Earlier this month, R&T editor-at-large Sam Smith attended the global media launch of the 700-hp 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Smith’s formal drive review of the GT2 RS will see print in an upcoming issue of Road & Track. In the meantime, he emailed us his first dispatch on the car, in the form of an interview he conducted with himself. He writes this way a lot. Don’t ask why. We don’t know.
If you want a more straightforward review of the 911 GT2 RS, please visit our sister publication, Car and Driver, and read . For now, here’s an awful lot of words on an awful lot of 911. —Ed.
What are we dealing with here? Besides that nutso rear wing.
The GT2 RS is a heavily modified, two-wheel-drive, track-focused version of the current 911 Turbo S. That car costs $188,100, weighs more than 3500 pounds, and is four-wheel-drive; its 3.8-liter flat-six produces 580 hp. The GT2 RS uses a 3.8-liter flat-six to produce 700 hp at 7000 rpm. Porsche says the car weighs 3241 pounds. It costs $294,250 but is lighter than the Turbo, faster, festooned with carbon-fiber, and generally the angriest, weirdest new 911 that money can buy. Plus the fastest factory-built 911 road car in history.
So it’s a 911. Like every other 911.
Not really. From a performance standpoint, this car makes every other current 911, including the naturally aspirated, 9000-rpm GT3, look like a rusty VW Beetle with three wheels missing. In Porsche’s testing, the GT2 RS lapped the Ring 10 seconds faster than the company’s own 918 Spyder, which cost just under $1 million when new. This is no small accomplishment.
But what of the special features and neat tricks? Dear God, there must be special features and neat tricks. Please tell me of the features and tricks.
There is an optional set of carbon-fiber sway bars; they are paired with carbon-fiber end links. The RS’s roof is magnesium, with an option to go for carbon-fiber instead. Ceramic brakes are standard. The rear wheels are 12.5 inches wide and wear 325-section tires. (Perspective: The now-dead Dodge Viper wore 355s out back; when that car left production, those tires were the widest of any contemporary mass-production car.) Water injection, for cooling the engine’s intake charge, is standard. Optional magnesium wheels. A titanium muffler. Carbon hood hinges. Lightweight carpet.
Whoa. That's a lot of stuff.
There’s more! The GT2 RS’s glass is thinner than that of the Turbo S. There is less sound deadening; from the cockpit, you can hear road debris bounce off the car’s underside. There is also significantly more spring rate, a quicker-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission, and more aggressively tuned dampers. You can delete air-conditioning and opt to not install a navigation system, from the factory. There is no rear seat, just a carpeted shelf. The front seats are hard-shell carbon buckets like those found in the 918. In Europe, the car comes standard with a steel interior roll bar. A titanium bar is an option.
No manual gearbox, huh?
Nope. Porsche is adamant about this: RS cars are the most focused part of the company’s lineup. Speed is paramount. And a manual is noticeably slower than PDK, Porsche’s famed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. Which is, admittedly, the best on the market. It’s a mind-reader, both smooth and blazingly quick.
Well, sure, we think so. Manuals are more fun and require skill to operate. Automatic gearboxes are basically condoms: The motions are undoubtedly the same, but unless you’re a robot, the joy of the process takes a hit. If you think motion is the sole purpose of a fast car, then hey, great. If you like the process and want to feel stuff, stay with a clutch pedal.
But all isn’t lost. If you want this kind of performance without losing three pedals, the 755-hp Corvette ZR1 still offers a manual transmission. Go figure.
The GT2 does not sound slow.
Porsches with a “GT” in their name are usually not. Porsche says the car will find 60 mph, from a standstill, in 2.7 seconds. The company also claims that the car will do a 10.5-second quarter-mile.
This is slower than the 918 Spyder, which ran a 9-second quarter and sprinted to 60 in around 2.2 seconds. But again, that car cost nearly a million dollars. And is slower around the world’s most demanding road course.
In Porsche-badge-speak, “RS” stands for renn sport, or rennsport. Motorsport. Literally, “racing sport.” A nice definition, but not exactly indicative of what you get. When I first got started in club racing, a Porsche-loving friend told me that “RS” meant “RipShit.” “It’s what those cars do,” he said.
Those numbers don’t mean much to an ordinary person.
Consider the 911 Turbo S. It is a shockingly fast and remarkably durable car. It will, without hesitation or mechanical hiccup, run 0–60 sprints for weeks at a time without a fall-off in performance, and allow you to win nine out of ten stoplight drag races pretty much anywhere in the world. And, like most modern supercars, if you go by American speed limits, the Turbo S is illegal about halfway through second gear.
Porsche says the GT2 RS is 300 pounds lighter than a Turbo S. The GT2 RS also makes 120 more horsepower. The GT2 RS is thus basically the Turbo S minus the mass of a middleweight superbike. With that bike’s engine output thrown in the trunk for good measure.
