Upgraded GT3 packs a greater punch, but is the more track focused 911 still a decent daily driver? Kyle Fortune finds out...
It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were getting excited about the ‘old’ GT3. This new one arrived earlier this year, a red temptress revolving on a motorshow plinth, promising even more power and poise from Porsche’s homologation model. Fears that Porsche might soften the GT3 by binning its trick motorsport unit – an engine that shares its DNA with the Le Mans winning GT1 – and add the technically impressive but driver appeal-robbing PDK twin-clutch two-pedal set up thankfully have proved unfounded. Instead, it’s given us 3.8-litres, more power, more torque and more noise. All with no increase in weight. I don’t know about you but that all sounds good to me.
Fussier than before the GT3’s styling is all about function over form. There’s 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 wing’s 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 – 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-litre’s 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 – 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 it’s no surprise that the GT3’s output is improved, power rising to 429bhp (up 20bhp) and torque swelling to 317lb ft over the 3.6-litre’s 289lb ft. That’s 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 Porsche’s test route.
The changes to the body and engine allow the GT3 to reach EU5 standards, and more importantly qualify it for unrestricted homologation. That’s likely to please the racers among you, but the competition driver’s gains are to the benefit of those who’ll buy and use the GT3 as a daily driver. There’s really very little out there with the GT3’s performance on road or track that can as readily be used as a commuter. That’s 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. It’s not cheap at a few quid under two grand, but as existing GT3 drivers will testify replacing the almost sacrificial leading edge of the GT3’s front spoiler is not inexpensive and is an alarmingly regular task.
Front splitters aren’t 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 GT3’s civility, there’s 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 it’s going to chuck it down the rain never materialises. That’s perhaps no bad thing, the Michelin Pilots not exactly the best rubber for coping with standing water.
In the dry though they’re sensational. In the corners the GT3’s 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 you’re in the mood. Doing so isn’t 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 won’t ever intervene unless you switch them back on or restart the engine.
The ride is exceptionally composed given the GT3’s 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 GT3’s. Switch the PASM to its firmer suspension setting and the GT3’s 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 it’s 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 you’re built like a racing driver – Hamilton rather than Mansell – then you might want to stick with the standard ones.
Revised rather than all-new, Porsche’s incremental development has once again produced a car that’s more involving, more intense and sharper than ever. That the GT3 is also more useable too is remarkable. It’s the best car that Porsche builds… Until they add those two oh-so-important letters.