2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS First Drive


Porsche introduces a faster, nimbler, meaner 911 GT3 RS for 2023. Were you expecting anything less?

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There are few things in life that stimulate my senses more than driving a Porsche 911 blisteringly fast on a fast racetrack. Of course it’s exciting; it takes a lot of concentration and skill to push a powerful rear-engined rear-driver to its limits without going over those limits. But do it right and a 911 rewards you with an utmost sense of control and gratification. Make that 911 the 2023 GT3 RS and the racetrack the famed Silverstone Circuit, and the stimulation intensifies to euphoria.

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Porsche introduced the first 911 RS model in 1972, and the first GT3 RS 30 years later. Porsche’s RS cars effectively bridge the gap between ordinary 911 models and the firm’s GT race cars, essentially offering owners race-car-like performance in a street-legal package. The latest GT3 RS that will soon grace showrooms (early 2023) has been improved with (a bit) more power and (a lot) better handling than the already agile previous model, which was introduced in 2015.

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Because you can’t just introduce an improved model without claiming some sort of engine improvement, the 4.0-litre, naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer produces five horsepower more than the previous model, at 518 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque. The engine has a broad, flat powerband that drives the RS from zero to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds.

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Okay, so there’s no big injection of horsepower into the new GT3 RS, but there are many other significant improvements borrowed from Porsche race cars that should significantly improve your lap times. A lot of weight-saving measures have been taken, like extensive use of carbon fibre, yet despite this, the new GT3 RS weighs 15 kilos more than the previous one. Had these measures not been taken, the weight difference would have been much greater.

Glance at the GT3 RS’s body and you won’t see a smooth, seamless exterior, but rather a surface full of openings, creases and winglets. These design elements are used to vastly improve the car’s aerodynamics (the massive rear wing should be a giveaway), which increases downforce considerably at speed.

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A front splitter replaces the previous model’s spoiler, and it redirects airflow above the car and beneath it. The air going over the car first passes through a single central radiator before flowing out two large openings in the carbon-fibre hood. And don’t worry about that power-sapping hot air getting sucked into the engine intakes at the rear; it is redirected toward the sides of the car by flaps on the roof. This downforce-enhancing, single central radiator replaces the three radiators of the previous GT3 RS, and is an aerodynamic element borrowed from the 911 RSR race car. This has, however, eliminated the front storage space, though it’s unlikely anyone will ever use the GT3 RS to pick up groceries.

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Air flowing beneath the car is partially redirected through openings ahead of the front wheel wells; above the front wheels are louvres, and behind are winglets — all of of these features are designed to reduce pressure in the wheel wells and increase downforce. To emphasize the steps taken to increase downforce, even components of the double wishbone front suspension are wing shaped to create up to 40 per cent more downforce at the front axles.

Why spend several paragraphs describing aerodynamics in such detail? Because the GT3 RS now produces up to 860 kg of grip-enhancing downforce at speed, more than double that of the previous GT3 RS. This downforce will be of absolutely no benefit when cruising along the Trans Canada, but it will pay huge dividends in grip if you use the GT3 RS as its engineers and designers intended it to be used: on a racetrack.

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That downforce, however, creates drag in a straight line, which has a negative effect on speed. To counter this, for the first time in a Porsche production car, a drag reduction system (DRS) is used, which alters the RS’s aerodynamic profile to reduce drag when needed.

There are several active elements that comprise the DRS, including flaps beneath the car that redirect airflow when activated, and a hydraulically controlled upper wing on that massive main rear wing. These aero-altering elements are activated simultaneously, either manually by the driver, or automatically depending on the selected drive mode. They also help slow the car, as they will automatically switch to high-downforce, high-drag mode when braking hard.

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Two, nearly magical track-focused features have been added to the GT3 RS. One is the cluster of four rotary controls in the steering wheel, which adjust suspension damping, differential settings, traction control settings, and drive modes.

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Using these buttons is surprisingly intuitive: push the button in the centre of one of them to select which parameter you want to change, and then use the colour-coded rotary dials to adjust the individual parameters as displayed in the instrument panel. Push the suspension mode button while in Track mode, for example, and use the rotary dials to individually adjust the compression or rebound damping in the front or rear, on the fly.

The other indispensable racetrack feature is the Porsche Track Precision app. After pairing your phone to the car, the app records racetrack telemetry, and uses GPS to record lap times, all captured in your phone, and displayed in the car’s central screen. The data can then be used to analyse one’s lapping session with the goal of improving lap times. The app also records an onboard video.

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We got to drive the GT3 RS in its most appropriate possible environment, at the 5.9-kilometre-long Silverstone Circuit. While the straights are not very long, it is a fast circuit with high-speed turns. And it’s here that the GT3 RS exhibited tenacious cornering grip and phenomenal braking power. I got help adjusting the suspension and differential parameters by Porsche’s test drivers, since I’d never driven the track before. I also kept the traction control on, but set it to its least intrusive setting with the steering-wheel controls.

2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Photo by Porsche

It was no surprise that the GT3 RS steered with scalpel-like precision, demanding a delicate hand at the wheel. It stuck to the pavement like the tires were made of Velcro, and this despite less-than-stellar grip at the track due to cool weather. Lateral grip through some of the track’s fastest corners glued my body to the sides of the deeply-sculpted seat, and generated, according to recorded telemetry, 1.5 Gs. That’s the highest I can recall seeing in a street car, though I was nowhere near its limit. The only time I’d seen higher Gs was in the Porsche 911 RSR and GT3 R race cars I’d driven several years ago. And the stopping power from the optional carbon-ceramic brakes remained consistent and powerful (1.4 Gs) throughout the lapping sessions. The seven-speed PDK gearbox shifted with lightning-quick accuracy, of course.

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Just how much the car’s aerodynamics have improved was revealed by watching the lead car during my lapping sessions, a previous-generation GT3 RS with one of Porsches test drivers at the wheel. While the lead car squirmed on occasion, its rear end sometimes kicking out a bit at the exit of fast turns, my car remained completely planted.

The 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS will arrive at dealers in spring of next year, with a starting price of $248,000. Even if you’re not in the market for a GT3 RS, you should visit Porsche’s website and fiddle around with the configurator — which adds on a multitude of packages and options — just for the entertainment value. The car I drove on the racetrack was equipped with numerous items, like special yellow paint ($20,810), the weight-saving Weissach package ($38,250, drops 15 kilos), ceramic composite brakes ($11,540 — get them if you’ll be lapping regularly!), and a number of other options that brought the total to $340,000.

Sure, that’s pricey, but it’s a much more affordable way to get the driving experience that a factory Porsche driver feels behind the wheel of a race car.


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