• 2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS boasts 700 horsepower
  • 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS packs 520 horsepower
  • Both rear-engine and rear-wheel drive architecture
  • Each are record-setting sports cars
  • Priced from $187,500

 

We are rocketing down the back straight at Road Atlanta at 164 mph in the 2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS – that’s the fastest your author has ever driven on a closed-course race track. That accomplishment should come as little surprise, as the identical vehicle we are currently driving set a new production vehicle lap record the previous day. The recorded time of 1:24.88 minutes – an absolutely blistering pace – bested the previous record-holding Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 by nearly two seconds. And, to reinforce Porsche’s dominance on racing circuits, the German automaker also unleashed its 911 GT3 RS on the same circuit and turned a time of 1:26.24 – also beating its American rival.

Our assignment is to drive both record-setting 911 models, back-to-back, on the same challenging racing circuit and choose our favorite – a feat that is more difficult than it sounds.

How is the GT2 RS and GT3 RS different from a standard 911?

As derivatives of the standard Porsche 911 Carrera, both the GT2 RS and GT3 RS feature the same aluminum-intensive “wide body” Type 991.2 chassis that is shared with today’s 911 Turbo S. But unlike the Turbo S, both supercars have been further elevated with lightweight construction. This includes crafting the trunk lid, front fenders, exterior mirrors, front arch vents, and multiple other components from featherweight carbon-fiber. Additional weight reductions come in the form of a magnesium roof and innovative construction materials (e.g., hollow glass spheres are molded into the polyurethane bumper covers to reduce mass), which are both standard equipment on the GT2 RS. The overall reduction of mass is impressive – the GT2 RS tips the scales at 3,241 pounds (shaving nearly 300 pounds off the curb weight of the 911 Turbo S) while the GT3 RS is even lighter – just over 3,150 pounds.

Aerodynamics are improved on both the GT2 RS and GT3 RS, with adding downforce – to increase grip – as a primary objective. Both coupes share the same massive adjustable rear wing, but the front and rear fascias are unique to each because cooling requirements are different. Special NACA ducts on the front hood feed cool air to the brakes, while innovative vents on the front fenders extract unnecessary pressure from the wheel wells to reduce front end lift.

Race-bred suspension with steel ball joints

Suspension upgrades are equally as comprehensive. Porsche replaces most of the standard rubber suspension joints and bushings with steel ball joints, which significantly enhance steering precision and stability. New lightweight racing springs reduce ride height and mass, while alignment settings such as camber, caster, and toe are all configured to maximize performance. Unique center-locking wheels crafted from magnesium (a factory upgrade on both) feature uber-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R N0 tires. The front tires are sized 265/35-20, while the rears are 325/30-21 rear. Peer between the wheel spokes to spot the standard Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system, which includes ventilated and drilled rotors that are lighter and more fade-resistant than their steel counterparts.

Prodigious horsepower – turbocharged and naturally aspirated

Hung on the tail end of the GT2 RS is a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter, flat-6 that is rated at 700 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. While engine architecture is shared with the Turbo S, the GT2 RS output is greater thanks to larger turbochargers, increased boost pressure, and intercooler enhancements (in a first for a road-going Porsche, a 1.3-gallon reservoir in the nose supplies a cool water spray to the heat exchangers). Phenomenal power and low mass deliver jaw-dropping performance – utilizing launch control, the GT2 RS accelerates from rest to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds as it blasts to a top speed of 211 mph (both of those factory numbers are considered conservative). 

The GT3 RS takes a different approach with a high-revving naturally aspirated engine. Its 4.0-liter, flat-6, develops a robust 520 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque as it spins to a stratospheric 9,000 rpm redline. With the help of launch control, the 0-60 mph sprint takes just 3.0 seconds – flat out, the 911 GT3 RS can hit a top speed of 193 mph. 

Both the GT2 RS and GT3 RS share the same 7-speed dual-clutch “PDK” automated gearbox, which sends all the power to just the rear wheels – no manual gearbox is available.

Technology helps put the power to the pavement

These sports cars are much more than just a capable chassis, focused aerodynamics, and powerful engines – technology also plays an important role. Both the GT2 RS and GT3 RS feature Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) to continuously adjust suspension damping rates, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) to optimize stability control for track driving, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) to monitor the rear differential, and rear-axle steer to ensure that turn-in is accurate. Porsche even fits the coupes with adaptive engine mounts to limit the effect of engine mass on stability.

The 911 GT2 RS is a civilized beast on the track 

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The GT2’s turbocharged engine fires to life with a muted growl before settling into a smooth and tempered idle – the exhaust note is tame, especially compared to its direct rivals such as the McLaren 720S and Lamborghini Huracán Performante. Acceleration out of the pits and onto the hot track is effortless and we observe that power is available immediately upon throttle tip-in, with little noticeable turbo lag.

