There are wings and there are wings. For instance, the blade on the back of a Plymouth Superbird was so stratospheric that God got a shave every time an owner popped out to buy a loaf of bread. Compared with that, the Porsche 911 GT3's tea tray looks like a mere knick-knack - albeit one big enough to serve up ten gallons of Tetley. And get you noticed. To some people that's the point. It's a visual statement that you're driving a GT3 Supercup car with a number plate slapped on each end.
Then Porsche produced the 911 R and discovered that there was a market for a car with all the race-bred whiz-bang bits, but dressed in apparel that was barely any more shouty than a Carrera. Many, many people wanted one. So it was followed up in 2017 with the 991.2 GT3 Touring, and people wanted that, too. Now there's a follow-up to the follow-up. This is the 992 GT3 Touring, and we're the first people outside Porsche UK to get our hands on it in right-hand-drive format. What's it like, then?
Let's begin with the looks. What your brain sees is the classic, uncluttered, teardrop 911 silhouette. It's a shape as familiar as the McDonalds arches, so most people will register it but not think twice. But those in the know, will instantly clock the difference. It is quite literally a GT3 stripped of its swan-neck, so the biggest difference is the GT3 Touring doesn't make 80kg of downforce at 124mph like its winged brother. It makes just 15kg. Which is fine, because on the road, where this car is designed to work, you'll go to prison if you do 124mph. Underneath, the Touring still works the air just as hard: it has the same flat bottom and strakes that divert the air through an identical, big-boy rear diffuser kicking up an invisible rooster tail. The pop-up rear wing adds something to the mix, and it rises to a more acute angle than it does in regular Carreras.
At the front there's the same low splitter, aggressive air intakes and twin nostrils cut into the lid. It has the same ball-jointed, double wishbone suspension at the front, and the same multi-link setup with helper springs at the rear. It has the same adjustability for the track, in terms of toe, camber and roll bar stiffness. It's the same weight (1,418kg) because the front lid is made from the same carbon fibre reinforced plastic and the windows are made from the same, thinner glass as the GT3's. It even has identical centre-locking alloys (20-inch fronts and 21-inch rears) that fit just as snuggly into each arch. And of course it comes with the same gloriously high-revving flat-six engine, and the same choice of a six-speed manual or PDK gearbox as well. It even costs the same as the GT3, at £131,500.
So it's the same then, in case that isn't clear. The only differences, beyond the wing, is more leather inside at the expense of Race-Tex suede, and shinier, anodised aluminium window surrounds and exhausts. Which you can change back to black to match the regular GT3-spec, if you wish. Making it the same.
It would make perfect sense then if the Touring drove the same, too. Except it doesn't. The first 992 GT3 I drove was on track at Anglesey and it was brilliant: stable, grippy and, even when you committed, forgiving. I didn't drive it on the road, so when I read that the 992 GT3 was too firm and excitable on the Queen's highway, I was intrigued. Then I drove Porsche's blue manual press car on the road, back in December, when it was cold and wet. It was quite a handful, I'll admit. I couldn't get heat into the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, which meant it was like driving a 510hp go-kart on slicks in the rain. And the steering did indeed follow every camber, quite violently at times. It was also more punishing over bumps than I remember a 991 GT3 being. I still loved it, but for the first time I could understand why some people would find the GT3 a bit much for everyday use.
Somewhat unexpectedly, this Touring isn't like that at all. It's a beautiful road car, and I have no doubt it will still prove to be a trackday weapon despite its subdued levels of downforce. The ride it taut, yes, but never punishing. At slow speeds, over high-frequency ripples, it's still a bit agitating, sure, but at 70mph it flows along motorways, and at any speed it has enough compliance to ride aggressive ruts relatively cleanly. And that's with the dampers set to the stiffer of the two settings, which is now my confirmed default as soon as I get in any 992 GT3. Why? Because it makes next to no difference to ride comfort but brings about a whole other level of body control. In the softer mode, you can just sense a bit of extra vertical extension off crests. It's still good but there have been times when I've landed on a road surface that's as rough as the moon, and at that point you want absolute control. That's what the stiffer setting brings. The body control is so tight yet, like all properly setup cars, still provides the sort of suppleness that keeps the tyres in magnetic contact with the road.
