Porsche 911 GT3

FIRSTDRIVES

MIKE DUFF

One sportscar for life?

Yep, we’ve found a keeper

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE OV ERSEAS

FOR SOME people, a Porsche 911 is ‘just’ a 911 – a nice sportscar, but one that won’t ever manage the sort of street-stopping “who’s that?” theatre that a full-on supercar delivers.

Yet for others, the GT3’s relative lack of brag has always been core to the cult appeal of what’s long been one of the most

rewarding cars to drive hard on road and track.

It might sound mad to describe anything costing north of $300,000 as a bargain, but you could double that and still not find a better all-round performance car.

Or course, it’s been that way since the first GT3 was launched back in 1999, successive generations codifying the formula of a race-derived chassis and powertrain that have been housetrained to deliver real-world usability. You’ll be unsurprised to hear the new car – 991.2 in Porsche-speak – sticks closely to the script, with the ambition of the team that created it being emphatic improvements over the already awesome 2013 GT3.

The most significant mechanical change is the (no-cost) option of a six-speed manual gearbox in place of the standard seven-speed dualclutch.

This follows on from the decision to develop the gearbox for use in the back-to-basics 911R that was spun from the previous RS, plus what we’re told was strong customer demand for a clutch pedal.

Andreas Preuninger, the head of Porsche’s GT car division and the man who pushed hardest for the manual option, reckons up to a third of global GT3 sales will be specified with three pedals, although likely a smaller percentage in Australia.

Second billing goes to the arrival of a new engine. The rear-mounted atmo flat-six now displaces 4.0 litres rather than the previous car’s 3.8, but is still closely related to the powerplant SPECS Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Porsche 911 GT3 3966cc flat 6, dohc, 24v 368kW @ 8250rpm 460Nm @ 6000rpm 6-speed manual 1413kg 3.9sec (claimed) 12.9L/100km $327,100 Q3

in the GT3 Cup racer. Power has increased by 18kW to 368kW, torque has risen by 20Nm to 460Nm and is available across a broader spread of the rev range.

More importantly, the redline is still set at a dizzying 9000rpm, 750rpm beyond where peak power arrives, making the GT3 – by our reckoning – the highest-revving sportscar currently on sale.

Design has been given a nip-and-tuck, with redesigned bumpers and a slightly highermounted rear wing which, in conjunction with a new diffuser, has increased peak downforce by around 20 percent while also cutting drag. Oh, and there are now some very cool ram-air ducts to direct more flow through the engine cover.

Other differences, although plentiful, soon fade to invisibility; apart from the welcome arrival of an improved touchscreen interface – and the same steering wheel that was fitted to the 918 Spyder – the cabin feels unchanged.

But while the driving experience is familiar, it’s noticeably sharper. The engine remains a masterpiece and five minutes in its company is enough to vindicate Porsche’s decision to stick with natural aspiration.

No, it can’t match the whizz-bang performance of turbocharged rivals – including its own 911 Turbo sister – but, although the engine doesn’t get out of bed for much less than four grand, its enthusiasm for revs – and the savagely joyful noise it makes at full chat – encourage the sort of hard use the car seems to revel in. Throttle response is also sharper and keener than anything with forced induction.

The standard PDK delivers ultra-quick changes all of the time, and adds a head-jolting torque bump to upshifts in its punchier Sport mode.

As usual, Porsche laid on a track for its press debut. The tight and technical 3km-long Circuito Guadix in Granada, Spain, proved that the dual-clutch ’box is ideally suited to hard circuit use. While the manual is noticeably slower, and its six ratios are spread more widely, it has the same nearperfect shift action as the 911R, and the engine’s screaming top end masks the gaps.

Track use also demonstrated the GT3’s near total resistance to understeer, certainly once the super-sticky Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres were warmed through. It’s a car with the security to tolerate serious abuse, not something that could be said of pre-GT3 lightweight 911s, but also with more than enough finesse to reward accuracy and precision.

On road, it is even more impressive; the dampers deliver an unexpected level of compliance and the steering remains chatty even without track loadings. On dusty Spanish roads the track-focused tyres were often short of grip, but the GT3’s helm flags the front end’s battle between grip and slip better than a semaphore school.

It’s noisier than a regular 911 when cruising, economy takes a bit of a hit over the standard car’s fuel-sipping turbo engines and it does without rear seats, but it’s definitely more everyday viable than anything else this track-focused.

While this 911 will doubtless spawn an even faster – and even more expensive – RS sister, the regular car could well be the better piece of engineering.

If we had to choose just one performance car to keep forever, it would be this one.

PLUS & MINUS

Not as fast as the Turbo S in a straight line; deleted rear seats Manic high-revving engine; poise and balance; return of a manual

The engine’s screaming top end masks the gaps in the manual’s ratios

Parts bin (very) special

Manufacturers often boast of motorsport influence in their powerplants but the GT3’s motor is very much the real deal – it’s built alongside the company’s 911 race engines and we’re told it’s almost identical to the flat-six in the GT3 Cup race car. Like its predecessor, it sticks with dry-sump lubrication, using a motorsport-grade centrifugal de-foamer but with a new system that channels oil flow through the crankshaft and directly to the bigend bearings. The result is better lubrication from a system that pumps 70 litres a minute compared with 120 litres a minute in the previous GT3.

01 CATCH ITS DRIFT

Like the outgoing GT3, this one has active rear steering and active auto-stiffening engine mounts, plus torque vectoring with the PDK. The PDK also releases its clutches if you pull both gearchange paddles together, “meaning that the rear of the vehicle can be deliberately destabilised”.

02 MANUAL CASH EXTRACTION

Australian versions will be pretty much fully loaded – as you’d hope for a $327,100 tag – although carbon-ceramic brakes will be reserved for the options list. No saving if you opt for the manual.

03 ARE YOU HARRY HOT-SHOE?

There’s an improved data logging system as part of the PCM infotainment system; the Track Precision App allows lap and sector times to be recorded along with basic telemetry – also shared to a smartphone to impress your mates.

OR TRY THESE...

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