► New 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 review
► Sonic 503bhp 4.0-litre flat-six
► Priced from £123k in the UK
Whenever a new Porsche 911 GT3 is unveiled, we expect the bar to be raised. More speed, more grip, more lap time shaved off at the Nürburgring. It’s always been about the evolutionary gains Stuttgart manages to find, seemingly without fail. And yet, this time, there’s a stronger sense than ever that we’d really rather not see things move on too far.
For the first time, this 992 GT3 joins an otherwise entirely turbocharged 911 range, while the spectre of EV Porsche sports cars is looming large as the Taycan Tesla-crusher grabs the headlines. For those who cherish a wailing, naturally aspirated and joyfully track-focused 911, the existing GT3, relaunched with the odd update here and there, would do just fine. Porsche, however, clearly doesn’t agree…
So what’s new on the 992 GT3?
We’ll get onto the techy bits in a second, but you can sum up the changes by taking a look at this staggering onboard from the GT3’s Nürburgring lap time. See the clock in the middle of the screen? It stops at a time 17 seconds quicker than the previous GT3 – a monumental gain over the old car and one that confirms there’s been more than mere fettling under the skin for the 992.
And it’s not all hardware that you can’t see. Aero has taken a huge upgrade from the 991, as made abundantly clear by the two front diffusers, sprawling rear diffuser and adjustable swan-neck spoiler that draws your eyes upwards. In its standard configuration, downforce is 231kg – 50% more than the previous GT3. Whack that up to high-downforce mode and at 124mph you’re getting 150% more. Huge numbers.
Not all the mechanical upgrades are limited to track use, either. The front track has swollen by 48mm, the wheels are larger and wider, the steering rack is quicker and, crucially, the front suspension has been entirely redesigned. Out goes the existing MacPherson strut set-up and, for the first time in a 911 road car, in comes a double-wishbone design pioneered by the 911 RSR racer.
Porsche has been able to introduce the new set-up due to packaging improvements on the 992, the upshot being superior camber stability and spring rates now more than twice as stiff as before. And if that sounds too serious for the road, helper springs ensure the wheels don’t lose contact over large crests and bumps.
Such a radical change in the front suspension means the rear set-up has also been completely reprogrammed to work with the modifications up front. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres come as standard, but Cup 2 Rs are also available and – unsurprisingly – were the rubber of choice for the Nordschleife time (for those interested, the 991.2 was on Cup 2 N1s).
You haven’t mentioned the engine…
Well the good news is that it’s really not changed much. The flat-six has a 4.0-litre capacity, no turbos and a six-speed manual if you want it – and a seven-speed PDK if you don’t. Power is up by 10bhp to 503bhp in total, while torque has taken a similarly mild hike to 347lb ft. Those numbers tell you a lot about the character of this engine.
That means 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds (3.9 for the manual) and a top speed of 198mph – again, similar to the 991.2 GT3. What has changed, though, is the introduction of individual throttle bodies. Six, to be precise – delivering increased engine response (not that it was lacking in that department) and, believe it or not, slightly improved emissions, says Porsche.
And the cabin?
Climb inside and the interior is encouragingly analogue-feeling, despite the 992’s updated cabin design. The GT3 wheel is a well-judged diameter and thickness, while a new Track Screen mode and shift lights are a small but worthwhile touch.
The driving position, too, is superb and many owners will be pleased to see an actual gearlever on PDK versions – something that Porsche GT programme chief Andreas Preuninger was keen to retain, despite other PDK 992s ditching it for a stubby gear selector.
What’s the new 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 like to drive?
Let’s be honest, you know it’s going to be all sorts of brilliant, so I won’t try to string you along and build up to a big ending by starting out with things I didn’t like. Mainly because there weren’t any. It’s a remarkably focused and impressive machine.
During a relatively brief but thorough shakedown at Bedford Autodrome, the GT3 delivered thrills, noise and levels of feel you’d not think possible from the techfest sports cars of 2021. The engine is proof that gas particulate filters need not ruin the sound of a glorious engine and that more power does not always equal more fun.
Porsche could easily have added a turbo onto the GT3 and claimed a chunk of N-ring lap time the easy way, but we should all be glad it didn’t. From low revs in Race mode, there’s a hunger, a frantic yet controlled clawing of the rear tyres to release the twist onto the asphalt and allow the flat-six to do its thing. For the first few laps, I short-shifted like I was trying to conserve fuel in the dying laps at Le Mans, making 5000-6000rpm near the top end.