So what's going on, then? Well, I asked the guys at Porsche HQ whether all the settings are the same on the Touring. Yes, they said, exactly the same. The difference is this one isn't on Cup 2s, it's on Pirelli P Zero Corsas. And they have a softer side wall and a wider operating window than the Michelins. Which would indeed account for the improved ride, more consistent grip and the lack of tramlining. The difference is night and day. I did about 400 miles in this Touring and didn't have a fight with the steering wheel once. Even over pretty demonic B-roads - the type that I know would have had me hanging onto a GT3 on Cup 2s. That means you can relax and revel in the front end, which, thanks to that solidly mounted double wishbone architecture, is still utterly brilliant. The turn-in is every bit as crisp as you've heard it is, as is the steering feedback. You know in detail exactly what's happening at ground level.
The manual gearbox on this Touring is also a masterpiece - maybe I'm imagining this, but even better than the change in the blue GT3. It's delightfully mechanical and, just like everything else about the Touring, plugs the driver deep into the car's function. Then there are the heart and lungs of that 4.0-litre flat-six. I could describe it in component terms - the lightweight forged titanium conrods, variable intake tracts and six individual throttle bodies etc. That's all very impressive, but what counts here is how it makes you feel. Like nothing else on the road, is the short answer.
I love how the motor is mounted rigidly to the chassis so that I feel it churning vibrations through my back as I pull away. I love that peak torque arrives not at 2,000rpm, as it would in a turbocharged car, but beyond 6,000rpm. Believe me, it's as driveable as you need it to be lower down the rev range, but every ounce of shove doesn't descend with the immediate woosh of a compressor. That means you can flatten the throttle at low revs in fourth gear without whizzing past the ton in an instant. Instead, it climbs gently, giving you time to listen to the melody; those intricate whines and resonances of a wind instrument that doesn't have a turbocharged mute shoved in the end. It's another example of how the GT3 - Touring or otherwise - is always talking to you: through the seat, through the steering, through the brake pedal, which is also mighty, and, of course, through your ears. It excites even when you're not thrashing it. And isn't that the mark of a great road car?
Of course, you will thrash it at some stage. You have to, it's the law. Because nothing this side of a divebombing Rolls-Royce Merlin sound this good when revved. At 7,000rpm your brain's telling you: "that's enough, come on, time to change up." But it just keeps going. As it makes the last push to 9,000rpm the noise become manic. You actually develop this sort of empathy for those cams and valves spinning and flapping at impossible speeds. Oh, and you'll also be going very, very quickly, because the GT3 is fast. Too fast for the road? Perhaps. But not stupidly so, like a McLaren 720S.
Clearly then you should buy a GT3 (easier said than done, of course), but which one: the standard version or the Touring? Well, I like that the winged GT3 feels like an inconvenient by-product of homologating cars to go racing. For that reason, and the fact that I love my sports cars draped in suede - real or manmade - I'd stick with the regular car. But I'd be eternally grateful for either. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the position of ordering one, I can at least offer some spec advice. First, add the nose lift system, because the 992 GT3 is a bit low at the front. Next, spend £3,800 on the bucket seats, because they're so good I swear I must have had a seat fitting and forgotten. Also, you must choose the manual if you intend to use the car on the road, although the PDK is the better option for the track. And finally, tick the box for Pirellis. Unless I am mistaken, these are the key to unlocking the immense talents of any 992 GT3 away from a circuit. If I am right about that, and you want to thank me, then all I ask in return is this: let me have some more time behind the wheel, please.
Specification | Porsche 911 GT3 Touring (992)
Engine: 3,996cc, flat-six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 510 @ 8,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 347 lb ft @ 6,100rpm
Top speed: 199mph
Weight: 1,418kg (DIN)
Price: £ 131,530 (as tested: £144,618)
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