RE: Porsche 911 GT3 (991): Review

RE: Porsche 911 GT3 (991): Review

Wednesday 12th June 2013

Porsche 911 GT3 (991): Review

Watched the video? Now read the full story on Harris's drive in the all-new 991 GT3



When I was a nipper, there was a woman who worked at the shop in the next village whose skills behind a cash till were mesmerising. I used to tag along for the weekly trip just to see how fast she could bash the keys on the machine without, it seemed, ever making a mistake.

She continued working there for years, her body hunching with age and her hair greying, but the speed never left her. She was awesome personified and displayed a dexterity I have never seen before or since. And then one day, I don't precisely remember when, I went in to buy something and The Fastest Checkout Girl in the West simply passed the object under a machine which went 'beep' and she read out a price. She struggled to smile; she knew she would never have the chance to demonstrate her awesome skills again, and she knew I knew it. I felt very sad.

Harris in the GT3 - happy to paddle it?
Harris in the GT3 - happy to paddle it?
This obtuse recollection came to mind as I was driving the new 991 GT3. I was pootling along at 30mph and then had to slow to 10mph and negotiate an obstruction in a village. I simply pulled the left lever, the car seamlessly dropped from second to first gear without a shudder and accelerated away again. It was utterly nonchalant - neither car nor driver gave it a second thought.

Glory days
And then it struck me I had just missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to myself one of the most difficult gearchange situations - the smooth heel'n'toe from second to first gear. The one I used to do as often as possible years ago to learn how best to match brake and throttle. This was confusing. On the one hand I was awed at the way this new PDK transmission handled the situation, on the other, just like the demon till operator I felt that a skill I had nurtured and cherished for so many years had been rendered redundant.

This is a theme that pervades any appraisal of the new 991 GT3. It is not one I wish to avoid, but it I think it needs to be separated from the reality of driving the vehicle itself.

The GT3 is paddles only, and to ignore this car because it's missing a pedal would be foolish. It provides a driving experience I'd have thought impossible in a street-legal 911 until recently - and by recently I mean last week. When you watch the rev counter spring from 8,500rpm to 9,000rpm then tap that lever, receive a nudge to the spine and register an exhaust pop reflecting of a cliff face it's hard to support the notion that the new GT3 is anything other than a complete masterpiece.

Dished rear wheels just look awesome
Dished rear wheels just look awesome
Moving on
The engine is perhaps an even bigger bone of contention. Gone is the old split case six that defined unquestionably the greatest sports car dynasty in Porsche's history - the GT3 - in its place comes a derivative of the direct injection 9A1 motor.

The first time you extend it, you forget the Mezger lump ever existed. Rated at 475hp and with 325lb ft of torque it is so happy revving beyond 8,000rpm that controlling the instinct to spend the whole time up in the raucous zone is too much to bear. And the noise between 8,500 and 9,000 needs to be experienced first hand. It's the sound of a valvetrain straining. It's slightly unsettling and perfectly real. There's no symposer here: the noise builds from 3,000rpm and dominates the experience. At 9,000rpm, with the exhaust in its loud mode, the car is louder than a 997 Cup car.

Gear ratios are shorter than on the 997 GT3 and, unlike other PDK 911s, seventh gear is not an overdrive. It's a stunning powertrain: characterful, accessible and so damn fast. Porsche claims 0-100mph in 7.5 seconds using the launch control, and, not that many people will trouble such a time, it can lap that place in Germany in 7min25sec.
Four to the floor

Four-wheel steering locks in place for this
Four-wheel steering locks in place for this
Bigger gains have been made in the chassis. Don't dismiss the four-wheel steering until you've driven this car. A wider front axle, new rubber, many new suspension components and a superb active locking differential combine to transform the GT3's behaviour in bends. Gone is the understeer and reluctance to turn. The agility is startling and the way the diff can open under braking makes it feel free and keen to change direction. As someone who has spent too much time trying to make fast 911s more effective on the road, I was just stunned at what it can do.

But best of all the technology is invisible within the overall experience, you simply do not know it's there - to the point that if you provoke the car into a slide the car instantly locks the rear wheels in place because it knows you want to be silly. High-speed stability is of a different quality to the outgoing car. For me, the weight penalty as a road car is easily worth the gains at all speeds.

