A revised Porsche 911 GT3 gets 500hp and some tricks borrowed from the 911 R and the German company's GT department racers. Porsche's track rat just got better again.
In the metal
Obviously a Porsche 911 with more intent, the GT3's track refugee status isn't quite as extrovert as it is in the 911 GT3 RS - and it's perhaps the better for it. Save for the huge rear wing, it's relatively subtle in comparison, utilising the 911 Carrera 4 body rather than that of the 911 Turbo. It also does without the front wheel vents of the RS and the intake holes fore of the rear wings. It's narrower and neater then, though read the specifications and it all sounds a bit familiar.
Remember the Porsche 911 R, the stripy limited-run lightweight special that came with the RS's 500hp 4.0-litre engine mated to a manual gearbox? Well, the new GT3 is very closely related to that - even if here it's being driven with the seven-speed PDK automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is optional). The wheel and tyre sizes are the same as on the R, as are the track widths, and while the new GT3 is not quite the featherweight of the R, it's not so far off its kerb weight that you'll notice. That makes the new GT3 look like even more of an absolute bargain than it usually is, especially when you consider the many multiples of its new price those 911 Rs fetch among collectors (and investors) right now.
The formula remains the same for those familiar with the GT3. No back seats, less weight, more power and greater focus. This is the 911 customers buy if they've got a subscription with a track day provider; the GT3 is a sports car that's aimed at a more hardcore audience, with a specification that demonstrates that. If it's superfluous or heavy it's binned, like those rear seats, while the availability of the free Clubsport package, which brings a half cage, fire extinguisher and racing belts to the mix, underlines its focus. Porsche has also added its Track Precision App to the mix for the new GT3 if you want some data to demonstrate just how fast you've been lapping.
With greater aerodynamic efficiency (20 per cent more downforce than its predecessor yet no more drag), more grip, a slight boost in power, this new 991 Gen II GT3 (as it'll now inevitably always be referred to) confirms that Porsche is excellent at finessing models in the pursuit of greater speed and more engagement. The GT3 always promises a lot of both, which is why a new one is always such a big deal.
Arguably the biggest news for the new GT3 is the return to the specification of a manual gearbox. The bad news? We're driving the seven-speed PDK first. It's not all bad news for buyers though, because the PDK brings a number of advantages, not least acceleration - it shaves 0.5 seconds off the GT3 manual's 0-100km/h time for a 3.4-second sprint, and adds a whole lot of ease of use into the equation. We're not so slavishly sold by the manual that we'd berate you for opting for PDK, as it's a sensational transmission, with trigger-sharp shifts and two-pedal ease that makes the GT3 a car you really could use every day.
There would be a few compromises doing so, admittedly, as the GT3 rides far more tautly than its Carrera relations. Saying that, while it might be firm, the damping is such that it's only the roughest surfaces that bring any real intrusion or potential discomfort, as the GT3's ride is surprisingly accomplished and well-rounded given its intent.
That's true of the engine, as well; the 4.0-litre unit's a high-revving screamer when you want it to be, its peak 500hp produced way up at 8,250rpm, but for all its enthusiasm for revs it's a tractable, easy-to-drive unit in traffic. Peak torque of 460Nm arrives at 6,000rpm, but there's any-gear, any-rev urgency from the naturally aspirated flat-six thanks in part to a dual flap intake system that improves low-rev response. While its specification might read exactly like that of the 911 R it's actually derived from Porsche's GT racers, and the work done to it is extensive, with a new valve train, (which loses the hydraulic adjusters of the original GT3 to the benefit of 8-9hp), reduced internal resistance and pumping losses thanks to low friction surfaces and lower oil pressure. If we've a complaint about it it'd be that it's a little bit ordinary sounding at lower revs, so it needs 4,000rpm or more on the rev counter to have it deliver its best aurally, by which time you'll be making very swift progress. It's also best sampled with the sports exhaust button pressed. Wring it out to its maximum and it howls like the race engine it's derived from, which is an enormous part of its appeal.
GT3s have long been defined by their engines and the new 4.0-litre unit is a sensational powerplant, which finds a good home in the GT3's revised chassis. There's new geometry, while the spring and damper rates have been changed to improve response and control, as well as work better with the different aero characteristics of the new car. The GT3 uses lessons learned from the R here, with much of the aero changes hidden underneath. It features a diffuser to help suck it to the ground, while the rear wing is mounted higher up and further back. Under that are the ram air scoops that add up to 20hp to the engine's output at high speed.
As impressive as the performance is it's the chassis that's bewitching; the ride is exceptional, the GT3 feeling more wieldy than the RS before it, more exploitable, creating a car that reveals more of its character and ability at lesser speeds. It'll move around under you, its benign transition from grip to power-or-weight induced slip easily read and exploited making the GT3 a playful and enjoyable car to explore the limits of. That, as ever, is assisted by the information it's delivering to you. The steering is informative rather than busy in detail, its weighting fine. Taking the GT3 over a familiar, difficult road reveals that its ability to filter out unnecessary intrusions while retaining clarity is genuinely impressive. The front axle lacks the locked feel of its RS relation, but that's no surprise and yet, you'll not want for it, as the steering response is always accurate, the GT3's faithfulness to input never in doubt. Just like the old GT3, only better. Significantly so, thanks to all those incremental changes.
What you get for your money
Porsche could charge double what it does for the GT3 and it'd still seem reasonable. If you want a purist sports car that you could conceivably use on a daily basis then there's genuinely nothing to really touch the GT3, at any price point.
The new 911 GT3 follows Porsche's well-proven path of making incremental changes to its models that add up to a sizeable whole. It's an incredible sports car, which, crazy as it may sound looks such good value. Its ability is enormous, its engagement unquestionable, helping the GT3 retain its position as the driver's car of choice, only now with more choice...