Calling Alois Ruf a tuner amongst those in the know is tantamount to insulting the faith. The man is widely held as a deity after 25 years of creating such legends as Yellowbird, the original Porsche CTR that starred in the firm's now legendary video, Fazination. That film was passed among car fanatics like a crumpled porn magazine in the playground and that, along with his inclusion in the Gran Turismo video games, helped cement his legend.

Until now all his headline creations have been so closely based on the 911 that only the cognoscenti could tell them apart. He had to move to the next level, and greeting us at the sprawling factory was his own supercar--the Ruf CTR 3.

The bright sunny day helped its cause, but that exterior finish is a wonder to behold, and it isn't the cheap plastic wrap that most tuners have turned to. Instead it's a painstaking paint process involving layer upon layer and costs several hundred euros per liter. So if you see this car don't get too close--your insurance company might hate you.

It's hard to avoid being blown away by the overall shape of a car that looks like the very best modern day homage to the classic Porsche GT1 (with a hint of 550 Le Mans racer). The obvious comparison with Porsche's own Carrera GT is like placing a Gordon Ramsey steak filet next to a McDonald's patty. Ruf has blown away Stuttgart's crown jewel on the pure-theater stakes with just a fraction of the budget. Maybe from the rear three-quarter view it has the slightest hint of blown up Cayman, but that would be a harsh judgement.

Dissect the shape, though, and the silhouette of a Porsche 911 GT3's front end, albeit dressed with Ruf's own expensive carbon-fiber spoiler, becomes apparent, making this one of the most expensive cut-and-shut jobs on the market. That's because using the front structure of Porsche's own flagship neatly sidesteps crash-testing requirements. From the doors back it's a whole new car, with a tubular steel chassis combined with carbon-kevlar to provide the most rigid mid-engine chassis Ruf could muster.

That swooping back end, meanwhile, adorned with vents galore, affords zero visibility. But then again there's a reverse camera, and with a 700-hp mid-mounted, twin-turbocharged engine you shouldn't really need a rear view--just the monumental rear wing and carefully honed aero package to suck the CTR 3 to the deck at speeds up to 234 mph.

Hook up the launch perfectly, get those 20-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sports to bite into the tarmac, and the CTR 3 will hammer through 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds. Then it's just a case of pulling back on the sequential lever, linked to a specifically developed gearbox, with serious force to get the next cog while mashing the throttle to the carpet to bend time and space. It all feels a little too easy, fast but easy, until the tachometer needle heads through an invisible 4000-rpm watershed, the turbos kick into life, and all manner of hell breaks loose.

Every time the addictive mechanized sneeze of the wastegates greets the next wave of power, the next unadulterated surge from 656 lb-ft of pure thrust fires the car at the horizon. The whooshing noise of forced induction, with those turbos hitting an indecent 17.4 psi, backs up the growling roar of the 3.8-liter engine and it feels even faster than the numbers dictate. That's almost Veyron-fast, but then it comes with rear-wheel drive and an overall weight of 3,086 pounds--thanks largely to the carbon--makes it feel so much more agile, so much more involving.

Throw the car into bends and it simply powers through the touch of understeer dialed in to the horizontal dampers to protect the customers from their own inevitable moments of stupidity. This is a near perfectly balanced car for the road, even though they swear it's unbelievable on the track. It's easy to buy that.

Fortunately, standing on the brakes lets the six-piston calipers clamp down on 15.0-inch ceramic composite discs at each wheel. The car scrubs off speed immediately, aided by ABS and traction control. It's an immense car, refusing the wiggle even when standing on the center pedal.

But there are lots of cars out there with telephone number top speeds and the kind of acceleration figures that could seemingly get them into space. In Germany alone more than 10 tuners/manufacturers are indulging in their own private arms race. Most are merely missiles, sacrificing any kind of driveability or sanity in the name of high-end numbers.

Ruf's genius through the ages has been protecting the Porsches' everyday capabilities, and while the CTR 3 is pushing the envelope and would never be an all-encompassing track, shopping, and workday tool--that's what the 911 is for--it is genteel in this rarefied company.

The suspension is firm and relates every bump and ripple to the cockpit. The shift lever would leave most men lopsided after a long drive and prolonged use will result in tinnitus. But the engine can be left in a higher gear and the car will lope through town, and the interior is every bit as good as any in the world. Too often in this class we find ourselves excusing imperfection from niche manufacturers, accepting flaws as character.

But not here. The CTR 3 is perfectly trimmed with quilted Alcantara and the remains of a Porsche dashboard have been used to manufacturer standards. It even comes with a full Bose sound system and, yes, even cupholders. It's a driveable, usable supercar and a work of art all at the same time.

Only the Pagani Zonda F can compete in terms of looks and sex appeal, and even that is slower. There are faster cars, there are more beautiful cars, but this could just be the most complete, usable hypercar on the market right now, and with just 50 scheduled for production it should by rights be sold out already. Ruf is done with tormenting tuners and his small band of fanatics. Now he has declared war on the world, and it looks like he could win.

Ruf CTR 3
* Layout
Longitudinal mid-engine rear-wheel drive

* Engine
3.8-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve, twin turbocharged and intercooled

* Transmission
Six-speed sequential manual with synchromesh

* Suspension
MacPherson struts, anti-rollbar coil springs and dampers (f), multilink axle, anti-roll bar, horizontal coilover dampers (r)

* Brakes
Six-piston calipers, 380mm perforated and ventilated rotors, Bosch ABS

* Wheels and Tires
Ruf forged centerlocks, 8.5x19 (f), 12.5x20 (r)
Michelin Pilot Sport, 255/35R19 (f), 335/30R20 (r)

* Exterior
Carbon-Kevlar body shell

* Interior
Custom Alcantara and leather upholstery, 160 mph speedometer

* Performance*
Peak Power: 700 hp @ 7000 rpm
Peak Torque: 656 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.2 sec.
Top Speed: 234 mph
*Ruf data, DIN hp (691 SAE)

SOURCE
Ruf Auto Centre
No
www.rufautocentre.com
Ruf Automobile GmbH
www.ruf-automobile.de
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