Diving into the first corner, we are amazed at how responsive the steering feels – there is zero play or slop, just immediate tracking and fast directional changes based on every degree of steering wheel input. And, there is no need to wait for the suspension to settle as the chassis feels suctioned to the pavement. Immediately confident, thanks to the coupe’s tracking accuracy and input responsiveness, we eagerly put the power down early – enjoyed the rocket-like kick in the backside as the GT2 RS blasts past the apex (the noise bellowing from the Porsche’s titanium exhaust at wide-open-throttle is a roar that resonates like the aft-end of a jet fighter exhaust).

The thrust from the flat-6 is undeniably astonishing. While it doesn’t feel as instantly explosive off the line as the V8-powered McLaren 720S (likely the quickest of today’s production vehicles), the Porsche’s power is easier to modulate and much more useable – thanks to the weight of the rear-mounted engine, the GT2 can put its 700 horses down much earlier without acceleration-robbing wheelspin. And that same rear weight distribution pays off during deceleration. Mash the brake pedal and the tail of the Porsche bites into the asphalt as the unflappable carbon-ceramic brakes do their job. Poise – the near-perfect equilibrium of steering, braking, acceleration – is what sets the GT2 RS apart from all others. This record-setting sports car inspires so much confidence (there’s that word again) that it is effortless to drive at truly insane speeds.

The 911 GT3 RS is a scalpel on the track 

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Drop into the GT3 RS’s deeply bucketed CFRP seat and cinch the 3-point belt tight. A quick twist of the left-mounted ignition fires the six to life – its rapid explosive concussions shake the chassis at an anxious pace – it appears eager. After depressing the “PDK Sport” and “Damper” buttons (enabling their track settings), this Porsche is ready to go.

Initial acceleration is quick, but far from mind-blowing. As expected from a naturally aspirated engine, there’s simply not a lot of torque on the low end of the tachometer. However, as the engine spins past 4,000 rpm it pulls powerfully right up to the 9,000 rpm redline. And it shows no sign of running out of breath – feeling as if it would run past 12,000 rpm if allowed. The glorious – make that absolutely livid – wail from the lightweight titanium exhaust is near-deafening at redline (we’d argue the sound alone is worth the GT3 RS’s sticker price). The PDK gear shifts are imperceptivity quick, and almost drama-free, as the analog tachometer dances around the face of the round dial.

With a very light nose (the front wheels of the 911 carry only about 40 percent of the vehicle’s weight), turn-in is virtually immediate with no perceptible understeer. The GT3 RS dives in the corners with ease, at speeds that would have most exotic cars scrubbing their front outside tires. And, just when the rear end begins to feel light, mashing the accelerator pedal glues the sticky tires back to the asphalt. The steering is communicative and well-balanced, with a steering ratio that feels literally perfect, and the carbon-ceramic brakes are unfazed by the relentless torture.

We push the Porsche as hard as we can — yet it keeps telling us that it can go faster. Lap after lap, our bond with the 520-hp machine solidifies. It’s a surreal, Zen-like, relationship as if we are dance partners tackling each corner of the racing circuit together. A waving checked flag ends our fun, far too early. We are mentally exhausted, but the GT3 RS is not even breaking a sweat.

911 GT2 RS versus 911 GT3 RS: Which is better?

There’s a logical argument that says it’s perfectly logical to own both variants of the track-ready 911s, as each delivers a very different driving experience. (We know many owners that have both.)

The GT2 RS is astonishingly brawny and powerful. Despite its agility and impeccable track manners, which expose the DNA of a race car, all its bits and pieces are cohesively aligned around one objective – support and coddle its 700-hp turbocharged engine. With those marching orders, the GT2 RS feels solid, planted, and unquestionably muscular – it has genuine substance. And the thrust from the turbocharged engine is an intoxicating narcotic – a tip of the throttle immediately pins the operator against the seat. The GT2 RS, arguably today’s most capable street-legal sports car, rewards its drivers with a mechanical high that never gets old. 

The GT3 RS is all about balance – everything is perfectly proportioned. It’s naturally aspirated 4.0-liter – frankly one of the best combustion engines ever offered for sale – sings gloriously all the way around the tachometer. The power delivery is perfectly linear and predictable, too, which allows the driver to use much more aggressive inputs. The GT3 RS feels 100 pounds lighter than the GT2 RS – lower mass that is very noticeable on the track. Because of this, the sports car begs to be tossed into corners and hustled without civility – unlike its turbocharged sibling, the GT3 RS won’t bite those who are a bit sloppy. The GT3 RS is a sports car that rewards those with genuine talent and indulges those who love to drive.

With speed limits on all our roads, but plenty of racing circuits around the country, we find ourselves naturally leaning towards the slightly slower, yet more engaging, 911 GT3 RS – it’s the visceral, yet completely street-legal, race car that automotive enthusiasts dream about.

How much do the 911 GT2 RS versus 911 GT3 RS cost?

The 2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS has a base price of $293,200 (plus $1,250 destination fee). The 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS has a base price of $187,500 (plus $1,250 destination fee). Both vehicles are currently on sale. 

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