For true drivers, this car needs no introduction. Here's Porsche's latest 911 GT3. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
If the 911 is Porsche's legendary model, then the GT3 is the best of the best. This latest model changes the rules quite radically. GT3s have traditionally had manual gearboxes and race-derived engine blocks. This one doesn't. Still, with 468bhp at its disposal, the inconvenient truth is that this is the most capable GT3 ever.
The Porsche 911 GT3 is to many serious drivers a deity amongst sports cars. It's the car they'd have and never sell, the most capable combined road and track car that's ever been offered for sale. The four versions of it that have gone before this current model all had engines derived from the GT1 racing block, they all had six-speed manual transmission, all had amazingly communicative hydraulic power steering and they were all fantastic. Whether you chose the original 1999 model year '996' Gen(eration) 1, 2003's '996' Gen 2, the '997' Gen 1 from 2007 or the 3.8-litre '997' Gen 2 from 2009, these constituent parts were considered aspects of the GT3's DNA. Pure, iconic, irreplaceable. The march of vehicle technology doesn't necessarily agree and this is something that Andreas Preuninger, head of GT at Porsche, was at pains to explain to a legion of Porsche fans rocked onto its heels when the specification of the latest '991' GT3 was announced at the 2013 Geneva Show. "We thought long and hard about these decisions," he explained. "We were unanimous that the PDK (twin clutch paddle-shift) gearbox was the right way forward." Apparently it's all about functionality and if there's one theme that is shot through every GT3, it's functionality.
It's customary at this point to talk about how quickly the GT3 laps the Nurburgring at the hands of Walter Rohrl, and while Porsche is quietly confident that it's quicker than even the banzai 911 GT3 RS 4.0 that sent the 997 Series Porsche 911 out on such a high, how relevant is it to us mere mortals? Not so much. We already know it's ludicrously rapid. With 462bhp developed at 8,250rpm, a redline set at 9,000rpm and 440Nm of torque at 6,250rpm, it was always going to be thus. You get a newly developed 3799cc direct injection flat-six engine, a choice of Dunlop Sport Maxx Race or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres, a clever electro-mechanical rear steering system and, of course, that lightning quick seven-speed PDK paddle-shift transmission. Shorter gearing and a more aggressive shift action aim to give the driver the feel of a sequential racing 'box. Porsche Torque Vectoring, dynamic engine mounts, valve control by rocker lever; it's heaven for enginerds. With all that rear-wheel drive traction and a built in launch control mode enabled, 62mph arrives in just 3.5 seconds and 124mph (200km/h) in just 11.4 seconds. There's even a special 'doughnut mode' that Porsche has engineered for this car that disengages the clutch when you pull both paddles towards you and brings it back in sharply when you release them, simulating the clutch-kick that skilled drivers use to bring the rear of the car into play. For those who think this is a mildly breathed-on 911 Carrera engine, rest easy. Only the crank case, the cylinder head bolts and the chain drive are shared. The brakes utilise steel discs although carbon ceramic rotors are on the options list if you're feeling flush.
Design and Build
For the first time, the GT3 bodyshell is based on a wide body, this distinction previously distinguishing GT3s from their even harder-edged GT3 RS siblings. The body is a development based on the 991 Carrera with extensive use of aluminium in the front and rear body, as well as the floor assembly, roof, wings, front boot lid and doors, which reduces the shell weight by around 13 per cent over the previous model. Nevertheless, a 1435kg GT3 is still around 15kg heavier than a Carrera with a PDK gearbox. Torsional rigidity has increased by about 25 per cent. The front apron is GT3-specific. In addition to the integration of the front lights, the larger holes improve air supply to the radiator. The distinctive identifying feature of the rear of the 911 GT3 is its engine cover with fixed wing. The engine lid is made of a composite material consisting of glass fibre and carbon fibre. The rear wing is adjustable for use on the race track. Further characteristic features of the 911 GT3 here are the exhaust vents in the rear bodywork, with two on the side and one under the rear boot lid. The interior looks largely like the Carrera with the same waterfall centre stack which mirrors the Panamera. It's just that you'll search in vain for a clutch pedal.
Market and Model
At the moment, there's just one version of the GT3 offered for sale and it'll set you back a not inconsequential sum just over the £100,000 mark. The normal equipment list that applies to most cars in this price bracket seems rather gauche when applied to a GT3. You pay for the engine, the chassis technology and the barn-door over-engineering that allows these cars to stay out lapping when something like a Nissan GT-R has cooked its brakes, boiled its transmission fluid and worn its tyres to the canvas. Nevertheless, if you're interested, you do get sports seats finished in Alcantara and leatherette, plus standard equipment that includes automatic climate control, Bi-Xenon headlights, a universal audio interface offering MP3 connectivity and a three year warranty. Key options include Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) at just over £6,000, LED headlights incorporating Porsche Dynamic Light System and a front axle lifting system which is well worth choosing if you have to negotiate drop kerbs, speed humps or British B-roads. It'll set you back just over £2,000. The popular Club Sport package, comprising a half roll-cage, multi-point harness seat belts, fire extinguisher and battery cut-out switch, also remains a mainstay of the options list.
Cost of Ownership
Some things to consider here. You're driving a £100,000 car that in five years will probably be worth somewhere in the region of £65,000. Drive it as Preuninger and his team envisaged and you're not going to come anywhere near the 22.8mpg combined economy figure or 289g/km emissions claim. In fact, Porsche should monitor owners and invoke a compulsory buy back scheme if average economy tops 20mpg. But seriously, this is never going to be a cheap car to run. A couple of track days will see off a set of the gumball 19-inch Pilot Sport tyres and they're 20-inch items at each end. Insurance is a top of the shop Group 50 with some insurers deviously looking to load policies still further for cars fitted with roll cages. So that thing about 911s being affordable to run once you've got over the shock of the initial purchase price? It doesn't necessarily apply here.
This was always going to be controversial, but true Porsche fans will see the logic behind the arguments for revolution over evolution in the 911 GT3. Keyboard warriors on the internet have for years bashed Porsche for not being adventurous enough. Now when the company is adventurous, know nothings leap out of the woodwork and claim it's all going in the wrong direction. Having spoken to the key people in the GT3's development, I'm convinced that they know what they're doing and in a year or so the doubters will have gone very quiet. The standard 911 Carrera is a car that seems initially a little aloof but comes alive when you drive it hard. You can do nothing but drive hard in a GT3. It's what it's for. Turn all of the 911's responses up several notches and this is what you arrive at; everything Porsche knows about the car distilled in essence and lovingly prepared. Progress can often be uncomfortable, but it's usually only an issue of acclimatisation. I'm already looking forward to getting over-familiar with the GT3.