The Meat Puppet Behind the Wheel Is the Weakest Link
Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor
All hell is about to break loose. Flat-foot the throttle and swing the tachometer needle past six. Don't worry, the engine will settle back to a tick above four with a mellifluous burble. Wait for the boost gauge, which "goes to 11," to stop climbing. Breathe deeply.
Relax the muscles in your left leg and prepare. Because 25 inches of pre-shaved, heat-cycled, racing-compound (DOT-legal) rubber will struggle to maintain mechanical bonds as it tears at the pavement beneath the rear-engine coupe.
Now, if you've kept your wits and backed off the throttle enough to maintain an ideal 6-8 percent slip, the 620-horsepower limited-edition 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS will need more practiced attention just 2.4 seconds from now.
Now you're traveling 45 mph as the shift light flashes, so you need to simultaneously kick the heavy clutch pedal, lift-slap the throttle and snatch the stubby lever, all with the authority and conviction of a boxer's uppercut. At precise 2.5-second intervals thereafter, repeat the above routine, shoving and grabbing the Alcantara knob twice more. When you add up all those seconds, there will be just 11.2 on the clock. You will exhale while traveling at nearly 130 mph in 4th gear as you cross an imaginary line drawn a quarter-mile from where you took that first deep breath.
And you'll be stunned at what just happened.
Somewhere in the middle of that flurry of activity, 60 mph whizzed by in 3.6 seconds (3.3 seconds with a 1-foot rollout, as most will report). We land on either side of Porsche's estimate of 3.4 to 3.5-seconds to 60 mph, so we're happy with our results and happier to report they're fairly repeatable, too. Just as with the 2008 911 GT2 we tested, there's still a boost-building two-step launch control embedded in the GT2's brain, but this time at a lower engine speed, and it's there even with the SC+TC (stability control, traction control) shut off.
[Editorial note: These acceleration figures are the result of a retest of the same car. However, because we suspected the car wasn't performing to its true potential after the previous day's dyno test, we opted to rerun our track test. Porsche cleared the error codes from its ECU and let us have it back just long enough for this retest.]
Additionally, there's a noticeable manipulation of the throttle after each upshift. Many powerful cars chirp their tires with an aggressive upshift and clutch engagement, but the GT2 RS won't let that happen. The power is bled off electronically and feathered back in smoothly between each shift. It happens quickly, but it's probably for the best, really. Wouldn't want to break anything. That's an expensive engine, hooked up to an expensive driveline, routed to expensive tires — all of which will, no doubt, be propelling owners with more money than restraint.
Less an Engine Than a Solid-Fuel Rocket Motor
It's a good thing Porsche included that bright-yellow shift light on the face of the tachometer because the once-trustworthy needle doesn't stand a chance of keeping up with all the GT2 RS's specific and lightweight components within its motorsport-sourced 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged engine and driveline. If you miss the light, the rev limiter slaps you disdainfully like an irritable driving instructor, "You fool, didn't you see the light?"
The RS's single-mass flywheel alone is 17.6 pounds lighter than a standard dual-mass unit. The engine also features a vertically split crankcase with eight bearings and forged connecting rods. The twin variable-vane turbos are cranked up to deliver 1.6 bar (23.2 psi) compared to a "regular" GT2's 1.4 bar and the Turbo models' paltry 0.8 bar. Even the new composite expansion-type intake manifold is lighter by 6.6 pounds compared to the aluminum piece it replaces.
When we strapped the GT2 RS to the dynamometer, we recorded 580 rear-wheel horsepower. The engine is making at least 620 hp at the crank. This is the highest-output engine ever offered in a street-legal Porsche. If you're into specific output, that translates to 172 hp/liter of displacement, or 67 percent greater efficiency-per-liter than the mighty Corvette ZR1's supercharged V8 that produces 638 hp from 6.162 liters of displacement.
Look. There are probably 1,487 other ways to contrast these two rivals, but just in case you were wondering, this Guards Red coupe is quicker and faster than the last 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 we tested, which ran the quarter in 11.7 seconds at 127.0 mph. And, yes, yes, and again yes, this Porsche 911 GT2 RS also costs more than twice as much, but we'll address that later.
Just How Expensive Is It?
The base price for each of the 125 stateside 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RSs was $245,950. Each one is already sold, so we're sorry if this review has inspired you to run out to Klaus Auto Haus and buy one. We're guessing the remaining 375 examples (for a total 500 worldwide) have also been pre-ordered with piles of euros, Russian rubles, Saudi riyals and, of course, Chinese yuan.
This singular U.S. press car "Nr. 429/500" is also fitted with the $6,840 optional carbon-fiber front fenders that lower the overall weight by about 11 pounds (the standard carbon hood shaves 5.5 pounds; lightweight li-ion battery another 22 pounds). The latest generation of PCM (Porsche Communication Management) including a navigation module and a touchscreen adds another $3,110. Other added options include a shockingly expensive carbon-fiber "rear-center" console for $1,625, a 325-watt amp and nine speakers ($700), auto-dimming mirror with embedded rain sensor ($690), Sport Chrono Package Plus, and a fancy GPS lap timer/memory ($690). The two seatbelt outlets were added in carbon for $450, plus an iPod kit ($345) and body-colored headlamp cleaners ($295). Finally, you'd think Porsche would throw in the embossed crests on the headrests on a quarter-million-dollar car. Nope, those still cost $285 despite the fact that we have a reversed imprint of a Porsche crest on the back of our heads. Grand total: $260,980. Yeah, that is a small fortune, but this is a supercar. No doubt about it.
