It really is horses for courses. But I know which stable door Iíd be opening, and itís just south of Sudbury on the A131.
With a few mods, reckons Stephens, you could make this 2.7 Carrera eligible for Historic motorsport. My advice: donít, leave it alone. Enjoy it the way it is. Because frankly, itís the best Porsche Iíve ever driven.
Puffed up poseurs? Niche opportunism? Or is there engineering merit in Porscheís Turbo-bodied, normally-aspirated 911s?
On a fast and flowing B-road the Spyder is a thoroughly engaging car to drive. Dynamically itís an addictive blend of old-school 911 handling and a very healthy power-to-weight ratio. In short, itís terrific fun.
With the 996 Series 911, Porsche introduced its now legendary GT tag to a series of production cars. We gather all five varients of the 996 GT2 and GT3 and relive some of Porscheís finest moments.
Porsche has always hit the spot with its Renn Sport formula. We chart the progress of how the cars have evolved during our time.
It's not cheap, but retro 911s don't come better made or better engineered than this. Pose value high, reliability high
GT Porsche - RSs from 91 - 07
The 911 RS story is not complicated. Less weight, more power, tauter chassis, sharper responses, iconic status. These are all guaranteed when the Renn Sport blueprint is applied to any 911. A simple formula it may be, but the end products are anything but. To get the best out of a Weissach wünder 911, you first need to understand exactly what the team behind the car’s development had set out to achieve. A 911 RS is not just about upping the performance and increasing the cabin noise with less carpet and a fruity exhaust. The RS formula is about fine tuning, honing a product to extract that last ten per cent, asking the driver if they have the minerals to step up to the plate and take on the engineer’s challenge. The 911 RS is not a point and squirt exercise, a top speed bragging contest or a quarter-mile drag queen. It’s an instrument of perfection and purity, one that rewards precision and commitment and makes you take an extra breath before you turn the key and embark on what has all the ingredients to be an affirming drive that will stick in your mind for all the right reasons. Renn Sport cars do that. Today then looks set to be a good day. Not one, but four 911 RSs; an example of each of the generations that have gone before representing the evolution of Porsche’s most famous bloodline. A 15-year timespan covers our quartet, the difference in power from the oldest to the newest is 155hp, but only 58lb ft of torque and the engine capacity has increased by not a single cubic centimetre. Legislation has dictated the kerb weights to increase by 125kg during the intervening years. Compression ratios have risen, acceleration times have fallen, downforce has increased and active dampers, traction and stability controls have found their way on to the specification sheet. The Renn Sport recipe hasn’t changed, it’s evolved to produce a family of 911s that are some of the very best sports cars ever built. This, then, is our celebration of all things RS. You can find Andrew Frankel’s verdict on the new GT3 RS 4.0 starting on page 64, before which you can read Jethro Bovingdon try and separate the talents of the first- and second-gen 997 GT3 RS models on page 52. While you’re here, though, why not enjoy a 911 RS journey through the generations.
As a collective, three of our four 911 RSs portray a distinctive RS look. Hunkered down ride height, slicker rubber stretched over the widest rims that could possibly be squeezed under the arches, and aero, lots of visible aero. Granted the 993 RS was also available in a more subtle (and arguably stylish) smaller aero kit, but here it wears the full Club Sport battle dress and it looks ready for a track battle lined up alongside our two water-cooled RS models. Although without the graphics, obviously. These three may be shouting loudest for your attention, but it’s the subtle 964 that sucks you in. Despite the lack of carbon fibre, the 964 RS still looks as hard as nails, its diminutive body struggling to contain what lies beneath the surface. The 17-inch Cups wear 50- and 40- profile rubber front-to-rear and there’s less than a fag-paper’s width between the tread blocks and the wheel arches. The Cup design mirrors are the closest the 964 got to an aero tweak aside from its 40mm drop in ride height. The rear wing is as you would find on a plain Jane Carrera. The 964 RS’s development was carried out during Porsche’s darker days, when the Deutchmarks were hard to come by and even Porsche’s most ardent fans were struggling to find the enthusiasm to get behind a design that wasn’t hugely advanced from the model that had debuted in 1974. The technical specification went someway to justify the interest, with aluminium used for the front luggage compartment cover and the rest of the body lightened where possible without compromising rigidity. Porsche even went to the extreme of rewelding key spots by hand to increase the car’s stiffness. There was thinner glass for the side and rear windows, and lighter wiring harness and modifications to the front (cooling ducts instead of foglamps) and rear (unique centre section) bumpers went towards the 100kg weight loss over a Carrera. But it’s what sits in front of the RS’s rear bumper that is of interest. The 964 RS’s 3.6-litre flat-six was a blueprinted version of the standard Carrera’s motor, with pistons and cylinders specially selected for each engine destined for an RS, but it’s what’s at the bottom of the engine that, 19 years on, is causing grown men to cry into their Sparco boots upon hearing the news that a sizeable chunk of Porsche excellence is coming to an end.