But the GT3 just keeps on going. Peak power arrives at 8400rpm – and there’s no perceptible drop-off between that and the redline. And that noise! Porschephiles may claim it’s not quite the same back-to-back (GPF vs no GPF), but to these ears it’s one of the finest-sounding cars on sale today.
The gearbox, too, can also lay claim to being one of the best out there. A seven-speed PDK, it can scythe down through five gears faster than you can say Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. And if you’re wondering where the eighth ratio has gone (like in other 992s), Porsche ditched it to save 20kg.
Other weight-saving measures include a lightweight battery and rear screen, CFRP bumper and front bumper, lighter front wheels, and engine mounts now fitted to the cylinder heads. Even more impressive is the 10kg shaved off the stainless-steel exhaust given its emissions-saving addenda. The result of all this? The 992 weighs 5kg more than its predecessor. Why? Well, mainly the inclusion of more tech and the basic platform being heavier, but the outcome is a car that shares pretty much the same power-to-weight ratio as the 991.2.
Even with a near-identical kerbweight, there’s an appreciable difference between how this car goes through corners compared with its predecessor. Turn into a slower bend and there’s still the trademark 911 whiff of vagueness in the steering just off-centre, but push beyond that and the faster variable rack is immediately noticeable.
As is the way the car grips. Tyre technology has moved on, granted, but the level of lateral G-force the GT3 can hold mid-bend is truly remarkable. It honestly feels like the wheels are carrying far more camber than they actually are. The standard – but not too intrusive – rear-wheel steering will have a lot to do with this, as will the wider front track, but there’s no doubt the new double-wishbone suspension has unlocked gains that, in truth, many probably didn’t even realise needed unlocking.
Coming into faster corners it’s difficult to be precise about the aero benefits without seeing a stopwatch comparison with the old GT3, but suffice to say there’s little chance of unsettling the 992. Sure, if you go looking for it there’s tomfoolery to be had. Our car seemed particularly keen to waggle its tail coming off the brakes into corners – yet the GT3 always seems to default to a cleaner, faster style that resembles a permanent audition for the Sebring 24 Hours.
Quite how the PASM adaptive dampers would handle the bumpy Turn 17 of that American track is still up for debate, however. In the relatively smooth confines of Bedford Autodrome, the GT3’s super-stiff springs were in their element, yet I’d be keen to see how that translates to the pockmarked A and B roads we have in abundance here in the UK.
One last word on the brakes. The PCCB stoppers we had fitted to our test car were mighty, showed no sign of fade whatsoever and deliver a 50% reduction in unsprung and rotating mass against the same size cast-iron discs. But if I really must find one complaint about the GT3, it’s that I wish the ABS cut in that little bit later for track driving. And yes, I am now nitpicking to add some balance.
As you might have sensed, we’re quite fond of the new 2021 Porsche 992 GT3. Not only has Porsche laid down a new performance benchmark, it’s done so almost with one hand tied behind its back. How many other cars have seen such an increase in overall ability without gaining anything of note in the straight-line speed department? The fact that the 4.0-litre flat-six possibly isn’t the biggest selling point of the GT3 speaks volumes.
This is a car that flatters yet challenges you, goes like a cutting-edge racer yet sounds like a throwback, and puts the driver front and centre of everything. It is quite simply one of the finest blends of road and race car we’ve tested for a long time and one that will take a mighty effort from one of its (far pricier) rivals to overcome.
Read on for James Taylor’s earlier passenger ride with the boss of the GT division back in a 2020 prototype
Our earlier ride in the 992 GT3 with GT division boss Andreas Preuninger
► In the passenger seat of the all-new GT3
► GT boss Andreas Preuninger at the wheel
► Bigger but no heavier, reveal in early 2021
It’s more difficult to stay on top than to get there, so they say. Each successive 911 GT3 since the very first one in 1999 has been somehow better than the last and the outgoing 991.2 model is still one of the most immersive driver’s cars in the world.
No little pressure on the brand-new GT3, then. Since it’s based on the 911’s current-generation 992 platform, it has started practically from a clean sheet of paper.