I only drove the car on dry roads, but the electric power steering proves that we need to be patient with what appears to be an evil development. This is miles, miles better than the Carrera's rack. The weighting immediately has GT3 DNA about it. The squirm and wriggle is much more muted than before but it's telepathically accurate. This is the first electric steering I have felt an emotion for that went beyond mere tolerance. I want to drive the car in mixed conditions before saying much more.

PDK has been reconfigured for the GT3
PDK has been reconfigured for the GT3
Looks to kill
To my skewed sense of the aesthetic this car looks plain wonderful. The nose treatment lifts it above normal 911s, the forged rims - especially the dished rears - had me gawping for minutes and the suggestive ride height gives it that unmistakable air of no-messing. The cabin is a mild tweak on the 991 theme: well organised, high-quality and dotted with enough GT3 references to keep people happy. The carbon buckets in the Clubsport model are less extreme than the old fixed-back items, but still a great compromise between weight, comfort and support.

Reducing the travel of the paddles by 50 per cent and increasing the effort required to pull them certainly adds to the sense of occasion and connection. The lever also moves in the correct direction, back to go up. Shifts themselves are mesmerisingly quick, Porsche quotes a number but it's meaningless from behind the wheel - they feel instant. Coupled with the new front axle agility it makes the GT3 so immediate and athletic and, crucially, completely cloaks the fact that the car is heavier than before. The way it drives, you'd swear it was lighter. In defense of the paddle approach, there were times when I genuinely thought the car wasn't just better for having them, but more fun too. I didn't expect that.

I drove the car in 'normal' gearshift mode, 'sport' is for circuit use only.

Little danger of mistaking it for a Carrera
Little danger of mistaking it for a Carrera
Feelsome
Brake pedal feel is exemplary and I suppose one of the few upsides to not having to match engine and gear speed is now being able to ignore the fact the brake pedal is still a little too high.

Steel brakes are standard: 380mm all-round with exemplary pedal feel and not once giving me any fade. The electronic safety systems, coupled with the torque vectoring give less skilled drivers immense security to explore the car's capabilities, but I love the fact that you can still remove everything and lay lines if you want to.

Which should somehow bring me back to the old crone who could process a trolley of food shopping like her life depended on it, but I can't summon a suitable hook to lead us back there.

I suppose it's a point of principle, really. Changing gear yourself is one of the cornerstones of driver skill and enjoyment. As every other manufacturer of very fast cars has abandoned the noble gear lever, Porsche had a chance to show that it operated on a different level to those traitors. But it chose not to. However, I cannot allow that to taint what the GT3 has become. It is faster, better and in many ways more enjoyable than before. Just thinking about that engine as it heads into the red zone makes me grin. But the GT3 would have been more things to more people if there was an option to change gear yourself - of that I remain quite convinced.


PORSCHE 911 GT3 (991)
Engine:
3,799cc flat-6
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (PDK), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 475@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 325@6,250rpm
0-62mph: 3.5sec
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,430kg (DIN)
MPG: 22.8mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 289g/km
Price: Β£100,540 (basic list)

991 full press pack

Β 

Author
Discussion

hughcam

Original Poster:

353 posts

114 months

Wednesday 12th June 2013
quotequote all
Fantastic car

mrdemon

18,215 posts

214 months

Wednesday 12th June 2013
quotequote all
Bit like a nice sounding GTR but slower. :-).

SmartVenom

414 posts

118 months

Wednesday 12th June 2013
quotequote all
Beautiful looking car.

Bob_Defly

2,070 posts

180 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
Such a disappointment. Save the Manual!

Baryonyx

16,847 posts

108 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
Maybe Porsche will be persuaded to do a manual model off the back of all the support a proper transmission still has. Maybe they'll refuse, and say "here's a big st sandwich, take a bite".

Wadeski

6,589 posts

162 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
I actually think Porsche got the transmission right with this car.

This car is about giving wealthy chaps the chance to feel like a racing driver while driving very very fast on a circuit. It's about accessible ultimate performance, like the GTR and modern ferraris.

