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OVERALL
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The Top Gear car review:

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

R4 200 000

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The Porsche 911 GT3 RS's performance repertoire will leave you spellbound and speechless

9

OVERALL
VERDICT

For:

Purpose built driver's machine. That intoxicating engine howl. PDK transmssion best of the ilk.

Against:

Leather instead of alcantara trim. Very little to be honest.

What is it?

There I was one Friday afternoon, profusely banging at my laptop keyboard when I was suddenly interrupted by a bassy exhaust DIN of something special driving into my complex driveway. It’s my colleague, Avon Middleton, and he’s reluctantly delivering the Porsche 911 GT3 RS to my humble abode for a weekend of thorough thumbing. Now for those who know me well and can attest to the obsession, including my colleagues here at TopGear Magazine SA, the 911 GT3 RS is my kryptonite - the one and only car I would choose to drive into the sunset were I granted just one set of wheels to own. Yes, I have driven many a sportscar in my automotive media career, and I remain eternally grateful for the experiences, yet it is this one model that has left indelible screech marks in both my heart and mind. Of course, I continue to get quizzed about why, just why is the GT3 such a special car to me, so let me try and reiterate, somewhat. 

It all dates back to the year 2000. I was in my matric year and there I was one Sunday afternoon watching an F1 Grand Prix race when a Porsche Centre ad came on the telly. It is unassuming, the ad that is, and begins with the tranquility of birds chirping before a low exhaust DIN pierces through that peaceful melodious bird choral. 

Then a yellow 996 GT3 emerges through a heat haze, getting ready to subsequently light up its rears in a bellow of expensive tyre smoke - yes, you guessed it, donuts galore. The setting is the iconic Kyalami Race Circuit and the driver of this GT3 is giving this hunkered-down, winged Porsche a thorough caning, dancing on the pedals with their racing boots - heeling and toeing with disdain. That signature 3.6-litre flat-six wailing and barking to no end.  And it all culminated with the GT3 coming to a sudden rest and the rear of the vehicle with the GT3 nomenclature filled up the TV screen. That was it, I was hooked, and this was during the days that I used to record all the races on my VHS machine. Over the years, to draw inspiration, I would replay that ad over and over again - and did so until that tape reel gave up the ghost a few years down the line. 

I have tried, sadly in vain, to salvage that Porsche Centre ad starring that first generation Yellow GT3 online to no avail. So, if there are any of our readers that can recall or point us to where we can find that particular ad, then please get in touch with us. Back to that ad though, and I had up to that point always admired the 911, but that GT3 truly planted a seed in me that fateful day that has blossomed into a partial love affair that is wholly warranted on my part. 

Then in December 2017, I finally had the privilege to have a go in the 911 GT3 while I worked at a major daily newspaper publication. For me, it was a watershed moment in my career. I was finally going to meet my hero car, in this instance, a Yellow (like the 996 GT3 in the ad) 911 (991.2) generation GT3 - replete with a normally aspirated 4-litre flat-six engine that revved to the stratosphere - 9,000r/min to be precise. To sweeten the deal, there were three pedals in the footwell and an even sweeter, sneaky 6-speed manual to row to my heart’s contentment. I drove that particular car for 400km in one day and I was thoroughly hooked, convinced to a point of no reproach, that the GT3 was the sportscar for me.


Next: Driving
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Layout, finish and space

Our test car did, however, come with the Weissach Package. The package features additional carbon components for the chassis, interior and exterior, as well as optional magnesium wheels. In its lightest configuration, this package reduces the weight of the 911 GT3 RS down to 1 430 kgs. The rest of the cabin, meanwhile, screams racecar panache with bucket seats, lightweight door straps in place of conventional door-opening handles and analogue dials with the tachometer sitting dead centre in the middle of the instrument cluster. There is the scaffolding (also known as a roll cage in automotive parlance) behind the front seats that not only adds body rigidity, but also doubles as a safety cell in the event of a roll over situation. The rest of the cabin is sparse for most part and minimalistic with only the essential items tacked on.

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Next: Driving
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What is it like on the road?

