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New Porsche 911 GT3 reviewed

The new age is upon us, and there is no place for the manual transmission left in it. Dejan Jovanovic couldn’t care less after a go in the new Porsche 911 GT3

  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • All business, with a perfect driving position and great vision — thank the 50-year-old styling and upright 911Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Don’t forget to spec the no-cost 90-litre fueltank (available in the GT3 for the first time)so you can enjImage Credit: Supplied picture
  • The Dh30,970 ceramic brakes is the only option we’d bother with — sure they squeal, but with the windows up yoImage Credit: Supplied picture
  • Porsche is coy about the GT3 RS, but a high-ranking company official let slip that the gap between the GT3 andImage Credit: Supplied picture
  • Proper sports buckets are Dh11,900 and hugely supportive but the four-way electric ones are much more comfortaImage Credit: Supplied picture

Maybe, I don’t know, but just maybe, the electric rack, PDK-only and rear-wheel steering sort of anaesthetised the GT3 before we’d even begun. But a Guards Red car greeted me in the village
 of Ödenwaldstette right in front of our base of operations for the Porsche 911 GT3 launch, and so I looked it over. I noticed the brakes, and they seemed cosily at home nestled in the dish of those wheels, so comfortable. The more I kept looking and soaking it in, the more everything on the car seemed to belong. The spoilers, winglets, outlets and intakes, every crease, curve, wrap and extrusion.

This car, standing still and in person, appears to epitomise driving. Not embarking, not arriving, but all the glorious bits in between.

It didn’t take long behind the wheel to absorb the GT3. You drive this car subconsciously, naturally. I realised at some point I wasn’t thinking about the steering, the gears, the rear wheels angling inside or out at up to 1.5 degrees. Things just happen in a GT3. Great things. Six, seven, eight thousand revs. What, there’s more? Nine… Mein gott.

At five thousand the GT3 is ready to lurch onwards — it’s merely a gated thoroughbred, snarling and eager to jump the lights. This is not a patient car.

At over 7,000rpm the flat six resonates around the entire cabin, echoing in the hollow rear compartment sans seats.

At eight thousand everything you’ve ever known urges you to shift up. But you must have trust in Zuffenhausen, and you must endure and grit your teeth and keep your foot flat, and then the red rev needle skips out of the corner of your eye, and you go “Huh, where’d it go?”

And then you look and it’s darn well trying to jump off the dial.

And then nine thousand revolutions per minute happen — the pistons are jabbing away at over 23 meters per second, covering 84 kilometres per hour with their tiny stroke of 77.5mm. The forces at play are astounding, translated, rationalised by your mind and ears like a simple inevitability. Hans Mezger must be proud at what his legacy inspired.

It’s a completely new, alien experience.
 It takes a few initial bursts just to accept it’s even possible, and then you start thinking there’s another 1,000rpm left in
 it. It’s that strong, it’s that unfussed about our preconceived limitations of mechanical engineering.

There’s a magnetic attraction between that engine and your right foot. It will consume you, and you will take it into the edges of the red zone every single time. And when you yank on the right paddle shifter it will bounce right back into its power peak, of 475 horses.

Rinse, repeat, six more times. It’s so hopelessly addictive. With each GT3 Porsche should offer a cost option for
some rehab. Put me down for six months in solitary please.

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But let’s go back to the starting line, back to the village of Ödenwaldstette. The entire GT3 development team is here, including the test drivers (I just missed Walter Röhrl) and the motorsport guys. Project manager Uwe Braun and general manager of Porsche GT cars Andreas Preuninger are brainwashing anyone within two tables’ distance about the benefits of PDK over a manual gearbox. They’re having a tough time.

“Believe me, we discussed the transmission very extensively. It was not easy, really. So much stress, so many critical decisions…” sighs Braun. I think I can see some fresh grey hairs on his head.

Preuninger adds, “We at Porsche all like to shift our own gears, but if like us you want to be the fastest, you have to have the PDK. We want to prove that you can have fun with it. PDK was also necessary for the GT3’s unique rear differential. I really feel it’s the right decision. We have to take the risk. We have to take it to the next level.”

So relax, Porsche didn’t do this because they hate you. Think of it as tough love.

The dual-clutch transmission affords rapid 100ms shifts, yet Preuninger freely admits the “simply add lightness” philosophy didn’t work for the ’box. In this case performance overcompensates for the 20kg extra weight of the PDK, and in huge proportion takes a lot of the responsibility for the 991 generation GT3’s 15-second quicker lap of the Nürburgring.