Not Off-the-Shelf Tires
Naturally, a supercar like this doesn't roll on ordinary tires. Up front, the GT2 RS has race-compound 245/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup + N1 tires. That "N1" indicates it's an OE-specific tire and in this case it means the tread depth is less than the non-N1 version (just 5.5/32nd-inch). They're essentially pre-shaved tires and after the first hundred miles of driving they're at their best, and also practically illegal. Same is true for the 325/30ZR19 N2 rear tires. Incidentally, if we had to replace all four, it'd run a cool $2,250 before tax, balancing, nitrogen filling and installation.
Given these specialized tires, hunkered-down two-mode driver-adjustable suspension and 3,180-pound as-tested weight, one might imagine the GT2 RS might have more talent than running quarter-miles within two ticks of the magical "10." It does, indeed, top the charts elsewhere.
Grip and Agility? Yes
A little while back, Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh posted the results of his work on our project Miata along with the top-15 skid pad performances from our past four years of testing, from the Corvette ZR1's 1.02g at the top to a handful of 0.96g cars at the bottom. Guess where this GT2 RS would land? At the top, with a 1.03g average lateral acceleration performance. Unlike the last GT2 we tested, however, there were noticeable differences in the balance of the car when the driver was either inboard or outboard. In the counterclockwise direction, the 2011 Porsche GT2 RS would oversteer ever so slightly and controllably, producing a mind-boggling 1.05g lap. In the opposite direction, the car gently understeered, posting a 1.0g lap.
It's hard to believe adding a 150-pound driver to the otherwise perfect 50/50 left/right weight distribution makes that much of a difference, but doing so does change the balance to 53 percent left and 47 percent right. Or maybe the limited-slip differential is set too aggressively with its 28 percent lockup under power and 40 percent in overrun. Dunno, could be one or both, but that's why we test cars.
In the slalom, we were not surprised to find this rear-engine, rear-drive car required the time-honored Porsche technique of entering a little below the limit, then gently squeezing the throttle throughout the 600-foot dance on the edge of adhesion. Why? Because if we tried to go through at a constant speed or even paused during the throttle progression, the rear would step out (controllably) and we'd lose time by trying to keep the pointy end heading toward the finish line. Was the LSD working overtime again? Maybe, but the result was not a production-car record (held by a pair of Porsche 911 GT3s at 75.3 mph), but a supercar-appropriate 72.5 mph.
A driver's leg will tire long before the GT2 RS's ventilated, cross-drilled and slotted carbon-ceramic brakes (15 inches in diameter up front, and 13.8 inches rear) will ever begin to show signs of fading. We gave up trying after 10 consecutive and essentially identical stops from 60 mph in 100 feet. We even tossed in a 100-0-mph stop to see if the brake system would falter, but no. The pedal remains ultra-firm and like the racecar that it is, modulating the braking effectiveness comes from the amount of pressure put on the pedal, not how far the pedal travels, which feels like an inch.
Back to Reality
OK, so the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS goes, grips, stops and handles like a racecar, so what's it like to live with? In a word, terrible. It's a racecar. Getting in and out of those gorgeous rock-solid carbon-fiber seats takes monumental effort and delicacy. You don't so much sit in the driver seat as fall into it. Even with the two-position dampers in their softer setting, the ride is punishing on anything but fresh asphalt. It's so low we cringed with each driveway and parking ramp we encountered, and even using the safer diagonal method, it lifts first a front, then a rear wheel completely off the ground.
As proud as Porsche is of its new and improved hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth capabilities and 325-watt, nine-speaker audio upgrade, each is unnecessarily obtuse and largely useless because you can't see or hear any of them while actually driving.
On the other hand, the engine is amazingly docile around town, throttle response is actually very good and although the composite brakes squeal nearly all the time they're not hot, they still offer reasonable feel all the time. Steering effort is livable, as is the short-throw shifter, but the clutch is too heavy for traffic which, as you know, is inevitable in Los Angeles.
Who's This Car for?
Well, Porsche says, "The new Porsche 911 GT2 RS is a genuine sports car designed for supreme driving dynamics, right from the start, with features and an overall setup focusing on performance." Did you notice how that description, more like a mission statement, doesn't include a person? In other words, comfort, cost and comparisons don't matter, so don't go looking for them.
Porsche built just 500 of these limited-edition high-output lightweight model-specific coupes (part of the reason they cost what they do) only so they can be considered "production cars" in homologated endurance racing — which is what Porsche, as an engineering company, is all about.
It's this kind of relentless, excess engineering that makes Porsche legendary. It's this kind of street-legal racecar that makes Porsche one of our favorite carmakers. The mere fact that this car exists is a triumph in the face of gas-sipping hybrids inundating our collective conscience and clogging perfectly good mountain driving roads. That we had the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS in our possession for 72 hours (plus one extra hour for the retest) makes us love what we do and love even more what Porsche does best: build cars that demonstrate that the weaker half of the relationship between a racecar and its driver is the driver.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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