Driving SlippyDiff's tweaked 996.1 GT3

Driving SlippyDiff's tweaked 996.1 GT3

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cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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One or two of you may have seen my post on IMIA's gorgeous air cooled cars. Anyway, Porschephile PHer SlippyDiff was kind enough to offer me a go in his 996.1 GT3, so here we go again.

What follows is merely some non-definitive fun, a relative GT3 noob's driving impressions, albeit a noob who loves analogue driver's cars. It might be interesting for those not hugely familiar with the 996.1 GT3 and thinking of heading that way or maybe just fun for owners to read a fresh take on their P&J from someone experiencing the thing for basically the first time.

Oh, as before and for context, my daily is a 987.1 3.4 Cayman, I've driven most of Porsche's water cooled clobber before and I've had few goes in a couple of 997 GT3s, but not for a while.

I've also driven a fair few exotic new press cars over the last five years. Just as I was with IMIA's cars, I can honestly say I was more excited to be getting behind the wheel of this GT3 than any number of 650hp paddleshifting, lobotomised hypercars in the modern idiom...

The car


996.1 GT3. Guards on black. Bilstein PSS9s. Fat BBS LMs. Circa 60k miles.



Cosmetically, Slippy's car looks fantastic and fresh with just enough stone rash to prove it's actually used as intended. Nice.

As a big fan of the 986/996 platform, I'm probably in the minority. Point is, I don't have a hump to get over re the styling, inside or out. For me there's a purity to the detailing and surfacing that's lost on the later cars. I love the weapons-grade purposefulness and zero-bullst vibe of the narrow body, too, even if I'm not actually that keen on the slightly gloopy “.1” aero kit.




I could also pen a decent dissertation on how the designers cleverly managed and minimised the shutlines on thje 986/996. Luckily for you all, discretion will be the better part of valour on this occasion.

Likewise the cabin quality. Actually, there are aspects of the cabin I think easily trump the 987/997 cars. For starters, there's a compactness and intimacy that makes the new models feel rather generic, too much like a “normal” car to simply sit in. The 996 has a cockpit. That's especially true when you're locked in with bucket seats. The 997 has a conventional car cabin. That's the difference.



There are details I really like, too. The door cards are a lovely bit of design, provided they are decked out in extended leather. Geeky detail: If you hadn't noticed, the sweep of the interior door pulls mirror that of the side profile of the GT3.1 rear wing end plates.

I'm mad for the console delete just ahead of the gearshift on 996.1 GT3s, too. A nod to ye olde air-cooled Pork and, ya know, schporty!



That said, the 996 certainly lacks the material integrity of the older cars. I know from experience that the exterior panels on 986/996 cars are extremely thin. The doors, as a for instance, are very, very light too.

Put simply, you just do not get the same delicious sense of expensive engineering the air cooled cars serve up when you merely close the doors let alone actually drive them. Does that make the 996 seem delicate or flimsy? You decide.




The drive


I should probably repeat that Slippy's car isn't completely stock. Apart from those big BBS LM rims, there are Bilstein PSS9 coilovers and (IIRC) a 997 GT3 shifter. The engine (again, IIRC) is stock.



Anyway, for me the cockpit ambience and driving position alone in a 996 with buckets is a major turn on, so it's a bit of a task to maintain objectivity.

Still, two things are immediately obvious as you trickle off towards a proper road. Firstly, the PSS9s have that unmistakable combo of bobble / bounce and yet underlying compliance that's characteristic of “decent” dampers. They may not be mega money clobber, but you can still tell they're not the usual factory-fitted gunk.



The other thing you notice is that the 996 isn't going to immediately blow you away with control-weight meat or texture. It's not that the controls are light or numb. But superficially, they're not dramatically different from a standard 986/996 car, either.

You would, however, be wrong to think the controls are going to actually disappoint. Hold that thought.

For me there was much less of an initial learning curve compared to an air-cooled 911. Partly that's because the 996 is a little more conventional (moderate control weights, top-hinged pedals etc). But also because I had a 986 for four years and it's basically the same shizzle.

That said, the engine's sheer responsiveness (I can't recall the flywheel spec) had me chronically over-blipping when rev matching. I will blame my Cayman's ghastly, laggy e-gas throttle and the fact that it has an infuriating habit to ignore throttle blips for my recent tendency to stamp on the throttle just to bloody sure of getting a response.



It wouldn't take too long to fully adjust to the GT3's throttle and even in my relatively brief exposure, I got a feeling for the precision with which you can match the revs. It's bloody lovely compared to my hit-and-miss Cayman. God I hate electric throttle pedals.