Or, you know, the power of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, minus around 1200 pounds of weight.
Put another way: The average household refrigerator weighs between 200 and 300 pounds when empty. The GT2 is Hellcat thrust, minus the weight of at least four refrigerators.
Barely impressed. You heard of Koenigsegg? Their One:1 makes more power and weighs less. Or that Hennessey Lotus turbo-V-8 crazy thing. Or the cars from [insert tuner nutjob here].
First off, that Koenigsegg is bat-guano. You see the video of that thing doing a top-speed run in Nevada? It is now the world’s fastest car. Pay attention to how hard the car pulls when the driver stops short-shifting, close to 200 mph. Sweet Jesus.
More important: Yes, tuners and specialty manufacturers make more powerful, and often lighter, cars. It is reasonably safe to say that those cars are not delivered with the warranty, or with the durability, service-interval, and comfort/HVAC standards of a major manufacturer. Or the breadth of envelope.
This is partly because small carmakers are small carmakers, and large carmakers are large ones. Scale brings benefits. It’s also because Porsche designs its cars to pass international safety and emissions standards, and to be used every day.
When you are not railing on the GT2 RS, it is a relatively calm device. Loud. But comfortable, easy to see out of, designed to be driven every day. By way of illustration, a fortunate friend is currently considering the purchase of a GT2 RS for daily-driver use in Ohio. He recently checked with his local dealer and discovered that Porsche offers a factory snow-tire fitment for the car.
People do not do this sort of thing with a One:1. Most chunks of tuner weirdness would collapse in an Ohio winter. You can probably guess why.
That Ohio man is a hero.
He’s a good dude.
Seven hundred horsepower. From a 3.8-liter 911. How?
Thank the magic of turbocharging. The technology is basically ubiquitous at this point; you can buy a three-cylinder Ford Fiesta with a single turbocharger, or you can buy a Bugatti Chiron, with four. Porsche’s basic engine designs are so durable, with such a safety margin in their construction, that chasing power is often simply a matter or knowing where to look. Next to the Turbo S, the GT2 uses larger turbochargers, unique pistons, a modified engine crankcase, and a reworked cooling system, among other details. The compressor side of the turbocharger alone goes up 9 millimeters in diameter, from 58 to 67. The ducts on the rear fenders feed 27 percent more air, in volume, to the intercoolers.
The output curves are absurd. Monstrous.
Oddly, it’s not. The engine is the star of the show, obviously. If the GT3 makes you work for shove, nothing below 6500 rpm or so, the GT2 has grunt always. Explosively. Everywhere. It madhouses its way to the horizon, finds it, and then madhouses its way wherever the hell else you point it.
Or at least, it feels that way for the first few laps. Then you realize that the engine really needs to be revved to go from Quick as Hell to Obscenely, Outlandishly Fast. So you start revving it more, maybe a gear lower here and there. At which point the back tires move around on exit throttle, little dabby slides. No straight is ever long enough, as with most supercars. None of what happens is freakish or surprising. There’s a noticeable, if modest amount of turbo lag in the bottom third of the tach, but there’s so much torque off-boost, it’s hard to care. The torque hit is addictive, just a wall of instant smack aimed at the small of your back. Compounding, instant, smack.
Maybe this sounds nuts. It feels nuts, if I’m honest. The press event I attended took place at the Algarve International Circuit, in Portimao, Portgual. Fast track, with big elevation change and a few ballsy-fast corners. The drive day was half dry, half wet—sun at first, then rain around lunchtime. I was allowed a handful of dry laps, and a handful of laps once the circuit was well and truly soaked. We drove a bit on the road before and after. A mix of mountain twisties and suburban highway. The car just seemed friendly, in all of it.
What do you even do with a 700-hp 911 track special on the road?
Break laws, mostly. Gratuitously, and in spurts, when you feel like you can get away with it. You also listen to rocks pinging off the underside, because the GT2 has as much sound deadening as a tin hat. At one point, my ears followed a particularly interesting pebble from the front wheel well all the way back to the rear bumper. The car is enough of a loudbox that you can pinpoint precisely where on the car a rock goes. I think the ting! that pebble made before it left came from the titanium muffler.
But really, most of what you do is groove into the GT2’s killer mechanical grip. If you don’t want to get arrested, you drive it like you drive any supercar on the road: Gliding through corners at double the speed limit while barely leaning on the tire. It’s not as engaging on a back road as the GT3, mainly because it doesn’t make that car’s obscene yowl and seems to want more pace in order to feel like it’s working. Like most fast modern Porsches, the shocks have a heavy amount of rebound damping, and the car is stiffly sprung, so lumpy pavement occasionally puts wheels in the air. (In Portugal, I saw the rear wheels come up at least once, on a sweeping, fast two-lane covered in relatively minor, 70-mph yumps. We came down fine, no drama, but it happened.)