Talk of today’s 911 RS never fails to find its way on to the subject of the car’s engine, in particular its Hans Mezger design, specifically the crankcase. Its basic architecture can be directly traced to so many of Porsche’s motorsport successes, including the company’s last overall Le Mans victory in 1998 with the GT1, and is the last link in a long line of engines designed and built by Porsche that appeared in both road and racing cars. The 3.6 is at its most charismatic in the 964 RS, which is befitting of the car’s no nonsense attitude. Recaro seats, Matter cage, flat-faced steering wheel ready to crush your rib cage, five dials, big tacho. Twist the key – the same one handed to those who collected their 964 RSs from Weissach and took them straight to the Porsche Supercup paddock – and bang! That’s an engine note. A growl from the exhaust, a tickover that never quite settles, and an uninspiring gear lever sprouting from the floor. In a world of six-speed manuals and eight-speed autos, the five ratios on offer through the ‘64’s G50 ‘box are nostalgic to say the least. By today’s standards the clutch is heavy, but the gate is precise and the first 911 RS to be built following Porsche’s 1973 original leaves you in no doubt as to its intentions. Yes, the ride’s harsh, but there are worse riding cars today, and yes, in 1992 the 964 RS gained a reputation for being uncompromising and a little uncouth. But today it feels hard, edgy and has 1270kg of energy just bursting to get out. The 3.6 devours revs, the volume increasing exponentially with engine speed and the steering wheel chatting away at a fast packed pace. By modern standards it’s Cayman S quick in a straight line, but it needs work to achieve it, with quick changes up the ’box required to keep the power band open. Drive it tentatively, backing off because the ride gets too jiggy, and you’ll agree with the road testers back in the day who didn’t like the 964’s racer’s edge, but drive it with commitment and a degree of courage that’s unnecessary in today’s machines, and the 964 RS lets you into the snug, wraps an arm around you and allows you to experience its wisdom. There’s traction aplenty, and a crispness to its turn-in that is understandably lacking in more modern machinery as drivers call for lighter systems. In the ’64 RS you find yourself being quite forceful with some steering inputs but it’s worth it as the chassis beneath you reacts precisely how you wanted it to. The front end pushes on a bit but it’s nothing that more throttle can’t deal with to drive you through the apex. The 964 draws you in and delivers a level of interaction that could pass muster in many a modern car, let alone one that occupied showroom space in 1992. The 964 RS, after a tricky start, has quickly established itself as a genuine contender for entry into the Porsche hall of fame. It is distinctively different from the Carrera model it shares much with, delivering feel and character by the Cayenne load and it never fails to put a smile on your face. Regardless of what it’s sharing the Tarmac with, it is always a contender to be the one whose keys you’ll grab for one last drive. But then you remember there’s a 993 RS to drive, a car that, to many, is the pinnacle of aircooled 911 engineering. The result of all that Porsche had learnt during the previous 29 years arrived in 1993 in the curvaceous shape of Tony Hatter’s 993, and it became an instant success. The Renn Sport magic was sprinkled over the 993 in 1995 and with a superior product as a starting point, the new Carrera RS was never going to be anything but a hit. Not only was the 993 a big visual leap forward in the 911 timeline but its chassis had also come in for some fundamental changes. While the front suspension was a further development of the predecessor’s MacPherson strut setup, the 911’s rear suspension now comprised a new multi-link design – dubbed LSA – which transformed the ride and handling of the 911 for the better. As with its predecessor, the 993 RS was put on a strict diet, with 100kg shed from its kerb weight. An aluminium bonnet lid and thinner side and rear glass was now to be expected, but the 993 demonstrated that Porsche hadn’t lost its desire to go that extra kilo when it came to fighting the flab. The deletion of the wiring for the heated rear window was one example, the ditching of the headlamp washer