As the Ruf RT12 S emits the ticking, hissing, mechanical bag-of-rattlesnakes sound of a cooling turbo, Estonia Ruf asks us what we think of the new flagship. I take a minute to answer, too busy trying not to stroke the wing in an overly intimate fashion and lick the window.
This is, quite simply, as good a car as you will get. It looks like a Porsche 911, it even feels like a Porsche. It's just a hell of a lot faster. That is the genius of Alois Ruf, and the line that has become a near cliché for a reason. Tuners generally play with the axis of comfort and performance, sacrificing one for the other. But the RT12 S and almost every Ruf that precedes it is every bit as refined as Zuffenhausen's best. And it's on another planet when it comes to pure speed.
That's because Ruf is no tuner, not in the traditional sense. He is keen to distance himself from the crowd and has the full manufacturer papers to prove his case, as well as a factory that is fully equipped to manufacturer levels, a name that makes Porsche fanatics quiver at its very mention, and a car that starts as a bare shell.
The engine spent a year in development and our guide for the day pulls out his mobile to show a photo of a customer's odometer with 200,000 kilometers on the clock. This longevity is the kind of thing that excites Ruf, just as much as the epic 224-mph top-end speed. I like the speed thing more, but then I'm childish.
As we leave the factory and head for the legendary sweeping backroads of Stetten I'm itching to open up the throttle and feel the full force of the 685-hp, 3.8-liter biturbo growling like a caged tiger. But first we must get there, which provides the chance to feel that legendary refinement and the dual nature of this twin-turbo powerplant.
This engine is technically the 3.8-liter from Porsche, but all Ruf uses is the basic block and the finished product bears closer resemblance to the 3.6-liter RTurbo powerplant. The two share the cast alloy intake manifold and large throttle bodies. It also comes with gas-flowed cylinder heads, titanium conn-rods and 102mm Mahle pistons, and purpose-built inlet and exhaust camshafts.
All that work is topped off by modified KKK R24 turbochargers with their own intercoolers that run a relatively low boost of just 1.2 bar, a 0.1 increase over the RT12. That boasted up to 650 hp, but Ruf spent too much time and money developing that engine to start throwing last minute spanners in the works. So the internals are left alone for the S version and the extra power comes from a free flowing exhaust kit and a mild ECU tweak over the previous model. It's a world away from the Carrera S model, and yet it feels just as friendly.
It comes with a full 4000 rpm of docility, the low-range practicality that ensures you could use this car each and every day thanks to a long throttle travel, smooth power delivery and relaxed driving feel. There is no rifle-bolt short shifter, no race-bred clutch. Ruf's twelfth turbocharged model, hence the RT12 moniker, is a real car rather than a track-biased show pony. It just happens to be scary, insane, window-licking, face-melting fast when it gets beyond 4000 rpm and the peak 650 lb-ft of torque crashes into the rear.
When I finally get the space to unleash the dogs of war they go tearing after the horizon like it's bleeding steak. Officially, 62 mph falls in 3.4 seconds and 125 mph in 9.8 seconds, but I'd bet it's faster than that, and outside of the Enzo and Zonda sector it's as quick as it gets. Light the touchpaper and the S just burns down the road with the characteristic flat six roar cranked up to 17.
There's just a moment as the rear Continental VMAX rubber loses grip and shuffles drive to the front as I finally slam too much power through the grippy rear. Then there's a fraction of a moment of tension underneath the close-fitting racing seat as the car takes up the slack. Then it fires down the road with neck snapping pace, and total composure. I don't know how the two diametrically opposed qualities combine. They just do.
The RT12 was the first Ruf that could break 10 seconds to 125 mph, and it came with optional rear-wheel drive for those who thought they could handle it. The rear-driver was a thrill ride and a half and way grippier than most rivals, but with 680 hp underfoot Ruf decided it must be all-wheel-drive. That was the right choice.
This car's incredible handling goes well beyond four-wheel drive and starts at the car's very core. The integral rollcage is reckoned to increase the torsional stiffness of the base Carrera 4S chassis by a massive 25 percent and is almost invisible, so well is it integrated. And then there's the fixed suspension that Ruf opted to fit.
It comes with a 50mm lifter to get over speed bumps and such, but on the move Ruf clearly disagrees with Porsche's touch-button Sport settings and went for one low-slung setting that works well.
And the results are simply breathtaking. Keep pouring the power on through the bend and it will just keep pulling and turning long after most cars would be lying in a ditch. The traction is simply stunning for a 3,400-pound car, and Ruf has an impressive options list including lightweight doors that save 15 pounds a set and even carbon door handles that would all help the 19-inch wheels stick.
Ruf worked hard on the aerodynamic side to achieve a 223-mph top end. With longer gearing it could nail 225 mph, and that's mainly down to the front and rear bumpers, an underbody lining, and wider rear arches with the intakes set up top that give the car two inches more width at the rear. That is serious real estate when it comes to mechanical grip, and transforms the airflow over the car.
The only criticism could be that for a €230,000 car it looks a bit too much like a standard Porsche, but then that's kind of what Ruf is all about. He doesn't make tacky crap to sit outside a disco. He is purveyor of perfect engineering.
The first plan for the S was a whole new look compared to the RT12, but Ruf finally decided it simply didn't make sense to meddle with perfection, so the S comes with just a few subtle visual tweaks including carbon inlays for the LED lights, an additional lip on the rear wing, and mirrors taken straight from the CTR3 hypercar. It makes sense to keep things simple, as existing RT12 owners may well want to upgrade.
And they might want to go the whole hog and take the ceramic brakes that Ruf has finally bowed to. They were always good, but Ruf rightly questioned their longevity, and as they cost thousands to replace he felt steels were a better option in the early days of PCCB technology. Not anymore-the S comes with the full stopping power of Porsche's wincingly expensive stoppers. Combined with the rock-solid Ruf chassis, they feel even more effective here.
See, this might look like a 911, and perversely it even feels like a 911, but the reality is it's on another plane altogether. Alois Ruf is a god amongst Porsche fanatics for a very good reason, and the depth of engineering with such little exterior fuss is what so deeply impresses the aficionados he counts as customers and friends.
Me? I'm just childish, and I love that raw-ass speed.
RUF RT12 S
Longitudinal rear engine, all-wheel drive
3.8-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve. Fully built internals, gas-flowed cylinder heads with custom camshafts, twin KKK R24 turbochargers with intercoolers, cast intake manifold, custom ECU
MacPherson struts with coil springs, Anti-roll bar, hydraulic lift system (f), Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
OEM PCCB assemblies
Wheels and Tires
Ruf alloys, 8.5x19 (f), 11X19 (r)
235/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
Peak Power: 685 hp @ 7000 rpm
Peak Torque: 664 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.2 sec.
Top Speed: 223 mph