It's not a homologation special anymore - it's too popular and successful for that. It hasn't been for ages.

Will Porsche make a manual special? Probably. But the people who want the "mechanical feel" are less concerned with lap times and track day kudos. I would expect something more Sport Classic esque to get a manual - limited, lightweight, analogue, and not to be compared to Fezzas and GTRs...because it wont match up.

TobyLaRohne

5,454 posts

155 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
HOLY MOLY! I think I need more coffee this morning, had to read those first 5 words 3 times before I read them correctly.

I have to say I have never driven a GT3, and only had limited experience in a turbo. I always saw the GT3 as the pinnacle of sports cars for connecting the driver to the car, you are supposed to do everything yourself, you are supposed to work for the rewards!
I love driving my car hard on the track and you get real satisfaction from being able to heel toe effectively, pushing the limits of grip and holding the car there, I dont care that the 997 turbo that comes regularly is half a second or more faster, its an automatic... and for me that is the same as taking a ride on a roller coaster on rails. Its exciting and fast but the result is something you have no control over and after a while the feel you get from it fades from "OH MY GOD" to "oh"...give me a manual any day of the week.
I could of forgiven Porsche for going down this road for the GT2, but not the GT3....that said if anyone wants to lend me one I'll happily try one to help change my mind.

Edited by TobyLaRohne on Thursday 13th June 05:49

McAndy

8,747 posts

126 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
Purely playing devil's advocate: I'm sure there are other technologies that have evolved, particularly in the automotive sector, that have left people crowing for the old and resenting the new. However, in time most come round to the fact that the new is better and end up lamenting the loss of the old like one would an ex-girlfriend: yep, it was fun, but they're an ex for a reason (possibly even for several!)

One of the GT3's goals is to be quick, both on the road and around the track: the new gearbox will aid this. Perhaps giving the GT3 a manual and the GT3 RS the PDK would've been prudent so as not to alienate some customers, but progress is relentless and sometimes you have to be ruthless. Have they missed a trick? Only time will tell, but I suspect that in a couple of generation's time journalists will write whistfully about the 997 as the last manual, but no longer wish for it in the model that they're driving.

Just a thought.

Chr1sch

2,517 posts

142 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
I think it looks phenomenal, what a car, what a noise, and as much as I love manuals, it's progress at the end of the day...

kambites

57,653 posts

170 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
McAndy said:
Purely playing devil's advocate: I'm sure there are other technologies that have evolved, particularly in the automotive sector, that have left people crowing for the old and resenting the new. However, in time most come round to the fact that the new is better and end up lamenting the loss of the old like one would an ex-girlfriend: yep, it was fun, but they're an ex for a reason (possibly even for several!)
I don't think that's true; at least it's certainly isn't for me. There have been a number of cases where I have intensely disliked new developments and I've generally I've eventually come to view them as an evil I can't get away from but I've never come to like them; they just get added to the list of things that make me despair about new cars in general.

McAndy

8,747 posts

126 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
kambites said:
I don't think that's true; at least it's certainly isn't for me. There have been a number of cases where I have intensely disliked new developments and I've generally I've eventually come to view them as an evil I can't get away from but I've never come to like them; they just get added to the list of things that make me despair about new cars in general.
I never said that there weren't bad ones too! smile Can you honestly say that none have had a difficult introductory period for you but now you acknowledge their worth?

kambites

57,653 posts

170 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
McAndy said:
kambites said:
I don't think that's true; at least it's certainly isn't for me. There have been a number of cases where I have intensely disliked new developments and I've generally I've eventually come to view them as an evil I can't get away from but I've never come to like them; they just get added to the list of things that make me despair about new cars in general.
I never said that there weren't bad ones too! smile Can you honestly say that none have had a difficult introductory period for you but now you acknowledge their worth?
I can generally see the advantages from the first time I see things. However, if I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages when I first drive something, I will always think that, in my experience.

My perfect "fun" car would still be running on carbs, but that certainly doesn't mean I can see no advantage in EFI!

Edited by kambites on Thursday 13th June 08:24

ludicrous speed

959 posts

143 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
I used to think that a manual is the only way to go for an involved, fun drive. That was until I found myself trying to grab my non-existent paddles after a few hours using the steering wheel for my pc. It was quite funny and made me realise I probably don't care if it's a regular manual or paddle shift.

