Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - GT3
Likes: Almost peerless mix of excitement, usability and track capability in a road-legal car
Room for improvement
Dislikes: Not being on the list for one
Porsche has again raised bar for road-legal track weapons with its legendary 911 GT3
6 Dec 2021
PORSCHE’S 911 GT3 is iconic. The brand wisely snaffled the licence exclusively for road cars and then failed to go absolutely bonkers and plaster it on what it pleased to tick over a few more sales. It’s a badge that means something to even casual fans of fast cars and means something extremely special to Porsche enthusiasts.
If you stick a GT3 badge on the back of a 911, mean it. It has to be something user-friendly – as almost all modern 911s are. It has to evoke the wild success Porsche has enjoyed in motorsport – it has to look the part but more importantly, feel the part.
Nobody has ever said, “The Porsche 911 GT3 is underrated,” because its reputation is legendary and well-guarded.
Approaching a drive of a GT3 is an intimidating prospect given all of that. Regardless of the $369,700 plus on-roads entry price – $42,600 more than its predecessor – it’s more intimidating to know that the four laid out before us in the pitlane at Sydney Motorsport Park are almost literally irreplaceable.
While Porsche representatives are hesitant to use the phrase “sold out” they are basically sold out. The only way to get one is to convince someone who has a slot to give it up. Good luck.
And then someone casually mentions that Luke Youlden posted an (unofficial) lap with a passenger on board in one of these very cars featuring the kind of pace you can expect to see on a Supercars timing board.
Two of them are a vivid (optional) blue and the third in canary yellow. It looks even meaner than the 991 it replaces and while the 911 is not normally referred to as such, it’s genuinely beautiful, if unconventionally so.
The fourth remains on display inside the pit garage, to be called into action should the unthinkable happen.
Wish us luck!
Things have changed with the new GT3, and things have stayed the same. In column B is the engine, although as you might expect, it isn’t completely unchanged. Taken from the 991 Speedster, the 4.0-litre flat-six now has particulate filters and a 10kg lighter exhaust. Power is up by a modest few horses to 375kW at 8400rpm.
Torque has risen to 460Nm, just 10Nm more than the previous car and the redline is a heady 9000rpm. Needless to say, with that many revs, the engine is naturally aspirated.
You can – or more accurately could – choose between a six-speed manual or a seven-speed twin-clutch, which in Porsche parlance is known as PDK. Being the purist’s machine that it is, the GT3 is resolutely, unashamedly and gloriously rear-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive might improve on the internal organ rearranging 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds, but that’s quicker than anyone needs in the first place and largely irrelevant when you’re clipping an apex.
Further mechanical nerdiness has been wrought on the engine in the form of an individual throttle body for each cylinder, while things like rigid rocker arms, plasma-coated cylinder linings, a dry sump to handle the extreme loads of track use and other minutiae carry on to make this one of the most impressive road legal engines on sale today.
Probably the most obvious visible change is the swan-neck style rear wing. Instead of the wing being propped up by towers from underneath, the chord hangs from a more complex structure to ensure a clean underside, which is where the downforce really comes from. Working together with a new diffuser, adjustable front splitter and a range of other aero measures, the GT3 can generate up to 385kg of downforce, far more than the previous GT3 and even more than the previous RS.
Suspension is now by double wishbones at the front, the older car’s MacPherson struts making way for this more purposeful and purpose-built set-up. The rear end’s multi-link layout remains, albeit with the usual inter-generational tweaks. The already low-riding 911 platform is a further 20mm closer to the ground in GT3 form.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres wrap 20-inch front wheels in 255/35s and the 21-inch rears in 315/30s, which is a heck of a lot of soft, almost semi-slick rubber. These tyres can – and did – take an enormous amount of punishment.
Launching a car at a track is often about dodging questions about the way the car rides on the road. But this is a GT3. While owners can and do drive these to the track, have a blast, and then drive them home, it’s unlikely that two-thirds of the experience will be especially serene.
It’s also unlikely that the owners care. It’s that middle third, the track time, that matters, so it makes the most sense to send us out on one of Australia’s most technical tracks and leave the complaining about road noise to another day. You can take the GT3 to the shops or on the school run, it’ll just be a bit noisy because the glass is thin, the sound-deadening reduced and the ride stiff.
