Porsche 911 Turbo S (992)
|Engine 3,745cc, twin-turbo, flat-six
||Transmission 8-spd dual-clutch PDK, AWD
|Power (hp) 650@6,750rpm
||Torque (lb ft) 590@2,500rpm-4,000rpm
||Top speed 205mph
|Weight 1,640kg (DIN)
||Price £160,610 (as tested £169,484)
You know what's brilliant about the new GT3? Its gear lever. Take a gander below. Reportedly it looks the way it does because GT boss Andreas Preuninger prefers to flick up and down ratios the old-fashioned way. This is a preference he and I share. It is the way all the gear levers in PDK 911s should look and function. Partly because it's perfectly sized and Alcantara-clad, which makes it great to hold in a way the silly big switch is not, but mostly because the quick-fire motion of shifting sequentially with your palm is as close as you're going to get to the physicality of a proper manual 'box. Which you obviously can't have in a 992 Turbo S.
It helps, of course, that in the GT3's case the stick is up or downshifting one of the world's last great petrol engines. We can talk all day about where precisely the latest version of the stellar 4.0-litre unit falls in the pantheon of Porsche flat-sixes, but there is no question of its haloed status in 2021. It is ravishingly good in a way that only a 9,000rpm naturally aspirated motor could be when its virtues palpably separate it from the vast majority of other engines on sale.
And yet it gives up 140hp to the smaller, much less famous twin-turbocharged 3.7-litre flat-six Porsche has installed in the current 911 Turbo S. This is a lot. On paper it is the difference between 3.4 seconds to 62mph and 2.7, which perhapsdoesn't sound like a consequential amount. But dipping that far beneath the three-second tape is the difference between merely scintillating acceleration and something truly unearthly. The GT3 is roughly as quick to the national limit as the new xDrive-equipped BMW M3. The 992 Turbo S will get you there quicker than a McLaren 720S. That's the difference.
Then there's the way it is delivered. No one in their right mind is going to accuse the new GT3 of being laggardly at low revs (and downshifting its shorter ratios is plainly half the fun) but the simple fact is that access to 590lb ft of torque from 2,500rpm is wildly dissimilar to building up to 347lb ft at 6,100rpm. Sure, the latter is underpinned by all manner of fireworks, but the adaptive all-wheel-drive Turbo S conceals its 200kg-odd weight penalty beneath a surging drivability in all conditions. It isn't just fast on the right road or when you're in the mood or when the sun's out or beyond a pit lane wall - it is prodigiously fast no matter what.
Of course the reductive way to consider this from the GT3 side of the coin is to dismiss this thrusting attitude as mindless posturing. Speed is not a synonym for fun, after all. But that undersells just how complete the 992 iteration of Turbo S actually is - especially when tasked with the job of whisking its driver to Wales for 24 hours and then going straight back again. You'd expect it to be better on the M4, and it is. Vastly better. Porsche's quest for lap time improvement has made the latest GT3 an intense experience even when barely moving in the outside lane. The Turbo S - its interior coated in leather, its driver's seat plump with cushioning and its suspension endowed with what seems like two inches of additional spring travel - is pillowy by comparison.
Granted, among the flagship 911's reasons for being, the ability to vanquish motorway journeys is prominent - and likely less compelling for a GT3 buyer. But anyone expecting the appeal of the Turbo S to drop sharply away as the lanes go from two to one is in for a surprise. Through corners, it would be hard to deny the disadvantages of the chunkier kerbweight nor the end result of the GT3's newly trick and much stiffer front suspension - the Turbo's connection to the road is inevitably more considered, and its steering wheel cannot be twirled with quite the same clarity.
But you'll have to work hard at remembering these niceties if you really tie one on. The easiest thing in the world to do with the Turbo S is to drive it modestly; pay it the compliment of trying a bit harder in 'Sport' or 'Sport Plus' - as the GT3 encourages you to do almost by default - and the most expensive 911 makes a persuasive claim to being the quickest real-world car you can buy anywhere, at any price. Not just because the acceleration is absurdly and unremittingly savage right across the rev range and in virtually any gear, but because it is deployed by a chassis that makes its raw speed seem entirely manageable. Appropriate, even.
The total absence of anything that might be called nervousness is startling, not just for the lateral forces involved at apexes, but because it isn't achieved merely be ratcheting up the car's stability bias. Oh there's grip, of course - monumental reams of the stuff extracted from the road surface at all angles, but it's not generated with brute-force nonchalance or a disregard for the driver. The Turbo S might depend heavily on its technological tour-de-force to extract your confidence in its precision and dependability, though not in a way that understates its colossal output or the breathtaking results. The car's triumph is to make the whole improbable experience hang together in a way that seems not only usable and cohesive on a B road, but immersive, too.
