Gaze up at a British sky in late September, and there’s a decent chance it’ll be blotted with a chiaroscuro tableau packing track-drenching moisture. Rain is a cruel mistress in these parts, responsible both for gorgeous verdant foliage and disconcerting tarmac slickness.
Such was my lot in life at the global launch of the 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS: gratitude for getting my hands on one of the most coveted sports cars of the year, tempered by the knowledge that exploiting its full potential would be a fool’s errand.
The now-familiar flat-six is a thing to be celebrate, an endangered free-breather displacing 4.0 litres, boasting six individual throttle bodies, and putting out a healthy 518 bhp. The figure is 16 more than the GT3, thanks to new cams with modified profiles. But the powerplant is also a technological cul de sac. According to Porsche GT boss Andy Preuninger, “Under the boundaries of current legislation, the 4.2-litre race engine [in the GT3 R racecar] is just not clean enough, so we couldn’t do that.”
|2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
|518 BHP / 343 Pound-Feet
Gallery: 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS: First Drive
Enter aerodynamics. With its massive wing and extensive network of ducts and vents, the GT3 RS is a visual totem for all things downforce, the black art of creating a quicker future by playing nice with all those air molecules threatening to get in the way of going fast. Don’t let the big dumb rear wing fool you: the GT3 RS is a smartypants when it comes to cheating the wind. Namely, through three letters plucked directly from Formula 1: D, R, and S, short for “Drag Reduction System.”
Sure, this is the first time the wing on a production Porsche sits taller than the roof. But the aesthetics are irrelevant, because the wizards in Stuttgart have baked in that drag reduction system that swivels a section of the spoiler flat during straights, tilted for downforce, and vertical for full-drag, airbrake-induced stops. Because power is nothing without balance, two independently operated flaps below the nose manage front-end downforce, helping maintain the 911’s ideal 30/70 downforce equation.
The resulting trickery yields an eye-opening 408 kilograms (900 pounds) of downforce at 124 mph and a staggering 860 kg (1,895 lbs) at 177 mph. That’s one Porsche 356A’s worth, according to the GT3 RS’s press release—or two horses worth, based on Mr. Preuninger’s metrics. Even little details contribute to downforce, like the teardrop-shaped front wishbone components which add 40 kg (88 lbs) of downforce at top speed.
Also critical to the engine/aero relationship is the single radiator setup, which trickles down from the 911 RSR and 911 GT3 R racers. The idea is to make space for the active aerodynamics by ditching two radiators and incorporating one big one in the centre, which evacuates air across the middle of the car before it channels to either side. Because those crafty warm molecules moving across the boundary layer have a tendency to swirl inward and get sucked into the engine intake on the rear deck, engineers added two roof-mounted fins to keep the toasty, post-radiator airflow from robbing the engine of power. Super cool.
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
Things are more familiar looking inside the GT3 RS: two 7.0-inch digital screens, standard full bucket seats in black leather and Race-Tex, and a bunch of carbon fibre trim. But committed P-car lovers will note the steering wheel control buttons re-labelled to include a DRS button at 9 o’clock. Four rotary dials manage front and rear rebound and compression settings, as well as rear differential and traction/stability controls.
It takes a leap of lead-footed faith to chase a pro driver across a high-speed circuit like Silverstone, especially when conditions are changing as quickly as they were during my day behind the wheel of the GT3 RS. Following a standard GT3 out of the pits and onto Hamilton Straight, there’s an air of familiarity from the RS’s controls, even with light precipitation creating a layer of water that might otherwise make the driver feel disconnected from the road surface.
The naturally aspirated six responds to the throttle with a crisp snap, generally much in the way the standard GT3 does. However, shorter gear ratios and slightly more power between 6,000 and 9,000 rpm lend it a more aggressive quality, also helping shave two-tenths of a second from the claimed 0 to 60 mph time, trimming it to 3 seconds flat.
Though there’s quite a bit of variability available from changing settings like DRS, PTV Plus, and suspension on the fly, I chose to focus on the task of keeping pace with my lead car rather than fiddle with the potentially distracting controls. There’s a sense of fluidity and feedback with steering, though I found it challenging to be smooth on the throttle—something that might have been remedied or alleviated by altering the drive mode settings.
It takes a bit of smooth throttle application to exit corners without triggering traction control, especially when the rainfall starts to accumulate on the track surface as it did during my first session. Following the lead car became more of a challenge when the drizzle became a solid downpour, namely because visibility flew out the window. Between the rooster tail of moisture obscuring the view and the general conditions making it hard to see beyond the obvious markers like the contrasting pavers on the curbing, managing the GT3 RS required intense concentration and deliberate decision-making.
Do I pedal hard to stay on the lead driver under these wetter conditions, or lay back a bit and take my own pace? I decided to split the difference, hanging but not hovering behind the tire tracks of the GT3. Then, in an instant, the lead car’s tail kicked out and it left the track, spinning across the gravel and coming to a halt. I braked and held position for a moment as the GT3 rejoined the track, and we finished up the lap before pulling back into the pits. With the pro driver tapped out on grip, it was clear the GT3 RS’s downforce gave it an edge in mid-to-high cornering speeds that helped it stay on track.
A second session thankfully occurred during a break in the weather. While patchy wet spots on the track still inspired caution, I was able to explore the GT3 Rs’s limits with more confidence. There’s quite a bit of grip at higher speeds, and my lead driver’s aggressive entry speeds in the GT3 suggested I might be overly conservative, having been spooked by his earlier spinout. Nonetheless, I notice a bit of mid-corner understeer at lower speeds, which might have been fixed by tweaking the suspension and/or PTV Plus settings.
But the most revealing laps of the day came later when I rode along with racer Jörg Burgmeister, Porsche’s hot shoe who worked as the development driver for the GT3 RS. Behind the wheel of the RS, the man is a machine, exploiting every inch of the track by driving the car in anger and pushing, drifting, and nudging at the limits with all the playfulness of a grizzly bear swiping a salmon from a raging stream.
When a driver knows a car as thoroughly as Burgmeister does and has the depth of talents to draw from, the results are nothing short of spectacular; the GT3 RS feels otherworldly, both glued down and explosive as it attacks the 3.6-mile circuit with merciless abandon. The lighting fast shifts from the seven-speed PDK make the idea of a manual gearshift seem silly and antiquated, and his pace at Silverstone, aided by the active aero in higher speed corners, makes it easy to believe that Porsche will tick off a stellar lap time at the Nürburgring Nordschleife when the next attempt isn’t hampered by weather.
Until then, rest assured that the new 911 GT3 RS is an absolute weapon on track whose adaptive aerodynamics are singularly focused at making it go exceptionally fast in high-speed corners. With double the downforce of the 991.2 GT3 RS and enough adjustability to encourage track-specific settings, this latest, greatest RS is indeed that.
Ignore the naysayers who are fixated on the ludicrous size of the rear wing: The GT3 RS is a functional go-fast tool, pushing the performance envelope well beyond can realistically be achieved on public roads—which is fine by us, so long as it’s driven responsibly by the well-heeled clientele fortunate enough to acquire this Porsche that will undoubtedly trade hands well above its £178,500 RRP.
2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS