2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS First Drive

2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS First Drive

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2011 Porsche 911 Coupe

(3.8L 6-cyl. 6-speed Manual)

Light the Fuse, Then Stand Back

Porsche has been building GT2 versions of the 911 for 15 years, and RS models for longer still — 37 years, to be precise. And yet for all this time, the fabled RS badge has been kept away from the GT2 as if, somehow, the union would prove that you can have too much of a good thing after all.

And all this time, those of us who enjoy the projects that appear from Porsche's delightfully nutty motorsports department wondered just what would a GT2 RS be like?

Well, now we know. We're driving the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, one of just 500 examples that will be built. You might want to get in line at the dock when the boat arrives from Germany in October.

A Healthy Obsession
It would have been so easy for Porsche simply to slot the turbocharged 530-horsepower flat-6 from the outgoing GT2 into the already fabulous chassis of the new 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and, likely as not, we'd all have swooned over the result. But that is not the way of Porsche Motorsport.

Instead the engineers at Porsche Motorsport have taken the turbocharged GT2 engine — still basically the old racing unit that won Le Mans back in 1996 and unrelated to the motor in the Cayman, Boxster and normal 911s — and started fiddling.

Up went the boost from 20.3 psi to 23.2 psi and up went the size of the intercoolers. And up, too, went the power. The target was 600 hp, but when the engineers got there, they didn't feel like stopping. So the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS now develops 620 hp at 6,500 rpm, 90 hp more than the old GT2 engine. It's backed up by 516 pound-feet of torque at 2,250 rpm.

Less Is More
Enough? Not even close. The motorsport engineers then went to work on the chassis, lightening everything up to and including the shield of Stuttgart on the nose, which is now a sticker rather than a badge, something Porsche's racing cars have worn since the 1980s (and carrying the same part number all this time to prove it).

A carbon-fiber hood reduces overall weight by 5.5 pounds, while a single-mass flywheel saves some 17.6 pounds. Seats from the GT3 RS saved 22 pounds over those from the old GT2, while 9 pounds were saved by discarding acoustic insulation. A lithium-ion battery liberates a colossal 31 pounds, and so on, including carbon-fiber front fenders and plastic rear marker lights. In the end the Porsche engineers shaved off 154 pounds from the weight of the hardly corpulent GT2.

The result is 620 hp in a car that weighs 3,021 pounds and a weight-to-power ratio of 4.9 pounds per horsepower. No other car in the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS's class — no Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren — can match it.

More Motorsport Hardware
But the Porsche engineers didn't stop there. Aerodynamic tweaks to the front splitter and rear wing plus other details increase downforce at 186 mph by 60 percent.

While the suspension configuration is similar to that of the GT3 RS, many of the control arms and links now have Heim joints for precise control. Meanwhile the rear springs have linear rates rather than progressive, and they also carry tiny helper springs to maintain some loading in the suspension on full rebound (a typical motorsport application).

While the rear tires look the same as the 325/30ZR19 Michelin Cup items that you see on the GT3 RS, they feature a completely different construction and compound and are carried on motorsport-style center-lock wheels.

An Entirely False Sense of Security
The equipment list might make you think madness lies this way, but as you register the quiet, almost boring note of the twin-turbo engine, engage the gentle clutch and pull away, you could be forgiven for being a little disappointed. The 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS just goes about its business like any other Porsche. It rides well and stays quiet at speed, despite the loss of acoustic insulation and the conversion to plastic bodywork.

And yet you know there is a monster in here. You know that this is a car even the fearless heroes of Porsche Motorsport informally refer to as "The Beast," capable of lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes, 18 seconds. Most of all, you know that when you finally summon the courage to put your foot down, something unforgettable is going to happen. All you don't know is what.

Street-Legal Lunacy
If you don't like bad language, keep well away from the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, because the first time it sends all 620 hp through the six-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels, the cabin just fills up with the stuff.

According to Porsche, the numbers are these: zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds; zero to 100 mph in 6.8 seconds (a mere half-second slower than a McLaren F1); and zero to 125 mph in 9.8 seconds. If you're not an astronaut, you'll find profanities leaving your mouth that you didn't even know were there in the first place.

What makes it all the more frightening is the lack of drama. While a Porsche 911 GT3 RS howls its way through the speed ranges, the GT2 RS merely hums while accruing velocity. It's as if the car has figured out how to proceed from one speed to the next thanks to the simple expedient of leaving out all the speeds in between. One instant you're going 60 mph, and the next instant you're going 160 mph.

The engine is so flexible and civilized that you have to watch your progress like a hawk if you are not to out-brake yourself into the next curve.

But Can the Chassis Cope?
It's interesting to consider that the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS now has more than twice the power of the first water-cooled 911 (the 300-hp 996-series car that appeared in 1997), and yet so fastidious has Porsche been that every single horsepower remains controllable. As a result the GT2 RS need not be an intimidating car to drive fast. Which is to say that so long as the road is dry and you don't go getting ideas about turning off the stability systems, you can drive it and enjoy almost all that it can do in fear of nothing more than a lengthy jail sentence in the unlikely event that the law ever manages to catch up with you.

But the operative word in the last sentence is "almost." We were driven around a track in Germany by race and rally legend Walter Rohrl, who demonstrated first how well behaved and docile the GT2 RS can be with its electronic safety nets in place and then demonstrated how utterly uncompromising the car becomes if you take the electronics away.

Once at the wheel again, we discovered the car shares the GT3 RS's dislike of understeer, a trait that sets it apart from all other current 911 offerings. And it is genuinely difficult to overwhelm the tire grip at the back simply because there is just so damn much of it, but introduce some of the torque while on the limit in a lower gear and round the tail will come.

If you're quick you can catch it, and even enjoy and exploit it. But if you're at all inattentive and allow those turbos time to spool up properly, you'll be looking back at your tire tracks before you can say, "Opposite lock."

A Car for Heroes
You need only look at the spec sheet to know that the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS is not a car for the feeble-hearted, but only once you've driven it will you start to understand what Porsche has achieved here.

We'll say now that we'd prefer a standard GT3 RS with or without the extra cash in the bank because its glorious engine note, 8,500-rpm redline and scalpel-sharp throttle response mean more to us than the GT2's preposterous power. But as a weapon you can use every day and for almost every reason and then, with a flick of the foot, dispatch everything this side of a Bugatti Veyron, the GT2 RS knows no equal.

In all the years we've been monitoring the progress of the 911, we've never felt Porsche has gone too far with the concept. We still don't, really. But we do think the 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS is very near the limit, because we don't see what more can be achieved by loading up the 911's rear-engine design with even more power. After 45 years of ever-increasing amounts of power, we think the 911 has finally gone as far as it can.

We will await the next move from Porsche Motorsport with even more interest than usual. We don't know what the engineers will do, but whatever it is, we'll guarantee you that it ain't going to be dull.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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