system another. Accompanying the weight loss was a power gain. An increase in the flat-six’s cylinder bore to 102mm raised capacity to 3.8 litres, the resulting 300hp being produced at 6500rpm, while 262lb ft of torque made itself available at 5400rpm. Other changes to the air-cooled powerplant included an increase to both the intake and exhaust valve’s diameter and it benefited from changes to Porsche’s Varioram system, to better optimise the engine’s low speed torque and top end power delivery. As it is today, the 993 RS was only available with a six-speed manual ’box, although two gear sets were offered, with customers ticking the box marked ‘Club Sport’ getting shorter fifth and sixth gears. A limited-slip diff was standard whichever ratios you chose. Brakes came courtesy of the 993 Turbo and the new 911 RS was also equipped with stiffer and lower suspension, although the engineers wound the stiffness back compared to its predecessor, and the interior went down the bucket seats, thin carpets and bare doorcards route. The RS formula had evolved. You only need to look at the market value of the 993 RS to understand that this a very special 911. With the Far East fighting to get the lowest mileage right-hand drive examples, six-figure asking prices and the 993 RS go hand-in-hand. But you don’t need low volumes and an overworked market place to tell you that the 993 RS is a special car. The larger aero kit of this example loses some of the svelte looks of the more subtle looking ‘small’ aero wing kit the car was also available with, but it’s still a 993 RS and therefore maintains its magnetic draw. It’s easy to see why the 993 is seen by many to be the pinnacle of 911 engineering the moment you open the door. The cockpit invites you into the leather trimmed buckets, the delicate and beautiful three-spoke Nardi wheel feels delightful to touch and all the other controls are exactly where you want them to be (the important ones, at least, but you still need a passenger to turn the radio off!). Despite its larger capacity, this RS’s motor lost some of the bark generated in the 964 and it settles into a smoother and more consistent idle. Too civilised? For a 964 RS owner, perhaps, but for the rest of us it blends that mix of usability and functionality with a performance that could teach a couple of today’s young pretenders a thing or two. The extra torque form the 3.8 is both noticeable and welcome, allowing you to warm yourself to the 993 with calming shortshifts as you familiarise yourself with the weight of the brakes, gearbox, throttle action and steering – all of which are perfectly balanced and designed so you don’t catch yourself out with too much pressure here (brakes, steering) or not enough there (gear change and throttle). It’s one of the biggest cliché’s in automotive writing, but the 993 is what we mean by feeling like an intrinsic part of the process of driving. Get deeper into the 3.8’s power reserves and the 993 RS immediately demonstrates that any comforting leanings you may have had about its ability are quickly dismissed. Ask the 993 RS to step up to the mark and not only does it deliver the goods, but it unpacks them, puts them on the correct shelf and recycles the rubbish. Linear, progressive, involving, immediate, precise and rewarding – the adjectives you can level at the ’93 are seemingly never ending. The improved ride over the 964 makes it more comfortable to thread along the road, its bump absorption seemingly on par with a regular Carrera, the way it reacts to every input is all the encouragement you need to push a little harder, brake a little later and turn-in while carrying more speed. The 993 RS is one of those 911s you should always point the sceptics in the direction of when they say they don’t get the 911. Drive this RS and you’ll get it – and you’ll want more of it. After the first 911 RS, we waited nearly 20 years for its second incarnation, then just three years between the 964 and 993 variants, before holding on for the best part of a decade before the RS tag appeared once more on the engine cover of a 911. The famous Renn Sport initials were also emblazoned along the car’s flanks. When Porsche announced its first GT3 in 1999 the general consensus was that this was a 911 Carrera RS in all but name. Admittedly it weighed more than the regular rear-wheel drive Carrera, but its mechanical