The GT2’s engine also puts out a boomy, annoying drone in cruise between 2500 and 4000 rpm. It is worth noting that no GT3 in history has ever been referred to as “annoying.” At least not by anyone with half a brain.
So you’re saying this is really for track people.
Not exactly; it’s a fine road car, if a bit demanding in terms of ride quality and cabin noise. But given the price, there’s not a relative amount of added joy, on the road, over most current 911s. The car wants a track. I’m a decent club racer, not incompetent, but not Schumacher or Hamilton, either. And two laps into that media event, on a track I’d never seen, the GT2 RS felt like an old friend. Like a GT3 with more stability at high speed and a little more front-end grip. It sounded like a 935 I drove once—quiet in some moments, guttural and chesty in others.
The previous GT2 required a bit of care at the limit. It had to be delicately put into or dragged out of a corner. High-speed work required underwear fortitude. The engine’s turbo lag necessitated a decent amount of forward planning. Not bad, not in the slightest, just a lot to handle. A big gun.
This is also a lot to handle, but it’s different. When the RS slides, it does so gradually. I could be wrong—the last GT2 I drove was almost ten years ago—but I don’t remember the old car being this docile. You have to assume it has something to do with the 991’s longer wheelbase, stiffer structure, and more refined suspension geometry. Plus tolerance stackup from a zillion changes related to where the car carries its mass. It feels less rear-engined than you’d think; it seems to ask less of you than you expect, in terms of wanting special treatment in a corner.
The rain was a hoot, by the way. Wipers on full blitz, fast as they would go. Braking down from a buck-fifty or sixty or whatever into a gloss of standing water. A wash from the nose if you didn’t carry the brake properly. Slow hands on the wheel to go fast, or big hammy ones if you want the car to dance.
Wait. Are you seriously saying that a 700-hp Porsche 911 is easy to drive in the rain?
Well, no. But it’s not exactly terrifying, either. Given the reputation of the classic, high-powered, rear-drive 911, you would think it would be terrifying. Instead, it just requires respect.
And is hilarious. Should-not-be-possible, hilarious.
Do they all look like this? Fillips and crazy headliner colors and carbon-fiber “stripes” on the hood?” What the heck are those ridiculous, gaping holes in the front bumper?
From certain angles, yes, it looks ridiculous. The GT2 RS is not my taste, but then, I like subdued classicism, and supercars do not generally deal in that. At least, modern ones don’t. Maybe this is your taste. Maybe Ferry Porsche, rest his soul, would love this. Or maybe Ferry Porsche would see the giant P-O-R-S-C-H-E lettering on the top of the GT2 RS’s rear wing, available with the optional $31,000 Weissach Package, and the plastic body cladding that seems to climb halfway up the rear bumper. And maybe he would roll his eyes hard enough to see the forward half of his spine.
Styling is subjective. Few modern cars are truly beautiful. This one really only looks great in profile, when it resembles a 911 RSR viewed through a tab of acid.
Still, you don’t have to buy it in a crazy color. Or with a crazy interior. One of the cars on the launch was a particularly subdued shade of gray called Chalk. It looked nice, if a little at odds with itself—like an AK-47 painted with pink polka dots. Wearing a sun dress.
I guess I like it? I mean, it grows on you. The front—those air intakes—it kind of looks like . If Ambrose Burnside were a car. And peeved.
Porsche makes a lot of 911s. The company currently offers 23 variants of the car—from base Carrera to GTS and GT3 and Turbo and Turbo S, with a few convertibles and targa-topped models thrown in for good measure. If you buy a GT2 RS, if you spend that three hundred grand and rip out of the dealer’s parking lot with your 700 hp, you probably want your car to look a little different from the 370-horse base Carrera that some subpar dentist just paid $90,000 for.
Put another way: An old line holds that fast 911s are really only bought by people who want fast 911s. The car is weird and compromised enough, at the upper limits of its price range, that you have to specifically want it. As opposed to fast Ferraris, for example, which are often just bought by folks who want the most expensive Ferrari and don’t care what it is. For the same money as a GT2 RS, you could buy a lot of other vehicles. Some of those vehicles are Italian and look like rolling sex.
When you are spending more than a quarter-million dollars on an automobile, you are almost certainly buying a serious piece of machinery. Rolling sex is what Italian carmakers do when they get serious. Porsches are engineered and (often) built in Germany. When German carmakers get serious . . .
