It's no forgone conclusion we'll love the new 991-generation Porsche 911 GT3. With electrically-assisted steering, a new direct-injection engine, rear-wheel steering and no manual gearbox, it's a sea-change from past hardcore Porsches. But has Porsche pulled off the gamble and done justice to the GT3 badge?
>> For Georg’s eight-page drive of the new GT3, plus an on-road meeting with the new 552bhp 991 Turbo S, get your copy of the August issue of CAR magazine, on sale now. Click here for a digital preview of our Porsche 911 special.
So what’s new about the GT3’s engine?
The new direct injection 3.8-litre flat-six makes 469bhp – up 30bhp compared to the outgoing car – and requires 6250rpm to dish up maximum torque, which at 325 lb ft is no more than the Carrera S but is 8 lb ft more than the last GT3. It’s not as smooth-running and refined as the other Porsche sixes, but there’s super-fast throttle response and only Italian exotics can match its enthusiasm to rev to an astonishing 9000rpm. It’s impossible not be smitten by the soundtrack, too – how legal approval for this decibel feast was obtained amazes me.
There’s no manual – so is the PDK paddleshift transmission up to it?
The very first thing you notice when pulling the GT3’s solid aluminium upshift paddle is that the travel towards the steering wheel has been cut in half, a small touch that cleverly conveys a sense of mechanical precision and immediacy. And if that’s not quick enough, hit the Race Track button and brace yourself for 100ms upshifts – they’re every bit as fast, hard and spine-tingling as those in the 911 Cup racecar. I don’t miss the manual ’box one bit.
How does the handling stack up?
Below 30mph, rear-wheel countersteer makes the GT3 feel like a short-wheelbase microcar. At more than 50mph, the rear wheels move in sync with the fronts, generating a reassuring long-wheelbase effect. Even without last year´s car available for reference, it’s obvious that the new model feels notably more agile as well as more laid back. The times of fighting the front end, the rear end, the road, the conditions and the flame of anxiety inside are definitely over.
Does the electric steering spoil the party?
No. The GT3’s quicker and stiffer rack rests more self-assuredly in your palms, even if it doesn’t communicate any more clearly than the Carrera. Turn-in is now ludicrously quick – this newly discovered run-on-rails cornering style must be due to the stabilising effect of the rear-wheel steering, along with the shaved and sticky 20in Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.
How much weight does all the new GT3 tech add?
Thanks to the aluminium-intensive body structure, the 991 GT3 tips the scales at 1430kg, barely 35kg more than the less powerful, less technically advanced model it replaces. Don't forget, previous 911 GT3s used the narrow bodystyle too, whereas the 991 GT3 uses the wider rear arches from the 991 Carrera 4. With that in mind, the GT3’s modest weight gain is somewhat impressive.
The message to hardliners is: don’t worry. All the trademark GT3 entertainment values are still present in this car, standing proud and tall. The bonus is that the GT3’s appeal is broader than before.
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