New GT3 is geared up for pure thrills

More power and the choice of a man­ual ‘box for Porsche’s most purist 911

The Star Early Edition - - NEW MODELS - JESSE ADAMS

IT WAS a log­i­cal move. Ditch­ing the slower man­ual gear­box in favour of a quicker dou­ble-clutch auto in a car pri­mar­ily fo­cussed on speed only makes sense.

But not all of Porsche’s cus­tomers agreed, and when the cur­rent 911 GT3 was launched in 2013 with a PDK trans­mis­sion only, those who fan­cied a third pedal threw toys from cots. These are en­thu­si­asts who know darn well that chang­ing man­u­ally eats pre­cious mil­lisec­onds, but are will­ing to sac­ri­fice a tenth here and a hun­dredth there in the name of heel-toe throt­tle blips and good old fash­ioned H-pat­ternry.

Good news for these folks, is Porsche has lis­tened. Or at least learned from the suc­cesses of the man­ual-only 911R. From Sep­tem­ber, and for the first time ever, the GT3 will be sold with a choice of six-speed man­ual or seven-speed PDK gear­boxes. Think of it like straight ra­zors and elec­tric shavers: one for the purists, and one for those who want to get things done as quickly as pos­si­ble.

But the big news isn’t lim­ited to cog-swap­ping only, be­cause for the up­dated GT3, Porsche has also upped en­gine size and power with a new 4-litre flat-six that’s good for 368kW and 460Nm. That’s 18kW and 20Nm more than the for­mer 3.8, and though the Porsche anoraks might no­tice the new out­puts are iden­ti­cal to those in the now dis­con­tin­ued 911R and GT3 RS, a true anorak will know this is by co­in­ci­dence only. The lat­est GT3’s en­gine is in fact an it­er­a­tion of the one in the most re­cent 911 RSR pure­bred race­car, and not in­her­ited from those afore­men­tioned mod­els.

No mat­ter. It’s a beast. I had a chance to sam­ple the new goods in Scot­land where Porsche was stag­ing its mil­lionth 911 road trip, and each time the road opened enough to get near its 9000rpm red­line, my brain nearly burst. This mon­ster de­liv­ers huge dol­lops of torque right off idle, and ac­cel­er­a­tion is in­de­cently quick even if kept in the lower half of its rev range. But, ven­ture past the 5000rpm mark, and the thing pulls like a freight train and shrieks like the mother of all ban­shees all the way to the lim­iter.

I drove the man­ual ver­sion, which with a claimed 3.9 sec­ond fig­ure is half a sec­ond slower to 100km/h than the PDK model. It is a tad lighter though (17kg to be pre­cise), and for what it’s worth is 2km/h faster on top end. That’s 320km/h by the way. Yikes.

Few cars on sale to­day, or in his­tory for that mat­ter, have a shift ac­tion as pos­i­tive as this, and each throw of the suede-cov­ered gear­knob is met with a neat lit­tle snick into place. Lovely. I wasn’t as in love with the Sport mode auto-blip fea­ture though, as each flick of my right foot on down­shifts was thwarted by an elec­tronic throt­tle su­per­vi­sor. If your heel-toe tech­nique needs computer tute­lage, you might be bet­ter off with the PDK.

Han­dling is well sorted too, and though the new GT3 gets the same four-wheel steer sys­tem as the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, Porsche’s sus­pen­sion sci­en­tists have fine-tuned shock, spring, bush, anti-roll and 20” tyre set­tings to bet­ter of­fer an un­fil­tered feed from sur­face to steer­ing wheel. Even the car­bon­fi­bre rear wing is po­si­tioned 20mm higher now for greater down­force. This 911 sticks like lint to vel­cro, but still man­ages a rea­son­able enough pli­ancy to be driven ev­ery day. The GT3’s spread of abil­ity be­tween road and track is pos­si­bly the best I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

The facelift, which car­ries the same 991.2 co­de­name as other 911 vari­ants launched last year, also means tech up­dates and now its touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is com­pat­i­ble with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto phone pair­ing. There’s also a down­load­able track app, for analysing lap data in the hunt for those elu­sive split sec­onds.

The lo­cal launch is planned for the end of the year (prob­a­bly around Sep­tem­ber), and prices start from R2 750 000 in­clud­ing a three­year Porsche drive plan. Pric­ing is the same for both man­ual and PDK mod­els. Op­tional ex­tras in­clude deeper Sports seats or car­bon-shell rac­ing buck­ets, a Club­sport pack­age with roll cage, six-point har­ness and fire ex­tin­guisher, ce­ramic brakes, LED lights, and al­can­tara or car­bon­fi­bre in­te­rior trim packs among oth­ers.

New 4-litre en­gine packs 368kW, good for hurl­ing the six-speed man­ual GT3 to 100km/h in 3.9 sec­onds (0.5s quicker in the auto).

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