Fast forward to 2020 and there is a GT3 RS parked in my garage. The excitement was once again palpable and the weather looked promising, so at 05h00 that Saturday morning, I cranked up the 4-litre flat-six. It barked into life in a racecar like whirr before bellowing into a cold start of cacophony that most likely woke my neighbours in the complex - sorry not sorry. I digress, but I then let the engine idle for a few more minutes to get the oily bits and vital fluids up to optimal temperature. 


This spared me sometime to pore over the rest of the car, those rear haunches, which are home to sticky - when up to temperature - Michelin Sport Cup 2 gumball tyres measuring 325/30/21. And it is those rear tyres that are key to the GT3 RS’s tenacious grip levels. Everything about this thing is purpose built with very little in the way of vanity frills. If there was criticism, it perhaps points to the rather subdued Silver hue of our test car and the leather wreathed tiller instead of alcantara, but that is of course a personal preference thing. 

To get the best out of the GT3 RS, you have to almost bed the thing in. Wait for those sticky tyres to get some temperature in them. I found that the only way to guage this was to monitor the tyre pressure on the instrument cluster and as soon as the respective pressures rise a degree or two, then you're pretty much good to hoon. Ignore this warming up procedure, and you will be presented with arms full of opposite lock, even in the slowest of corners. So take care.

However, once things are at optimal temperature, select Sport mode for the PDK gearbox and chase the rev ceiling in each gear, and you'll get to understand the model's hidden talents. With 383 kW and 460 Nm, there is ample low down torque that you do not have to be wringing the engine perpetually to make progress. This thing is as drivable as any would be conventional premium sports sedan, but there is such depth and layers to this engine, that you can't help but explore them. I mean the first time you rev that glorious engine to its 9 000 r/min ceiling, you're left stupefied. At 4 500 r/min, the GT3 RS only begins to feel like a mover and shaker, and at 6 000r/min, it really gets into strutting its stuff. The engine's power peaks at 8,250 r/min and it is here that I feel that the car's magic truly shines through. That howl from the flat-six engine is nothing short of intoxicating and the last 1 000r/min (between 8 000 and 9 000r/min), produces a mechanical shrill that is simply arresting.

Everything about this car is well-judged and spot on to the nth degree. The engine, as mentioned, is the crown jewel of the package, the gearbox is not that far behind and I'm yet to drive a modern, production car gearbox as responsive. Up shifts are stupendous, but it is the responsiveness coming down the cogs that left me aghast. There is none of the "Lerato, please be patient with me as I make my way down the ratios!" as I have come to experience with most boxes of this ilk.

Then there is the prodigious grip levels on offer that will goad you to keep pushing the envelope. Trust me, you will run out of talent with all the electronic nannies in place before you unsettle this thing. Unless, of course, you want to defy the laws of physics in which case, you are firmly on your own. But back to the driving envelope and the GT3 RS proves its mettle at every turn of the wheel. Speaking of which, the engineers have now truly fine-tuned the feel and feedback of this electric steering setup. You can place the car exactly where you want it on the road and the thing will track true to the chosen trajectory. Those dinner plate sized anchors up front ensure tremendous stopping power and lend you the confidence to lean on the car and brake even later into corners. Sadly, we could not assess the GT3 RS's track potential, which by my account on the road alone, leaves me under no illusion that it would be sublime in that environ.


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Next: Owning
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Running costs and reliability

The 911 GT3 RS is definitely the one to search for if you're in the market for a special 911, and there might be a few, perhaps far in between, that might be up for sale. However, if you do find one through the Porsche Centre dealer network, which is likely to have the balance of its Drive Plan still in place, then you will have struck gold indeed. These are highly sought after cars and many who buy them do so to keep. For those who prefer buying new, then you would be glad to learn that the latest 992 based GT3 is standing in the wings and it, too, will be normally aspirated and rev to the heavens.

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Next: Verdict
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Final thoughts

I have driven a bevy of sportscars in my career - of British, Italian and Germanic origins - and all are brilliant in their own right. However, were it my hard-earned money on the table, then this is the one I will gladly vote for with my wallet everyday, and twice on Sundays. The Porsche 911 GT3 RS goads, flatters, and leaves you simply spellbound by its breadths of talents. However, for me, it is that flat six howl that to this day keeps reverberating in my ears, weeks on end since the experience. What a thing of marvel!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJLmc_M-0ng

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