If there is an issue, it crops up in the improbable size of the numbers registering on the speedo while you're getting to grips with just how clever the torque vectoring and four-wheel steering really are - although that consequence could be levelled at any number of direct rivals, the GT3 included. Better to reflect on the car's defining trait, which is just how convenient it is to put all the more shouty toys back in the box and return to driving the Turbo S as though it were any other comfort-orientated luxury sports car. Much like its deficit in straight-line performance, this is a trick the much more single-minded GT3 cannot hope to pull off. No matter how much nicer its gear stick. NC
Porsche 911 GT3 (PDK)
|Engine 3,996cc, flat-six
||Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch PDK, RWD
|Power (hp) 510@8,400rpm
||Torque (lb ft) 347@6,100rpm
|0-62mph 3.4 seconds
||Top speed 198mph
|Weight 1,435kg (DIN)
||Price £127,820 (as tested £139,940)
Speed Matters. You may have heard. But for all its improvements as a driver's car (the 992 Turbo S really is even better than the very good 991.2) its sheer speed really is the abiding memory. Pace, velocity, momentum, whatever: it's just obscenely fast. And while it isn't as though the flagship 911 is one dimensional - far from it - the sheer relentlessness of its acceleration does dominate the experience. Which is fair enough, of course, though hardly conducive to enjoying it in the UK.
"How was the Turbo S?", someone might ask. "Fast", you'll inevitably reply, or a more creative expression to that effect. Faced with the same query around the GT3, you likely won't mention speed at all. "Sensational" perhaps, or "mesmerising". "The most wonderful 911 I've driven and the best car on sale" might be another.
And it deserves almost all that praise for everything it does while not going very fast at all, handily. Obviously, it's exceptional at laying down lap times, because that's why the GT cars exist, right up to the new Cayenne. However, in a GT3, there's so much going on so much of the time for an enthusiast to appreciate, that not exploring its full potential seems almost immaterial. You never get that feeling in the Turbo. And yes, it makes the car more wearing - potentially too raw given an RS is still to come - but what did you expect? It's named after a race car category, Michelin Cup 2s are standard fit, the roll cage can be put in as a no-cost extra (a free Porsche option!) and the rear wing belongs in a design museum. Of course it's not meant to be at home on the M4. Of course it's going to demand your attention, because that's exactly what a GT should do.
Go into it mindful of the intensity and it makes ordinary driving so much more of an event. That's whether you want it to be or not, it should be noted - but there's a GTS for fuss-free speed. If you want to be endlessly absorbed, this is the 911 for you. It may very well be the car, period. The PDK and differential chunter at low speed (the throttle needs a good shove to get it moving, too), the valvetrain can he heard gnashing away at just a few thousand revs, as can the pads clamping on discs and road detritus in those gigantic wheel arches. Pulling or pushing that gearlever makes you feel like a Cup car driver, and still you're nowhere near the national speed limit. Going this slowly shouldn't be this entertaining.
Furthermore, the joy of this GT3 is that it's not like the rawest of road racers. It won't cover distance like a Turbo, sure, but it's liveable, there's sufficient space, the stereo is good and the seats are supremely comfortable. Yes, you'll be buzzing along at quite a few revs with the seven-speed PDK and won't be able to see much out the back, but they seem like prices worth paying. For a car as memorable as those that need thermals on a cold day and suncream on hot ones, a bit of road roar seems acceptable.
So be in no doubt: this GT3 is utterly captivating driven fast, to a level no other 911 - let alone many other cars - can match. The new suspension has worked wonder: the front end is both grippier and more communicative, giving the driver additional confidence. Should you wish, too, it still benefits from holding the brakes into a corner to really lock the GT3 onto its line; advancements in hardware haven't dulled the challenge. Both the brake pedal and the electric steering have improved on what seemed beyond reproach for the last GT3. The assists are lenient, the driving position perfect, and the gear lever Nic can't leave alone is fairly brilliant as well. Don't be surprised to see it on the options list of the other PDK 911s soon...
Traction and grip have increased, too, because Nurburgring lap times don't go down without them when power is unchanged. But because you're made to feel such an integral part of the experience, it doesn't matter that the limit is such a way off. Any kind of skydive lives long in the memory, regardless of height; the same applies to any kind of GT3 drive. It is spellbinding on a road by default, which just keys you in to how epic it must be on a circuit in Track mode.
Such is the quality and quantity of feedback in a GT3, to a level that the Turbo S can't - and probably shouldn't - hope to match, it could be powered by a 924 engine and still be unputdownable. Only, of course, it's not. The GT3 is shoved along by a Porsche masterclass of a flat-six; that an engine this ferocious and this exciting to listen to can still be sold in 2021 is cause for celebration. The only thing tangibly more brilliant is Ferrari's 6.5-litre V12, which seems reasonable enough given the additional power, capacity, and price. But, honestly, you'll seldom want for more than this 4.0-litre can offer; it's the perfect complement to a chassis of such ability and intensity. And although the manual will always be hard to resist, the PDK arguably suits a car this extreme even better, matching the immediacy and energy of the rest of the package. Even a Porsche manual might seem a bit sluggish by comparison. Get a lower gear (by the stick, of course), dare to explore the second half of the rev range - any restraint is worn down pretty quick - and you'll soon be travelling very, very fast indeed. And you won't care a jot if the wild Turbo S gets slightly further away...
Because, yes, speed matters - but it isn't everything. The GT3 is emphatic proof of that, if it were needed. It isn't the Turbo's equal when it comes to terrifying passengers or dominating drag strips, but as a driver's car, it knows no equal. It involves and intrigues at all speeds and all commitment levels, yet never overwhelms. And while nobody really wants to be deeply involved with 200 miles of motorway ahead, it's a small price to pay for a 911 of such stellar quality everywhere else. MB
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