Fun fact: Walter Röhrl and I have something in common. No, I haven’t won the World Rally Championship twice, nor have I secured a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s just that we agree on something: We both think the Porsche 911 S/T is the greatest road car we’ve ever driven.
To be fair, Röhrl was a key figure in development for the S/T, joining engineers on hours of validation drives to help the team to finalize its calibration. Certainly his success is relevant here, but his opinion is still a bit biased. While I’m not a former Pikes Peak record-holder, I have driven hundreds of cars for Road & Track, and I don’t work for Porsche. I can promise there is not a better car on sale today.
A quick glance at the 911 S/T’s spec sheet is immediately impressive. The car uses the same basic chassis structure as the GT3, down to the double-wishbone front suspension architecture, a major departure for road-going 911s. But it takes the 518-hp version of the 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six from the GT3 RS and pairs it exclusively to a six-speed manual transmission with shorter ratios. There’s also less sound deadening and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic panels for the hood, roof, front fenders, and doors, resulting in the lightest 992-generation 911 ever, at 3056 pounds. All the right ingredients for fun.
Reading about the S/T might lead you to believe it’s little more than a 911 GT3 RS with a stick and no wing out back. But classifying it as such is doing a disservice to the car and all of the changes made by engineers to develop something that transcends the GT3, the RS, and every other 911 I’ve driven. It’s far and away the most visceral, most satisfying, most joyful motoring experience you can get from a road car right now.
From the first moment you turn the wheel, you understand where most of the development has gone. After a full day of driving on the mountain roads of southern Italy, where Porsche brought prototypes to validate the 911 S/T, it’s clear this car is not a GT model in the traditional sense, despite being developed by Porsche’s Motorsport division. Unlike the GT3 or GT4, the S/T is angled more towards on-road satisfaction than on-track performance. “If you asked me the Nürburgring time of the car, I don't care,” says Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT department. “I don't know. We never tried.”
At the heart of that delivery is the new chassis setup. The 911 S/T is the first 992 to combine the GT3’s double-wishbone front end to a rear end without rear-steering. That might not sound like a big deal, but Preuninger says the first prototypes “drove like shit,” as the GT3’s geometry was designed from the get-go to always have rear-steer in place. Engineers set out on a months-long journey to iron out all the kinks, adjusting the setup to ensure the S/T would deliver the most pure, most fulfilling turn-in possible. “Our best guy–for me at least–doing chassis work, we freed him of all [his] other duties for more than a year to get this car completely right for that purpose,” Preuninger says. The team made a host of changes to the steering setup too, and ended up with a slightly slower rack to compensate for the lack of rear-steer.
From behind the wheel, the results are easy to sense. The 911 S/T drives far differently than a GT3 or a GT3 RS, but not in the ways you’d think. Rather than being stiffer or more on-edge, the S/T pivots to a comparatively relaxed chassis setup that allows the car’s suspension to articulate more, especially in the rear. This car will move around on you, and slices through corners in a less frantic way versus its GT-badged siblings. You feel every minute change in direction and shift in weight, yet it never feels un-composed, no matter what sort of turn you huck at it. It’s made for real roads, with bumps, imperfections, and potholes. Not race tracks. The bespoke steering is beautiful and supremely direct without being hyper or overly sensitive to inputs. In a way, the S/T drives far more traditionally like a 911 than the GT3 ever did.
That’s not a slight on the 911’s unique rear-engine setup, of course. It’s moreseo a hat-tip to the engineers, who were able to draw out the best of the 992’s chassis without making the car a handful to drive, even without the help of gimmicks like rear-steer. The double-wishbone front end is still the biggest highlight, though. It feels just as revolutionary as it did when I first drove the current GT3 at our 2022 Performance Car of the Year test. The S/T’s seemingly limitless grip is overshadowed only by the amount of information coming from the steering wheel. Despite the stratospheric performance on tap, this car never feels scary or overwhelming, even at its very high limits. You can dig further and deeper into the front end than you’d think, without ever upsetting the car’s balance. It’s addictive and immensely satisfying.
Those high limits are, in part, due to the impressive weight-savings regimen the 911 S/T has gone through. “We wanted to make the lightest 992 possible,” Preuninger says. “The 992 has gotten [to be] a pretty big car, everybody knows that. But we still had the idea and the demand on the car to feel super light and to shrink around you when you drive it and that was the main development goal.”
