The 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Is a Phenomenal Track Weapon in Practiced Hands
In a world where sports cars are almost too easy to drive fast, the new GT3 RS is old school. It’ll bite back if you aren’t careful.
Porsche has made an art form out of engineering incremental improvements into each generation of the venerable 911. Other than the shift from air-cooled engines to water-cooled ones, each successive generation of 911 has seen small but notable improvements that make it just that little bit better than its predecessor. For the most part, it’s been a very successful strategy for Porsche. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the era of incremental updates are over. Porsche has let its engineers off the leash and pulled out all the stops for the 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
The 992 GT3 RS is a whole different beast altogether. It’s not an incremental improvement, but rather a seismic jump in the performance envelope of the 911. The most focused 911 Porsche has ever made, it is chock full of everything the automaker has most definitely wanted to put on its race cars for the past decade but wasn’t allowed to, as most of it has been banned by the various racing organizations around the globe. Using all of this “illegal” technology, it has the singular mission of turning laps around any given race track faster than any other street car on the planet.
I’ll be upfront with you and disclose that the track time I got with the car was pretty severely affected by inclement weather. But even in those limited conditions, I can tell you that the 2023 GT3 RS was one of the most phenomenal cars—street-legal or track-prepped—I have ever driven.
2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Review Specs
- Base price: $225,250
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter flat-six | 7-speed dual-clutch | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 518 @ 8,500 rpm
- Torque: 342 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm
- Maximum engine speed: 9,000 rpm
- Seating capacity: 2
- Cargo volume: N/A
- Curb weight: 3,268 pounds
- 0-60 mph: 3 seconds
- Top speed: 184 mph
- Quick take: In the right hands, an absolute track day weapon—if you can get one.
- Score: 10/10
New Doesn’t Always Mean More Power
The first stat that jumped out when Porsche released the specs for the new car was the power. If you are building the über Porsche, you have to have a massive jump in power right? Wrong. The new lump puts out a decidedly unimpressive five horsepower more than the 991.2 GT3 RS. That being said, the 4.0-liter engine in the new RS does get several upgrades, including new cylinder heads, intake, longer-duration cams, and individual throttle bodies.
These don’t amount to an increase in power, but they do manage to completely change the character of the engine. Whereas the 4.0-liter in the 991.2 GT3 RS is by no means anemic, its successor is utterly relentless in the upper range. It’s the difference between an enthusiastic Labrador pulling at the leash and a pissed-off pit bull: One you manage, the other you just hang onto with everything you’ve got.
The PDK dual-clutch transmission hasn’t seen any major upgrade, either, as it's pretty much at the limit in terms of shift speed. There’s a shorter final drive and some small updates to the lubrication system and that's it.
So how can you go faster with less power? Well, it's an old racing adage: “If you can’t increase power, increase grip.” There are two types of grip, mechanical and aero.
Mechanical grip is produced by the suspension and tires, and the GT3 RS has the biggest tires ever fitted to a 911. They’re 275/35R20 and 335/30R21 Michelin Cup 2 Rs on the front and rear, respectively. The Michelins are some of the stickiest rubber currently available on the market, and their wider contact patch gives the RS a tenacious hold on the tarmac. But as good as they are, they alone are simply not enough to make the RS the world-beater we all expect it to be. So, that leaves us with aero, and, oh boy, did Porsche’s engineers throw all the aero at the RS.
Even with a casual glance at the RS, you can’t help but see the wings, veins, and flaps all over its surface. Look closer, and you can see that each aerodynamic device has a very specific purpose. However, some of the most important aero bits are hidden from sight.
One of the things about aero is that is easier to add rear downforce than front. In the rear, you can just throw a big wing on the back, and BOOM! Instant downforce. But there is no real way to add a matching wing to the front of a standard road car. Because you want a good balance between front and rear (30/70 is what Porsche GT head honcho Andreas Preuninger was aiming for on the RS), how much front downforce you can make is the limiting factor in how much downforce you can make overall.
With Porsche’s standard side-mounted radiators and luggage compartment taking up all the space up front, something clearly had to be sacrificed in the name of downforce. The engineers probably thought, “Who needs to carry anything in a trunk when you’re on a race track?” Problem solved.
With that decision made, it became easy to sandwich a huge, centrally mounted radiator in the space. Even better is a massive opening in the hood that allows all of that air to vent out without creating pressure—or lift—on the underside of the hood. This is known as a “full extraction hood” in motorsports parlance, and it’s common on a GT3 homologated race car but not so much on a street car.
With all of the cooling now being handled by the central radiator, that left some big holes where the side-mounted radiators used to reside. But no worries; Porsche’s engineers had big plans to fill those holes, too. In each one now resides a hydraulically activated and infinitely adjustable active wing that can calibrate in just 0.3 seconds. As these wings sit directly in the path of fast, incoming airflow, they are hugely effective without creating any substantial increase in drag as, say, bumper-mounted dive planes would have.
But the engineers weren’t done just yet. Looking for every single bit of downforce they could utilize, they also tucked in the front fenders to allow air to escape rather than build up under the arches. That mod required all new carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic doors specifically for the RS. But the coolest aero bits are the sculpted front wishbones that were engineered with a teardrop shape that actually create an additional 40 kg (about 88 pounds) of extra downforce.
With the front downforce issue now ingeniously solved, the engineers were free to mount a fully active, dual-element rear wing to create that perfect 30/70 aero split. But whereas the 991.2 GT3 RS only had high and low downforce settings (which you had to manually switch between), downforce on the 992 GT3 RS is continually adjusted automatically, meaning the car always is creating the most downforce for any given situation. As active aero is banned in pretty much every racing series around the globe, this gives the GT3 RS a massive advantage over pretty much everything else on the track.
