Damn-near per­fect on road and track, the 991-gen GT3 needs no in­tro­duc­tion. Now it’s back, faster and tighter than ever, so has the best be­come harder to beat?


The 991.1-gen­er­a­tion 911 GT3 dom­i­nated its ri­vals on both road and track. Now it’s been fur­ther honed with more so­phis­ti­cated sus­pen­sion, im­proved aero and a 500bhp 4-litre flat-six. The real ques­tion, though, is has Porsche made the 991.2 GT3 any more re­ward­ing to drive? We head to the UK’S best road and track to find out

THE LIT­TLE BLUE LIGHT WITHIN THE in­stru­ment dis­play tem­pers your en­thu­si­asm. So do the still-hard front tyres, which scud lightly across the cold road sur­face as you pull out of the ho­tel car park. The fat rear tyres too, which slip a de­gree un­til the elec­tron­ics catch them. When a car is as hyped as the new Porsche 911 GT3 – when the guy who over­saw its de­vel­op­ment, and has been in­te­gral in ev­ery other GT3 be­fore it, has de­clared it the best one ever – the first urge you feel when at long last you get to drive it, after count­less months of spy pho­tos and stu­dio shoots and mo­tor show re­veals, is to pull the damn pin and set the thing off.

But the en­gine and gear­box are cold. The tyres have no heat in them and the roads up here in Snow­do­nia are still slick with morn­ing dew. So you ex­hale deeply to try and force the an­tic­i­pa­tion to drift away, will­ing your shoul­ders and legs to re­lax into the bucket seat. You’ll have to wait just a lit­tle longer. But as you pass the na­tional speed limit sign on the edge of town and ease the GT3 cau­tiously up to 60mph, you al­ready know so much about it. You’re start­ing to un­der­stand just how good it is.

The steer­ing, for one thing, feels su­perb. You may only have guided the car through a hand­ful of sweep­ing bends, but right away you know how di­rect it is and how pre­cisely it al­lows you to place the car on the road. You’ve felt the small wheel rim chat­ter lightly in your fin­ger­tips as the cor­ner­ing forces have built gen­tly and waned away. You’re so im­pressed by the steer­ing in those first few mo­ments, in fact, that you’ve al­ready de­clared it the best, most in­tu­itive elec­tri­cally as­sisted setup you have ever en­coun­tered.

And then there’s the prove­nance. You try to stay ob­jec­tive and as­sume noth­ing, but it doesn’t get you very far be­cause you know oh-

so well this new GT3 is the lat­est in a long line of com­pletely bril­liant sports cars, them­selves de­vel­op­ments of an al­ready sen­sa­tional ma­chine. And you know Porsche’s Mo­tor­sport de­part­ment doesn’t get this stuff wrong.

You’ve only driven it a mile or two and you haven’t once stretched the en­gine be­yond 3000rpm. But you know it al­ready. The new 911 GT3 is some kind of won­der­car.

The tech­ni­cal de­tails might well be fa­mil­iar to you by now, but they bear re­peat­ing be­cause there are three or four very sig­nif­i­cant head­lines that demon­strate how dif­fer­ent this new GT3 is to the ver­sion that came be­fore it; that show it’s no half-hearted midlife re­fresh. The en­gine, for in­stance, is no longer a 3.8-litre flat-six but a 4-litre. It’s a heav­ily re­worked ver­sion of the unit found in the GT3 RS and 911 R, com­bin­ing the power out­put of that en­gine – a con­ser­va­tive 493bhp – with the head-spin­ning 9000rpm red line of the 3.8 in the 991.1 GT3.

This is also the first GT3 avail­able with a choice of trans­mis­sions, Porsche hav­ing rein­tro­duced a man­ual op­tion after switch­ing ex­clu­sively to PDK on the pre­vi­ous model. The six-speed man­ual might well be the purists’ choice, but it won’t ar­rive un­til a lit­tle later in the year so the car we’re test­ing to­day has the lat­est seven-speed twin-clutch item.

An­dreas Pre­uninger, Porsche’s head of GT cars, and his team have worked hard on the chas­sis too, re­tun­ing the dampers and fitting helper springs on the rear axle for the first time. The aero­dy­nam­ics, mean­while, have been honed so ex­pertly that the car now pro­duces 20 per cent more down­force than be­fore with no in­crease in drag. The over­all down­force fig­ure – 155kg at top speed – is now a match for the 997-gen­er­a­tion GT3 RS.

The lit­tle blue light has dis­ap­peared. The nee­dle in the en­gine oil tem­per­a­ture dis­play has climbed halfway through its arc and the tyres feel mal­leable now, warm enough that they can press into the road sur­face rather than slip across it. It’s time to pull that pin.

With 339lb ft at 6000rpm com­pared with 324lb ft at 6250rpm, the new 4-litre en­gine is more torque-rich than the old 3.8, but it’s the area be­neath the torque curve, rather than the peak out­put, that makes the real dif­fer­ence. Open the throt­tle from 2500rpm and the thing just starts to pull, even in third and fourth gears. It may well be a high-revving, nor­mally as­pi­rated mo­tor, but it’s got mus­cle. The car ac­cel­er­ates like an over­loaded freight train free­wheel­ing down a sharp de­scent, pick­ing up speed grad­u­ally at first, the pace then build­ing ex­po­nen­tially as the en­gine passes 5000rpm, the sense of panic the same as the thing starts to run away from you as though you’ll never stop it. Then the en­gine note hard­ens at 7000rpm and the rev-counter nee­dle ex­plodes around the dial, en­gine speed ris­ing so quickly and fe­ro­ciously you swear some­thing is about to blow up. Over the fi­nal dash to 9000rpm it sounds like a band­saw cut­ting through stone, and the in­ten­sity of the de­liv­ery dou­bles while the ac­cel­er­a­tion be­comes un­bear­able.

