I’m going to throw a hypothetical your way. Let’s say that, unlike certain people, you decided not to spend $350,000 (or more) to make sure your spawn—a budding Instagram celebro-shill with less-than-stellar SAT scores—gets into the University of Southern California. Let’s say you decide to spend that money on yourself instead, on an extreme Porsche to enjoy while your kids fend for themselves. Which one do you buy?
This is a very narrow, specific situation, of course. But if you happen to fit that description, congrats! You probably aren’t going to federal prison. (At least, not for that.)
So now you just need to decide whether you want the naturally aspirated, 520 horsepower, bonkers Porsche 911 GT3 RS starting at $187,500, or the turbocharged 690 HP, even more batshit crazy $293,200 Porsche 911 GT2 RS.
Lucky for you, I’m here to help. And you don’t even have to bribe me.
(Full Disclosure: To help you make this decision, Porsche flew me out to Road America and trusted me to chase lap record holder David Donohue around in both the GT3 RS and the GT2 RS. The only caveat was that we couldn’t exceed 150 mph. That was silly, of them.)
Class Is In Session: History 101
RS stands for Renn Sport, or Race Sport in English. In Porsche speak, RS typically stands for the highest-performing versions of its road-going models. (I’m ignoring Porsches race cars like the 718 RSK, the 968 Turbo RS and the RS Spyder.)
The first 911 (and first road car) to wear the RS logo was the legendary 1973-74 Carrera RS. Widely regarded as one of the finest of the 911 line ever made, the Carrera RS came with a 2.7-liter flat six putting out 207 HP and boasting a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, wider body and the now-iconic ducktail rear spoiler. Two-hundred seven horsepower. How far we’ve come since.
Several other air-cooled 911s would wear the RS badge, including the SC/RS, the Carrera RS America and the 993 Carrera RS. The latter RS was still powered by an air-cooled 3.8-liter engine. The GT3 moniker was introduced with the 996, and for a time supplanted RS as the top dog of all performance Porsches—GT3 being the FIA-homologated class for GT race cars. The GT3 had all creature comforts stripped out and was powered by a 3.6-liter motor good for 355 HP.
However the RS designation wasn’t sidelined for long, as in 2003 it reappeared tacked on to the GT3 badge to create an even higher performing, more track-focused version of the 911—the GT3 RS. Even lighter in weight than the GT3, thanks to a Lexan rear window, carbon hood and rear wing and optional Ceramic Brakes, the base GT3’s engine was massaged to coax an additional 45 hp out of it for an even 400 HP.
As expected, a 997 GT3 RS variant made an appearance in 2006, and was the first one available in the U.S. since the Carrera RS America nearly 20 years prior. As a sendoff to the 997 generation GT3 RS, Porsche decided to build a limited edition (only 600 cars were ever produced) version called the GT3 RS 4.0. The 4.0 part comes from the insane 493 HP, 4.0-liter engine. It was the largest engine to ever power a 911.
The GT3 RS 4.0 was always going to be a hard act to follow but Porsche was just hitting its stride. In 2015 Porsche introduced the 991.1 GT3 RS. The RS starts with the same 4.0 found in the last gen limited edition car, upgraded to put out 500 HP but now mated to a PDK transmission. Additional upgrades included a magnesium roof, rear-axle steering and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus with fully variable rear axle differential lock.
That brings us to the 991.2 GT3 RS.
I drove the 2018 991.2 GT3 RS at the Nürburgring last year and was blown away by just how absurdly good it was. Not only was it a massive step up from the 997 GT3 RS that spent some time in my garage a few years back, but it was also a hefty, unexpected, improvement on the old 991.1 GT3 RS.
The automaker knows it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel with every new generation because the 911 is such a good platform to build on. It can just make seemingly minor updates that, when combined, create a car that is improved in almost every way.
Take the engine. Although it uses the same 4.0-liter motor, the newer GT3 RS nonetheless has 20 more horsepower on tap (520 vs. 500) and seven lb-ft more torque (346 vs. 339) than its older brother. That power is reached with the help of a higher 9,000 RPM redline (200 RPM more). This means the newest RS will now reach 60 mph in three seconds flat, which is 0.1 second quicker than the 2016 RS.
The engineers didn’t stop there. A new rear underbody diffuser was added for further improved downforce, which is now 40 percent more than the previous generation car.
The 2016 RS had full metal ball joints on the rear suspension but made due with rubber bushings on the front. The 2019 goes full metal jacket, with spherical bearings on all suspension joints. And to put a cherry on top of all of the suspension changes, there is a new generation of Michelin’s ultra grippy Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire to help squeeze out that last tenth when you’re chasing your buddies down at the motorsports country club.
And since you’ve got the extra cash to spend, you might as well tick the box for the optional $18,000 Weissach Package which basically pays for Porsche’s engineers to throw massive amounts of carbon fiber at the car. Roof, carbon fiber sway bars and coupling rods, shift paddles and steering wheel trim are sculpted from carbon. Some manufacturers will just throw some carbon trim at a car, because carbon. However the Weissach package actually does remove a hefty bit of weight from the car. Forty pounds worth, actually.
Only $450 per pound! Such a deal!
As a bonus, opting in on the Weissach Package gives you permission to pay Porsche $13,000 for optional Magnesium wheels. This will subtract another 24 pounds. More importantly, that’s 24 pounds of rolling weight which is far more valuable than static weight. Plus, at a base price of $187,500, you might even enough left in your account to grab one of those Macan Turbos you’ve also had your eye on.
