IT STRUCK ME AT THE LATEST ECOTY test that perhaps the era of the great all-round performance car is over. In a world where so many cars can do everything well all the time, it’s natural to gravitate towards extremes, to want to mainline the wildest experiences and seek out cars that present an opportunity to feel like you’re on the edge. Of something: grip, reason, the boundary between road car and no-holds-barred racer. As power outputs continue to spiral and performance becomes more and more accessible – homogenised, even – we crave something raw, something that makes us feel alive. Brilliance is no longer enough.
This trend has created some extraordinarily thrilling cars in recent times and slain the monsters of old. You see a picture of an old Diablo SV and imagine it to be a fire-breathing monster, don’t you? Or shudder at the thought of an early 911 Turbo in a suddenly tightening bend. But the reality, in the context of something like a 765LT or modern GT2 RS, is that those Widowmakers from the past feel about as edgy as a butter knife that’s slipped behind a kitchen unit and gathered dust for a dozen years.
What hope, then, for an ageing model designed and built by a company whose very DNA is to create cars with extreme performance but wield it in a useable, understated way? Yesterday’s subtle is very often today’s unremarkable. So I approach the slim-hipped 996-generation Ruf Rturbo with trepidation. Its holistic, considered and beautifully executed approach makes me swoon. But even as my heart skips a beat I’m worried that this highly evolved 911 won’t be able to thump it off the rev limiter once the wheels are rolling.
Understated? Subtle? Am I talking about the same Ruf that found infamy through a cult tyre-smoking video filmed on the Ring? The one with a vivid yellow 911 painting at lurid angles way before ‘drifting’ had become a thing? And this car having already blown apart the competition at a top speed shoot-out held by US magazine Road & Track at Ehra-Lessien, where the very same Ruf CTR (Group C Turbo Ruf) was christened Yellowbird having reached 211mph (339.5kmph)? Well, yes.
This has always been the dichotomy at the heart of everybody’s favourite Porsche tuner. Ruf creates cars capable of outrageous things but which are also wonderfully useable, built to meticulous standards and retaining the astounding breadth of ability that has made the 911 the perennial benchmark. The integrated Alcantara or leather-trimmed roll-cages, which invisibly strengthen each Ruf, speak eloquently of this company’s unique approach. Perhaps think of Ruf as the people who kick-started the trend for bespoke, gorgeous resto modded performance icons. The only difference is they ‘reimagined’ Porsches fresh from the production line.
This Rturbo was born in 2002 and was immediately put into service as Ruf’s official press car. Hence the signature Blossom Yellow colour. And the spec, which adopted Ruf’s preferred narrow Carrera shell (the Rturbo could also be specified with a Turbo body and Tiptronic, too) bursting with a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six. It left Pfaffenhausen with 513bhp at 6000rpm, 740Nm at 4800rpm and in rear-wheel-drive configuration before embarking on a glorious world tour. Road & Track achieved 0-96kmph in 3.8sec and 0-160kmph in 8.1sec with this car despite recording the figures in 40-degree heat. Later, chassis W09BD03683PR06037 hit 348kmph at Nardo and starred in another very sideways video at the Nürburgring. Back then an Rturbo would have set you back a fair bit more than a 911 GT2. Today you’d need around ₹1.63 crore (in the UK) if you fancied a 996 Rturbo. Assuming you can find one.
Now, some 17 years later, that same car is emerging from a storage facility right in front of me. The Rturbo is resting here before it leaves the UK for its new home in Sweden. The temperature is hovering around freezing, the sky is a dazzling blue and the roads nearby are filthy from weeks of rain and muddy tyres. Oh dear. And here was me wondering if the Rturbo might feel a bit too rounded for its own good. Be careful what you wish for, eh? Having said that, my nerves aren’t jangling quite as much as they might be, as this car was subject to a thorough recommissioning at Ruf in 2007 that included new everything, an upgrade to 542bhp and the addition of four-wheel-drive.
The noise is flat, hollow but sharp-edged as the engine warms through at idle. It doesn’t so much cut through the crisp air as diffuse into it, creating shockwaves as it goes. I know where the noise is emanating from, but it feels like it’s bursting from every pore of this searing yellow 911 as I circle it for a closer look.
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