The cabins of these Porsche Track Experience fleet cars have the optional carbon seats ($11,250) with harnesses built in. Often these kinds of chairs are colossally uncomfortable (as they are in the Lamborghini Huracan Performante and recent BMW M cars) but the GT3’s are aligned correctly with the pedals.
Adjustment is all manual, but simple enough and getting into the right position behind the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel takes no time. Even with a helmet on, you’ve got good mobility and good vision, at least for track work. Sitting low in a 911 is not only mandatory, it’s the best.
The GT3 features a more traditional shifter for the PDK instead of the tongue poking out of the console of lesser 911s (and, curiously, Volkswagen Golfs). It looks a little like a manual racing shifter, which is surely the point. This cabin feels special with those seats and even has air-conditioning, which is handy given today’s typically sticky Sydney summer’s day.
A morning of short, sharp exercises familiarises you with the way the car moves and handles. Particularly eye-opening was the way the GT3 handled the slalom exercise. Staying virtually flat through the direction change, the front wheels biting hard with every left-right-left of the wheel, the rear staying beautifully tied down. While building confidence in the car’s abilities it also demonstrates how low is the centre of gravity and you can appreciate the mere five kilos this car has gained in the change from 991 to 992.
A simple hard acceleration and then standing-on-the-brakes in quick succession exercise – while trying the three different driving modes on the steering wheel’s manettino-style selector – showed just how powerful are the 405mm front and 380mm rear brakes, both steel and clamped by six-piston monobloc callipers up front and four-pots at the rear. Interestingly, the pedal set-up made left-foot braking entirely natural, which parlayed well into the later guided laps exercise.
After lunch (and here’s a tip – go easy on the food), two sessions of multiple laps, with a lead car. Rumbling out of pitlane and into Eastern Creek’s turn two, a long, uphill hairpin and then we’re away.
The GT3 hugs the track in a way few cars can. While its rear-mounted engine has steadily been marching towards the middle of the car over the past several decades, it’s still a key part of the car’s handling DNA. Traction out of corners is massive, so much so that you can control the nose on the throttle, particularly apparent as you exit the double-apex left-hander that brings you on to the straight.
A tricky corner in most cars, you can choose your moment in the GT3 to get on the throttle and with a combination of a gentle brake application if you’ve gone too early or you can bring it to your chosen line with a tiny lift – or push – of the throttle. What makes that so much more thrilling is the fact that the naturally-aspirated flat-six is so utterly linear.
While it may not deliver the kind of fat wodges of torque that you’ll find in the turbo six, you won’t miss it, such is the flexibility of the engine. Revving it out to the redline with every pull of the paddle, the revs staying right in the power band, is a delight for the ears.
That’s what we mean by adjustability. The car responds to a variety of inputs on entry, mid-corner and exit, with so much potential to improve your lap times. Even with the mandated stability programs left on, the GT3 will cheerfully step out on an imprudent squirt of the throttle out of a tight corner or kick sideways over a crest.
Its interventions are subtle and leave the driver with a lot of control without letting things get out of hand. It lets you push harder every lap, exploring what the tyres can do, where you can find tenths (or, for the less-experienced, whole seconds). Brake later, harder, turn-in, see if it works, try again next time. All inside a safety net that will remind you what you’re doing and let you know where you’re lacking.
Nothing really dominates the GT3 experience. Brakes, chassis, steering, all are beautifully weighted and set up to work for you rather than force you to prove your worth. You have to concentrate – obviously – but this isn’t a car that’s out to bite you.
A fearsome corner like Eastern Creek’s turn one is a wild experience in some cars – and can be in the GT3 if you push. But you can build and build from the experience you gain from each lap, targeting a better line, a later braking point, a smoother throttle application.
It’s a car that wants to play, which is exactly what buyers want, especially here in Australia where a track is the only place you can – and really should – even get close to the limits of the GT3.
This isn’t an all-out horsepower machine (not that it’s lacking) and it’s all the better for it. A brilliant powertrain bolted into a peerless chassis that will take an absolute pounding and still get you home for dinner afterwards is the broadest range of talents any car can possess.
You can count on one hand the cars that can do this and surely none of them are as exciting and usable as a GT3.
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