They should still make it an option though, as blipping the throttle yourself is very satisfying.

TheRoadWarrior

1,226 posts

127 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
Chris; I think you've done exactly the right thing in disconnecting the review of the car from your 'emotional' opinion of what GT3 should mean. It is obviously a beast of a car and in many ways that a keen driver would actually care about 'better' than the previous car.

However I think it's difficult to condone the direction Porsche has taken with the GT3.. there is no real reason that they couldn't deliver the improvements (to the front axle for example) of this car along with a manual box (Shift speed aside).

The fact that they've improved the car is kinda irrelevant, they've decided to move the GT3 along a path that takes away some driver involvement, many would say this has been happening for years I suppose with things like power steering and ABS.. but the lack of a manual shift just seems wrong- if the GT3 has abandoned the manual what hope do we have for decent priced manual performance cars in the near future.. every hot hatchback maker is going to be selling their new automatic-just-like-the-Porsche model.

...makes me sad is all

George29

14,345 posts

113 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
I'm glad they've got rid of the manual box. It was clearly holding the cars performance back, and a paddleshift gearbox is far more appropriate for a track special.

Krikkit

17,102 posts

130 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
What a great review.

I think it looks fantastic, and if that engine sounds anything like as good as a cup car it will be a very special thing to own.

But, all that said, I can't help feeling you'd be able to have more fun at legal speeds with a manual - ringing that ludicrous powertrain out as much as you like...

T.K

458 posts

127 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
I was all ready to hate it. But turns out I love it.

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a new car. Wonderful.

ali_khl

116 posts

152 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
Gentlemen, the driving reason why Porsche dropped the manual for the GT3 is - China.

No manual transmission cars have been homologated by them for the market there, and furthermore, these are less than 5 997 GT3s in the whole country because Chinese view stick-shifts as being only for trucks/ econo-cars.

The Chinese market is the biggest growing for Porsche, and is the most important now in the world. Porsche has since some time decided to cater to Chinese buyers, 95% of whom rate the electronic toys Chris spoke about in the video, and features such as PDK, as much more important than driving purity.

The above is the reason that Lotus, despite a significant investment in setting up dealerships in the most glamorous and expensive parts of town in Beijing and Shanghai, has sold less than 5 cars in each city since they started 2 years ago.

This is the same reason why the 918 is configured as it is with the electric motor, which is a lot more convenient for rich Chinese to drive around Sanlitun and Nanjing road at 10 mph than the hardcore Carerra GT.

The GT3 will sell like hotcakes here now, just as the GTR has for the same reasons.

Mermaid

21,492 posts

120 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
The target audience has changed, the facts have changed. Porsche have changed. Amazing piece of kit that even the diehards will embrace in short order.

The RS could surprise and keep even the super aficianados content.


German

203 posts

96 months

Thursday 13th June 2013
quotequote all
ali_khl said:
Gentlemen, the driving reason why Porsche dropped the manual for the GT3 is - China.

No manual transmission cars have been homologated by them for the market there, and furthermore, these are less than 5 997 GT3s in the whole country because Chinese view stick-shifts as being only for trucks/ econo-cars.

The Chinese market is the biggest growing for Porsche, and is the most important now in the world. Porsche has since some time decided to cater to Chinese buyers, 95% of whom rate the electronic toys Chris spoke about in the video, and features such as PDK, as much more important than driving purity.

The above is the reason that Lotus, despite a significant investment in setting up dealerships in the most glamorous and expensive parts of town in Beijing and Shanghai, has sold less than 5 cars in each city since they started 2 years ago.

This is the same reason why the 918 is configured as it is with the electric motor, which is a lot more convenient for rich Chinese to drive around Sanlitun and Nanjing road at 10 mph than the hardcore Carerra GT.

The GT3 will sell like hotcakes here now, just as the GTR has for the same reasons.
Same at BMW, as a market European enthusiasts rate a 0 on the importance scale. Its sad, and it means regardless of income I will never buy a new car from a major company. My money will go to a Lotus/Catherham/TVR, or to private individual with good taste smile