If you aren’t quick enough on the draw, the en­gine will crash into its rev lim­iter, the freight train col­lid­ing with the foot of a moun­tain. Pull the gearshift pad­dle just as the nee­dle nudges against the ‘9’, though, and the up­shift is sav­agely quick. Then it all hap­pens again. There’s a drama and in­ten­sity right at the top end that makes the old 4-litre in the GT3 RS and 911 R feel like a soft and fluffy turbo unit. This new mo­tor is much stronger through­out the rev range than the 3.8 too, but whereas this en­gine ex­plodes over the fi­nal 2000rpm, the smaller unit did so over a more con­cen­trated, more in­tox­i­cat­ing fi­nal 1000rpm.

I adore the chunter­ing from the fly­wheel at idle and low speeds, the thud-hiss from the gear­box pneu­mat­ics as you pull for a gearchange. The whole car drips with pur­pose and the PDK trans­mis­sion is more re­spon­sive and more im­me­di­ate than ever.

This par­tic­u­lar car is fit­ted with the no-cost Club­sport pack­age, which adds a rear roll-cage, a fire ex­tin­guisher and a six-point har­ness for the driver. It’s also got op­tional car­bon­fi­bre bucket seats (£3324), which are bril­liantly sup­port­ive and also very com­fort­able, even after sev­eral hours on the road. The smaller, 360mm GT steer­ing wheel, mean­while, is a big im­prove­ment on the 380mm item in the pre­vi­ous GT3, which al­ways felt un­nat­u­rally large, giv­ing the im­pres­sion you were heav­ing the car from one cor­ner to the next. The smaller helm ac­tu­ally makes the car feel more nim­ble.

In fact, the en­tire steer­ing sys­tem is so well ex­e­cuted that you soon for­get you’re us­ing a com­plex me­chan­i­cal ap­pa­ra­tus – one that in­cludes rear-axle steer­ing – to guide the car.

‘ The GT3 ac­cel­er­ates like an over­loaded freight train free­wheel­ing down a sharp de­scent’

‘ Once the Miche­lin Cup 2 tyres are warm, they find so much grip on a dry road you’d swear you were on slicks’

It’s so pre­cise and so well weighted that you just seem to think the car through cor­ners rather than con­sciously steer it. There is feed­back too, and the sense of con­nec­tion it af­fords you to the front axle gives you so much con­fi­dence. You’re never left guess­ing how much grip the front tyres might find.

There’s the same ra­di­ant qual­ity in the damp­ing, just as there is in ev­ery Porsche Mo­tor­sport prod­uct. In fact, the PASM damp­ing is so ef­fec­tive that it feels less like the car is rid­ing on springs, dampers, wheels and tyres and more like it’s sit­ting on a thin pocket of com­pressed air, some­how mak­ing it feel both strapped down to the road sur­face and float­ing half an inch above it. There’s pli­ancy and such bril­liant body con­trol that you can drive any given road as though it’s two-di­men­sional, stretch­ing out be­fore you and twist­ing one way to the other, but com­pletely flat, with­out bumps, pot­holes, com­pres­sions or crests.

It goes on. Once the Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup 2 tyres are warm they find so much grip on a dry road that you’d swear they were rac­ing slicks. Not once in 250 hard miles do I feel the car un­der­steer, and only when the road sur­face re­ally bucks and weaves hard, send­ing the car sky­wards just as I stand on the throt­tle pedal, do I see the or­ange trac­tion-con­trol light blink.

Trac­tion is one of the Porsche 911 GT3’S ace cards. That’s not at all un­usual for a car that slings its en­gine right out over the rear axle, but with its helper springs – which give a few mil­lime­tres of plush sus­pen­sion travel be­fore the main springs be­gin to com­press – this new GT3 finds trac­tion where just about ev­ery other rear-wheel-drive car would scrabble for grip. The rear end is so beau­ti­fully com­posed now.

On the roads of Snow­do­nia, the driv­e­train, steer­ing and chas­sis all come to­gether to de­liver the most com­plete per­for­mance car driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of any car on sale. In the way it picks apart a weav­ing road such as the B4391 be­tween Bala and Ffes­tin­iog, the new GT3 is al­most im­pos­si­ble to crit­i­cise, but it’s also en­thralling on an emo­tional level. The in­ten­sity of the sound­track, the raw­ness of the power de­liv­ery and the tac­til­ity of the steer­ing – of the en­tire chas­sis – mean it con­nects with you, draw­ing you so close to it that you’re al­most re­moved from the real world for a mo­ment.

With evening com­ing, I put the pin back in and head down from the hills, and this gen­tle run gives me time to con­tem­plate the GT3. I said it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to crit­i­cise, but I’m strug­gling to find any flaw at all. I would pre­fer a man­ual gear­box, but that’s sim­ply a case of tick­ing a dif­fer­ent box on the order form. Philo­soph­i­cally, I think a car of this kind should move around a lit­tle be­neath you rather than be­ing glued to the road; you should be able to play with the bal­ance, per­haps use the power to bring the rear axle around. With its com­posed rear end and vast cor­ner­ing grip, you’re tak­ing enor­mous lib­er­ties to make the GT3 be­have like that. But only in quiet con­tem­pla­tion does that thought oc­cur. Out on the road, I didn’t wish for any more play­ful­ness.

So the new Porsche 911 GT3 is with­out vice as a road-go­ing per­for­mance car. Per­haps we’ll un­earth some des­per­ate short­com­ings at An­gle­sey’s Coastal Cir­cuit.

Left: GT3 now sports a higher rear wing, along with a re­designed front apron and ram-air in­takes above the en­gine; yel­low calipers de­note fit­ment of op­tional car­bon-ce­ramic brakes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.