Times have never been tougher for car manufacturers. They're facing evermore-stringent emission standards fueled by the rising social pressure of a society that rejects anything not in line with their conformist lives. Anything fast, loud, and addicted to gluttonously drinking petrol surely doesn't fit in the responsible and sustainable world of today's eco-conscious citizens. Porsche has come under a lot of pressure to prove its responsibility and forward-thinking qualities. The company vowed to change its image at the most recent Frankfurt Motor Show, putting in the foreground the new Carrera with the downsized 3.0L turbocharged engine and the futuristic Mission E.
What the big manufacturers can't do—either for technical or political reasons—is immediately done by tuners, happy to carve their own niche now as a kind of revenge for the hard times they have been given by the mainstream carmakers in the recent years. The manufacturers' own after-sales programs have eaten into the traditional bread and butter aftermarket of spoilers, wheels, and other individualization offerings. As mass carmakers entered the tuning industry, the world became a tougher place to live for small specialists, as proven by the number of Porsche tuners' bankruptcies in the last five years.
Ruf isn't your ordinary Porsche tuner, and we aren't even considering how bastardized that word has become. While the performance tuning industry was devolving into the "tuner scene"—Alois Ruf's hard work and dedication led even the fastidious German government to officially recognize Ruf Automobile as a car manufacturer. As a manufacturer, Ruf has his own lineup of models, tailored for the specific—and quite crazy in fact—needs of his dedicated group of worldwide clients. The range has been refreshed recently with models introduced at Geneva Motor Show. Now it consists of the Boxster-meets-3.8L-engine 3800S, the naturally aspirated RGT 4.2 seen here, the 800hp RtR kept in body style similar to the RGT, the Turbo-meets-Targa, Turbo Florio, and the hyper CTR3 ClubSport sitting atop the range.
Despite its reasonably modest power output of "just" 525 hp, which downgrades it to the second slowest car in the range, the RGT may actually be the sweet spot of the Ruf offer. The 991-based model is actually the third to bear this name, which stands for "Ruf GT," as opposed to the RtR template, reflecting the "Ruf Turbo" breed. Since the inception of the line in the year 2000, the RGT has always been a special alternative to the stock 911 GT3 for the ones who want something with more power... and something even more rare. With its third installment, the roads of RGT and GT3 began to part. Blame Porsche: While the purest of the 911s has become a digital track tool calculated for the best lap times, the Ruf's alternative has remained a wonderfully analogue, rebellious hot rod.
The new generation of RGT is more of a consistent evolution of its predecessor clothed in the 991 body rather than anything else: It has retained the integral rollcage—unnoticeable from the cabin, which stiffens the whole chassis—Bosch electronic engine management (which Ruf prefers over the new, apparently overcomplicated Siemens ECU introduced in the 991 generation) and, most importantly, the naturally aspirated 4.2L engine. While Porsche introduced a new 4.0L unit made specifically for the new GT3 RS, Ruf chose to work around the legendary Mezger engine.
The specialists in Pfaffenhausen found more cubic centimeters to liberate in its displacement, growing it to 4,178 cc, perfecting all of the rest of the internals along the way. That allowed them to achieve even better results than Porsche does with its newest technological wonder: With 525 hp, RGT has 25 hp advantage over the new GT3 RS, stretching up the power curve all the way to 8,370 rpm, when the maximum power is finally reached. The Ruf motor is in the lead on the other end of the rev counter, too, bringing maximum torque quicker (5,280 versus 6,250 rpm) and in greater amount (340 versus 369 lb-ft). It's 2:0 for Ruf in the paper numbers game then, and if we learn anything from it, it is that there is still so much to benefit from the displacement growth—a funny tip sent from Mr. Ruf to Porsche on the advent of the downsized Carrera hitting the dealerships.
The great mind behind the RGT knows the power of displacement better than anyone, after several years toying with the idea of a V-8-powered 911 named RGT-8, propelled by a 4.5L engine that in its final stage premiered in 2012 and achieved 543 hp. As lovely as the idea of a V-8-powered 911 may sound, the RGT seems to be a better bet with the classic boxer engine noise coming from behind and less weight behind the rear axle. The mechanical setup of the 2015 RGT is complete with suspension co-developed with KW, Ruf's longtime technological partner, and one of the biggest carbon-ceramic braking discs ever fitted on a road car, boasting full 410mm diameter (just over 16 inches for the Americans keeping score) supported with six-piston calipers in the front and 390mm (15.4-inch) rotors with four-piston calipers in the rear.
