I had sneaked into the VIP section at Club Road Atlanta, and nobody had kicked me out yet. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the presence of such amazing automobiles. I was out on the dance floor with supermodels, and none of them had caught on that I wasn’t particularly confident in my dancing skills. In fact, this was my first time dancing at this particular club, and for some reason they’d decided it would be a good idea to wet down the dancefloor. Regardless, though, the crowd parted and I was paired up with a gorgeous little number dressed in Ultravoilet with stunning silver shoes. She was a stunner, let me tell you. Without making it obvious, she took the lead and we were soon cutting laps around the dance floor in a convincing enough manner that I was starting to feel pretty confident. We spent our time together well, and I gradually became more in tune with the beat and the rhythm. It wasn’t long before the song ended, and my time with the loveliest girl in the room was over. To this day it feels as though it was all a dream.
From the moment I first heard about this press event that I’d be attending, I was, frankly more excited about driving the Cayman GT4 than I was about the GT3 RS. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Porsche’s line of RS models, and this newest version still retains my admiration. I had a little more than an hour on track in the GT4, but my time with the GT3 RS was limited to just one session of about 30 minutes. After lunch the rain fell a little harder than it had been all day, and Hurley Haywood made the executive decision that the track was too far gone for us to continue. I respect that. I’d rather cut my time short than crunch some carbon fiber and potentially end up in the hospital. It was still enough to get my adrenaline pumping and to get a feel for both of these other-worldly cars.
Because the track was slick and because we were mostly unfamiliar with the course/car/conditions/tires, we were instructed to keep the car in Sport with all of the electronic aids left on. I had no interest in spinning off the course, so I obliged. As it turned out, I needn’t have been worried. The GT3 RS has Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which as it turns out, are amazing in the rain. This isn’t to say that the car felt planted and perfect at all times, as the extra weight behind the axle was always making itself known. I felt like I had to tiptoe through some low-speed corners, because the weight of the engine was pulling against my hands on the steering. It wasn’t fear-inducing the way a 996 or 997 GT3 might be, but it was a nagging reminder of the rear-biased nature of the Porsche.
The GT3 RS was, from the word go, quite a bit faster than the GT4, and felt a little more stable at speed, too (likely due to the increased downforce). Where the GT4 was topping about 140 miles per hour going into the braking zone at Turn 10, the GT3 RS was perhaps 10 miles per hour faster in the same places. The downforce was great for speed and stability, but it was horrible for visibility. As we were in a lead-follow situation, there were a few times where the downforce-induced water spray actually got thick enough to lose visual on the Porsche in front of me, which was a bit unnerving.
I’ve praised PDK in the past, and in this application it continued to be great. There was only one instance where it felt a little out of place, and that was the braking zone into turn 6. Braking from 115 or so down to about 60, the transmission was perfectly in tune with my speeds, until the final downshift. If I’d been rowing the gears, I probably would have kept the car that one gear higher because of the wet track and the relatively short straight that followed. As it was, though, so long as you get all of your braking done in a straight line like you’re supposed to, you’ll never get caught out by a downshift. The computers are too smart for that.
I’m not sure I’d call it a complaint, but its worth noting that this is the single loudest car I’ve ever been in. With the throttle buried and the tach needle racing toward redline, the exhaust sounds like it has been piped directly into your eardrums. It’s a loud shrieking shrill note that will pierce your very soul, and probably the souls of the nearest 100 people, too. Your neighbors won’t like this Porsche. Heck, your significant other probably won’t like this car. Between the paint color choices and the exhaust note, I’m not sure which is louder, and that’s one of the things I absolutely adore about this GT3. It is ostentatious in a way that imbues admiration rather than disgust.
This is probably the most complete and fastest track-car that Porsche has ever built. If you’re looking for a car that will drive to the track, slay all comers, and drive back home, this might be the one you’re looking for. It is quite versatile, and probably one of the better ‘supercars’ on the market these days. Where did this car shine? Well, where didn’t it shine? Braking was sharp, well modulated, and communicative, but I did hear a bit of squeal from the PCCB rotors. Acceleration on the other side of the apex was stunning, the power delivery was tractable and smooth all the way to red line, and grip was rarely a problem, even with standing water almost everywhere. Driver comfort was good. Steering feel from the electrically assisted rack was improved from non-GT 991s. I felt each and every one of Road Atlanta’s bumps in the chassis right up through the seat into my backside, but I was never uncomfortable. I loved how wide the GT3 was, because it allowed for wide and sticky Michelins. That width was a boon for track driving, but I didn’t drive this 911 on the street, and that could easily be a few points against this Porsche in street conditions.
Over the course of my short time with the GT3 RS, I determined that it is an amazing car, truly a weapon of a vehicle, but it is decidedly not the car for me. I’ve never been a big-power kind of person. This newest version wasn’t really built for my kind of driving style. I’ve always been a momentum driver, favoring lightweight and mechanical grip over high power and ludicrous speeds. I figure the GT3 RS for a track-day hero car and while I didn’t get a chance to drive it on the street, I can imagine it would be difficult to exploit its capabilities without danger to myself and others. I’m sure I carried some prejudice that taints my view of the GT3 even today, but I would have preferred a 911 more similar in concept to the original 996 GT3 RS. I’d prefer a car at about 2/3rds the weight, about 2/3rds the power, a traditional manual transmission, and fewer electronic aids (The Cayman GT4 ticks at least 3 of those 4 boxes). I definitely admire the 991 GT3 RS, I even respect it, but I didn’t find myself falling in love with it like I thought I would. Maybe if the track had been dry I’d be singing a different song. Maybe if I’d driven it on the street my story would be different. Maybe if I’d been able to feel the car without its electronic nannies holding it back I might tell you different (though as wet as it was, I might not have been here to tell the tale at all…).
The problem, in my eyes, is that the RS ethos has always been something *special*. This 991 GT3 RS just didn’t feel as special as some other cars to come out of Porsche’s GT division lately. What happened to the scalpel precision and absolute insanity of the 997 GT3 RS 4.0? Where is the driver involvement of the 996 GT3? Where is the I-Want-To-Murder-You feeling of the various GT2s? A rear wheel drive car with 500 horsepower simply feels strange when it’s this easy to control at speed on a rainy race course. I felt almost as though I was driving a full-sized simulation rather than a real life GT3 RS. Don’t get me wrong, this 911 is mind-blowingly fast, and probably laps any given track faster than 99% of cars out there, and certainly faster than any car in its price range, but is a lap time all we’re looking for in a car these days? It just didn’t have the Porsche GT feel that I’ve grown to love. Who knows, maybe another few days in the car would change my tune…