setup was pure RS. The engine was bespoke to the GT3 and carried the crankcase that had been used since the 964 RS as well as more components that had direct links to those used in Porsche’s Le Mans 24-hour winner the previous year. There was even a separate dry sump oil tank. Adjustable anti-roll bars and a lower, by some 30mm, and stiffer chassis were also part of the GT3’s technical make-up. It was five years after the original GT3 that Porsche announced a limited run of 200 GT3 RSs, based on the 2003 Gen 2 996 GT3. Built to homologate the 996 for FIA N-GT and ACO regulations, the fourth generation of 911 RS road car was an indication of how far Porsche was prepared to go with its RS models in the 21st century. Aluminium was no longer the default choice for lightweight panels in 2004, with this RS fitted with a carbon fibre bonnet, a fibreglass engine cover and a plastic rear window. The bespoke detailing didn’t stop there, either. The engine cover not only supported a carbon fibre rear wing but featured a Ram-air-effect intake for the engine, though it still produced 381hp as per the Gen 2 GT3 it was based on, this revised intake allowed the engine to take greater gulps of air and sharpen the engine’s responses. The sixspeed transmission and the four-piston callipers (PCCB was optional) came from the regular GT3 but the suspension was now adjustable for toe angle, camber and anti-roll bar stiffness. After the subtly of the pair of air-cooled RSs, the 996 GT3 RS couldn’t have been more overt. Only ever available in Carrara white with the choice of either blue or red graphics, the 996 GT3 RS had absolutely no interest in hiding its intent. The no-nonsense approach continues inside, too, with the Recaro bucket seats trimmed in fireretardant cloth fighting the plastic dash and doorcards as to which material can absorb the most heat on a sweltering day. Alcantara for the control surfaces also leave you in no doubt as to the motorsport intentions of this 911.
The 3.6 takes a turn or two of the starter to fire and then settles on a noisy idle as the singlemass flywheel does an impression of a spanner in a washing machine. And far from making you feel conscious about the noise the car makes as it waits frustratingly for you to get on with it, the clatter gets you in the mood to extract the very best the first water-cooled RS has to offer. Which, as it happens, is quite a lot. Closer in spirit to the 964 RS than a 993 RS, this generation brings a hard and focused edge to proceedings. Its natural demeanour makes you want to reach in to its talents and enjoy what’s on offer; that razor-sharp nose and fluid tail combine to create a balanced attitude to carving a line, but it likes to be driven hard; diving deep into the apex while still coming off the brakes to get the nose hooked up, being committed with the throttle as you exit to make the most of that seemingly unbreakable traction. Dawdle in either department and the nose will wash wide, skipping across the surface at its most extreme, while constantly loading and unloading the rear axle is neither the quicker nor the more rewarding way to tackle a corner. Stay committed, however, and the 3RS repays you with the sense that you’ve learnt a bit but there’s so much more to come. Like the 964 RS, the 996 GT3 RS only deals in the serious – yes it will do the mundane, but it won’t thank you for it. There comes a time in a car’s development when you question whether the engineers can ever improve it. It’s an answer we’ve dared not contemplate with the GT3 for a while in fear that we might be proved right and that Porsche has run out of ideas. We thought it in 2006 when the Gen 1 997 GT3 hit our shores. So accomplished was this powerhouse 911 GT that the very thought that Porsche could better it as a series production car was nonsense. Not that this stopped Porsche from trying. Before the year was out, the 997 GT3 RS was upon us. Wider, lighter and focused on the track (though it happened to come with a set of number plates), the 997 GT3 RS was a homologation machine first and foremost. The wider body came courtesy of the Carrera 4 shell, the 44mm extra width across the rear allowing for the engineers to widen the RS’s rear track and run a wider 12-inch rear wheel with 305 section rear tyres (the fronts were 8.5-inch wide running 235 rubber). The rear geometry was also revised to take