Ruf CTR 3 Clubsport: Test Drive
In like thunder
Neither Le Mans prototype nor Porsche super racer, this 766 hp-monster from Germany's Allgäu region is called the Ruf CTR 3. Can a beast like this be tamed – on the track and in everyday traffic?
Exotic Italian cars, the true supersports cars, are the Mona Lisas of the automotive world: If they were paintings, they'd be exhibited in the Louvre. But what does Germany bring to the table? Where are the exotic German sports cars deserving such a title? Sure, every now and then you can catch a brief flashing glimpse of them. But in an instant they're gone, leaving neither trace nor memory.
The devil is a car
Sad, but true nevertheless, or at least almost true. There's still Alois Ruf, thank heavens. The man from the Allgäu region in the south of Germany has been building sports cars for more than 30 years – always based on Porsches, always brazenly fast – and you can trust the guy to come up with something good. Since 2008, the Ruf CRT 3 has been just about the wildest and most exotic thing to come out of his shop, although now there's a car that tops even that: the new CRT 3 Clubsport, Germany's fastest and most powerful street racer. Never seen one? No surprise, as there are only seventeen of them – worldwide. And if you do happen to see one, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking that it's just another Porsche – more extreme of course, and more brutish. Or, more fittingly, diabolical. Whoever said that you would recognize the devil on earth by the little horns on top of his head and his hoofed foot? Seems more likely that you'd recognize him by the "CTR 3" logo on the sides instead.Hunkered down and huge mouth wide open, the car rolls onto the track, a big black wing in the back, and something looking like comb on top of the windshield, gulping down air. In the rear there's a long tail, all scales and cooling fins – and no rear window. And then there's that Le Mans feeling, so reminiscent of the superior Porsche weapon of the 1990s, the GT1. But this is not a Porsche, it's a Ruf with its own distinctive bodywork of Kevlar and carbon fiber. From the A-pillar back, it uses Ruf's tube frame; at the rear, a cantilevered multilink independent suspension mounts its coil-over shocks longitudinally. Beyond the now mid-mounted engine, there's a separate transaxle for the rear-wheel drive and the perpendicular six-speed transmission. Only the front subframe, the hood and the doors are from Porsche, along with the basic engine.
With its very own tube frame and suspension behind the seats, including a separate cantilever function of the spring and damper units – lever activated mounted longitudinally. Ah, yes, the indestructible boxer engine stokes the fire of the Ruf: 3.75-liter, six cylinders and – thanks to very intense forced induction – 766 hp. That plus 723 Pound-feet torque puts a quick end to any discussions about more cylinders and bigger displacement.
Cockpit is a cave, engine is a thunderstorm
You kind of crawl into the cockpit. It's tight all right, but not too tight. The seats hold you like a vise, but other than that there are no bad surprises, only a few rather nice ones. On the inside, the monster looks like your average run-of-the-mill Porsche: air conditioning, GPS, radio. Apart from the rather bare instrumentation, there's nothing to remind you of the peculiar nakedness of pure race cars. That is, until you start the engine, which comes to life with the roar of a charging tiger. Now the tension increases: There's enough power building up to intimidate a Ferrari F12, add to that country roads in the former East Germany and a veritable rainstorm. I can't shake the feeling that I'm about to bail out of a plane – a burning one – and jump straight into a combine harvester. You have no idea what will kill you in the end, but you're sure you will reach the pearly gates really, really fast.
This car requires muscle power
The shift lever, set unusually high between the seats, for the sequential transmission works extremely well, with a push for upshifting and a pull for the downshifts. You only use the clutch when you start off; all the rest is done with very assertive muscle power. The view out of the cockpit is certainly not one of the CTR 3's strong suits, which makes the car's 6.3-ft width rather daunting. You head out onto the road, begin to get your bearings, acclimatize yourself. The Porsche-typical steering inspires trust – it's precise, linear, and feels completely natural, requiring muscle power in proportion to radius and speed. Same goes for the carbon brakes, which react perfectly to pressure from your foot. The slightest touch of the throttle, however, will have the turbos going crazy, no matter what gear you're in nor at what revs. How does it feel? It feels fast, scary fast, white-knuckle-cold-sweat-'n'-bulging-eyeballs fast. At first, you're not driving the car, not really, you're holding on for dear life, knowing deep down that the car is actually out to kill you. But after only a few miles, I start getting used to its supernatural power surge, so powerful that it feels more like the strength of a gigantic muscle that propels you than a "mere" engine. I’m beginning to appreciate the way the Ruf's rear comes around on wet asphalt, realigns itself at once, then twitches a bit to bite into the road again. Yes, I'm starting to think this is fun! And then the Ruf puts me into a state of mind where this unbelievable, slightly inane grin comes over my face: the fun-of-driving-grin.
Almost a daily criver
Of course, the sound only adds to that – the deep rumble that changes into a more race-like blare after you push the "Sport" button. It gives you goose-bumps, this lusty, sexy sound very befitting the car. Rather unlike the sound of Ferrari, this one makes it seem like you can hear the scream of the individual electrons controlling and supervising everything – it's a thing of beauty, such a sound, but also a tad artificial. Admittedly, the CTR 3's electronic systems come in pretty handy. The ESP is polite and almost understated but reliable nevertheless. It's unbelievable the ease with which the car, and sometimes even me, control those 800 horses. In turns, it keeps a slight understeer. It masters even very tight corners with no discernible body movement, and so it comes as a surprise, really, that its dampers work rather well – the Ruf is stiff, but not extremely so. Even on wet roads, the car delivers incredible grip. And if it's dry, you think your skin's peeling off your face. But don't mistake the Ruf for a drifter's dream. It responds very well to precise driving, but the moment you turn off the electronics you'd need the reflexes of a gunslinger like Wyatt Earp to keep away from those guard rails.Coming back to our question at the beginning – who's Germany’s Idol, the one true exotic super car? Here it is, perhaps not so delicate and classy as an Italian, but equally super.
This enormous pressure in the back, unrelenting. Surprising for me how the Ruf handles everyday driving and how comfortably it manages its immense power.