Porsche shifts the GT3's focus with more technology and weight and creates an exceptional sports car; though for all its sensational pace and incredible ability it's lost some of its purist appeal in translation.
In the Metal:
Big wing, ramp-scraping splitter, gaping air intakes up front and twin exhausts sitting centrally under the back: the new 991 GT3 follows the GT3 styling brief to the letter. It looks sensational, taking the 991's shape to the point where it looks like it's just driven straight off the racetrack and onto the public road. Everything's functional too; the larger 20-inch wheels help aid brake cooling and the aero kit adds more than 120kg of downforce at the GT3's maximum speed.
Inside it's less austere than previous GT3s, thanks largely to the finer quality materials evident on the base 991 car in the first place. There are no rear seats as ever, the sports bucket seats up front holding you tightly, while Alcantara covers all the contact surfaces on the steering wheel and gear knob - albeit topping a PDK rather than manual transmission shifter.
Andreas Preuninger, General Manager GT Cars, admits that with the GT3 "adding lightness is no longer the way." That's a startling admission from the man who's overseen all of the GT3 series cars. Backing that up he adds that they can engineer in the speed, pointing at the rear-wheel steering system, the loss of the legendary Mezger flat-six engine and, most controversially of all, the adoption of a PDK paddle-shift automatic. Preuninger states that "at Porsche we all love to shift gears manually, but we all also want to be the fastest." And there's no arguing with the sentiment that the PDK is faster. Porsche's motorsport engineers have heavily developed the PDK seven speeder, and the result is phenomenal. It shifts so quickly and reacts so immediately to your tugging of the paddles that it's easy to see why Preuninger says it's worth two thirds of a car length every shift. It's so good the changes should be adopted across the 911 range.
That's true too of the steering, which, although utilising a wider track (the GT3 wears a wide body in this generation) and different suspension settings, the steering shares the same basic hardware as the rest of the 911 range. The programming is different though, removing filters to produce a system that's unquestionably a benchmark among electromechanical set ups. The response sensational, the turn in immediate and weighting perfectly judged, though the most remarkable element is the feel. Not quite as rich in information as the previous GT3's hydraulic set up (itself at the top of the bar), but easily the most communicative, direct and feelsome steering of its type.
Add that rear-wheel steering into the mix, as well as Porsche's beautifully integrated driver assistance systems, an active electronic differential and yes, that PDK transmission, and the GT3 is a quite ludicrously fast car. Powering it is an enhanced 3.8-litre unit shared with the rest of the 911 range, the old Mezger engine with its roots in Le Mans racing having reached the end of its viable development cycle. One run of the new unit up to its 9,000rpm redline underlines that all is well with the GT3's heart though, the force it delivers seemingly unending, the noise that accompanies it being off the scale. The 475hp it produces comes at a heady 8,250rpm, it underpinned by 440Nm of torque at 6,250rpm. All that remains of the original Carrera engine is the crankcase and head bolts; everything else has been lightened and enhanced to achieve its high-revving ability and incredible numbers.
That engine, in combination with the PDK gearbox, works brilliantly; the brakes are epic - as ever - and the steering loaded with information. The nose feels more planted than in any GT3 before it, allowing you to lean on it with utter confidence. The suspension rides with a suppleness that's remarkable given its focus, given that it's difficult to comprehend anything being as quick on any road, anywhere, at any price.
What you get for your Money:
You're buying the fastest, most useable 911 GT3 ever. For all its mighty pace the GT3 is a far more civilised day-to-day proposition than it has ever been before as well. Add the optional lifting kit to the nose - to help prevent scrapes - and it really is a viable alternative to a well specified Carrera. The performance is in a different league though, and the GT3 will take track work in its stride. Porsche states that some 80 per cent of customers use their GT3s on circuits. If anything that number is likely to decrease this time around, as for all its ferocity the GT3's appeal has widened - perhaps to the detriment of the hardcore minority.
The rear-wheel steering works in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds of up to 80km/h and the same direction as them above that. It, in effect, shortens the wheelbase at lower speeds for greater agility and improved turn in, and lengthens it at speed for increased stability. The result is remarkable, and is a sizeable contributing factor in the GT3's 7 min 25 second Nurburgring lap time, which is some 15 seconds quicker than its predecessor.
Viewed entirely in isolation the new GT3 is a phenomenal car, one that arguably even a five-star rating does not do justice to. Yet that badge brings with it the burden of history, the GT3 having always represented the purist's choice in the 911 range. That's still the case, but with its ultimate pursuit of speed it's undeniable that the GT3's appeal has shifted from a small, hardcore audience to a slightly wider one. To allow that Porsche has for the first time added weight and reduced interaction, the GT3's PDK-only specification being a seismic shift in the GT3's focus. Probably the right decision, but still one that sits a touch uncomfortably for those who saw the GT3 as the last stand against the relentless push towards two-pedal sports- and supercars.