This is the new Porsche 911 GT3, a hardcore version of Stuttgart's 50-year old iconic sports car. It's just been unveiled on the eve of the 2013 Geneva motor show.
To some it’s yet another 911 variant, but to many more this track-focused GT3 is the most anticipated Porsche of 2013, new 911 Turbo and 918 Spyder included.
Why should I be excited about the new Porsche 911 GT3?
It’s got a 469bhp 3.8-litre flat-six engine that revs to 9000rpm, will hit 62mph in just 3.5 seconds, and there’s clever tech like rear-wheel steering and a Ferrari-style electronically controlled differential.
But, the old race-derived ‘Mezger’ engine that’s powered every previous GT3 is dead, the steering is electric (like the regular 991 Carrera) and the only transmission available is a seven-speed double-clutch PDK unit.
Sounds like sacrilege to me!
It might do, but let’s start with that engine. Yes, the Mezger engine is gone, and it’s been replaced by a direct-injection flat-six. But it’s not just a tweaked version of the 3.8-litre flat-six found in the latest 911 Carrera S, because only the casting of the crankcase and bolts for the cylinder head are shared. The rest of the engine is completely new (there are motorcycle-style rocker arms in place of the usual tappets, dry-sump lubrication, plus titanium conrods attached to forged aluminium pistons) and it actually weighs 25kg less than the old race-derived motor.
It revs to 9000rpm too (500rpm higher than the Mezger) and manages the same 123bhp/litre output as the last-of-the-line 997-generation GT3 RS 4.0. Plus the 469bhp total means it’s got 40bhp more than the last GT3.
So is the new 911 GT3 quicker than the old GT3?
It is. And the last GT3 RS. And even the GT3 RS 4.0. That legendary 4.0-litre RS had an enlarged Mezger engine producing 493bhp and 339lb ft, and only weighed a scant 1360kg, but the (heavier) new GT3 is quicker. To 62mph. And 100mph. And 124mph. Those benchmarks are dispatched by the new GT3 in 3.5sec, 7.5sec and 11.4sec, versus 3.9sec, 7.9sec and 11.9sec for the RS 4.0.
The reason? Predominantly the new PDK transmission. The new 991 GT3 weighs 35kg more than the old 997 GT3, but the double-clutch gearbox’s super-fast shift times and Launch Control function mean the new car will beat the old car in a straight line.
It’s not just the PDK gearbox straight out of the regular 911 either, but a lighter version with shorter gear ratios – seventh is no longer an economy gear. Upshifts take less than 100ms, the actual travel of the paddle shifters has been cut by 50%, and there are more aggressive Sport and Track settings. That, and there’s a ‘clutch kicking’ function: pull both paddles towards you and neutral is engaged, then blip the throttle, release the paddles, the gears re-engaged, and the power flow to the rear wheels is resumed. Porsche's press release very diplomatically says it’s so ‘the rear of the vehicle can be consciously destabilised for dynamic leaning into the curve’. In other words, it’s for drifting…
Is the new GT3 quicker through the corners too?
Porsche promises a sub 7:30min Nürburgring lap time, making the new GT3 quicker than the old GT3 RS. There’s the usual barely treaded Michelin Cup or Dunlop Race tyres (the latter replacing the previous Pirelli option) driving the rear wheels, a firmer damper setting for the PASM suspension, new GT3-specific all-aluminium suspension, and dynamic engine mounts that stiffen the powertrain’s mountings, but the new GT3 has two further trump cards.
First is the new electronically controlled differential. Like a Ferrari, Jaguar’s R cars, or the latest Mercedes SLS Black Series, the computer chips are in charge and can send up to 100% of the power to an individual rear wheel.
And the second trick is the new rear-wheel steering system, also due to appear on the 991-generation 911 Turbo and new 918 Spyder later this year, with two electro-mechanical actuators that can move the angle of the rear wheels by up to 1.5 degrees. At speeds up to 31mph the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the fronts, which Porsche says has the result of ‘virtually shortening’ the wheelbase by 150mm, massively improving agility. Above 50mph the rear wheels steer parallel to the front, which increases stability thanks to ‘virtually lengthening’ the wheelbase by around 500mm.
So the new GT3 is faster, but is it more fun?
CAR has spoken to Andreas Preuninger, Porsche’s Head of GT Series Production about the new GT3 – he built the first 996-generation GT3 and has been doing his job for 12 years. Preuninger told CAR that it was only after back-to-back tests that the PDK ‘box was picked over the manual transmission. It was the same with the rear-wheel steering system, only chosen after comparison tests with a GT3 without the tech. And as for the electric steering, Preuninger claims from feel alone you won’t be able to tell whether you’re in the new GT3 or the old GT3 RS 4.0.
You might have convinced me. And this new GT3 looks stunning!
It’s typical GT3 track day chic. There’s a deeper and wiper front bumper, with a vent ahead of the bonnet, and at the back there remains a big wing and central-exit shotgun exhausts. Plus, for the first time, a non-RS GT3 has used the Carrera 4’s wider bodyshell, so this new hardcore 911 looks even more purposeful than ever. The wheels are an inch bigger, now 20in forged aluminium alloys, and hide 380mm brake discs. And if you spec the optional PCCB ceramic brakes, the front discs measure a colossal 410mm.
Downsides? The latest 991 Carrera is an expensive car, so with all its extra kit (PDK, rear-wheel steer, etc) it means the new GT3 now costs £100,540. The first deliveries to UK customers will be in November 2013.
Porsche 911 GT3 (Typ 991)
Engine: 3799cc flat-six, 469bhp @ 8250rpm, 325lb ft @ 6250rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch PDK, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.5sec 0-62mph, 197mph, 22.8mpg, 289g/km CO2
Weight/made from: 1430kg/steel and aluminium
Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB): £6248
LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System: £1926
Front axle lift system: £2023
Club Sport package (with half roll-cage, multi-point harness seat belts, fire extinguisher and battery cut-out switch): No-cost option