- Published: Tuesday, 12 December 2017 11:51
In a turbo era, Porsche 911 GT3 remains the almost spiritual experience of a pure, naturally-aspirated driver’s car
You won’t understand why the Porsche Motorsport GT models make enthusiasts so happy unless you’ve driven one in anger.
And we mean like real, fuming mad, not a three-second burst of speed most Singaporean roads are good for, nor trundling down highways or the CBD during rush hour, but a proper workout in one of these cars.
Of course, it’s easy to be sucked into the furore surrounding the recently launched 911 GT2 RS ‘Lord of the Ring’, which apart from being the fastest production sportscar around the ‘Ring (at present), is also the most expensive 911 you can buy at the moment, with a price-tag that nudges S$1.4-million sans COE in Singapore.
Fast-fact-obsessed enthusiasts will quickly enough gravitate towards the GT2 RS because of its superlative accolades, although those in the know will also appreciate the GT2 was technically the brand’s first racing homologation GT model from the time of the Type 993 911 in 1995.
However, we find that the high-revving naturally-aspirated 911 GT3 that came later has its fair share of fans as well, such as ourselves for instance. We’re die-hard fans of naturally-aspirated engines, especially high-revving screamers that make you work them hard for your pleasure.
Also, you can’t forget that times were different then: When the GT2 was conceived, turbocharged cars were the exception (example Porsche 959, Ruf CTR, Ferrari F40) rather than the norm they have become today, so there were salacious thrills to be enjoyed by a turbo’d rear-drive model more powerful than the range-topper of the time, the 911 Turbo.
Basically, up to the end of the 2014, a turbocharged engine was found in only the 911 Turbo/Turbo S and the 911 GT2 – now it is everywhere, which makes something like the GT3’s high-revving motorsports-derived 4.0-litre stand out even more in this age.
Modern turbo’d cars are lauded for their low-lag characteristics, so a quick stomp and you’re up the road, which might suit those looking for effortless performance, but there are others who require something more primal.
With highly-tuned nat-asp engines, the driver really needs to focus on keeping the revs in the engine sweet-spot for maximum ballistic impact, which is easier said than done when you’re attacking the winding roads, because you’re constantly on tippy-toes both mentally and physically.
Like the Great White of the open ocean, this Type 991.2 GT3 has evolved with fully-functional aero elements for it to better play the role of apex predator. The carbonfibre rear wing is 20mm taller than the one on the preceding 3.8-litre 991.1 GT3 predecessor, and the front fangs of the front air-intake are also more aggressive looking.
Oversized ram-air ‘snorkels’ help force-feed the flat-six engine on the move, another new feature on the .2 GT3. It’s hard to miss the GT3’s indomitable intent and powerful stance as we arrive at the airport carpark to pick up the car.
However the biggest change with the new GT3 is under the engine lid, because instead of a Carrera S-derived engine like before, the new model gets a proper motorsports-derived 4.0-litre, which also sees service in the 911 RSR, 911 GT3 R and the 911 GT3 Cup race-cars. Porsche’s other move that should please driving purists is the availability of a 6-speed manual transmission, although there’s the now ubiquitous seven-speed dual-clutch PDK option too.
In fact, this is the first time both transmission options are available since the GT3 made its debut during the Type 996 911 from the late 1990s. After the PDK-only of the recent 991.1 GT3 and manual-only GT3s from before that, Porsche has clearly come to acknowledge that some owners just want the mechanical pleasure of self-shifting the old-fashioned way with three pedals, as opposed to the fast-faster-fastest of the PDK’s flappy-paddles – and besides, the quest for increasingly faster lap times can be fulfilled by the RS variants.
Touring Package GT3 is our choice for a sleeper hit 911
Furthermore, if you value understatement and want even more discretion, Porsche offers the stick-shift 991.2 GT3 in a Touring Package, which deletes the rear wing and rear ram-air snorkels, featuring just a nondescript gurney flap.
Porsche-philes will appreciate how closely this formula echoes that of the limited edition 911 R, but we’ve come to realise there’s a lot more to just hard stats when it comes to Porsche’s special editions. Based on the new GT3 in PDK we drove (the manual was unavoidably detained), the suspension is discernibly more aggressive than the R’s, which has a balanced and wonderfully nuanced feel to the proceedings.
Optional roll cage for track junkies
We relished the holistic balance of the 911 R, which rewarded the driver with fluid responses, but here we were constantly on edge… if only to keep the car on its edge, since that’s the only way to experience a fantastic beast like the GT3. The GT3 needs to be handled with a confident hand at the helm, because it’s constantly egging you on to corner just that little bit faster with promises of more grip. Like its predecessor, it features rear-axle steer, which creates a virtual short wheelbase to enable even sharper cornering reflexes. Apart from the 911 GT and Turbo/Turbo S models, the rear-axle steer system has now found its way (cost/package optionally) into all the Porsche models save the 718s and Macan.
With the PDK’s lightning quick shifts, it’s possible to drive the GT3 like you stole it, and the chassis provides so much feel and inspires so much confidence that you soon wear the car like a second skin. Driven sedately, it could pass of as a regular 911, but it is only when you wring them out that cars like the GT3 come into their own.
So, you can plant pedal to metal on the straights to eventually work it to its 318km/h top speed… well-done, but such straight-line blitzes aren’t the point of a car like the GT3.
It is the sweet sense of accomplishment that comes with working such a magnificent thoroughbred hard through the winding passes – or pulling lots of lateral Gs on a circuit – as you’re working your way up and down the gears that serves as reward for the committed petrolhead.
Porsche 911 GT3
Engine 3,996cc, flat-6
Power 500hp at 8250rpm
Torque 460Nm at 6000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top Speed 318km/h
0-100km/h 3.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 12.7L/100km
Price S$671,688 w/o COE & options