When I was 17 years old, a house in the neighborhood that my family and I lived in caught fire. We lived out in the boonies, so the nearest fire department was roughly 25 miles away. In other words, that bad boy was going up in flames without much hope of being extinguished. Fortunately, the family was not home at the time and no one was injured. So as the neighborhood waited for the fire department to arrive there was little more we could do aside from gather together to watch the spectacle. I had never seen a house fire before, and the sheer force of the event still leaves me searching for words to describe it. Even from a hundred yards away, the heat was unfathomable. The sounds of glass windows exploding outwards, wood crackling, and brick and mortar crumbling created a cacophony of destruction. The fire burned so hot and so furiously that it created its own wind as it mercilessly sucked air in towards itself to fuel its rage. Each aspect of this gross display of nature’s power was awesome and terrifying, but it was when they all summated together that the entire event became something that left me completely overpowered. Even when every component of a system is a work of art itself, it’s when all those parts come together as a whole that create an experience that overwhelms those who partake in it. This can happen in the automotive world too.
The Porsche 991 GT3RS is an amalgamation of near perfect components, and it’s when all the cogs of the machine mesh together that it becomes more than a car; it becomes a titan of performance. For those who don’t already know, the GT3RS plays big brother to Porsche’s 911 GT3 and represents the pinnacle of 911 performance (with the exception, to some, of the 911R). For reference, these are the 911s trimmed in Tropical Skittles inspired colors (although these days any Porsche can be if your pockets are deep enough). The GT3RS is traditionally a track-ready version of the GT3 and brings some extra performance to the driver. However, whereas in the past the GT3RS was simply a more aesthetically intense version of the GT3 with a few extra Clydesdales under the… trunk, the latest installment of the icon – the 991- brings more nuances than usual.
To kick things off, the 3.8 liter flat-six engine that resides in the GT3 has been punched out to 4.0 liters and sports a reconfigured crankshaft, slightly longer stroke and more higher flowing induction system. Mounted in the rear as usual, the new power plant belts out 500bhp and 338 lb/ft of torque. Keep in mind, those are Porsche horsepower and torques, which thanks to the engineers at Weissach means that every ounce of energy makes it directly to the asphalt. The GT3RS revs all the way up to 8800 rpms, which Porsche purists will note is 200 rpms less than the limit of the GT3’s 3.8 liter. Speculatively, this probably has something to do with the number of engine replacements that Porsche bought for GT3 customers, however nothing has been confirmed. Regardless, 8800 rpms is still an intoxicatingly high redline. Unlike the GT3’s top-end oriented 3.8 liter, the 4.0 liter has a broad torque curve that provides a blissfully strong midrange. The true power really amps up past 5000 rpms, but anything above 2800 rpms will still pin passengers to their headrests. An optional fully titanium performance exhaust goes a long way in giving the 4.0 liter an even angrier disposition. This particular GT3RS was equipped with a SharkWerks Bypass Exhaust, which sounds every bit as delicious as you’re imagining.
Keeping all this power on road are a plethora of functional aero components and, of course, a masterful suspension. The aggressively angled rear spoiler and vented front fender exits aren’t just for show, they help to press the 265 and 325 width front and rear Michelins onto the pavement providing unreal amounts of grip through corners. Sporting the wider turbo body to house its McPherson multi-link suspension, the GT3RS is 36 mm wider than the GT3. This not only maintains balance and stability when they most count but also helps make the 991 my favorite GT3RS aesthetically. The constant ABS monitoring and multi-setting traction control ensure that the GT3RS is firmly planted, regardless of if it’s on a track or public road. Those incredibly advanced ABS and Traction Control system also give the GT3RS one of the simplest Launch Control systems I’ve ever used. The procedure is as follows: put car in Sport+ driving mode, left foot hard on the brake, power pedal all the way down, release brake and propel yourself to 60mph in just 3.1 seconds. That literally is the entire sequence. And with optional 390mm ceramic brakes and 6 piston front and 4 piston rear calipers and a curb weight of just 3131 lbs, it will do 60mph-0mph just as impressively as it does 0mph-60mph. To me, though, the most impressive weapon the GT3RS has in its arsenal is the marvel of modern engineering that is the PDK 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The Porsche Doppelkupplung or PDK dual-clutch is currently the only transmission option available for the GT3RS. I’m going to step on some toes here, because the PDK being the only transmission available is just fine with me. In