But speed alone has never been what the GT3 is about. Leave that to the force-fed, all-wheel-drive cars. There has to be a correlation between all the controls. To have one thing easy and soft and the other hard and heavy doesn’t work; everything has to cooperate on equal terms. The travel and the feel of the little up-shift paddle behind the wheel is just as important as the engine’s penetrating scream at high revs. Porsche’s priority list for the GT3 was one line long, because they simply crammed everything into it.

And that’s why the paddle shifts behind the wheel have a meatier feel with a 50 per cent shorter travel so you still need more pressure applied for the shifts, and the gear lever (with a proper motorsport pattern — push for down, pull for up) also comes with a heavier spring to it. Additionally there is no creeping forward at a stop; you have to hold the brake. Don’t call it an automatic.

The engine, in the so-called wrong place of course, sits way out back of a wider and longer chassis weighing 227.5kg, or 20.9kg less than Mezger’s legendary old unit. Based on the Carrera’s 3.8-litre flat-six it merely shares with it a crankcase and a 
couple of other bits. The GT3 unit gets hotter camshafts and reduced oscillating masses, plus a trick new valvetrain that allows for extremely high revs. The con-rods are titanium, the pistons forged alloy, and the cylinder heads entirely new with larger intake and exhaust ports and bigger valves. The result is 125 horsepower per litre. Since 80 per cent of GT3 owners reportedly track their cars, dry-sump lubrication is a given, featuring a racing-derived oil separator pan that helps to ensure a smooth flow of liquid gold.

The specific GT3 wheels are specially designed for efficient brake cooling (notice the callipers are at their optimum positions set inside the wheelbase for ideal weight distribution) and weigh in just as much as the previous car’s smaller 19in wheels.

As for the revealing GT3 rear wing, it generates 120kg of downforce at the car’s top speed of 315kph, which is 20 per cent more downforce over the 997 GT3.

In summary, then, it’s the pinnacle of machined, robotic automotive technology… humanised.

It truly comes alive when you fire it up, with power and purpose coursing through its entire being. All it wants to do is go,
rev, run free. For three laps and a 300km tour of the Black Forest’s edges I’m happy to succumb.

The grip. How can I put this… It’s #$%!?&* ridiculous.

I did about 50km on Michelin Pilot Cups in the wet, and gradually increased speed until I had to shake myself awake from that gripping possession the car held over me.

PSM never once imposed. In the wet it’s beautiful to keep it on, to squirm out of every turn and still apply the slightest amount of corrective lock with the engine bouncing off the rev limiter and the TC light flickering rather innocently. It’s a fantastic driving aid, not a party pooper.

Now I genuinely feel that with a manual gearbox the new GT3 experience wouldn’t be so subliminal, harmonious. There would be just too much to do, and you wouldn’t blend so seamlessly into its own world of unassailable performance.

It’s got rear-wheel steering, they said, and that’s supposedly a no-no, the internet cried. But I just can’t see it. If anything
it gives it a nice turning circle as I witnessed during this photo shoot constantly making U-turns on two-lane country roads. There’s nothing wrong with that, nor with the effectively lengthening wheelbase while you’re flying through 200kph esses. When you tuck the wheel into your lap with just your wrists, the front end is still immediate, so immediate that there’s an orientation period required because it initially comes across as plain nervous; too quick. But the weight is good and you’ll soon have confident control over it, if not that engine, which will forever leave you spellbound.

I’m certainly not the first person to be converted, nor the last, of the GT3’s digitalisation. If this is where the future 
of sportscars is heading, man, give me a one-way ticket.

But it seems many are still unconvinced, and to those few I can only say, drive it, do anything you can to drive it, blag a ride around the block, whatever, because even from the passenger seat you will feel its immense chassis capabilities, the grip, the instant steering and the on-edge engine response. Just try to find a nice road first. This car, I’m afraid, simply doesn’t make sense in Dubai. You will drive everywhere in second gear stretching it to 9,000rpm. Fourth takes you well beyond 200kph. Your life will be a teeth-gritting nervous wreck of counting down the days to the next Porsche Club track event.

But, hey, that Friday evening will roll over sooner or later, and it will imprint itself on your memory with so much data you may have to copy-paste over that recollection of your child’s birth. It’s worth it.

I wish I could afford a GT3. Some day though, one will come along, in dunkelblau metallic, with graphite wheels and no options and two hundred thousand
 kays on the clock, and I’ll work hard 
for that moment.

Someone smart once told me, always 
aim low. Well this time, mark my words,  I’m aiming as high as you can go. Straight 
to the top. GT3. 


Specs and ratings

Model 911 GT3
Engine 3.8-litre flat-six
Transmission Seven-speed PDK, RWD
Max power 475bhp @ 8,250rpm
Max torque 440Nm @ 6,250rpm
Top speed 315kph
0-100kph 3.5sec
Price Dh491,100 (base)