This is not a Porsche 911. The Ruf SCR is a carbon-fiber creation from Germany’s Ruf Automobile made from the ground up to look like a 911. It’s not only better to drive than the Porsche but also one of the finest driver’s cars on sale today.
This story originally appeared in Volume 14 of Road & Track.
Longtime readers of Road & Track will be familiar with Ruf. In our July 1987 top-speed shootout, a Ruf CTR—nicknamed “Yellow Bird” by our staff—posted a 211-mph run that trounced the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche itself. But that’s not where the story begins. The company started as a repair garage in Bavaria in 1939 and evolved into a Porsche tuner in the late Seventies. One of its first cars was the SCR, Alois Ruf Jr.’s take on the 1978 911 SC.
“The SCR was an SC Ruf; that was the whole idea,” Ruf Jr. says. “We brought back more 911 in that model than Porsche was giving it at that time because the 911 SC was a reduced 911.” Fit with a larger 3.2-liter flat-six and Ruf’s gearbox, the SCR was a critical and commercial success.
In 2018, almost exactly 40 years after the introduction of that first SCR, Ruf unveiled a new one at the Geneva Motor Show. This one, finished in a coat of Irish green like its forebearer, was a distinctly more involved engineering exercise. The company would build the SCR on an all-new carbon-fiber chassis, like the latest CTR introduced a year earlier. Ruf wanted to make a lighter 911 body out of aluminum, but it was too complicated to build and, by his estimation, still too heavy. Carbon fiber made more sense. So why not go all in and create a new monocoque? That would provide very low weight and allow for a double-wishbone suspension with pushrod coil-overs, something you couldn’t dream of with a standard 911. The SCR’s carbon-fiber bodywork proportions suggest the air-cooled 964 generation, but a water-cooled 510-hp naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six powers the new car. It’s Ruf’s development of the beloved old Mezger engine last used in the Porsche 997 GT3 RS.
From the carbon-bucket driver’s seat, you could fool yourself into thinking you’re in an air-cooled 911. The door frames and greenhouse are standard-issue pieces from the air-cooled era, as are the dashboard and the expansive view over the hood. Even the door shuts with the familiar 911 clink. Switchgear from a 997, top-hinged pedals, and gorgeous custom-made Ruf gauges shatter the vintage illusion. Still, the driving experience is very 911, honed to an incredibly fine degree.
The Ruf-engineered electrohydraulic power steering is beautifully transparent, wriggling in the hands like you’d expect from an old 911. The perfect thin-rimmed steering wheel encourages you to steer with your fingertips. Then there’s the familiar thrum of that flat-six. Aside from a heavy clutch, the new car isn’t difficult to drive. The SCR is just as usable as any 911, but its true character emerges when you find a quiet, twisty road.
It gains your trust within a few corners, so speed rises quickly. The perfectly tuned double-wishbone suspension is Lotus-like in the way it breathes with the road surface beneath. That’s not surprising given the SCR’s claimed 2756-pound curb weight—hundreds lighter than the current 911 and similar to a G-series Carrera. The stiff carbon tub, featuring an integrated steel roll cage, allows for a relatively soft suspension tune and lots of wheel travel. With the KW dampers in their softest setting, the car simply devours roads. Closer in size to a 997 than any air-cooled 911, the SCR has more stability and can accommodate wider Goodyear rubber—235/35R-19s up front and 305/30R-19s in the rear. All told, it’s more sophisticated and confidence inspiring than an old 911, and certainly much faster, yet just as feelsome.
Typical of a carbon car, it’s pretty boomy inside until you let the engine rip. This 4.0-liter has the burly character of the old Mezger, with the usual cabin-filling blare, but it screams like a new GT3 as you approach the 8750-rpm redline. What this engine does from 5000 rpm to the 8270-rpm power peak and beyond is unforgettable. It’s ferocious yet linear. Throttle bodies for each cylinder ensure a pin-sharp response, and I often found myself building a gap to traffic ahead just to downshift and run to redline. ZF designed the six-speed manual gearbox for Ruf, and while the shift action isn’t as precise as a new GT3’s, it’s far better than any air-cooled 911’s without being as notchy as a 997 GT3’s. Can we take a moment to celebrate that this is the only transmission available for this car?
It feels about as quick as a new GT3 point to point—expected given its better power-to-weight ratio. You could easily shock and confuse a lot of modern supercar drivers, leaving them wondering why a tiny 911 is keeping up with them. Yet it’s engaging even at moderate speeds.
In the age of the hypercar, the SCR stands out. It uses the best technology that has given us fast-beyond-comprehension cars, but it chases involvement above all. The fact that it’s still supercar quick is almost incidental. Almost.
The SCR costs almost $1 million. But if you want a driving experience among the finest in the world, it’s worth it. The price hasn’t deterred customers, as Ruf sells as many as it can build.
“We wanted to come up with a car that is 100 percent analog, a car that wins your heart and makes you smile,” Ruf Jr. says. He smiled the whole time on our drive, laughing at every trip to redline as if it were his first time in the car. Behind the wheel, you can’t help but do the same.
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