Open Up and Say Ahhh... : Porsche 911 (991.2) GT3 4.0 Driven [review]
By davidkhoo, 02 December 2017
STUTTGART, GERMANY - You never appreciate the fine-line between pleasure and pain until you turn the wheel of one of Porsche’s naturally-aspirated GT3s in anger, well, because no pain no gain. If you think about it, this shouldn’t be that surprising considering how credibly the lightened GT models also juggle track-honed dynamics with daily-drive sensibilities.
Now, that’s not to say the ride is cushy, but rather, the damping is so well-sorted (as it is on all of Porsche’s GT cars) as to be able to offer precise body-control when you’re hammering it, yet isn’t too unyielding when you’re ‘off-duty’.
The front cargo bin even gamely accommodates the hand-carries and rucksacks for the two of us. However, it’s still about managing expectations, because the ‘GT’ in the model name certainly doesn’t stand for Grand Tourer...
The GT3 is in the Mk2 iteration of the type 991 generation of 911, and Porsche-philes refer to it as 991.2 GT3 to better distinguish it from the Mk1, which as you’ve guessed it, is 991.1 GT3.
(Matched with a Martini Racing strap for good measure!)
It’s hard to miss our Great White in the airport’s short-term parking area, especially since the GT wing sticks out from a sea of black, beige and grey like the apex predator’s dorsal fin.
We’re not planning on spending any track-time with the GT3, because we’re convinced it will serve our touring needs for the duration of our 400+km road trip. Moreover, because we’re in a GT3 and not a Turbo, we figured it would be a shame to spend too much time on the autobahn.
To turn our extra miles into smiles, we configured the GPS to take us on the most convoluted route possible, or in other words, the one with more curves than a Wicked Weasel casting call.
Approaching a new test-car, especially a thoroughbred performance machine like the GT3, is a lot like encountering an animal for the first time, because you want to suss it out from all sides before initiating friendly overtures… or fleeing in fear.
You can’t let familiarity with the .1 GT3 lull you into a sense of complacency as far as this .2 GT3 is concerned, because that’s normally when things take a turn for the worse!
We make quick eye-contact and notice the obvious front-end difference, with a new air-blade ‘fanged’ grimace that looks more aggressive than the .1 GT3’s toothy grin – naturally this is fully-functional and not just increases front-end downforce, but also improves cooling.
The rear is dominated by the 20mm taller carbonfibre fixed GT wing for rear downforce and larger, ‘ram-air’ nostril intakes to feed air to the 4.0-litre flat-six.
Despite sharing the basic silhouette with the brand’s iconic 911, there’s more to any GT model than just a big wing and aggressive aero; the anoraks will appreciate the amount of underskin work that Porsche’s skunkworks division, Porsche Motorsport, puts into creating a track-ready road-car like the GT3 in terms of dynamics and lightening measures.
For starters, the rear engine lid, GT wing and wing stands are made of carbonfibre; however, it doesn’t get the magnesium roof of the 911 R or the carbon bonnet of the .1 GT3 RS and .2 GT2 RS though – then again, Porsche has to keep some things ‘special’ for use on the even more hardcore cars, we reckon.
For those with only a passing interest in Porsche, just know that this is the first time a GT3 is offered with both seven-speed PDK and six-speed manual (the manual option on regular 911 Carrera models, like the 911 T for instance is a seven-speed) options.
Prospective buyers looking for even more understatement and less aero aggro can spec the .2 GT3 in a Touring Package (or TP for short), which sees fast-road chassis tuning (versus the more aggressive setting of the ‘regular’ GT3), deletes ram-air nostrils, GT wing and adds a discreet gurney flap at the rear leading edge of the engine lid.
(You'd be surprised but we only had to fill'er up once!)
Unfortunately, it’s hard to talk about the .2 GT3 TP (or even the regular stick-shift GT3) without bringing in the 911 R. The anoraks will appreciate how closely the .2 GT3 TP formula seems to follow the 991.1 911 R, an ultra-exclusive model limited to just 991 units that charmed enthusiasts and speculators alike with its combination of RS engine and 6spd manual in a nondescript 911 body, until many realised they either couldn’t get one and/or afford one!
“What’s the big deal?” you ask. Well, up to the end of the 997 (the 911 generation just before the 991), both GT3 and RS models were manual-only, but don’t forget that the 911 R came about at the time of the 991.1, when Porsche declared the .1 GT3 and .1 GT3 RS as PDK-only. The difficulty in securing an allocation for the R only served to fan the fires of frustration further, especially in light of the hefty premiums ‘speculators’ were asking on top of the R’s retail price that some inadvertently paid.