As for the engine itself, what can I say. It simply spews character.

It's the sheer range of sounds, from steam-punk rattles at idle to high rev howl that makes modern Porsche sound so one-dimensional and contrived by comparison, even if I suspect many would find a 981 Boxster with the PSE option superficially more dramatic. In reality, there's no contest. The GT3's music is infinitely more nuanced. Oh, and it feels like it would never, ever die.

The power delivery is brilliantly linear, of course, and in just the right way – in other words, it builds perfectly to a crescendo. The car isn't actually that quick by modern standards. It's really only a bit quicker, subjectively, than my Cayman. But the delivery is so sharp and you're so hooked into the car, for me the performance is more exciting than, I dunno, a McLaren 650S.

That's NA engines for you. There is no substitute. Likewise, I'm sure a Manthey conversion or whatever makes it even better and my memory of the 997.1 GT3's 3.6 lump is of even more thrills. But I'm fairly sure I also don't care.



As for the broader dynamics, like I said, no single aspect blows you away as you build familiarity. Steering, brakes, shift, clutch. But the way it comes together is the key. You're not saturated with raw feedback like you are in a 3.2 Carrera. But it's there and you quickly sense that it's entirely unfiltered.

The thing just communicates with such transparency, confidence comes almost instantly and to the point that the individual controls fade away, the car begins to flow and you become one with the thing. You are the bloody car. I know that's completely fking naff, but there it is and it's what makes this car so ridiculously compelling to drive fast. Where you muscle an old 3.2, you literally think this thing through corners.



Of course, I'm not going to claim for a moment I even remotely conquered the car, explored the limits, yada yada. It's someone else's car I was driving with respect for that fact on unfamiliar roads. But you can still get a sense of the balance of the thing, how you have to work the front axle. It's not just going to turn no matter how clumsily you carry speed into a corner. And that just adds to the involvement – to really pedal it, you'll be managing the balance on the way in with the brake, and with the throttle on the way out. Ace.

Anyway, if I had to sum up the way Slippy's car does its thing I'd need four words. Transparency, precision, control and compliance. All of them in spades. Slippy suggests these aspects of the car would be even better on the standard rims and smaller boots, but it's bloody lovely as it is. Yes, it tugs and weaves a little across cambers. But so what? You're never fighting it, just driving it.



If you want downsides, it's a little noisier on rough surfaces than I was expecting (again, Slippy says the bigger boots on the BBS wheels add to the din). For context, I'm looking at this thing as something to use and live with every day, not a toy for quick blasts at the weekend. I can tolerate very, very firm chassis setups. Road noise I'm less keen on and the GT3 is right at the limit of what I'd be happy living with daily.

Getting back into the Croc (again)


Just as after driving IMIA's air cooled beauties, the Croc was a mushy, anaesthetised mess in the immediate aftermath of the GT3. But just like last time, you recalibrate and it comes back to you.



I'm honestly not sure if I feel more or less respect for it as these drives broaden my horizons. On the one hand, aspects like the variable ratio steering rack and craptastic brake pedal seem increasingly unnecessary and a huge pity. Would they really lose sales to the mass market punters at whom these features are aimed if they gave it a proper rack and pedal? The engine's monotone growl isn't getting any better, either.

But at the same time, you still sense the core quality of the thing and I do wonder whether the best bet is to dial a bit more focus into the Croc rather than jump ship for a 986/996. Ultimately, I suspect there is no single Porsche that will give me my perfect solution. Whatever I go with, and for me it really has to be one-car-to-do-it-all, it will be a compromise. That much is becoming clearer and clearer.

Thanks again to SlippyDiff for the very kind offer to drive his fantastic car and for a superb blatt on some great roads.



And enjoy your Pork while you can, everyone!

pete a

3,431 posts

134 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Thanks for another good read, great looking car as well.

Trev450

5,865 posts

122 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Thoroughly enjoyed reading the write up. Thanks for posting, cmoose.

EGTE_RPF

53 posts

56 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Fantastic write-up of a lovely car.

Particularly enjoyed this bit:

"Likewise the cabin quality. Actually, there are aspects of the cabin I think easily trump the 987/997 cars. For starters, there's a compactness and intimacy that makes the new models feel rather generic, too much like a “normal” car to simply sit in. The 996 has a cockpit. That's especially true when you're locked in with bucket seats. The 997 has a conventional car cabin. That's the difference."

Totally spot-on. Not just saying that because I have a narrow-body 996 with Aerokit......okay maybe I am.

Excellent writing, by they way - would love to see more.

Fattrader

515 posts

172 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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enjoyed that CM. great description of a great car.

