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First Test: 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS


Your dad warned you about this Porsche. Don't let its red lipstick and wide hips persuade you, he said, because the only thing that follows that car is trouble. Speeding tickets, too. But you can't help yourself. That roof-high wing perched on aluminum struts, those foot-wide rear tires, and those red wheels (red wheels!) keep piquing your interest.

You're not alone. We couldn't help ourselves when the gray car pictured arrived for testing, as we ogled the red detailing (yes, even the Seat belts) and that 3.8-liter flat-six hanging over the rear axle. This is, in essence, the fast version of the GT3. Thanks to a bump in compression, its engine makes 450 horsepower at 7900 rpm; redline arrives 500 rpm after. The front and rear tires are larger and 55 pounds of stuff irrelevant to diving fast has been disposed of. Who needs door handles?

"The RS offers engagement on the most visceral level. It is frighteningly old school, threatening to break you for one misstep."Acceleration runs prove surprisingly simple: Dump the clutch at 2500 rpm and hold on. The Michelin Pilot Cup rubber nibbles at the asphalt most of the way through first. After that, it's a matter of hitting 8000-rpm shifts and basking in the howl from the center-mounted tailpipes. The RS reaches 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds at 120.7 mph, nearly tying the 2011 Nissan Gt R. Not impressed? Consider that the GT3 RS is merely rear-drive, naturally aspirated, and has one of those supposedly antiquated transmissions you have to shift yourself.

 That gearbox uses a shorter final drive versus the standard GT3 (3.89:1 versus 3.44:1). Porsche claims it purposely sacrificed top-end speed with this change, but Porsche is wrong. We quit at a GPS-verified 161.4 mph because the runway was ending -- rather quickly. Unencumbered, Porsche says the GT3 RS will top out at 193 mph.

We reach the 150 mph range consistently during acceleration testing (wouldn't you?), and each time the carbon ceramic brakes ($8840) feel firm and consistent under the brake pedal. The best stop from 60 mph takes 98 feet, while subsequent braking runs hover in the 98 to 100-foot range. We'd say opt for the PCCBs only if you plan on track use, but why would you do anything else with this car? A racetrack, or our figure eight in this case, reveals that the RS is no malleable piece of putty to mindlessly play with. It's a sensei who punishes its pupils for their mistakes. Front-end bite is exceptionally sharp, while the rear feels light on its rubber. Your hands best be quick if you try to brake into a corner, because that rear will take a giant lateral step. When it does, chances are you'll exit stage left and backwards. Either that or those foot-wide rear tires will hook up and send you in a high-speed tank slapper.

 But oh, the reward when you get it right! Bending the RS to your givesyou the satisfaction you might get from successfully riding a grizzly bear while juggling chainsaws (never tried it). Our best lap, at 23.4 seconds, puts the RS in the top ten best times we've recorded, in a club with the Corvette ZR1 and Nissan Gt R.

Driving a modern supercar afterwards -- a GT-R for example -- feels like chauffeuring a high-riding luxury sedan, albeit a luxury sedan that hits 60 in 2.9 seconds. It erects walls between you and the road, allowing only select parts of the driving experience to transfer into the cabin. The RS instead offers engagement on the most visceral level. It is frighteningly old school, rattling like a dry-clutch Ducati at a stoplight, threatening to break you for one misstep. It's like the Porsches dad warned you about, the ones from the old days you drove with utmost caution. The risk wasn't worth the reward...
.hdr {color:#ffffff;font:bold 12px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#343434;} .hdr1 {color:#000000;font:bold 09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#aba9a9;} .hdr2 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#dddddd;} .hdr3 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#FFFFFF;} 2011 Porsche GT3 RS BASE PRICE $140,150 PRICE AS TESTED $153,670 VEHICLE LAYOUT Rear engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 3.8L/450-hp/317-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve F-6 TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3157 lb (39/61%) WHEELBASE 92.7 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 176.2 x 71.2 x 50.4 in 0-60 MPH 3.5 sec QUARTER MILE 11.8 sec @ 120.7 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 98 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.08 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.4 sec @ 0.92 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 14/21 mpg ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 241/160 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS 1.18 lb/mile

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