Porsche 911 GT3
Porsche 911 GT3 from £111,802
WE SAY: TEN OUT OF TEN, FOR A PORSCHE. WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT IT?
Famously, this is the car that proves the manual gearbox is not dead. When the current 911 GT3 frst appeared in 2013, it was only available with Porsche’s twin-clutch transmission. Four years down the line and after customers kicked up a fuss, Porsche has back-tracked. The GT3, Porsche’s hardcore road/track car, is now available with the 6spd manual frst seen on last year’s retro-inspired 911R.
But a new gearbox does not warrant this much magazine real estate (we’ve written about it in the column, right) and besides, the red one in the pictures here is a PDK. Which is probably the better gearbox. Although I’d have the manual. Confused? Let’s wind back and start at the top. So this is a mid-life facelift for the 991-generation GT3. It’s lifted some of the features seen on the even more track-focused GT3 RS and had a gentle fettle all round. The rear spoiler has been moved back 20mm and up 10mm, delivering 20 per cent more downforce, the bumpers are marginally lighter, the dampers have been retuned and the springs are a little stifer.
And the engine? Well, that used to be a 469bhp 3.8-litre fat-six, but now it’s a 4.0 that has identical power and torque fgures (493bhp and 339lb ft) to big brother GT3 RS. Porsche says it’s not the same engine, but instead a lightly altered version of the motor in the 911 Cup and RSR racers (where it produces 485bhp and 510bhp respectively). But that’s basically a lightly altered version of the GT3 RS motor, so we’re just going round in circles here.
What is true is that this one revs to 9,000rpm, 200rpm beyond the RS. That’s thanks to new internals including a diferent crankshaft and pistons, lowering friction and operating temperatures, and enabling that lofty rev peak. Whatever they’ve done has worked – this engine is utterly transcendental. Maybe it’s because more cars have switched to turbocharging, but the frst time I accelerated hard in the GT3 it actually shocked me with how hard it hit at the top end. I mean it’s rapid everywhere and deliciously responsive, but the fnal 2,000rpm is properly nuts, the noise a yelping, screaming crescendo. Prickles your nape, snaps your synapses, a world beyond turbos, etc. It’s a reminder of what an art form the naturally aspirated engine is.
PDK is a brilliant partner, the shifts not even a punctuation mark on the GT3’s progress to astonishing speeds. Yes, it’s light on torque low down, but heck, this is the GT3, a car you’re meant to drive. So just concentrate.
The handling, the whole dynamic package is a perfect complement to the drivetrain. The damping is frm, but so polished and communicative, the steering provides stability and information and confdence in abundance. So much so that you notice the front end just misses a fraction of turn-in bite at road speeds. I know that’ll be there on track, where you’ll have higher tyre temperatures and be able to trail brake to the apex, keeping weight on the nose – just what a rearengined 911 loves.
The rear axle is mega. The drive is so prompt that it feels like there’s a rigid link from right foot to rubber and the behaviour as the speeds build is perfect. Corners get zapped, the engine howls, the suspension dances – it’s all good. And it rides with such dexterity that, while you wouldn’t call it comfortable, you can say that you always move in sync with the car, so you’re not jiggled about inside, but instead move in time with it. Yep, you really could run one of these as your daily motor and not sufer.
Inside, the driving position is perfection. This car came with the one-piece carbon buckets (£3,324) that hug hard. You’re sat low, hands on a small, 360mm diameter steering wheel, and there are few settings to mess around with. Dampers on/of. Exhaust on/of. Gearbox sport mode on/of. That’s it. It means you have a natural, unadulterated car, one the engineers want you to drive, not one the marketing department insists that you have.
Not pictured: Porschephile going weak at the knees Anyone remember when 911s were small and had 200bhp? Us neither