Evolution of the Yellowbird

Ruf’s newest version of the CTR mixes the original ultra-high-performance 911 concept with modern technology.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 1
April 13, 2023

Five years ago, I drove the prototype Ruf CTR Anniversary back-to-back with its mighty 211-mph CTR “Yellowbird” forbearer. Despite being far from production-ready then, the CTR development car came across as fast and smooth with huge potential. Ruf initially called this machine the CTR 2017 after the year it debuted at the Geneva Show. They later changed its official name to CTR Anniversary to emphasize its birth year 30 years after the original Yellowbird. That is still a mouthful, so many enthusiasts refer to it as the CTR4, which makes sense as this is the third descendant of the now legendary Yellowbird.

As the Covid travel restrictions eased, one of Ruf’s customers kindly offered me a drive of his newly-minted CTR Anniversary prior to him taking delivery. This was the perfect opportunity to experience the advances made since I drove the development car.

The Rundown

Open a door and peer inside, and the transformation is astounding. Every part of the interior has been refined, starting with the newly designed leather and carbon-fiber Ruf steering wheel with two thin arms on each of its three spokes. Behind this, the signature Ruf instrument pack with its green script looks crisp and easy to read. The HVAC system with electric air-conditioning has its own dedicated panel on the dashboard’s carbon-look trim strip and delivers good airflow through 964-era vents.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 2

Where a large turbo boost gauge hung over the transmission tunnel in the development car, the production version has a bespoke panel with buttons for the nose lift, hazard warning, and central locking on its top row. There’s also a traction control on/off switch and a five-position knob that controls the level of electronic intervention when the traction control is active. The bottom row controls a mobile phone when one is paired to the car. A pair of USB ports sit around the corner on the right-hand side of the console. Meanwhile, the interior door trim panels have been completely redesigned, and the door pulls and handles have been realigned. Unusually, the electric window buttons are now on the door tops. A final touch is a titanium foot pedal set.

Open the carbon-fiber engine cover with its 1980s 911 Carrera 3.2-inspired spoiler and it is a pleasant surprise to see the flat-six engine (since Porsche has been covering its powerplants, starting with the 991-generation 911). This CTR’s engine bay looks very different from the prototype thanks to the production intake manifold, horizontally-mounted, Dutch-made TracTive adjustable suspension system, and bespoke fan shroud. The yellow paint of the shroud’s main body clearly references the car’s Yellowbird ancestry, while the carbon-fiber front section screams 21st Century.

The twin-turbo 3,600cc water-cooled flat-six engine from a 997 Turbo under the decklid makes 710 hp at 6,750 rpm, with 649 lb-ft of torque from 2,750-4,000 rpm. That is a lot of grunt for a car weighing just 2,755 lbs, and equates to 3.9 lbs/hp. That makes this a 223 mph car that rockets from 0-62 mph in 3.5 seconds and passes 125 mph in just 9.0 seconds on the way there. These acceleration figures are all the more impressive since this car comes with a seven-speed manual rather than a PDK dual-clutch transmission.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 3

The CTR Anniversary may look like a traditional Ruf 911, but under its carbon-fiber skin lies a light but immensely strong carbon-fiber monocoque, lightweight steel front and rear space frames, and an integrated roll cage that takes a leaf from the book of race car technology. Double wishbones at each corner are sprung and damped by front coil-over units longitudinally mounted atop the front frame and horizontally opposed rear coil-over units. The pushrod operation of all four coil-over units works on a one-to-one ratio for optimum performance.

Ruf cars are meant to be sports cars you can drive daily, so their suspension calibration aims to strike a good balance between delivering a comfortable ride and fine high-performance handling. Part of this is achieved by using relatively modest footwear by today’s standards with 245/35ZR19 and 305/30ZR19 Michelin tires wrapped around 8.5J and 11.0J x 19-inch lightweight forged center-lock alloys.

The Drive

Although Ruf has to use a motorsport-grade clutch to handle the big horsepower, the pedal action is progressive and not excessively heavy. More importantly, it matches the throttle weight so that both normal and heel and toe gearshifts are carried out instinctively, while the short shift mechanism on the gear lever guarantees fast and precise ratio changes.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 4

The smoothness of the powertrain makes the CTR Anniversary’s progress down the road quite deceptive. The power comes in early but in a most progressive way with no spikes or second wind at high revs to compromise traction at the rear wheels. It is just one long, hard, drama-free pull toward the redline in each gear that can be quite intoxicating.

In practice, as peak power arrives at 6,750 rpm, there is no point in going past 7,000 rpm since the vast swell of torque on tap in the medium engine speed range does the rest. So tractable is this engine that I was able to drive through a small village in fourth gear with just 1,200 rpm on the clock and then accelerate away quite convincingly once on the open road again. In everyday road driving, you could go from first to fourth gear and treat the car like an automatic.

You can tell that the spring and damper rates are well calibrated from the way the secondary ride takes the edges off small bumps at low speeds yet holds the car rock steady at autobahn velocities. So effortless does this feel that I was just caressing the thick-rimmed steering wheel with total confidence in the car’s abilities.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 5

The power-assisted steering feels intuitive to the point where I hardly noticed it—which is a good thing—and the car changes direction cleanly and crisply, despite the lack of the rear-wheel steering that features on Porsche’s latest top models. Front-end grip going into bends under trail braking is reassuring, and the fine throttle response makes balancing the car on power past the apex easy to judge through the seat of your pants.

Away from urban areas, I drive as quickly as it is safe to do so with respect to visibility and other traffic. On the wide sweeping country roads around Ruf’s headquarters, that visibility sometimes extends to a quarter mile or more. The CTR Anniversary’s seven-league boots make it easy to reach an effortless 125 mph on the straights, and taking the racing line through some of the open curves at 90 mph or more in fourth gear seems the natural thing to do.

Stopping smartly is the remit of the huge 380-mm (15.0-in.) vented front discs clamped by six-pot calipers and matched by 350-mm (13.8-in.) vented rear discs with four-pot calipers. Powerful with good pedal feel, they wash immense speeds off with a vengeance.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 6

The Verdict

The Ruf CTR Anniversary is a testimony to Alois Ruf’s grasp of the art of supercar building that spans four decades and more. Ruf’s band of wealthy and dedicated customers expect him to explore the outer limits of what is possible in design, technology, and materials. These people value—indeed covet—unique and cutting-edge things. More than that, they love all things Ruf and will certainly covet the 50 copies of the CTR Anniversary that are being made.

Photo: Evolution of the Yellowbird 7

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