Purest Porsche is baddest 911 of all

JASON HARPER
Last updated 05:30 10/08/2012
Porsche Carrera 911 GT3 RS 4.0
Fairfax NZ

AERODYNAMICS: For once, here's a car that really needs its wings.

Porsche Carrera 911 GT3 RS 4.0
Fairfax NZ
PORSCHE CARRERA 911 GT3 RS 4.0: last of a long line of 997 variants of the car.
Porsche Carrera 911 GT3 RS 4.0
Fairfax NZ
END OF AN ERA: When the 991 series GT3 arrives it may not even have manual transmission like our test car.

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Stroll through any Porsche dealership and you'll experience lust and sticker shock. All those gorgeous new 911 Carreras, from shiny S models to enticing convertibles, tugging at your heartstrings and wallet.

What you won't find in those showrooms is the purest and baddest 911 of all, the GT3 RS 4.0. With five-hundred horsepower (that's 373 kilowatts) from a naturally breathing 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, it is a lean racing machine. It's street-legal, but only just.

This special, limited-production 911 belongs to the previous generation known as Type 997. Porsche has since moved on to a wider, longer foundation, the 991.

The company is rolling out the new generation 911s on that platform and we'll likely see the all-new 911 Turbo as a 2014 model.

However it'll be a long, long time before we get a new version of the GT3 RS 4.0. And it's unlikely that the GT3 model will come with a manual transmission.

So the GT3 RS 4.0 is not only the last of its generation, it is the last of its breed. Only 600 were made.

Over four very lucky days, I got my hands and gas-pedal foot on an all-white model in Los Angeles. As tested, its US price was $US204,950 and in New Zealand - if you can get one - the car will cost you well north of $NZ400,000. That's a heap of money for a 911. Not long after my drive, it was sent to a dealership in Dallas and has been sold. I'm still mourning.

Why the fuss?

Example: I arrived at a business park just outside the city limits to give a ride to an entertainment-lawyer friend. A stately fellow in his 50s, he is chauffeured to work every day in his Bentley and is somewhat indifferent to cars.

He took a look at the broad rear wing - big enough to fit on a small aircraft - and suddenly looked apprehensive. "I've never been in a car like this," he said as he buckled up.

The car's front end is exceedingly low, so I took care pulling out of the parking lot. I straightened the steering wheel and dropped my foot. The rear wheels hooked up and the resulting force was like taking a Muhammad Ali jab to the solar plexus.

The 4.0-litre engine is the same one found in Porsche GT3 RSR race cars, with dry-sump lubrication and titanium connecting rods. A serious piece of machinery. Its raw sound filled the cabin, loud.

In second gear, we were at the speed limit, reaching 100kmh in less than four seconds. Third gear and I slammed on the brakes - it was like deploying a parachute. The 911 came to a shuddering, screaming, dead stop.

The whole experience lasted less than 10 seconds. My companion's face had turned a peculiar shade of red. "That's enough," he managed. We turned around and headed back.

I hope I didn't lose a friend.

The GT3 RS 4.0 belongs on a race track. The majority of GT3 owners do in fact take their rides to the race track, according to Porsche. Confining the thoroughbred to regular roads is like restricting Michael Phelps to the kiddy pool.

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Sadly, I had no track available to me in LA. Nonetheless, driving in the famously car-centric town was good fun, even in traffic.

Porsches are so common in Los Angeles that nobody takes much notice. All 911s look basically the same. The latest, seventh generation is clearly linked to the same vehicle that launched in the 1960s. It takes special knowledge to distinguish between the 20-something variations .

The GT3 RS 4.0 is clearly special. There's that rear wing and a side logo. More than that, though, it looks whittled down and purposeful. Kerb weight is just under 3000 pounds (1363kg). The Porsche hood ornament is a sticker rather than a medal piece - to save weight. It's a wolf in wolf's clothing.

Locals snapped pictures. Valets became animated. I blithely drove to a press preview of a new electric vehicle. Auto journalists gathered around the GT3, temporarily ignoring the vehicle they'd come to see.

But the proof of excellence lies in the car's perfectly-powered, beautifully-weighted drive.

An LA-based friend had long been telling me about his favourite canyon road, a one-way from the top of the mountains to the Pacific. Upon seeing the GT3 he offered a deal: He'd give up the location for a ride-along. Done.

After a labyrinthine drive along ridge roads, we turned down a narrow asphalt route which scoots right off the mountain and corkscrews downhill, broken up by hairpins and short straights. There was little in the way of a shoulder, and no homes or driveways. As a one-way, I could use the entire road.

Oh, those next few minutes. Less about speed and more about the gorgeous rhythm through the turns.

At the bottom of the road, I shut off the engine and just sat, alternately revelling and mourning. Hail to the GT3 RS 4.0, the last of its kind.

-Washington Post-Bloomberg

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