Monday 4th May 2009


Upgraded GT3 packs a greater punch, but is the more track focused 911 still a decent daily driver? Kyle Fortune finds out...

It doesnít seem like that long ago we were getting excited about the Ďoldí GT3. This new one arrived earlier this year, a red temptress revolving on a motorshow plinth, promising even more power and poise from Porscheís homologation model. Fears that Porsche might soften the GT3 by binning its trick motorsport unit Ė an engine that shares its DNA with the Le Mans winning GT1 Ė and add the technically impressive but driver appeal-robbing PDK twin-clutch two-pedal set up thankfully have proved unfounded. Instead, itís given us 3.8-litres, more power, more torque and more noise. All with no increase in weight. I donít know about you but that all sounds good to me.†

Fussier than before the GT3ís styling is all about function over form. Thereís beauty to its functionality though, the additional cooling slashes behind the rear wheels and atop of the engine cover drawing heat away from the bigger engine. Leaving you in no doubt as to its capacity are 3.8 badges on the wingís endplates; a styling and reverential nod to the super rare 964 RS 3.8 of 1993. There are the now essential LED driving lights, these perhaps the only means of differentiating the new GT3 over its predecessor if you see it in your rear view mirror Ė it's unlikely to stay there for very long. The new rear wing looks a bit more serious, the ram air effect it causes further improving the naturally-aspirated 3.8-litreís combustion and cooling.

Air flow is key to the GT3, time spent in the wind tunnel allowing Porsche to double downforce over the previous model without being detrimental to its aerodynamic efficiency and overall economy.

Incremental changes define the GT3, Porsche finessing the finer details of its homologation machine to create a better overall package. Nobody could ever accuse the previous 997 GT3 of being slow, but the way the new 3.8-litre engine pulls at low revs is astonishing. You can thank upgraded VarioCam for that, as well as a freer-breathing exhaust Ė pressing the Sport button inside increasing the characteristic rasping, flat-six 911 aural effect from merely pleasurable to seriously down and dirty.

With dry-sump lubrication and external oil tanks, titanium con rods, forged pistons and cup tappets all combined with revised VarioCam featuring infinite adjustment on both the intake and outlet camshafts the 3.8 still likes to rev. Hard.

Its red-line arrives at 8,500rpm, peak power arriving at 7,600rpm and maximum torque at 6,250rpm. With its increase in capacity itís no surprise that the GT3ís output is improved, power rising to 429bhp (up 20bhp) and torque swelling to 317lb ft over the 3.6-litreís 289lb ft. Thatís enough to allow the GT3 to reach 62mph in 4.1 seconds and achieve a maximum of 193mph. Both numbers feel conservative, the GT3 still accelerating hard at an indicated 180mph on an unrestricted autobahn that handily comprised part of Porscheís test route.

The changes to the body and engine allow the GT3 to reach EU5 standards, and more importantly qualify it for unrestricted homologation. Thatís likely to please the racers among you, but the competition driverís gains are to the benefit of those whoíll buy and use the GT3 as a daily driver. Thereís really very little out there with the GT3ís performance on road or track that can as readily be used as a commuter. Thatís particularly true now Porsche has added the option of a lift kit on the front axle, increasing the ride height by 30mm to standard Carrera levels to help it negotiate the lofty mountains of tarmac that litter our roads in the interest of road safety. Itís not cheap at a few quid under two grand, but as existing GT3 drivers will testify replacing the almost sacrificial leading edge of the GT3ís front spoiler is not inexpensive and is an alarmingly regular task.

Front splitters arenít on my mind though as I pull away the following morning for my drive in the GT3. The first thing that strikes me is the GT3ís civility, thereís none of the road roar from the front wheels that you get in standard Carreras. The steering is as delicate and beautifully weighted as ever, the feel on offer keying you into the surface conditions and telegraphing to your palms the available grip. Plenty it seems, as despite constant threats from the clouds that itís going to chuck it down the rain never materialises. Thatís perhaps no bad thing, the Michelin Pilots not exactly the best rubber for coping with standing water.

In the dry though theyíre sensational. In the corners the GT3ís nose is as quick and precise without some of the unwelcome dartiness of previous GT3s. The rear is as willing too to get involved, even the sticky Michelins eventually relinquish their grip and move to power oversteer if youíre in the mood. Doing so isnít as difficult as you might think, the GT3 remarkably forgiving on breakaway, the super-quick steering and throttle response allowing you to gather up your enthusiasm. Switch off the traction and stability systems if you want ultimate control, Porsche warning that if you do so they wonít ever intervene unless you switch them back on or restart the engine.

The ride is exceptionally composed given the GT3ís focus, that helped by the cool single nut lightweight alloy wheels. They reduce the unsprung mass by 2.5 kg all-round, despite being the same dimensions as the previous GT3ís. Switch the PASM to its firmer suspension setting and the GT3ís poise is lost completely, acting like a stylus in a grove and transmitting every tiny bump and ripple into the cabin. Best leave that to the track, then.†

The brakes provide the sort of repeatable stopping power that all cars should offer, the standard steel set up good enough to make the £5,667 optional ceramic ones seem like an unnecessary extravagance on top of the £81,914 list price. Better spend some extra on the nav and ipod package, and

the trick active engine mounts which improve NVH on the road and hold the engine firmly to prevent any tiny weight shifts on the track. Will you notice them? Probably not, but itís an undeniably cool talking point. A half cage, battery isolator, fire extinguisher and six-point harnesses can be had too if you tick the no-cost option Clubsport package. Lightweight fixed back seats are also available, but unless youíre built like a racing driver Ė Hamilton rather than Mansell Ė then you might want to stick with the standard ones.

Revised rather than all-new, Porscheís incremental development has once again produced a car thatís more involving, more intense and sharper than ever. That the GT3 is also more useable too is remarkable. Itís the best car that Porsche buildsÖ Until they add those two oh-so-important letters.†

Author: Kyle Fortune