What's the GT3 for, and hasn't it been around for ages?
We first drove the car in our dark pre-website days but thought we'd revisit it now that the first few have rolled off the boat onto UK soil. As for what it's for, it's simply for making you smile more than any other 911 on sale. This is as good as 911s get, well modern ones anyway, combining trackday ability with the sort of comfort and refinement levels needed to make it a usable everyday car.
How come the GT3 has a 3.6 flat six and the cheaper Carrera S gets a 3.8?
Before you start getting disappointed, take a look at the figures: without any form of forced induction the GT3 produces a massive 409bhp – nearly as much as the old 996 Turbo – and the bigger Carrera S just 355bhp. In fact there’s more to it than an extra 200cc. The two engines are substantially different, the GT3’s being able to trace its ancestry to the power unit that took Porsche’s GT1 racer to victory at Le Mans in 1998. It revs to 8400rpm, sounds absolutely magical and, though it doesn’t have the gut-bruising punch of the Turbo in the mid-range, is still fearsomely fast thanks to six closely-stacked ratios. Zero to 62mph takes 4.3sec, a good half second less than the S needs, 100mph 8.7sec and the GT3 eventually cracks 192mph.
Is there any need to be scared of it?
By previous standards this GT3 is a pussycat. Its variable-rate steering and throttle have almost telepathic links to the engine. The brakes, even those with ceramic discs, work well at temperature. The electronics thankfully work as enhancers, not as inhibitors, and the chassis is as communicative as things in a trackday special. Sport mode stiffens the PASM active suspension from firm but pliant to too firm for road use as well as sharpening the throttle response, raising the entry point for the traction control (full PSM stability control is not available). It also frees up an extra 15bhp between 3000rpm and 4250rpm by reducing exhaust back pressure. Grip is massive, but in typical 911 fashion the front can wash away on tighter corners if you’re sloppy with the controls. In most situations, even with traction control on, the rear stays in check. But if you’ve got enough room and keep your foot planted, or lift off the throttle going into a corner, the back will let go too. Which needn’t be the end of the world: you’ll need a steady hand and a steadier nerve but with a little practice you can slide the GT3 around easily. Compared to the last GT3, and more so the original which came before it, the new car is much less of handful and ultimately much quicker point to point. Compared with the Turbo, the GT3 is more involving, more characterful. Basically more fun.
Is it worth spending an extra £14k for the RS?
Objectively, no. You get even more rear-end grip and traction because of the RS’s wider track, better throttle response because of its lighter single-mass flywheel, and something that looks like it's burst staright from the race track and onto the road. It's still surprisingly refined too, but the stock GT3, which can do 90 per cent of the RS's tricks, is barely slower against the clock and better value. Subjectively though, the RS's visual presence and the fact that it carries the famous Renn Sport badge and is a genuine homologation car will be enough to have plenty of people digging deeper into their pockets.
What’s the cabin like?
Barely less habitable than a standard 911’s, particularly if you opt for the comfort spec rather than buckets-and-cage Clubsport, a no-cost option. There’s a lovely suede-rimmed wheel, yellow graphics on the dials and the choice of sensible options like air conditioning and sat nav. Don’t scoff – we’d have both and you’ll find a GT3 sells more swiftly at the other end if you do the same.
So how does it fit into the lineup?
A recap on the other 911s might be handy. First there’s the road-biased Carreras. The £60,810 base car, the 3.6-litre Carrera with 325bhp and the £67,860 Carrera S which gets an extra 200cc and 30bhp. You can have four-wheel drive with either engine, in which case you also get 44mm wider rear arches. At the other end of the scale there’s the 480bhp Turbo, also with four-wheel drive and the big arches as well as a £97,840 pricetag.
The Turbo is faster, the RS more extreme. But both are vastly more expensive and neither blends the twin strengths of road and track ability better than the GT3. As usable as a Carrera, and more satisfying than the slightly anodyne Turbo, it’s the best 911 you can buy and great value.