GT3cs

1,114 posts

191 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Nice to see the old girl again. Longest I've ever owned a car with that one .



David Hype

2,296 posts

202 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Great write up... thumbup

Respect to Slippy too for entrusting his prized steed to a fellow Ph`er! bow

Nice one guys thanks for posting driving

Scooty100

1,469 posts

66 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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On the subject of minor detail did I spot the indicator stalks had cut outs in them ? Could be my eyes

PR36

341 posts

66 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Well as a 987.1 S owner myself and having never driven one of these mythical beasts I've always wondered whether they are as good as everyone says. Time to book me into PEC to find out i think. So the million dollar question, considering the price differential, is the red gt3 really four times better than the red cayman?

ChrisW.

3,316 posts

205 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Well, it is a Clubsport, so single mass fly-wheel and the last road car to be built at Weissach ... Mezger engine and we know the start of something really special, if not hugely powerful now that the latest GT3 has almost 40% more power and a Cayman R is only around 10% less.

As for 650S --- in my mind it's no help to try to compare incomparables. It's quite enough to enjoy what is fantastic in each smile

One thing is for sure, as the past owner of a 996 GT3 MkI C/S in Zanzibar Red, I NEVER felt that it was in any way less exciting than the much more expensive and modern machinery around me.

The only thing that did irritate me was the lack of brakes --- which was attended to in the MkII.

cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
quotequote all
ChrisW. said:
As for 650S --- in my mind it's no help to try to compare incomparables. It's quite enough to enjoy what is fantastic in each smile
Good thing I wasn't trying to compare them, then! I was merely making the point that for me what's exciting is the quality of power not the quantity of power. The 650S was just a handy example of a very powerful sports car I've driven that didn't excite me at all. I think my old 2.5 Boxster was more exciting.

I'm afraid I'm not one for relativism and making everything equal. In some case, it make sense to celebrate the contrasts and as you say enjoy what is fantastic in any given car - 964 C2 versus GT3, let's say. But I also think some cars are simply far more exciting / better than others. And as a thing to drive, something like a 650S leaves me entirely cold.

cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
quotequote all
PR36 said:
So the million dollar question, considering the price differential, is the red gt3 really four times better than the red cayman?
Yes.

No.

Impossible for anyone to answer for you, I suspect. But one way to look at it is this. As a thing to drive, this GT3 gives me enough of everything I want. Could it have more of some things? Yep. But it has enough of everything. A 987 does not. Certainly not in stock trim. How do you put a value on that?

For me the million dollar question is more likely whether you can muck about with a 987 and get a result that is enough. Obviously if you chuck enough money at a problem, anything is possible. You could whack a Mezger in there if you really wanted to. But can it be done at a sensible cost?

mollytherocker

14,348 posts

159 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Interesting review cmoose, many thanks.

FarQue

2,260 posts

148 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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What, may I ask, is a 'steam-punk rattle'?

cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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"Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery."

FarQue

2,260 posts

148 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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cmoose said:
"Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery."
I'm fully aware of steam-punk imagery/fashion/stylisation, but not any err, rattle. I'll bear it in mind next time I am anywhere near a gt3 engine and listen out for it! ;-)

cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
quotequote all
FarQue said:
I'm fully aware of steam-punk imagery/fashion/stylisation, but not any err, rattle. I'll bear it in mind next time I am anywhere near a gt3 engine and listen out for it! ;-)
Well, it makes a distinct rattly (sp?) and mechanical noise at low revs that puts me in mind of steampunk stuff, that's all!

Kind of old fashioned, but not exactly crude - as if the engine had followed its own distinct fork of development. A bit like Steampunk being what the world might be like if it had developed out from steam technology.

Edited by cmoose on Monday 29th June 23:20

FarQue

2,260 posts

148 months

Monday 29th June 2015
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Cmoose - you often mention the brake pedal feel on your 987c. I remember chatting to a Cayman owner at Anglesey last year who had fitted a (funnily enough) gt3 master cylinder and raved about the improvement. Is this a mod you are aware of?

cmoose

Original Poster:

45,744 posts

179 months

Monday 29th June 2015
quotequote all
Yeah, 997 GT3 MC is a fairly well known solution for 987 mushy pedal syndrome. Were it not for my ongoing Porsche warranty and not being sure if the car is a long term keeper, would have put it on by now. It's not an expensive mod in the broad scheme of things.

g7jhp

6,049 posts

188 months

Tuesday 30th June 2015
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Nice review cmoose. There does seem to be a 'red' trend going on in your first two reviews (3.2 aside)!