How much aero does it produce? At 200 kph (124 mph), the GT3 RS generates 400 kg (880 pounds) pounds of downforce, and at 285 kph (177 mph), that increases to a staggering 860 kg (1,895 pounds). That's twice as much as the 991.2’s, and three times as much as the 992 GT3. The former road-car downforce champ Dodge Viper ACR? That made a paltry 1,700 pounds.
To put it in a racing context, the total downforce that GT3 RS can generate is just shy of Porsche’s GTE Le Mans car. That, my friends, is a whole lot of downforce.
But even then, Porsche’s engineers had to push just that little bit further. Big rear wings are very efficient at creating downforce but with the penalty of substantial drag. So, to help the GT3 RS’s straight-line performance, the car was fitted with a Formula 1-style DRS (drag reduction system), whereby the driver can open the top element on the rear wing, thus shedding unneeded downforce and drag, and increasing the car’s top speed well over what could be expected of something with this level of downforce/drag.
That top element can also act as an air brake: slamming shut on heavy braking application, which creates drag, but also shifts the aero balance rearward and counters the forward weight transfer that occurs during a braking event. This allows the GT3 RS’s massive rear tires to do more work to help slow the car down.
Porsche’s suspension engineers were clearly jealous, watching the aerodynamics team having so much fun playing with all of the active aero goodies, so they had to join the party, too.
Most active suspension is done automatically and behind the scenes, but the GT3 RS allows the driver to fine-tune things more to their liking. If you hit the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) button on the steering wheel, the left and right dash screens change to show damping and rebound adjustments for all four corners of the car.
All of those parameters can be adjusted by the four corresponding knobs on the steering wheel. Those knobs can also be used to adjust the differential, along with traction control—the latter of which has seven different settings. They allow the driver to get the car tuned to their personal preference.
GT3 RS, Meet Silverstone
But how does this all come together on track? To answer that question, Porsche flew a bunch of us out to one of the most aero-dependent tracks on the planet, Silverstone Circuit. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fully excited to throw the RS into the Maggots-Becketts complex at insane speed just to feel the downforce ramping up, gluing the GT3 RS to the ground like some adult-sized Scalextric slot car.
Unfortunately, British weather had a thing or two to say about that.
All day long, it would go from patchy clouds and a damp track to pissing rain and back, and never allowed the track to completely dry. Basically, some of the worst conditions for testing a car that requires the driver to chuck it into a corner with faith that the downforce will keep it stuck to the track. The wet and damp patches all around the circuit made it very hard to get any consistency.
Knowing full well that if I got it even the slightest bit wrong, I would end up sliding across acres of sloppy wet grass into the barriers, I did what any responsible automotive journalist would do. Full send!
The things I do for you guys.
Coming full throttle into Abbey (the British like to name all of their corners but Turn 1 for us Yanks), I did a medium brake and a quick flick of the paddle to downshift from fifth to third. The GT3 RS’s air brake kicked in and the car stopped about twice as quickly as I was expecting. Really impressive, considering the Cup 2 Rs are not known for their wet-weather grip.
Abbey has a fair bit of runoff, so I rationalized that I had some margin for error if I got it wrong. But I needn’t have worried because even though I threw the car into the corner and waited for the grip to disappear on the damp surface, it never did. The massive downforce kept it fully planted and stable all the way through the apex. It was only as I started to get on the throttle that the Michelins finally had to surrender and the rear stepped out just a bit.
Given the conditions, the speed I was able to carry into the corners was so much faster than my brain kept telling me the car should be able to do. I was able to attack the wet corners and brake zone with off-the-charts confidence, but without ever having the feeling that the car was doing all the work for me. It was very much a transcendent experience.
However, this wasn’t the same confidence I found in the 718 Cayman GT4 RS. The GT4 RS is eminently tossable. Its performance capabilities are well within the range of a good driver. You can throw the car into a corner and feel every little thing the car is doing and once it starts to lose grip, it gives you oodles of warning. The GT3 RS is not that car.
The performance threshold of the GT3 RS is so much higher. Not only higher than the GT4 RS, but higher than all but a very few other road cars on the market today. Because you are going so much faster on track, things happen so much quicker in the car. While the GT3 RS gives you confidence, it is tenuous at best, because you are going so damn fast and the margins you have to play with are so much smaller.
Fortunately, everything else on the car works so cohesively well in supporting the massive performance. Each one of those things adds a small bit to the driver's ability to keep everything going in the right direction. The brakes and suspension do a fantastic job of supporting whatever the engine and aero throw at them.
But don’t get me wrong. This is a driver’s car and it will take a very good driver, on a race track, to extract the most out of it. If you’re lucky enough to get one of these and don’t track it, then just get a GT4 RS or a regular GT3, as both of these cars are far better suited for blasts up the canyons. But on a closed circuit, there will be no better car to have under you than the GT3 RS.
Unfortunately, two on-track sessions in mixed conditions weren’t enough for me to give a better-rounded first impression of the new GT3 RS. I’m thinking I need a few more laps under my belt to fully sign off. So, Team Porsche, how about COTA? I’m free whenever. You have my number.
Jokes aside, while the experience was limited, those Silverstone sessions were still enough to give me a taste of how special this thing is. The 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is one of those cars that will make anyone lucky enough to get behind the wheel a better, faster driver. It’ll challenge you, and you’ll either rise to the occasion or you won’t. Ultimately, isn't that what we all want our cars to do for us?
Robb Holland is an American race car driver and automotive journalist. He has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, Pikes Peak, the World Touring Car Championships, and more.
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