2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS First Drive

2010 Porsche 911 Coupe

(3.8L 6-cyl. 6-speed Manual)
  • 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Picture

    2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Picture

    Think the GT3 is serious enough? Think again. | February 11, 2010

22 Photos

Think the GT3 Is Serious? Prepare To Think Again

There is probably only one person on the planet who considered the last Porsche 911 GT3 RS a kindergarten car, but he is the person who mattered most. That would be Andreas Preuninger, manager of Porsche's department of high-performance cars, the man charged with creating the RS's replacement.

Preuninger has directed the GT3 program since the model was launched in 1999, and he and the handful of race engineers who are in charge of developing the 911 GT3 RS, 911 GT3 and 911 Porsche Cup models were stung by complaints from customers that the previous-generation 911 GT3 RS offered an insufficient margin of track-tough performance over the already fairly feisty standard GT3.

So Preuninger and his team of happy helpers at Porsche's motorsports division in Stuttgart went to work to make sure the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS would never suffer such criticism.

And when those guys go to work, they go to work.

Speed Engineering
We could tell you about every last detail that has transformed the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 into the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, but if you're like us, you're more interested in driving one than building one.

But we should tell you that the RS model now has more power than the GT3 equivalent, which means 450 horsepower at 7,900 rpm instead of 435 hp at 7,600 rpm, and all this from a 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine without a turbo in sight. As before, a short-throw six-speed manual transmission is the standard gearbox (there are some delightfully old-fashioned views about shift paddles and automated transmissions inside Porsche's motorsport department), but the first five gears have ratios that are 11 percent shorter and 6th gear has a ratio that's 5 percent. As a result, the 192-mph top speed of the GT3 RS is slower than that of the GT3, yet only by 2 mph.

An RS typically has a wider rear track for more cornering grip, but now the front track is wider, too. There are 325/30ZR19 tires in the rear on rims that are 12 inches wide and 245/35R19 tires in the front on rims that are 9 inches wide. There's also a wider range of adjustment for the front and rear antiroll bars, so you can fine-tune the RS's handling for the track. Stability control has been included for the first time on a GT3 RS, although it's calibrated for the track and can be disabled independent of the traction control. The only major mechanical items left untouched are the GT3's massive brakes, which were developed from the start with RS levels of performance in mind.

The 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS carries an all-new aerodynamics package for the track-oriented environment it's intended to live in, with a yet-larger carbon-fiber rear wing that now generates 374 pounds of downforce at 186 mph — and this is real downforce, not just reduced lift. The bodywork has been widened at the rear by 1.7 inches to accommodate the RS model's customary wider rear track, and now of course the front bodywork is wider to suit the increased front track as well.

The RS is 55 pounds lighter than the GT3, a total achieved ounce by ounce thanks to a plastic rear window, lightweight door panels, a titanium exhaust system, a single-mass flywheel and a carbon-fiber engine cover. If you want to reduce weight even further, you can go to the RS's options list, which includes carbon-fiber seats, bi-xenon headlights and a delete code for the radio and air-conditioning. All in all, the RS weighs 3,020 pounds or, put another way, a little less than a two-door VW GTI but with well over twice the power.

Quite Quick, Then?
Yes, but that's hardly the point. If all you're interested in is straight-line performance on par with an artillery shell, buy the 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo. It's faster still than the GT3 RS and way more civilized.

Ever since 1973, RS models of the 911 have been about total performance, not just acceleration or even just braking and cornering. The RS is also about how the car sounds and feels, and the 2010 example carries this principle further than ever. Hard to believe though it might be, the ability of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS to hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4 seconds flat is, in fact, the least impressive aspect of its performance.

Thanks to those titanium exhaust pipes and the plastic rear window, the engine sounds as if it's joined you in the cabin, and after you've wanged it to the 8,500 rpm redline a few times you might start to wonder just how sensible it is to deploy a weapon like this on a public road. There are more addictive substances than this, but all must be taken internally.

Cheek-Rippling Grip
It is through the corners that the 2010 Porsche 911 RS is at its most epic and rewarding. It responds and feels like a racing car, because in all but name that is what it is. What other road car comes with an ignition cutoff, plumbing for a fire extinguisher and flame-retardant seat fabric as standard equipment?

You'd expect the RS to corner flat and fast, but more surprising is the fact that this most extreme of 911s is so easy to drive on the limit. Relative to a GT3, you really notice the extra grip at the front in slow corners and the stabilizing influence of the big wing in quicker curves. No prizes for guessing that this car is faster point to point than a GT3, but discovering that it is better balanced and clearly easier to drive is a genuine revelation. No doubt it's this confidence that enables the GT3 RS to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in the same time as the exotic, midengine 611-hp 2003 Porsche Carrera GT.

Even so, once you've parked, returned the keys and gotten your breath back, the most enduring memory of the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is not what it does but how it does it. This is one of those rare and precious machines that makes you think its engineers were thinking of you when they designed it. The expert matching of the effort levels for all the major controls — steering, gearshift and pedals — suggests a level of attention to detail that borders on the obsessive. The steering is what you remember most, as it conveys so lucidly all the information you want about the road surface while filtering out all the kickback you do not.

All Good, Then?
Not for everyone. The 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is a finely honed tool, best used for narrowly defined tasks usually involving a racetrack and driving like your pants are on fire. And to a very great extent, this removes it from the real world.

There's no escaping the fact that by any standards the normal Porsche 911 GT3 is an outstanding driving machine, yet it is sufficiently quiet and comfortable to be used every day, something only a true eccentric would consider in the harder, louder, rawer RS. Then there's the small matter of the $20,600 price gulf between them.

So Herr Preuninger's stated aim to put clear air between the GT3 and its RS offshoot has met with success. The best way to look at them is to think of the GT3 as a devastating street car that's also extremely adept on the track, and think of the GT3 RS as a street-legal track car with all the good and bad that entails.

But for those who believe that a Porsche should be about driving first and everything else second, the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is not just the greatest car that Porsche makes but also one of the greatest it has ever made. In an era in which carmakers think nothing of exhuming model names from the past to help prop up rather more lame products of today, it's good to see Porsche not simply doing justice to its illustrious heritage, but adding to it, too.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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