We’re at Porsche’s secretive Weissach engineering centre where GT division boss Andreas Preuninger and his team are putting the finishing touches to the 2021 911 GT3. Aside from a first-hand briefing, we’re also here to experience the GT3 at even firster-hand: out on the road in the passenger seat wheel of a prototype in close-to-production spec, with Preuninger at the wheel.
The new GT3 will be revealed to the world undisguised early in 2021. Pricing is not yet confirmed but will be ‘a little bit more’ than the previous car, Preuninger says, in line with usual inflation from one generation to the next.
The new 992 platform means overall dimensions have inflated too. It’s a bigger car than before, yet the new GT3 weighs the same as the last one – no small achievement. Kerb weight is 1340kg, or thereabouts. The new platform brings its own benefits in extra stiffness, wider tracks and larger wheel wells: 21-inch rear tyres are now standard (they had to be engineered into the previous GT3 RS).
The flat-six engine is a development of the existing GT3’s 4.0-litre unit, with many of the CO2-cutting tweaks fitted to last year’s limited-run 911 Speedster to ensure it slips through emissions regulations’ tightening snare. It develops ‘around 10bhp’ more than before, for a total around the 503bhp mark. Happily, there’s still not a turbocharger in sight.
For the first time in a roadgoing production 911, the front suspension is by double wishbones rather than MacPherson struts, taking its design from the 911 RSR Le Mans car. ‘That brings advantages in camber stiffness and precision,’ explains Preuninger. ‘Our mid-engined competitors have had double wishbones for a long time but it wasn’t possible on the old 911 platform.’
Let’s meet the prototype…
Aside from the camera-shy matte black wrap, camouflage is minimal, other than the fake rear bumper; the production version will be easier on the eye.
Inside, the seats’ hip point is lower than a regular 992. AP says the driving position is exactly the same as the previous GT3 (no fixing required; it definitely wasn’t broke).
This car is fitted with the double-clutch PDK gearbox (a lighter development of the unit fitted to the previous car). It’s an option: a six-speed manual will still be standard equipment. As before, the harder-core GT3 RS version which will follow a little later will be PDK-only.
But not paddleshift-only. Spec PDK and the gear selector looks identical to the manual lever. You’d have to count the pedals in the footwell to be sure. Regular PDK 911s have a square plastic blade to select drive, reverse and so on, with manual control only possible via the steering paddles, but in the GT3 you can also punch the lever back and forth to shift up and down the ’box. ‘I wanted to keep the lever – I don’t want to be on the paddles all the time,’ Preuninger says.
How does it feel out on the road?
Sauntering out of Porsche’s R&D base the GT3 already feels… well, like a 911 GT3. ‘Our aim is that you should be able to tell in the first few metres that you are in a GT3, rather than a 911 Carrera or Turbo,’ Preuninger says.
Flat-six warmed through, the road clears to a well-sighted section and the (analogue) tacho-needle pings off the 9000rpm redline (something of a GT3 USP. ‘People expect it,’ Preuninger acknowledges). The acceleration feels fast enough to thrill, without scrambling your senses like some modern supercars. ‘In a straight line it’s not substantially quicker than the old one,’ Preuninger says, matter of factly. ‘Why would it be? Similar power, similar weight. Six-hundred horsepower… you don’t need all that power! I’d rather have 100hp less and keep it naturally aspirated,’ he says.
The GT3’s ride feels taut yet relatively supple, one of its predecessor’s core skills.
The standard-fit adaptive dampers are faster-reacting (and lighter) than ever before, and on tough surfaces, they work wonders. ‘The faster you go, the better the damping is,’ AP says. You sense this car will be more than a match for the gnarliest of UK roads.
Downsides? Nits are hard to pick from the passenger seat, but here goes. Engine noise in top, seventh, gear is rather rowdier than a regular 911, and could become tiring on a long journey. Trying the driver’s seat for size back at Weissach, I notice the rear wing bisects the mirror, blocking a portion of your rear view, and the high-performance brake-pad material can be occasionally vocal. But none of these feel like deal-breakers.
Preuninger has covered thousands of kilometres in this prototype, but is clearly enjoying driving it just as much as ever. ‘At speed, it’s a zen-like meditation feeling – I don’t get quite that same feeling in any other car.’
We’ll find out how that feels in the first half of 2021; it can’t come soon enough.
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