the wider track and larger footprint into account, the wheel carriers were modified and the rear wishbones were of a split design. Sat behind the rear axle was the now familiar Hans Mezger-designed 3.6-litre ‘six, which had been lifted directly from the regular GT3, which meant 415hp and 298lb ft of torque. Much to the frustration of many a potential owner, this was the second consecutive RS not to feature a power increase over and above the car it was based on. It was, however, a tenth quicker to 62mph, completing the task in 4.3secs, although the plank of carbon fibre rising form the engine cover knocked 5mph from the top speed. This was also the first 911 RS to feature not only active dampers (PASM) but also any level of traction control. Taken from the Carrera GT which had ceased production prior to the RS’s announcement, it was a more simple traction control system compared to the Porsche Stability Management system found on the regular Carrera models. Weight loss came in the now familiar shape of aluminium doors and front bonnet (Porsche had, by now, come up with a way of saving the same amount of weight with an aluminium bonnet as they had with the previous car’s carbon fibre item. Ally was cheaper too), GRP engine cover and plastic windows. Combined with the plainer doorcards, no leather and less sound deadening, the GT3 RS shed 20kg from the GT3, tipping the scales at 1375kg – 125kg more than the 964 RS. You could be forgiven for thinking that the 996 RS and 997 RS would feel like similar cars to pilot. Yes, flame retardant cloth trims the bucket seats in both, Alcantara is used for the steering wheel and gear lever and the single-mass flywheel chunters away like a jack hammer on tickover, but the similarities stop pretty much there. Drive with the traffic and use ten per cent of the later RS’s potential and it is as docile and well-mannered as a Carrera. The stiffer sprung chassis informs you of edges and surface changes more frequently than a vanilla 911 but the prospect of spending a day behind the wheel for even the most mundane of drives is no chore. And the tedious motoring is greatly rewarded when the opportunity presents itself. In the UK it’s best to leave the dampers in their standard, softer setting; select Sport on anything but a freshly laid track and you’ll spend too much time making tiny, constant corrections as all the suppleness vacates the chassis. Does it come as a surprise that the 997 is the easiest to drive of the quartet? The way it encourages you to push and lean on its limits and ask questions of what it can do is reassuringly flattering. Like the GT3 it’s based on, to enjoy yourself and experience the ability on offer, the RS doesn’t require your licence to be in the name of Walter Röhrl. As with the 993, the 997 RS inspires a greater level of confidence, turning in with impurity and leaving you in no doubt as to what is required of you to continue to enjoy the ride. Although, with the wider rear track and the greater traction this brings, this is an RS that requires you to be brave to drive through any mid-corner push by applying more throttle than you are perhaps comfortable with. Like its predecessor, the 997 enjoys being driven with confidence and commitment through any given curve from turnin- through the apex and out the other side. Dither in any of these departments and the 997 won’t bite, but it will let its feelings be known with a front end not prepared to commit – and you need it to if you are going to work the front tyres hard enough to get enough heat into them so they can work at their best – and a tail that can feel remote just when you want it to dig deep and grip like a leech. Read back through this story and it becomes apparent that despite the 15 years that separate the four cars, and the advancements in technology that Porsche has benefited from, the core RS DNA runs through them all, with the same adjectives coming to you every time you describe the process of driving and enjoying their talents. They all have their unique character traits, some being more obvious than others, but ultimately Porsche has stuck to the RS formula and produced a gem every time. It’s harder than ever to see where any improvement can be made l
Thanks to all at Paul Stephens for their assistance with this feature (www.paul-stephens.co.uk), and to Neil Armitage for the loan of his 996 GT3 RS.