First instinct is to pair the GT3 with a contemporary, but what would that be? An Audi R8 also has a screaming atmospheric engine, but would lack focus (and a clutch pedal) in this duel. A McLaren 570S Track Pack's remit closely matches the Porsche's, though turbos and an automatic create a different prospect. An M4 GTS is affected - if that's the right word - similarly, plus it's a bit chubby. There isn't a C63 Black Series yet, though that would surely face similar obstacles. For those of you screaming 'Evora!' at this point, hold that thought - it's a comparison we're as keen on as you.
For the time being, however, there was one obvious contender: the 997. The last of the Mezger cars, the last Motorsport 911 with hydraulic steering and, crucially, the last GT3 before this current one with six manual gears and three pedals. The second generation 997 is also regarded as perhaps the finest GT3 ever; these issues are always up for debate, of course, but by combining the most power with expertly judged levels of modernity and traditional driver appeal, it became a legend in its own lifetime. The furore around the PDK, EPAS, 4WS 991.1 GT3 only hardened its appeal to Porscheophiles, which was already off the scale thanks to the other-worldly 997 4.0 RS. If this latest manual can match the 997s stupendous array of talents, then it will be something remarkable indeed.
Yet the GT3 does all this while retaining the right bits of the 991's maturity: Apple CarPlay works flawlessly, it's perfectly refined at motorway speed and everything you touch feels of impeccable quality. Your favourite circuit might be 100 miles away, or it might be 900; neither would be a problem in this, because you'd happily just drive and drive. Download your playlists, podcasts and audio books and feel the miles fall away...
Moreover, while the appeal of 9,000rpm is patently obvious, the GT3 doesn't need to be at full pelt to begin luring you in. That manual is superb, with a precision and satisfaction that remains unmatched by the regular Porsche seven-speeder. Or by any manual, come to think of it. Combine that with an engine of sublime response and you're but a second from being reminded of what you paid for, even at a few thousand revs. It has probably the best electric steering yet made, turn in that defies its weight distribution and an intangible sense of purpose from how you sit, what you're looking at and what you hear all around; the car never lets you forget that it's something special, but it never overwhelms with its status, either. Without having breached 6,500rpm - alright, let's call it 7,500rpm - on the journey down, the GT3 has already set a formidable standard.
But what also hasn't changed, and hopefully never will, is the sheer joy of driving a 997 GT3 on a decent bit of road. You need to work harder than you will in a 991, though there's an argument to say it's more rewarding to do so. It feels like an old 911 because of the visibility you have, the patience you sometimes need and the sensations coming back at you, then like a heroically modern one as it spears furiously towards 8,500rpm once more.
It's a rich experience because so much is dependent on you as the driver, with rewards commensurate to your input. There's an accessibility that comes from its size combined with some very grown up intimidation from the weight distribution and the sheer speed of the thing. And that bloody clutch. Getting it anywhere near right, managing and balancing everything the car does, feels tremendous; mucking up a shift or misjudging entry speed plummets that high to an embarrassing low. It remains a challenge, yet with all the tools there to create a uniquely engaging drive. Special car that, Joe...
Thing is, while this car may be 'less of a 911' than the 997 (which was probably less of a 911 than a 996, it the 993, it the 964 and so on), as a sports car experience it's unparalleled. And magnificent. And still jolly scary when the front end doesn't find purchase on cold tarmac, actually...
Sure, the latest generation dampers keep the body even more ruthlessly controlled than ever. The ceramic brakes are even more effective. And the four-wheel steer does indeed mean you don't have to wait for the front end of a 911 anywhere near as much. That being said, the combination of that new engine with the manual gearbox has created something absolutely extraordinary.
The way the GT3 revs beyond 6,000rpm is addictive; beyond 8,000rpm it's utterly spellbinding, frenzied, deranged and wild like nothing else on sale. There feels to be no stopping it, while the whole car is enveloped in the kind of mechanical howl that'll bring tears to your eyes. And maybe some blood to your ears. It seems unfathomable that this same engine could have been the one trundling along at 1,100rpm in sixth without complaint just minutes before. The flat six is completely savage, with all that work put in by Preuninger and his team paying incredible dividends; if this is the last GT3 without turbos, what an incredible, unforgettable way to go.
So where does that leave us in this comparison? In something of a quandary to be honest, because both are undoubtedly fantastic driver's cars. The 997, while less than a decade old, has a traditional charm that eludes the 991, requiring the very best from its driver a lot of the time. It's unapologetically hardcore too, noisy and raw and properly hard work. If that's how you like your 911s then the GT3 is perfect, and wholly deserving of its reputation - it's fabulous.
It's the 991, on the day, that's the more memorable experience though. This latest GT3 is a more comfortable, more refined, more cosseting car when you need it to be, yet even more exhilarating when the moment arises. With its higher limits those moments are more fleeting, but the thrill is greater if you get the chance to grab it. And no, that was not the conclusion we expected, either.
Put really simply, the 997 is the best occasional car, the one to be enjoyed most on your favourite B-roads. It's narrow, nimble, and still a joyous mix of new tech and old thrills. The 991, on the other hand, can be appreciated and admired every day, then entirely adored on the right bit of road or track. The way it combines such ferocity and wanton aggression with relative approachability and finesse is truly staggering, a cake-and-eat-it GT3 if such a thing can exist. Typically, talk of a huge bandwidth of ability results in a talented but meek end product; instead this car delivers as much or as little of the Porsche GT experience as you could want at any given time, which makes it a freakishly desirable and spectacularly exciting product. Premiums will be paid - because actually at £130k this car feels underpriced - and spurned buyers will be cross, but for those who get the chance this 991.2 GT3 is even better than expected. Makes you wonder, in fact, why on earth you'd want to sell it at all...
SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 911 GT3 (997.2)
Engine: 3,800cc, flat-6
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 441@7,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 317@3,250rpm
Top speed: 194mph
SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE 911 GT3 (991.2)
Engine: 3,996cc flat-6
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 500@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 339@6,000rpm
Top speed: 198mph
Weight: 1,488kg EU with 75kg driver
MPG: 21.9 NEDC combined
Price: £111,802 (As tested £130,106 comprised of £ 2,147 for Interior Colour Black leather interior package (in conjunction with option contrast seams in Red), £ 1,865 for Exterior LED main headlights in black including Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), £ 203 for SportDesign exterior mirror lower trims painted in Black (high-gloss), £84 for Door handles painted in black (high-gloss), £1,599 for Front axle lift system, £6,498 for Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB), £336 for Chrono Package and preparation for lap trigger, £716 for Wheels painted in satin black (complete), £168 for 12-o'clock marking in Red, £3,324 for Full bucket seats, £194 for Guards Red seat belts, £834 for Leather interior with stitching in red and £336 for Digital radio)