squealing brake direct to within inches of your head.

For sonic appeal, the GT2 RS’s engine doesn’t compare to the fizzing atmospheric brilliance of Porsche’s 4.0-litre GT3 engine closing in on 9000rpm. It’s nice enough to listen to in its own right but often better with the noisy exhaust mode turned off.


Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review on the road front

The GT2 RS feels wider on the road than most Porsche 911s, but still not quite as wide as most cars of this performance level. It remains easy to place and its extremities are fairly easy to judge, although you do end up checking the door mirror to see how close the outside rear wheel is to the white line more often than some will expect to.

The car’s grip level seems every bit as formidable, at normal road speeds, as you’d hope and its body control reassuringly close and taut. Only when you risk bigger speeds on testing surfaces can you appreciate the slight dynamic compromises Porsche has made to successfully and safely put nearly 700 horsepower through one axle. Even then, it may only be possible to appreciate them by comparison with the supreme blend of power, grip, agility and composure offered by the current 911 GT3.

‘paddle neutral’ gearbox mode is meant to let you kill understeer on turn-in, or to cue up oversteer on corner exit. I find 700 horsepower at the rear wheels is pretty good for the latter

The GT2 RS’s steering is intuitively paced and it’s wonderfully tactile and communicative but the size of the front wheels and firmness of suspension create more steering interference and kickback over lumps and bumps than is ideal in fast road driving.

The ride is also shorter and a touch fussier over testing topography than a 911 GT3’s, although it feels far from wooden or oversprung and, after seeing the paucity of wheel travel apparent inside those rear arches, surprises you with its suppleness.

When the road surface flattens out, there’s a lingering sense of rebalanced grip levels about the GT2 RS’s handling; of a front axle that doesn’t bite quite as keenly as a GT3’s, and of a rear one that’s keener on stability than you’re expecting, and that grips harder initially only then to let go more suddenly than a GT3’s would.

The GT2 RS has slightly less effortless close body control than a GT3 and, because its body moves around more, it tends to understeer at a slightly earlier stage; and it breaks away harder at the rear axle, on the occasions when you’ve deactivated the electronic aids. It’ll also break away at the rear under power under high lateral loads, right up to fourth gear and well into three-figure speeds, if you use too much throttle with the PSM disengaged.

For those reasons and because it had Michelin PS Cup 2 tyres as opposed to the almost competition-spec Pirelli Trofeo R rubber on which its Italian rival was tested, the car failed to better the dry lap time Lamborghini that the Huracán Performante set last year.

We were disappointed that it missed by such a wide margin but, given the nature of our dry handling circuit (relatively tight and slow, with few places to get the car out of fourth gear), not too surprised.


Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review hero front

How hard is it to sell a Porsche 911 priced like a bona fide supercar? A doddle, by all accounts.

And how easy is it to buy a GT2 RS today? Impossible – unless you’re willing to pay twice the asking price. Porsche had deposits for the 1000-unit production run it’s rumoured to have commissioned for the car within a matter of weeks after the model’s unveiling last year, and it is now building and delivering the last few.

Weissach pack (£21,042) is very expensive, but will probably add its value and then some at resale time – and you can have it without the roll-cage (£18,770) if you’d prefer

For an indication of how high demand still is, consider this: several delivery-mileage, 2018-reg examples are already on the ‘second-hand’ market for asking prices that look ambitious even by the standards of flipped Porsche road-legal track specials. Some are on offer for almost half a million pounds.

As crazy as it may seem, there might well be one or two wealthy individuals willing to pay that much.

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Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2018 road test review static hero

The GT2 RS is a 911 like no other.

It has a more distinct character than many of the increasingly thinly differentiated 911 derivatives and plays to an audience that appreciates rapacious hot-rod character above everything else. It has a spectacular turn of straight-line speed and the usual abundance of dynamic charm.

Law of diminishing marginal returns takes the sheen off the fastest 911

If you were out to make a case that it was the ultimate road-going GT derivative yet offered by Porsche, though, you’d struggle. A GT3 has a more delicate blend of grip, balance, power and adjustability; works better on the road; and has an engine that, despite its relative on-paper deficits, you’d simply treasure for longer.

Considering the GT2 RS’s narrow failure to match the outright accelerative pace of its £200k rivals, it earns more qualified praise than many might imagine it ought to be worth. It is snorting, tyre-smoking proof – however glorious – that the 911 strays narrowly out of its depth when it tries to beat hardcore mid-engined supercars at their own game.

Thankfully for Porsche, supercar baiting is something a 911 GT3 does slightly better.

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2017-2019 First drives