Test Drive: 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

When I was offered a couple of days in a 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the good folks at Porsche might as well have asked if I wanted Michael Phelps to come over and splash around in my pool, or have Banksy repaint my eavestroughs. The GT3 RS is arguably the most raw and race-ready of the seemingly endless variants of the Porsche 911, and not experiencing this 520 hp, 346 lb-ft naturally aspirated screamer in it natural environment could be tantamount to sacrilege, or possibly just be a colossal waste of time.

I might be a poseur, but the RS sure as hell ain’t.

Of course I said “Hell yeah!” In reality, how many folks who shell out the $213,400 plus-plus-plus for this insanely focussed 911 really do explore its potential on a race track? Although they could have warned me this car was retina-searing Lizard Green. With its massive wing, wide body, graphics, and numerous black scoops and vents, I feared I had instantly joined the “There’s a rich dork compensating for some sad physical deficiency” club.

Oh well. There are worse clubs. And as soon as I twisted the key, none of that mattered. It’s never much fun getting thrown into Toronto traffic in any unfamiliar car, let alone a rear-drive predatory Porsche with a $274,535 as-tested sticker and a carbon-fibre front splitter mere inches from the tarmac. In the rain.

Thing is, if you’ve driven any recent 911, the GT3 RS is reassuringly familiar and surprising docile when dealing with day-to-day drudgery. Yes, getting in is no graceful affair as there’s a wide sill and big fixed bolster in the racing seat to negotiate. But once settled, said seats are comfortable, forward visibility is good, and that spectacular Alcantara-trimmed wheel with the Lizard Green stripe at top-dead-centre feels perfect in the paws.

You know something is afoot when that 4.0L naturally aspired flat-six fires. The metallic idle is raw, and the revs jump like a cat on a griddle when you brush the throttle. The tach marked with a 9,000 rpm redline is a bit of a giveaway too.

The GT3 and this harder-core GT3 RS are the only naturally aspirated 911s now on offer, so what differentiates the RS from its lesser (if we dare use that descriptor here) sibling, besides a not insubstantial $50,100?

Upgraded exhaust and electronics liberate another 20 horses and 7 lb-ft, and below decks most of the GT3 bushings are replaced with metal-on-metal ball joints. The NACA ducts in the hood cool the brakes. The RS-specific rear underbody diffuser, louvres in the front fenders, carbon front splitter, and massive carbon rear wing give it 40 percent more downforce than the GT3 at 200 km/h. While the GT3 is available with a six-speed manual transmission, the RS only gets Porsche’s brilliant seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox because it is faster than the manual on a race track.

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So what Nürburgring numbers are we talking? With a Nordschleife time of 6:56.4, the 2019 GT3 RS is actually quicker than Porsche’s 918 hybrid supercar, and quicker than last year’s GT3 RS by 24 seconds. The only faster production Porsche here is the 700 hp GT2 RS. Well then, I might be a poseur, but the RS sure as hell ain’t.

Amazingly, driving the GT3 RS in the real world is not a punishing, futile exercise. Yes, it’s noisy and yes, the ride is super firm, but you’ll get a rougher ride in a Mini Cooper S.

It’s out on some open country roads where a tiny taste of the RS’s potential can be found. Turn in is super quick and laser accurate, and the brilliant electrically assisted steering tingles with real feedback. The RS’s uncanny grip and poise is underscored by Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2 near-race rubber, sized 265/35ZR-20 up front and 325/30ZR-21 at the rear. With a 0–100 km/h time of 3.2 seconds, the GT3 RS is damn fast, but not disorientingly so like the AWD 911 Turbo S, which slingshots you to that mark in well under 3 seconds. The GT3 RS is not a drag racer, it is a track rat. And of course, that masterpiece of an engine will change your life the first time the tach needle sweeps to 9,000 rpm.

Oh, and this habit will cost you too. This tester has a couple of big ticket items that add lightness to both car and wallet. The Weissach Package at $20,540 shaves a few kilos thanks to a carbon-fibre roof, carbon-fibre anti-roll bars, some carbon trim, and magnesium wheels. Ceramic-composite brakes run $10,510.

You’ll want the $3,990 front axle lift system, and if Lizard Green is your thing, add another $4,820 to the bottom line. Other options on note: leather interior in black/Lizard Green ($3,980) and painted air vents ($1,820).

You probably wouldn’t take the GT3 RS on an extended highway cruise as the fidgety, noisy ride would get tiresome, and the engine spins at a busy 3,000 rpm at 120 km/h in top gear. Or 9,000 rpm at 118 km/h in second gear. Which is considerably more interesting.

Yep folks, the 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is automotive crack – highly addictive and very likely to land you in jail. You’ll be sweating at nights, haunted by the feral wail and ever escalating thrust of that ungodly flat-six. Your right fingers will involuntarily twitch, trying to flick the delicious metal paddle shifter just at the right instant before hitting the fuel cut-off.

Temptation, I know thy name, and you wear Lizard Green paint and a carbon picnic table on thy rump.

2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: H6
Peak Horsepower: 520 hp
Peak Torque: 346 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 15.7/12.4/14.7 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 125 L
2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Base Price $213,400
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,250
Price as Tested $274,535
Optional Equipment $59,785 – Lizard Green paint $4,820; black/Lizard Green leather interior $3,980; Weissach Package $20,540; LED dynamic headlights $3,310; window triangle trim in carbon fibre $770; front axle lift $3,990; Chrono Package $630; 90-litre fuel tank $160; carbon ceramic brakes $10,510; auto dim interior mirror with rain sensor $790; Light Design Package $590; painted climate control panel $915; air vents painted $1,820; steering wheel with LG centre mark $380; dashboard trimmed in leather $1,875; leather encased steering column $540; floor mats with leather edging $485; Alcantara sun visors $670; belt outlet in Alcantara $590; illuminated carbon fibre sill guards $600; Bose surround $1,820
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.2
8 Styling
10 Powertrain
8 Quality
6 Comfort
3 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
5 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value