Here come the high-performance 911's
Oh yes. Two years into the life of 997 generation, the Turbo and GT3 are bearing down on us. The Turbo - 480bhp, four-wheel drive, £98k - is on sale now. The GT3 - 409bhp, rear-drive - arrives at UK dealers on 26 August. Which one to choose? Handicapped by only two driven wheels, a 70bhp deficit and a conventional clutch, the naturally aspirated GT3 takes 4.1sec - 0.4sec longer than the Turbo - to hit 62mph. Although it may be a tad less explosive off the mark than the point and squirt Turbo, the GT3 is sharper and less forgiving. It's born for the track, but is perfectly usable on the road.
What have they done to the 911's classic boxer six?
By taking weight out of the pistons, the conrods and the crankshaft, the engineers could raise the red line from 8200 to 8400rpm. They've also increased the compression ratio, improved the cylinder head cooling, fitted double valve springs and featherweight tappets, plus a stepless camshaft adjustment device and a new intake manifold with three resonance chambers. Below 5400rpm, only the smallest breathing apparatus is on duty. Between 5400 and 6350rpm, a flap opens and allows extra air to circulate to boost the torque flow. Above 6350rpm, the entire manifold takes deep breaths of oxygen, generating maximum torque and power. There's also a free-flow exhaust with two-stage silencers. When fully open, they reduce the back pressure under trailing throttle by eight percent.
With what results?
Summoning 409bhp at 7600rpm and 299lb ft at 5500rpm, the 3.6-litre six accelerates the 1395kg GT3 from zero to 100mph in 8.7sec and from zero to 125mph in 13.5sec. Top speed is 193mph.. The flick-and-click transmission is 15 percent quicker than in the old GT3, and the top five ratios are closer spaced. By previous standards this GT3 is a pussycat. Its variable-rate steering and the throttle have almost telepathic links to the engine. The brakes, even those with ceramic discs, work well at any temperature. The electronics thankfully work as enhancers, not as inhibitors, and the chassis is as communicative as it gets. The clutch is well weighted. Only the gearbox is tricky. Sport mode stiffens the PASM active suspension from firm to very firm, as well as sharpening the throttle response, raising the entry point for the stability control, and freeing an extra 15bhp between 3000 and 4250rpm by reducing exhaust back pressure. Switch off traction control and the car instantly feels looser. It wags its tail under braking, ploughs ahead through tight turns and slides on request. Make no mistake: you need plenty of experience to drive like this. But the GT3 does not have to be a white knuckle experience.
It looks hardcore, with that fancy bodykit...
It's all functional. That fixed tail rudder may look stolen from a bi-plane, but the addenda are designed to prevent the GT3 from taking off. Those phallic centre-mounted exhaust pipes are new, and those wheel-arches need to be big for those huge wheels and tyres. And it sure sounds hardcore, too. The engine is louder and clearer than any other 997's, due to a minimum of sound deadening and no rear seats to dampen resonances. It gets progressively louder - and, over long distances, more irritating. Above 125mph engine noise is drowned out by wind noise and road noise.
All GT3s have a suede steering wheel and instruments inspired by the Carrera GT's, with yellow calibration and yellow pointers. You can choose between leather-trimmed power seats, sat nav and sunroof or the no-frills Clubsport package.
The GT3 requires quick reflexes and big balls. It's more affordable and involving than the Turbo. Again it's a minority-interest Porsche - but if you are among that minority, you'll appreciate its amazing new tricks.