I can’t speak to how the GT3 RS could work as a daily driver, as Porsche, in its infinite wisdom, has only ever let me sample the car on track. But that’s just fine, as the track is where the GT3 RS lives. The phrase “Street Legal Race Car” has been overused ever since it was first uttered. But the GT3 RS is exactly that. A race car for the street.
Having spent the past 18-plus years of my life driving various car around race tracks across the world, there is a feeling you get when you first roll out on track in a race car versus a street car. A race car responds instantly to every input, whereas a street car always takes a second to respond properly. Almost like it has to have a bit of a think about what you are asking it to do before it reluctantly agrees to follow your command.
From the second you leave the pits you can tell that the GT3 RS is definitely all race car.
Lap after lap the GT3 RS just gets better and better the harder you push it. Almost begging you to cowboy up and drive it deeper into each corner, to go full throttle faster on every corner exit. Comparing it to a base 911 is like comparing a butter knife to a surgeon’s scalpel.
The unbelievable Michelin Sport Cup 2 R (made especially for the GT3/ GT2 RS) are are, well... well beyond “good.” They are a huge step up from that already amazing Sport Cup 2s and have a grip that’s closer to a racing slick than any street tire I’ve ever driven. That being said, they’re also a much more balanced tire with great manners when being pushed to the limit of grip.
Honestly, if the day ended when I drove the GT3 RS back to the pits, I’d have been a happy boy.
But then there is the GT2 RS.
At $293,200 the GT2RS is a whopping $106,000 more than its stablemate. But hey, considering you decided not to commit white collar crimes, you have the budget. But is it really worth the extra $100,000 and change?
Almost a decade ago I had a chance to drive the 997 GT2 RS and thought it was absolutely bonkers. But not in a good way.
It had 620 HP (that’s a lot today, but in the early 2000s it was A LOT) coming from its twin-turbo, 3.6 liter flat-six engine. That car to 100 km/h (zero to 60 mph) in 3.6 seconds and had a top speed of 204 mph. All impressive numbers, but driving it was a whole different beast.
To me the 997 GT2 felt just like a 997 Turbo with the front-wheel drive system removed. There was no balance to the car and when the turbos spooled up it was like going on a roller coaster and realizing that the teenager in charge forgot to strap you in. That’s OK in a straight line, but less so when the road gets twisty. And twisty is what a Porsche should do best.
So needless to say, I was pleased to find out the new GT2 RS is not like its predecessor. As opposed to being just a rear wheel drive Turbo, it is instead a GT3 RS with the best bit of the Porsche Turbo stuffed into its engine compartment.
But even that comparison does the GT2 RS a great disservice. If the GT3 RS is a scalpel to butter knife, then the GT2 RS is like comparing Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, to a ball peen you might pick up at a discount store. Sure, they both both can drive home a nail but, hell, I wouldn’t want to be a 2x4 that Thor was working on.
But that’s what driving the GT2 RS feel like. You’re a piece of lumber about to be smashed into tiny toothpicks by the God of Thunder’s hammer.
The power is the first (and last, and also middle) thing you notice. With 690 HP on tap and 553 lb-ft of torque, the GT2 RS doesn’t so much accelerate as stop the Earth from rotating momentarily. It may be less powerful than, say, a Hellcat, but the way it puts power to the ground is simply staggering.
But all that power is nothing if the rest of the car doesn’t match up. And this is where the 991 variant of the GT2 RS really shines.
Driving them literally back to back, the GT2 RS is a GT3 RS with 180 more horses and gobs more torque. So much torque in fact, it is the only car I have ever driven that makes the GT3 RS feel, I dare say, gutless.
I got to spend the day chasing Porsche works driver David Donohue around Road America—David in the GT3 RS and myself in the GT2 RS. The GT2 RS was a match for the GT3 RS in every corner, losing ground only in the Carousel, a long 180 degree sweeper, where the GT3 RS’s lighter weight (it’s down 70 pounds) and sharper throttle response allow it to gain around a one car length advantage.
Now that one car length would normally be pretty significant—normally. But we are talking about the GT2 RS, and this isn’t a normal car. To the GT2 RS being one car length down to the GT3 RS out of the Carousel is simply its way for giving itself a bit of breathing room for what comes next: Road America’s (in)famous long straights.
With all that power on tap, the GT2RS simply devours the GT3.
The difference between the two cars is massive. Especially coming on to the front straight where I had to lift off the throttle just after exiting the last corner otherwise I would have literally run over David in the GT3. After that I had to feather the throttle all the way down the front straight to stay behind him.
Lest you think David was screwing around, we were still at almost 160 mph by the braking point for Turn 1. That’s the maximum the GT3 RS can do at Road America, but for the GT2 RS it’s almost 20 mph shy of what David was doing during his lap record attempt. It’s simply stunning.
So the GT2 RS is the absolute definition of a beast of a car. Fully at home in the twisty bits, and at the top of the charts when the road goes straight.
For me there is no choice here, if you’re one of the lucky few who has the cash. A $100,000+ premium over the GT3 RS may seem like a lot, but once you get the GT2 RS out in its element, you’ll quickly see that it’s worth every penny.
And if you can’t make up the difference, maybe sell one of those kids. You can always have more of them.