almost every other sports car application, I would tend agree with the overwhelming majority of automotive enthusiasts who say that a proper sports car needs a manual transmission. We driving nuts need to feel that visceral connection with the machine we’re piloting. When given the option between a manual and automatic transmission, a true driver is supposed to choose the manual; it’s the unspoken code. But the PDK 7-speed isn’t just a dual-clutch automatic transmission, it’s one of the best dual-clutch automatic transmission. There are a few things that should be on every car enthusiasts bucket list; experiencing a PDK gearbox is one of those things. The PDK shifts faster than a manual, smoother than a manual, and is more efficient than a manual. Unlike a manual transmission there’s virtually zero chassis upset on downshifts with the PDK, and unlike an ordinary automatic transmission there’s virtually zero delay during gear changes. Even amongst elite dual-clutch gearboxes, the PDK shifts through gears at an almost unreal speed and does so more smoothly than its competitors. Even the shift paddles are perfect, allowing just the right amount of travel when pulled and the optimal sharpness of click when engaged. The PDK lets the driver have complete control over the 7 perfectly spaced gears, it just shifts through those gears faster and smoother than any organic driver ever could. Even in full automatic mode the PDK is insightful and obedient, knowing exactly which gear the car needs to be in and is all too happy to downshift freely to get there. The GT3RS and PDK dual-clutch are a perfect pairing of transmission and vehicle.
For those of you who still aren’t sold on the PDK and are sticking to your third pedal guns, fret not. Rumors that the 991.2 GT3 may have a manual gearbox when it debuts in 2017 and, by proxy, the GT3RS as well have been aloft in the air. Spyshots from Autoblog earlier this year seem to further confirm these suppositions. With companies like BMW, Mercedes and Audi axing manual gearboxes like heretics during the Inquisition, I would not be surprised if Porsche strategically brought back a manual option for their more puritan-minded consumers. Still, if raw speed is your priority the PDK is the way to go with the GT3RS.
To describe the GT3RS as a list of specs and technologies would only be a partial description, perhaps even an injustice to the car. Because while the GT3RS is built with components that represent the result of decades of perfectionist engineering, race track testing and enthusiast inspired design, it isn’t until all of those independent systems unite to become a machine that the GT3RS shows its true nature. No one part can solely explain how this car is as blisteringly fast as it is. There was a moment while I was driving the GT3RS that time seemed to slow down, and I became strangely aware of every event that was taking place simultaneously. That brilliant 4.0 liter flat six was screeching its way up to 8800 rpms, it’s exhaust shriek splitting eardrums along the way. My right middle finger was poised on the paddle, ready to initiate yet another satisfying click that in turn would result in the PDK shifting up a gear before said finger could even fully release. I felt the almost indescribable suction of functional aerodynamics taking over through a long bend in the road; pressing me further back and deeper into my seat, securing the comically enormous Michelins even more firmly onto the tarmac. The unreal and emboldening sensation that the faster I drove the more planted I became took over as the speedometer slowly crept higher and higher. I began to grasp why the 991 GT3RS is more momentous than other supercars, and why it has so many devout fanatics. When driving, I could feel the car making minute adjustments and refinements, but it didn’t feel like the car was driving itself. It still felt like I was controlling the GT3RS, just a better driving version of myself. The summation of each nearly flawless element performing precisely as it should became an experience and an event. It generated emotion inside me as I knew that I was actively making a memory that I will carry for the rest of my life. I felt the sanguine sensation that I was driving with the GT3RS, not simply operating it.
The owner of this particular 991 GT3RS is a true automotive enthusiast, and he’s owned a staggering number of performance cars in the past. An R35 Nissan GTR, a Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series, a BMW E92 M3, and a Porsche 991 GT3 just to name a few. They were all driven skillfully, hard, and often. I asked him if his 991 GT3RS was just another stop on his super car railroad, or if this was more of an end goal for him. He told me that there really is something different about the GT3RS that set it apart from all the other fanboy dream cars he’d owned. At the end of the driving session, I knew what he meant. There isn’t a calculation or technical spec for it, and there isn’t anything that any schematic or Porsche forum can do to convey it too you. Some things have to be felt to understand just how overwhelming they are – kind of like a housefire.
Copyright 2016 Hooniverse/Colton J. Newkirk