Ruf may be a company smaller than some of the Porsche dealerships, but it boasts such rich heritage that the RGT's body design tells Ruf's own history, not Porsche's. Despite the overall similarity to the signature 911 lines, every part of the RGT's bodywork, bar the doors, was changed or modified. It boasts the same insanely bloated outer dimensions as the 791hp RtR that debuted just next to it a few months ago, though here they are achieved in a wholly different way. While the blue turbocharged missile has the fenders changed for the new patiently hand-beaten panels, for the RGT, its maker chose an easier and cheaper job of gluing and bolting the wheel-arch extensions to the original body. After modifying the wheelhousings, the car was ready to take in the extremely wide Pirelli P-Zeros taken straight from the top-spec CTR 3 Clubsport: 265/30 ZR20 on the front and 345/25 ZR20 on the rear. At its premiere in Geneva, the RGT starred with new modular rims that had evolved from the classic five-spoke arrangement seen on Ruf cars for decades. After coming back to Pfaffenhausen after the show, they were swapped for a three-piece centerlock design to complete the specification desired by the client. Both of the wheel sets were created in conjunction with OZ, another of the long-standing top-league technological partners of Ruf.
The front bumper is another nod to the company's glorious past: Its round holes on the sides feeding cold air to the brakes and central rectangular air inlet mimic the front of Ruf BTR. The 1983 930-based record-breaking model paved the way for the success of Ruf CTR, more widely known as the Yellowbird. The new RGT can use the same front and rear fenders as the RtR, but unlike it and the Yellowbird, it is devoid of the signature Ruf air intakes located above the rear wheels, traditionally necessitated by the here-absent turbochargers. The overall effect has a more edgy and racing feeling about it than the RtR, let alone the stock 991 GT3.
Some may take these looks as the continuation of the recent Rocket Bunny trend started by the likes of RAUH-Welt Begriff, but in fact Ruf riveted the wheel arches to the 911's hips long before any other tuner (though admittedly after the 993 GT2). The first Ruf model to get them was none other than the RGT's direct predecessor 10 years ago. Over the decade, the model has gained further centimeters in width, along with some additional spoilers and other flashy features seemingly taken directly from the racetrack. It's not an exception in the Ruf range: In recent years, the character of the cars coming from Pfaffenhausen has shifted dramatically from no-nonsense to extrovert, as Mr. Ruf has come under pressure from clients looking for something less modest. An amusing quirk of fate to ponder on, if one remembers that Ruf gained its international fame by dismissing the usual tuning habits and making the 911 narrower and simpler to reduce drag, thus achieving a higher maximum speed.
One thing that hasn't changed is that the Ruf Automobile is still an unthinkably small company, keeping Less than 70 people working around its traditional Pfaffenhausen garage. This allows the manufacturer to treat each order individually—probably no more than 10 RGTs will ever roll out of its doors, and each of them can vary greatly: There's no reason the RGT cannot inherit the more elegant wide body of the RtR, for example. The interior comes totally unique as well: Mr. Ruf's great attention to detail is exhibited not only in the quality of the mechanical bits, but also in the loving care with which the cabin is finished. The individualization comes down to more than just choosing colors or materials unavailable even in the Porsche Exclusive program. It's also a matter of having either two surprisingly comfortable Ruf buckets or a four-seat arrangement, as proven by this right-hand-drive car tailored for a client from Singapore. There's nothing unusual about it until one gets to know that the RGT is actually based on a strictly two-seater GT3, the choice limited only to the rear-wheel drive (as opposed to the usual alternative of all-wheel drive) being the only giveaway of the donor car.
Once inside and driving, you can feel the GT3's soul living deep inside the Ruf body. Above all, this is still a very wild and loud, and yet precise and effective, animal. It retains distinctively different nature to the turbocharged Ruf models. Yes, those full-blown rear-wheel arches still dominate the view in the side mirrors, and the engine is power mad: 525 hp puts it on a par with the top-of-the-food-chain 991 Turbo. But, to be honest, after driving some other Rufs aided with turbocharging, this one won't astonish you from the start. But as you spend some time with the car, each wide-open acceleration gradually makes you believe in the naturally aspirated engine's supremacy. The power delivery is wonderfully linear and instant; the best turbocharged engines (Rufs included) are near perfect in doing that, too, but still not quite perfect. The RGT can be bought just for the way this unique 4.2L boxer behaves between 6,000 and 8,000 rpm, where it feels most at home. And the way it sounds: Without turbochargers, the Ruf engine finally breathes unobstructed, giving a more thrilling and louder vocal spectacle than any other Ruf of recent memory.
The rest of the package is just as engaging: The rear-wheel drive frees up some lightness and precision of the steering, amplifying the competition aura built by the engine. It's a car I can easily imagine taking for a track day, so the PDK gearbox fitted to this car at the request of the customer feels perfectly in place. The extremely wide chassis helps to keep the car planted in every situation, although I'm not sure if I don't like the narrower, skinnier-tired Rufs of the previous generation more, both for the aesthetic and driving impressions. That slight alternation in the Ruf's principles (or taste) hasn't affected the worth of his work, though. RGT is a crazily competent, highest quality machine proving that Alois Ruf's and his team's efforts are worth their while. Of course, it couldn't be easier these days to order a more powerful and faster 911 derivative, but sometimes this blind pursuit of numbers can deprive us of something even more rewarding.