Yes, Ruf is still building CTR3s. Not that you’d know it. The media has paid little attention to this car since its 2008 introduction, and your chances of seeing one in the wild are remote. This red example is the seventh production CTR3. Three more are under construction, out of the five scheduled to be built by the end of 2011.
The first Ruf to bear the CTR moniker back in 1987 was a 911 Carrera 3.2-shaped lawn chair with 500 horsepower, 255/40R17 rear tires, a gas heater, and no glovebox lid. That car, the “Yellow Bird,” was good for 213 mph. Time has moved on, as has the CTR concept. The mid-engined, leather-lined CTR3 makes 750 horsepower, uses a Hor Technologie sequential gearbox, wears 335/30R20 rear tires, and goes 236 mph.
This is the first CTR that isn’t based on a 911. The CTR3 uses the forward unibody of a 987 Cayman instead of the 997’s similar frontal structure because the 987 floorpan is set up for a mid-engine application. The chassis is cut at the A-pillars and doorsills and fused with a tubular rear subframe.
Outside, little is shared with Porsche’s current sports cars: The hood and headlights are 997 pieces, the taillights are from a 987, and the doors are 987/997 units. The rest of the bodywork — from the gaping front bumper and higher headlight humps to the low roof and Audi Avus-like rear fenders — is unique. Visually, the CTR3 is a nod to Germany’s long history of great race cars. “I wanted something that would be plainly German,” says Alois Ruf. “I also wanted a car that wouldn’t age quickly.”
Like the Le Mans-winning 911 GT1, the CTR3 is powered by a twin-turbo flat six. And like the GT1, it has no rear window — which is intimidating the first time you try to back up. A rearview camera helps, but the video display is less than ideal in some lighting conditions. Unlike the road-going GT1s built to homologate GT1 racers, the CTR3 was designed as a street car first. In that way, it’s more like Porsche’s last exotic, the V10-powered Carrera GT.
Carrera GT comparisons are unavoidable, and the CTR3 is its mirror opposite in at least one regard: Its clutch is as easy as any Cayman’s, but its high-effort shifter takes some getting used to. With the clutch in, you press a button at the top of the shifter before toggling it until the electronic display on the gauge cluster shows N, for neutral. Once it does, you push the shifter forward for reverse or pull it back for first. The sequential shifter requires a determined hand, resulting in heavy control inputs that are at odds with the delicate steering inputs required to coax this mid-engine Ruf through the bends. We suspect owners may overcome this and then revel in the simplicity of sequential shifting, but we didn’t get there in an afternoon.
On curvy roads, the CTR3 is intimidating for its width alone. Fortunately, its high headlight humps help you place it on the way into turns, which tend to arrive very, very quickly. The 3.8-liter, twin-turbo CTR3 feels faster than the 5.7-liter, normally-aspirated Carrera GT, due not so much to its additional 145 hp as its extra 265 lb-ft of torque. This Ruf piles on speed relentlessly, effortlessly — but it doesn’t feel as turbocharged as you expect it to. Power delivery is as progressive as it is exciting. The 3.8 is sweet and feels eager to explore the upper reaches of the tachometer. And it is, making its peak power at 7100 rpm, 600 rpm later than the 3.6-liter, 620-hp GT2 RS.
We battled rain throughout the day of our test, but the fact we were able to apply full throttle as often as we did on small, rural roads was a testament to the refinement of Ruf’s ECU programming and the inherent stability of the CTR3’s long wheelbase, which is nearly 11 inches longer than a 997’s. Braking, with ceramic-composite discs at all four corners, is superb in terms of stopping power as well as modulation.
Mechanical grip is good in the dry, but bumpy roads upset the chassis. As a result, the CTR3 failed to inspire confidence. Alois Ruf agreed with our findings, blaming the track-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires on the car at the time of our test. He says many customers want the ultimate grip of Pilot Sport Cups. Since the CTR3 was set up as a street car first, he says it isn’t tailored to work with the Cups’ stiffer sidewalls.
Even with the right tires, we’re not sure we’d have pushed much harder — because the CTR3 is similar to the Carrera GT in another way: It’s not a car you get to know in a couple of hours. As in the CGT, you get the sense that only time and miles will unlock the confidence to access the sharp end of its performance envelope. It took 200–300 miles in a Carrera GT on roads we know before that happened. Alois Ruf is keen to make something similar happen in a CTR3, and we’re hoping he can.