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2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS First Drive Review: Trick Tech for Track Attack

Motorsport-derived aerodynamics and new adjustability tech make the GT3 RS the ultimate Porsche 911.

2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Every scoop and flap is functional.
Porsche

Don't be fooled by the blue sky and sunshine in these photos; my date with the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS at Silverstone was cold, gloomy and wet. (Home of the British Grand Prix, go figure.) So no, I can't tell you if Porsche's road-legal race car can scramble your brain or bend the laws of physics. But come on. Did you really think this car was going to suck?

Instead, my eight rainy laps demonstrated the two main things that separate the RS from other GT3s: aerodynamics and adjustability. This thing produces more than twice as much downforce as the last-generation GT3 RS and three times as much as a standard 911 GT3, facts that on their own are staggering. But then you can quickly and easily tweak the dampers, stability control, traction control and torque vectoring, drastically altering the behavior of this monstrously capable machine. I'd need a week at a track to try out every setting.

Pretty? No. Purposeful? Oh my, yes.

Porsche

The swan neck wing is 40% larger than the one on the normal GT3, making it comically oversized. But if I'm speaking purely from an aesthetic standpoint, combined with all the other scoops and fins and flaps and ducts, the wing totally works. (So do the Satin Pyro Red wheels. Get those.) The rear wing has 34 degrees of electronic adjustment range and can be moved in less than half a second, and it works in conjunction with a two-piece front underbody spoiler, which, on its own, accounts for an 80% increase in downforce at the front axle.

Combined, the front and rear active aero enable DRS -- a term you might know from motorsports that means "drag reduction system." In its low setting, the wings are positioned as flat as possible to reduce wind resistance, which is ideal for everyday use as well as long straights on race courses. But the DRS' high setting will put the spoilers in their steepest positions, reaching maximum downforce to allow for better handling and cornering stability.

In the GT3 RS, the DRS low position happens automatically. You have to be traveling above 62 mph, the accelerator pedal position has to be greater than 95%, you have to be revving above 5,500 rpm and be holding lateral acceleration of less than 0.9 g. There's also a manual DRS command button on the steering wheel to the left of the volume wheel. Slam on the brakes and DRS high comes on immediately.

A dry track would've been so nice.

Porsche

The aero improvements don't stop there. The RS' underbody has full paneling with airflow fins, and the diffuser is responsible for 10% of the overall rear downforce. Side blades at all four wheels, plus louvers to extract air from the arches, help with downforce and keeping the brakes cool. Heck, even the arms of the double-wishbone front suspension are reshaped to better make use of the air passing through the wheels.

Of course, I can't forget the huge, ugly nostrils sticking out of the carbon-fiber hood, which incorporate a large single radiator with extraction ducts, like you find on the 911 RSR race car. (Sorry, no frunk here.) This sends air up over the top of the RS, and those little fins above the doors direct cool air toward the deck lid, where the 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated flat-6 breathes it in.

The RS' flat-six carries over from the GT3 with minor changes -- things like a larger oil cooler and new engine control unit. Output is rated at 518 horsepower and 342 pound-feet of torque, compared to 502 hp and 346 lb.-ft. in the base GT3, and you can still rev the bejesus out of the engine to its lofty 9,000-rpm redline. Hitting 60 mph takes 3 seconds, but straight-line acceleration isn't what the GT3 RS is all about. The RS uses Porsche's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with a slightly shorter final drive ratio, and no, you can't get a manual.

You'll want to use these dials.

Porsche

Peep inside the GT3 RS and you'll notice an Alcantara-lined steering wheel with four dials in the lower sections. From left to right, they control the active suspension (PASM), torque vectoring (PTV), stability/traction control and drive modes. When you call up the PASM screen, you can adjust the compression and rebound of the front and rear axles separately, with plus or minus four settings aside from the standard midpoint. The PTV page will let you tweak coasting and power parameters, which basically control how much rear-end push you want to allow. Finally, there are seven different levels of traction control (the default is 4, so you can actually dial in more if you want) and three steps for the stability control. Like I said -- I'd need a week, at least, to play with all this stuff. The fact that this can all be adjusted on the fly is really, really cool.

How's it all work? Beautifully, at least based on my cautious wet laps. Perhaps the best illustration of the GT3 RS' abilities is seeing how composed it is through wet turns compared to the standard GT3 I'm following around Silverstone. Where the pro-driven lead GT3 would squirm and squiggle coming in and out of turns, I could keep right behind him in the RS and stay flat as a pancake, even with the cold, damp surface under the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires making grip a total nightmare.

The standard GT3's steering is already an exemplar of weight and feedback, and none of that changes in the RS. Overall, the RS doesn't feel noticeably heavier, despite its roughly 100-pound weight penalty. It just feels far more planted, more stable. You don't get a sense of carrying around additional ballast; rather, that a giant hand is pressing you into the tarmac like a kid running a Hot Wheels car across the floor.

Satin Pyro Red wheels for the win.

Porsche

Like Porsche's other RS cars, there's a ludicrously expensive Weissach package available ($33,520), which puts a carbon-fiber finish on the rear wing, roof and part of the hood. Magnesium wheels save just under 18 pounds of unsprung mass, and carbon-fiber-reinforced parts on the front and rear antiroll bars, as well as a shear panel, cut a further 11 pounds. If you live outside the US, the Weissach pack adds a carbon-fiber roll bar, but American-spec GT3 RS coupes can't be bought with any roll bar -- carbon or steel -- from the factory.

None of this comes cheap, natch, with a 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS starting at $225,250 including a $1,450 destination charge. Optioned like my gray and red test car, you're looking at $261,730, but you can totally crest the $300K mark with the Weissach and other options. There's also a matching GT3 RS Porsche Design watch, because old rich dudes.

Whether or not that's "worth it" to the target customer is pretty much a moot point, since owning one of these is as much about status as it is performance. It's the pinnacle of road-legal 911s, but don't just think of it like that. Think of it as a 911 RSR you can take to an oceanside Cars & Coffee. You'll have better weather in Malibu than Silverstone any day.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.