Join Date: Mar 2001
European First Drive: 2006 Ruf R Kompressor (edmunds.com)
European First Drive: 2006 Ruf R Kompressor (edmunds.com)
Brilliant engineering and exploitable performance make for one slick and stealthy sports car
Standing on the side of the road as ace photographer Volker Strueh busily snaps photos of the 2006 Ruf R Kompressor, I have a moment to reflect on how painless my baptism to Ruf driving has been. I'm still in one piece and, most importantly, so is the car. The cows in the field behind me seem less impressed, mooing incessantly between chomps of grass. Maybe they're Brabus Mercedes fans?
Whatever the cause of my bovine friends' consternation, I'm certain that if they could slide behind the wheel of the new R Kompressor and wrap their hooves around the thick steering wheel, they, too, would understand the magic Ruf has worked here. Unfortunately for them, they're cows. Luckily for me, I'm not. Better still, I have some driving time left with this wickedly stealthy sports car before returning it to the factory.
Living in the shade of Big Brother
It's hard to imagine a car with 435 horsepower, a top speed of 189 mph and a price in the region of $130,000 as being entry-level. Though no matter how crazy that sounds, the R Kompressor remains a few hundred horses shy of Ruf's current top offering, the chest-thumping Rt 12. However, it's also about $100,000 cheaper.
When I arrive on Day One of two at Ruf headquarters in Pfaffenhausen, Germany, the Rt 12 press car is still being cleaned. Thinking quickly or simply wanting to get rid of the pesky American journalist Ruf's PR man, Marc Bongers, suggests I try the supercharged R Kompressor while waiting for the main course of Rt 12. Oh, all right, twist my arm.
As automotive hors d'oeuvres go, the R Kompressor is very tasty and much less awkward than mastering a pair of escargot tongs. Sliding into the hip-hugging Ruf bucket seats, I note that the dash is basically that of the regular Porsche 911. Ruf's trademark green-digit dials, shiny Ruf aluminum pedals and gearknob, and the aforementioned sport seats constitute the bulk of interior modifications.
D'oh and whoa!
After fumbling around like a dolt, I remember the simple automotive rule that all Porsches (and Rufs) have their ignition to the left of the steering column. I must be nervous. Aside from this inauspicious beginning, it soon becomes apparent how user-friendly the R Kompressor really is.
Despite a clutch that initially feels a touch heavy, the car pulls away smoothly. The burble from the 3.8-liter supercharged flat-6 sounds aggressive without dominating the experience. I sampled this engine once before, in the Italian-suited and Ruf-powered Studio Torino RK Spyder. In the R Kompressor the engine gains 15 horses and mercifully loses some of the RK Spyder's overwhelming exhaust growl.
The supercharger is a mechanical unit made by ASA, and is driven from the crankshaft by a V-belt. A maximum boost of 8.7 psi is on tap. Twin water-cooled intercoolers, a Ruf-designed aluminum intake manifold, sport catalytic converters and revised engine electronics comprise the extensive engine revisions. The net result: 435 hp at 7000 rpm and 347 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm.
Ruf likes to brag that this supercharger system allows for excellent torque, with the ability to rev high without a drop in power (more often the realm of rev-happy turbocharged engines). This boast is proven on the road, where the R Kompressor pulls strongly and smoothly throughout the entire rev range. The clutch becomes friendlier with practice and the six-speed manual transmission has a precise mechanical feel.
On the empty country roads surrounding Ruf's factory, the R Kompressor feeds a wealth of information through the steering wheel. The lowered suspension and those chunky 19-inch alloys should conspire to knock a few fillings loose. Instead, the ride is stable, firm and allows great confidence with plenty of comfort.
The 255/35ZR Pirellis front and 305/30ZR Pirellis rear offer tremendous grip that's more than a match for anything I throw at the car on these twisty and unfamiliar roads. A button on the console switches between Normal and Sport suspension settings. It's hard to tell the difference. I leave it in Normal mode, aim for the horizon and bask in the power of that supercharged flat-6 blaring behind me.
A Ruf is a Ruf is a
The sinister-looking black R Kompressor I sampled was without some of the exterior goodies that Ruf normally fits to the car. A slightly over-the-top carbon-Kevlar rear wing is offered, but frankly, it looks better without it.
With the suspension lowered a few centimeters and Ruf's aggressive front and rear bumper treatment, the R Kompressor is a cool, low-key kind of sports car. At a glance, it looks little more than a mildly tweaked 911, and hardly like a car capable of challenging an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari F430.
And while the R Kompressor can be ordered as a built-from-the-ground-up Ruf version with Ruf VIN to prove it the supercharger package is also available as a kit. For American customers, the conversion can be performed much closer to home. The Ruf Auto Centre in Dallas has been selling complete Pfaffenhausen-built Rufs and also performing Ruf-certified modifications since 2004. All current normally aspirated 997 Carreras and the previous-generation 996 with 3.4- or 3.6-liter engines can receive the supercharged engine. Price and horsepower figures vary, depending on make and model. The Ruf Auto Centre provides a complete list on its Web site. The cheapest upgrade costs as much as a four-cylinder Honda Accord, and you'll need to take the bus for two weeks while the work is completed. Trust me, it's well worth it.