On the face of the .2 GT3 TP, is there still a point to the R (more so if you’ve paid a reseller’s premium)? I would say Yes, but not if you’re the sort that spends a lot of time poring and quibbling over specifications than actually driving. There's a lovely balance to the R that places an emphasis on 'Fun', as opposed to outright 'Fast', which you'll miss if you're only fixated on the stick-shift/4.0/wing-delete details that seem to link the R and TP together.
Even with the manual .2 GT3, Porsche has been careful not to tread on the toes of the holistic R in terms of top speed and 0-100km/h times. Most importantly, the R tips the scales at just 1370kg, which makes it the lightest of the 991 generation so far, yes even compared to the .2 GT3 stick-shift (1413kg), and it is also endowed with playful handling characteristics in the vein of a classic 911, as opposed to the ‘angrier’, all-business, all-grip GT3. Even if some prefer the latter’s style of handling, that’s not to say one is better than the other. .
(PDK still the preferred 991.2 GT3 transmission choice for Singapore... so far)
Despite the buzz surrounding the manual .2 GT3, manual orders in Singapore at present account for only a handful of the .2 GT3 orders so far, which we’re sworn not to reveal – however, we can say it surpasses the 13 units of the .1 GT3 and 23 of the 997 GT3.
Due to a logistics issue, the manual GT3 isn’t ours to play with for this excursion, so we make do with the PDK instead. Also, to further underscore our touring intent, we find our bottoms nicely ensconced in electric-adjustable Sports seats Plus, as opposed to bucket seats – it’s not as big a sacrilege you’d imagine because it provides ample lateral support in the high-g corners as well.
The new naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre at the belly of this beast is a proper motorsports flat-six derived from the 911 RSR/ GT3 R/ GT3 Cup racecars, instead of the Carrera S-based 3.8-litre of the .1 GT3 – incidentally the MY14 .1 GT3 was the subject of a factory recall shortly after its launch to replace its engine.
For that matter, if you ever manage to tear yourself away from the .2 GT3’s driver’s seat, pop open the engine lid to appreciate the carbonfibre shroud, which doubles as a brace, as well as the lightweight stands for the engine-lid, both of which were carried over to the GT2 RS.
When you see ‘10’ on the rev counter, you know you’re in for a perfect 10 drive and the GT3 doesn’t disappoint. We gun it hard once we’re clear of the city limits and savour the 4.0-litre’s gleeful howl to its 9000rpm cut-off, hackles raised and spine a-tingling.
It’s music to the ears and a real treat these days when every other car is powered by a turbocharged engine, (no) thanks to emissions regulations.
The GT3 will drop its civility in the blink of an eye, as it transforms eagerly from city-friendly commuter to brutal winding-road warrior. Think edible undies and kinky toys under straight-laced office-veneer and you won’t be far off the mark, because the GT3 really just wants to be naughty all the time.
The GT3 eggs you on, it does, with a confidence-inspiring agility in the twisties thanks to rear-axle steer, a staple of GT models and the Turbo S since the 991.1 generation, which has since found its way into most of the Porsche line-up save 718 and Macan.
On the road, you’re likely to run out of talent before the sticky Cup Sport 2 rubber runs out of grip, but there’s so much steering and seat-of-pants feel you’re always apprised as to the limits of adhesion. Compared to our memory of the .1 GT3, the 4.0 in the .2 GT3 punches harder and faster to leave you pleasantly battered from the might of its 500bhp/460Nm, and it will spend all day upwards of 5000rpm.
If you’re always in a gear higher than you think you need for a turbo’d car, trust us when we say you’ll always be in a gear lower than necessary for the GT3, if only to hear its sweet music as you wring it out to redline.
The gearshifts of the PDK are like greased lightning, and hit as hard as the engine to deliver crisp, authoritative shifts, with ratios to help you keep the engine on boil in the 7000-9000rpm range on the winding roads.
Compared to the R, there’s a decidedly harder-edge to the GT3’s chassis that encourages maximum attack driving, because the primary objective seems to be to chase the clock, as opposed to having fun for the sake of it as you would in the R.
As much as the GT3 will happily play along with the driver, the vicious, less accommodating aspect of the car is always a key-turn away from being unleashed, which will see it bite hard into the corners, bruise and pummel you under the lateral gs, and then fling you out onto the straight... and then you get to do it all over again. But we’re certainly not complaining…
David is a big petrolhead who has been dabbling in the car trade since 2001 and currently oversees Top Gear Singapore. His stories often take an eclectic slant from the predictable, and he's able to craft a compelling read that lets you see the cars (often old!) in a new light.