It was pretty easy to spot the latest creation of Alois Ruf the moment I walked into the service area at the RUF Auto Center in Dallas. Dolled up in retro IROC tangerine paint, the first Rt12 Turbo to arrive in the U.S. jumped out from the pristine white walls and surrounding vehicles.
It was what's under the fancy paint that drew me to Dallas for a test drive. What makes the Rt12 Turbo noteworthy is Ruf's special relationship with the Porsche factory that supplies him with a limited number of bare chassis, bodies in white if you will, from which he builds complete vehicles that carry their own RUF (not Porsche) serial number. In other words, RUF is a manufacturer, not merely a Porsche tuner. In offering the Rt12, which comes in either a 3.6-liter or 3.8-liter twin-turbo format, RUF has preceded the Porsche factory in offering the first turbo production model based on the 997 chassis.
This particular Rt12 was equipped with the top-of-the-line, 650-bhp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo engine derived from the GT2 unit. It's not a mere engine swap, as the 997 has a completely different wiring harness than a 996. It features the Rt12 enhanced bodywork that includes an aggressive front end with gaping air intakes for engine cooling, artfully sculpted metal rear fenders flared 1.5 inches to incorporate air scoops for the intercoolers (as well as massive wheels and tires), and a low-profile bow-shaped carbon-fiber rear wing. Because RUF artfully integrates all these changes from the ground up as any manufacturer would do, despite the loud paint and equally intense modifications, the Rt12 Turbo that greeted me in Dallas did not come on with the garish "Hey look at me" pose affected by aftermarket tuner cars that usually promise more than they deliver.
And this car definitely delivers as I discovered the first time I nailed the throttle in second gear. Suddenly my head jerked back and I was admiring the Alcantara suede headliner instead of watching the road ahead. Yee-ha!
Those were the first words, along with my breath, to escape my mouth. I admit it was partly influenced by the locale at the time, a gritty two-lane road in the ranch land somewhere between Dallas and Oklahoma, but mostly because "yee-ha" is about all you have time to say between hurriedly grabbing higher gears to keep pace with the tach needle and holding yourself upright while 650 horses are grunting and shoving at your backside. Bear with me; I gotta say one more "yee-ha" just thinking about it.
Not that all the above bronco busting lingo should lead you to think that driving the Rt12 requires a white-knuckled grip on the reins. This particular car, belonging to a local gentleman in his sixties who, RUF Auto Center's sales VP Wayne Corley explains, "has a ranch in East Texas that he likes to get to in a hurry," was ordered with the optional all-wheel drive. This, combined with seriously wide 11x19-inch rear RUF wheels (the eventually standard 12.5x20-inchers are currently undergoing TV certification in Germany), wrapped in meaty 305/30 Pirellis, transmitted all the fury generated by the twin-turbo 3.8-liter engine to the pavement with barely a wiggle of the tail. If you need drama, rear drive is standard. Or just keep an eye on how quickly the road ahead gets gobbled up by the RUF's wind tunnel-tested, aerodynamically tweaked nose.
This part of Texas is a lot more horizontal than vertical, so there were no mountains or even semi-serious hills to aim for in search of twisty canyon roads. The ones I did find posed no problem for the RT12's adjustable coilover suspension and big wheels and tires. This included an interesting stretch of curves posted at 45 mph that had off-camber humps strategically placed at all apexes. The suspension easily gobbled these up at 80 mph without any hiccups affecting the ride comfort or steering wheel placement.
For added confidence in handling whatever life puts in the road ahead, the Rt12 was equipped with another RUF option that hydraulically raises the suspension settings by 50mm to clear driveways and other spoiler-snagging obstructions. It is programmable, with the one in the orange car automatically lowering itself at speeds above 13 mph.
Speaking of obstructions, the weather-beaten, heat-scarred surface of the rural Texas roads precluded any top speed testing. I can tell you that the Rt12 shot into triple digits a lot quicker than expected on one of the rare fairly smooth stretches of asphalt I encountered. I have driven many 500-plus-horsepower vehicles, including the 605-bhp Carrera GT, and based on my internal meter for gut-wrenching acceleration the Rt12 ranks in my top three, along with the Carrera GT and another 650-bhp twin turbo, the Novitec Rosso Ferrari 360. The way it was pulling in fourth gear left no doubt in my mind that it will easily exceed 200 mph. For any owners inclined to explore the Rt12's ultimate top-speed capability, RUF offers optional gearing that can take the Rt12 beyond 220 mph. Those whose high speed driving is limited to the Interstate will be more interested to know that I did an acceleration run at 80 mph in sixth gear, about 3000 rpm, and the Rt12 immediately and effortlessly pulled past 100 before the traffic started backing up toward me. RUF conservatively claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds.