► First drive of the low-key, de-winged GT3
► 503bhp flat-six, manual (tested) or PDK gearbox options
► £128k list, but the options list is irresistible...
Tell me you haven't had your eye on the Touring Package GT3 since the very moment Porsche unveiled it? Join the club. It is, so far as we can tell, an irresistible combination of timeless 911 elegance (the 992-gen car might be huge versus its '60s inspiration, but it's every bit as pretty) atop the most meltwater-pure expression (relatively lightweight, turbo-free flat-six, manual 'box, rear-drive, a paucity of electrification) of 21st century performance as is currently available from Porsche.
The Touring Package is simply the GT3 with the standard car's extrovert design turned down (body-coloured front aero elements, no rear wing). Aero performance suffers a touch but there are no mechanical changes, it's available with either gearbox, and – sadly – it doesn't signify the imminent arrival of a fresh batch of GT3s in UK dealers. The Touring Package is simply an option (though it gets its own page on the Porsche GB website), so UK examples will come from our existing GT3 allocation.
No wing, sure, but it's hardly subtle, is it?
Well, no, not to the trained eye (or even the inquisitive, untrained eye). Hunkered low over its vast wheels (20-inch front, 21-inch rear) wearing Michelin Cup 2 tyres and (on our test car) PCCB ceramic brakes, you could wrap this thing in sack cloth and it'd still ooze menace. But it does pass undetected in traffic and, thankfully, fails to elicit the attentions of 'tuned' BMW 1-series on the bypass when you're just trying to go about your business.
All of this assumes you're keeping the engine on a short leash, mind, and that you've kept the naughty flap in the exhaust shut. Uncork the flat-six and no one, not even those elusive Martians that've so far evaded our scopes, will be in any doubt that you're pedalling something a little more exotic than a Carrera S coupe.
Are we sitting comfortably?
We really are. The Touring's cockpit is little short of perfect. The 992's interior still feels box-fresh and beautifully resolved (busy little infotainment screen aside), and the driving position (helped here by £3788 optional bucket seats; recommended I'm afraid) is spot-on. Pull the wheel into your chest, waggle the gearlever, wake the 4.0-litre flat-six, and go.
On the move the suspension checks vertical movements abruptly, so really lumpy roads will see you pogo-ing in your seat, but generally the ride is acceptably compliant given the car's remit. Perhaps predictably though, road noise is ever-present. It's an issue with other 911 derivatives, too, but would you want more sound deadening if it meant ballooning the GT3's impressive 1418kg unladen weight? That's a small family lighter than the admittedly truly four-seat BMW M4 Competition, and it helps lift this 911 to a startling level of agility and acceleration.
So, any good to drive?
Want to know what a car really feels like; how balanced, communicative and on-your-side it really is? Then pop on some track-ready Cup 2 Michelins, wait for a British July day – persistent rain, clouds the colour of battleships, roads a mirror for the bruised sky – and have at it.
No matter. On the road the GT3 moves with a gimlet-eyed sense of purpose. The short-throw manual shift is simply flawless. Indeed, it's so flattering that even in a left-hooker you're soon dancing up and down the ratios like you grew up thrashing exhausted Fiats in Mediterranean Europe, accruing decades of muscle memory.
The engine is commendably muted on start-up and responsive from 2500rpm. Noise and ferocity step up significantly between 4000rpm and 5000rpm, and from there the second half of the rev range is majestic, the savage racket that engulfs the 911's cosy cockpit at odds with the feel of thing, which is glass-smooth, twitch-responsive and anything but spiky. The accuracy – and therefore confidence – with which you can deploy all that it has sends your confidence soaring, even as the wipers rev very nearly as high.
First proper corner and an ambitious entry speed coupled with the tricky conditions sees that rear-biased weight distribution assist the car's rotation a little more than I'm expecting. But so completely does the GT3 immerse you in the physics of its movements that there's a slo-mo matter-of-factness to the required inputs, rather than a panicked frenzy of hit-and-hope responses. And overwhelmingly the feeling is of a car – albeit with a low threshold today – in mesmerising balance, with no one element of its mighty repertoire dominating what is a very special, seriously addictive driving experience.
The only criticism you can level at the car dynamically is that it's pretty uninterested in holding your hand. Where the likes of McLaren, BMW, Ferrari and AMG offer multi-stage stability control systems that let you wind back their interventions as your confidence and knowledge of the car grow, the GT3 offers simply ESC off or ESC and TC off. In a way it reflects the hardcore nature of the product, but the choice would be nice. After all, if you want it, nannying rev-matching for your manual shifts is on offer.
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring: verdict
2021 will see the debut of several very special performance cars, and 2022 – with the recently unveiled Lotus Emira and Ferrari 296 GTB – a couple more. But the 992-gen GT3 feels so complete, so special and so polished as an expression of the kind of car Porsche's corporate heart bursts for that it'll go toe-to-toe with the best of them.
Track drivers will want the GT3's genuine downforce. But for the rest of us the Touring Package is the definitive road-going 'event' 911.