Alois Ruf is the warrior monk of the Porsche
business, religiously dedicated to high performance. His shop in the tiny village of Pfaffenhausen to the west of Munich is a place where people from all over the world come to get in touch with the true spirit of Porsche. In a Ruf Porsche, they discover a meticulously reengineered automobile, not a tuner car with bolt-on equipment.
Occasionally even monks will make liquor, and so it is with the new, limited-production RK Coupe, a triple-distilled Porsche Cayman with specialty bodywork to match the specialty hardware. Like the Ruf RK Spyder (a modified Boxster) introduced in 2005, the bodywork comes from Studiotorino, a loose association of craftsmen in Turin, Italy, led by Alfredo Stola. As sketched for Stola by Aldo Brovarone, who designed the original Ferrari Dino concept for Pininfarina in 1965, the two-passenger RK Coupe still looks like a Cayman to us, but the long, restyled roof gives it a kind of operatic drama. There are lots of handcrafted details, including hidden electronic door latches. Some forty-nine RK Coupes will be built, and the U.S. distributor, Ruf Auto Centre in Dallas, will get its share.
The RK Coupe's mechanical drama comes from the installation of a supercharged 3.8-liter six in the heart of the mid-engine Cayman platform. This engine makes 440 hp, enough to help the coupe achieve a Hchstgeschwindigkeit (top speed) of 190 mph. The Rotrex supercharger consists of a centrifugal compressor--essentially half of a turbocharger--driven by a belt and a planetary rpm multiplier. The powerband is broad, but there's a noticeable peak, so the RK engine actually feels turbocharged. It also revs quickly and cleanly, which has always been one of Ruf's prime objectives.
Altogether, we found that the combination of a broad, tractable powerband and a slightly relaxed chassis calibration makes the RK Coupe feel like a gentleman's express, more like a 911 than a Cayman. You get to the crest of the torque curve at its peak of 347 lb-ft at 5500 rpm and simply ride it as far as you dare into the triple digits of Ruf's customary green-faced speedometer.
It might be a surprise that such a small company should aspire to the production of high-fashion exotic cars, but the devotion of Ruf enthusiasts makes it possible. The brotherhood gathers in exotic locations each year for driving rallies organized by Ruf's wife, Estonia, and their sacred text is Faszination, a DVD that features video from 1989 of Ruf's CTR 911 Turbo, a car known as "Yellow Bird." It power slides every corner of the Nrburgring Nordschleife as if it were in the world's most dangerous drifting exhibition. This is the kind of Porsche spirit that Ruf drivers aspire to own.