Well, they’re always serious. So they get more serious. This is what that looks like, if you blend it with 50+ years of tradition (the 911 has been around, in one form or another, since 1963), an adherence to a certain mechanical and philosophical blueprint, a mild dose of tacky details (insert joke about German culture here) and the unique needs of a 211-mph (speed-limited) automobile shaped like a throwback airfoil. You get an odd cross between awkward and muscled, loose and constrained. Like most German art.
There’s also the whole culture-caricature thing. Porsche undoubtedly could have packaged the GT2’s talents into a more cosmetically subtle, less obvious vehicle. If history is any guide, this is not what the supercar market wants. Generally speaking, the people buying a quarter-million-dollar German car do so because it oozes a specific time and place. Because it does things in a way that a quarter-million-dollar American car, or a quarter-million-dollar Italian car, would not.
At this price point, you are dealing with vehicles that address the rarefied fringes of human want. And the fringes of want are rarely subtle.
Wait. Two hundred and eleven miles per hour . . . and it’s speed-limited?
Fun fact: Only two series-production Porsches have ever been electronically speed-limited from the factory—the 997-generation 911 GT2 (620 hp, 205 mph, launched in 2011) and this car, which is built on the 991-gen (current) 911 platform. All the rest were limited “naturally”—by gearing and/or aerodynamic drag.
Why limit the car? What do these people have against GT2s?
Nothing, really. I think they quite like them. The problem is tires. One Porsche rep I spoke with unofficially estimated the 2018 GT2’s top speed to be 220–225 mph. Porsche expects its cars to be capable of their VMax for sustained periods. Hours, days at a time, whatever. No problems of engine temperature or tire management, not a hiccup until the fuel runs out. Like virtually everything engineered by human hands, however, tires are the result of compromise. They must balance lateral grip with water evacuation, water evacuation with high-speed stability, steering feel with everything.
If Porsche asked a tire manufacturer—likely Michelin or Dunlop, the GT2 RS’s current suppliers—to build a tire capable of withstanding 220 mph, that tire would likely not produce the lateral grip and transient behavior necessary for a 6:47 lap of the Ring.
So Porsche chased one metric over the other. Guessing, rightly so, that more people will care about an impressive (if ) Ring lap than the ability to do an extra 10 or 15 mph on a derestricted, low-traffic autobahn. (Assuming you can even find that magic pairing, because the German highway system is becoming more crowded by the day.)
Neat. Give me some random trivia I can think about when I put my head on the pillow at night.
The hood badge on the GT2 RS—Porsche’s famous crest—is a sticker. This was ostensibly done to save weight, but really, we’re talking grams. Not a huge difference in how the car behaves, or minus, though you could argue that grams add up. (Cue outcry from forum weenies: I replaced my badge sticker with the heavier enamel one and was cursed with crippling understeer! I write this from a hospital bed after plowing headlights-first into a fence, after which they had to amputate my tuchis! PORSCHE COMMUNITY, I BESEECH YOU, SAVE YOURSELVES, DOUBT NOT THE FACTORY, LEARN FROM MY ARROGANCE!)
The now-discontinued 911 GT3 RS also wore a nose-crest sticker. No badge. The tradition dates back to the 1960s 911 R, when Porsche was young and its cars were lighter, smaller, and more simple. In the modern era, you have to assume that Porsche’s GT department uses the decal because they like it.
But the specifics are neat. In 2016, Porsche won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall. The 919 hybrid prototype that took that win also wore a crest-sticker on its nose. And you can buy that exact sticker at your local Porsche dealer—all you have to do is give them the part number for the nose badge of a GT2 RS. It’s the same part.
That’s cool as hell. I want one of those stickers. And the whole car.
I know. I don’t want a GT2 RS, but that’s just me. It’s monstrously fast but too much of a blunt instrument. Several new cars at or below this price point, including Porsche’s own 911 GT3, offer more involvement with only a slight downgrade in pace. If you want to be the biggest dog at your local track day, and you have almost three hundred grand, and you have to have a new commute-worthy German road car with a warranty . . . Hey, go nuts.
Still, it’s a remarkable achievement. Seven hundred horsepower, in a track-focused special, and relatively friendly. Wow.
Are the Porsche purists going to have some kind of problem with it?
Probably. A predictive list of potential and yet undoubtedly irrelevant or incorrect gripes: The front tires are too narrow; the car’s too big; it’s comically styled; it doesn’t sound good enough; it’s cynically priced; it’s a 3200-pound track beast with a carbon roof and fabric straps for door handles, but heavy door panels and a complex folding cupholder. Whatever.
Something tells me the people who buy this thing aren’t going to care a whit.
You are almost certainly correct. They will laugh all the way to each and every apex, and then they will laugh all the way to the bank, a few years from now, if they go to sell the car. This is how Porsche GT cars work. Haters hate. Fast Porsches get faster and more powerful. And somehow, in one glorious and thoroughly eye-popping moment, we arrive at seven hundred horses.