In what is fast becoming a summer ritual, my youngest son (aka – Bad Driver) and I drove a pair of cars from Texas up to their new home in Montana. This year I drove the Porsche 911 (997.2) GT3 RS up while Bad Driver followed in the Porsche Cayenne S. In effect, these are the two extremes of the Porsche line up. The quick agile truck and the raw focused track weapon. Despite having owned the Cayenne S for 3 ½ and the GT3 RS for a year and a half, this was the first major long distant trip for both. While I had no concerns on how Bad Driver would hold up for 1600 miles in the Cayenne, I was concerned with the beating I might be setting myself up for in the striped down GT3 RS. Little to no sound deadening, thinly padded racing buckets, and a suspension designed more for the Nurburgring Ring than the US Interstate Highway system is not a recipe for setting a new standard of comfort.
The trip started at 7:00 AM on Thursday morning. The targeted destination for day 1 was just north of Denver, a not insignificant 920 miles away. A further 680 miles would follow on day 2. This year we decided to take the longer way up through Oklahoma and then across via Kansas which would keep us on highways for almost the entire trip. This routing avoided the back roads and small towns in Texas & Colorado which slowed our progress considerably last year. We were hoping the early-ish start would allow us to clear the city before rush hour reached its peak and break out onto the open highway where more rapid progress could be made. Other than one minor accident related traffic jam, the plan worked well and we found ourselves crossing the Oklahoma border in good time. Our first, of what would be many, fuel stops came shortly afterwards. While the Cayenne sported a range of 450+ miles, getting 200 miles out of the GT3 RS’s water bottle size tank was about the best we could do. By the time we stopped for the night, we had toured five gas station forecourts across three states with a further four stops following on day 2. On the plus side, it did give me the chance to get out of the GT3 RS about every 2 ½ hours to stretch my legs.
As a long-distance tourer, the GT3 RS is survivable. The seats and driving position are quite comfortable, the controls all well-arranged and intuitive, and the sightlines are excellent. The lack of sound-deadening coupled with the very firm suspension do cause a fair amount of brain and body damage when exposed to for extended periods. While the sounds system is not to bad when stationary, once you get moving a speed it has plenty of competition from the rear of the car. Passing is almost too easy, drop down 2 gears, a bit of right foot and what was in front will now be firmly in the rearview mirror. Below 3000 rpms engine grunt is pretty ordinary, north of 4500 rpms the GT3 RS comes very much alive. This is a car that wants to be pushed hard and really driven. Cruising is just not its thing.
While day one was basically an uninspiring slog on dead straight concrete highways across the flatlands, day two was significantly more interesting. Once we crossed into Wyoming, the speed limit increased to 80 mph and the quality of the roads improved dramatically. While it doesn’t have quite the fun factor of a mountain pass, the 350 miles up through Wyoming are about as good as it gets on a US Interstate. There is little to no traffic, the road is painted across the hills, and you have the Rocky Mountains to your west. If there ever was a stretch of highway in the US that an autobahn approach to speed limits should be applied to, it is this. Needless to say, we made rapid progress and the GT3 RS started to really come into its own. Crossing into Montana, the roads got even more interesting as the hills grew in size. For the first time in 1220 miles, the gearbox started to get more of a work out as we powered up the hills and then down through fairly tight corners. After another rapidly covered another 250 miles, we were finally off the highway and headed up into the mountains. The final 50 miles were on what is becoming one of my favorite pieces of tarmac in the US. The two lanes of Route 191 are cut alongside the Gallatin River as it winds through a narrow valley with towering peaks on both sides. It is challenging, beautiful, and unforgiving if you get it wrong. As one of the key access routes to Yellowstone National Park, it also gets a fair amount of traffic which needs to be navigated in passing zones that are few and far between.
While on the highway, the Cayenne S had little trouble keeping pace with the GT3 RS, however I lost “Bad Driver” almost immediately as soon as we headed into the mountains. This was not unexpected as his last words to me at our final gas station stop were “I will see you at the house”. Here the GT3 RS was completely in its element, the brain and body damage of 1200 miles on the highway were washed away and quickly forgotten. The more you push it, the better the GT3 RS gets. Hands and feet were plenty busy working the gearbox, navigating the corners, and dispatching slower moving traffic. As my daily driver is a mid-engined car, the difference in weight distribution on the GT3 RS was quite discernable. The fact that the engine is hanging off the rear axle is definitely noticeable, as is the more pronounced weight transfer when you mash the middle pedal. If you want to keep the horizon in front of you, corners are definitely slow in, fast out.
After 1600 miles and twice that in dead bugs, we arrived at our destination. Over the course of two days, I finally really bonded with the GT3 RS. In the last several hundred miles, I really started understanding the depths of its abilities. Subsequent drives up through the mountains in the days that followed further deepened my appreciation of what Porsche created with the GT3 RS. It’s a car that is now up in an environment where it can really shine. We are looking forward to more great drives when we go back up in the Fall.
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