In addition to the CFRP body panels, the GT department has instituted a litany of other weight-related changes over the standard GT3. The staggered Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2-wrapped 20- and 21-inch wheels are made from lightweight magnesium, and the brakes are carbon-ceramics as standard. Less visible are the lithium-ion battery, the lightweight glass, and a carbon fiber shear panel that sits below the front trunk area. Factor in the lightweight clutch, the single-mass flywheel, and the missing rear-steer system, and you have a 911 that’s 70 pounds lighter than a GT3 Touring in its lightest configuration.
That clutch and flywheel setup play a huge role in the S/T’s personality, too. With less weight to spin, the engine—an already incredible piece of road car engineering—is far quicker to rev, giving it a smile-inducing motorsports vibe that’s more prevalent than the standard GT3. In addition to the individual throttle bodies, this engine gets the unique cylinder heads and more aggressive camshafts from the RS. And like in the RS, the S/T’s engine is a high-end fiend, delivering the bulk of its excitement at over 5500 rpm. There’s a significant and noticeable punch of thrust over 6000 rpm you don’t feel in a normal GT3. You’ll catch yourself downshifting just to feel it kick in. Aside from whatever engines Cosworth is making for Gordon Murray and Aston Martin right now, it’s the most exciting motor you can get in a road car.
Though when it comes to the powertrain, the engine isn’t really the star of the show. That title goes to the manual gearbox, the only choice of transmission on the 911 S/T. Aside from the chassis, it’s the single biggest and most important change engineers made to ensure the S/T’s character. Like the GT3, it’s a six-speed unit, but it comes packed with ratios that are each about eight percent shorter. The GT3 didn’t need shorter ratios. Unlike its smaller, mid-engine GT4 and Spyder siblings, it has enough guts down low to compensate for the high gearing, and works well on race tracks and back roads of all shapes and sizes. But there’s no doubt these gears elevate the experience even further. Not only does it mean the driver gets to use the sublime shifter more often, but it also means you can get into the very best of the powerband quicker and more frequently. The whole point of that engine is to be wound to within an rpm of its life, and the shortened six-speed allows you to do that as often as you’d like. Best of all, it means you can hear the S/T’s unholy soundtrack more often. Porsche had a GT3 Touring on standby for me to try out back to back with the S/T, and by comparison the Touring felt near-lethargic, especially out of slower corners where real torque is many thousands of rpm away. It’s an incredible feat considering just how good the standard GT3 can be.
The S/T’s shifter overtakes the GT3’s as the best shifter on the market today, with the same exceptional sure-footedness and accuracy, plus the added benefits of a shorter lever and shorter throws. The clutch is far heavier than the GT3’s, and because there’s no sound-deadening between the cabin and the engine bay, you can hear the clutch chatter away loudly at idle, just like a Cup car.
Though most of the development went into the 911 S/T’s chassis setup, Porsche engineers didn’t forget about aero. Look closely behind the front wheels and you’ll see the same funky cutouts in the carbon fenders from the GT3 RS to promote airflow onto the doors. Out back there’s an electronically-controlled spoiler like you’d find on a Touring, adjusted to deploy later and at a less aggressive angle to, according to Preuninger, maintain the car’s classic shape as much as possible. To compensate, engineers added a Gurney flap to the leading edge. It’s an easy way to tell whether the sporty-looking 992 you’re looking at from afar is really an S/T and not just a GT3 Touring.
What makes the 911 S/T so great can be understood by examining what it doesn’t have, rather than what it does. It takes just one look at the steering wheel to get it. There are no rotary knobs for drive modes or suspension adjustments. There are no paddle shifters for a dual-clutch transmission. Look at the body and you won’t find a gigantic rear wing or ankle-slicing canards up front. Peek underneath, and things like AWD or rear-steer are nowhere to be found. The 911 S/T is the modern 911 experience in its purest, most exciting form. It’s the antithesis of tech-minded forward progress in the name of performance, instead a showcase of expert engineering and problem-solving to deliver an absolutely uncompromised, timeless version of the world’s most legendary performance car. In a perfect world, every 911 off the assembly line would be an S/T. But instead, Porsche is limiting the car to just 1963 units, a celebration of the model’s 60th anniversary. This car is worth every cent of its $290,000 MSRP, though it’s safe to assume it’ll be trading hands for far more. Even at triple the price, I wouldn’t have anything else.
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