Pleasing not just the purists but anyone who appreciates a fine sporting experience
Porsche 911 GT3 manual
Engine: 4.0-litre, six-cylinder, petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1413kg
Top speed: 199mph
CO2/tax band: 290g/km, 37%
Ask Porsche’s head of GT car development, Andreas Preuningier, why the 2013 911 GT3 was launched without any manual gearbox option and his reply – “we probably got a little too complacent” – is refreshingly honest.
Now, the 2017 911 GT3 comes with a choice of two gearboxes: an updated seven-speed PDK and a six-speed manual (first seen in 2016’s limited-run 911 R) with a mechanical locking differential instead of the electronic unit you get with the PDK auto.
The new GT3 is very much a track-oriented car and a homologation tool for Porsche motorsport components. The stance is pure pitlane thanks to a 25mm lower in ride height and 20-inch wheels with 245/35 front and 305/30 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. There’s a lighter polyurethane front bumper, a more prominent splitter, four new air ducts for the brakes and front-mounted radiators and brakes, and extra cooling ducts in the new back bumper and the engine lid.
The restyled rear wing sits 20mm higher and 10mm back. Vortex generators on the underbody are said to contribute to a big 20 per cent increase in downforce on the rear axle, amounting to another 155kg more at the 199mph top speed. Porsche says the new car is no heavier than the old one.
Getting into the optional carbonfibre-backed racing seats requires a level of suppleness, but the resulting driving position over the button-free Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel is fantastically inviting. Look back and you’ll see the GT3 is rear seat-free. Finally, look under the engine cover to confirm that the engine is turbo-free.
With various improvements the 4.0-litre flat six now delivers 24bhp and 15lb/ft more than the 3.8-litre unit from the old 911 GT3, giving this new model 493bhp at 8250rpm, 339lb/ft at 6000rpm, and an almost incredible 9000rpm rev ceiling. Headline acceleration figures are 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds (0.5 seconds slower than the auto), and 0-124mph in 11.4 seconds.
Sparking up the engine transports you straight to the track even when you haven’t left your driveway. The ride in Comfort mode is more controlled than before, and nicely compliant over smaller lumps in the road. Reducing the amount of sound-deadening material to keep the car’s overall weight down has generated more tyre roar, but you don’t really notice it over the glorious bassy intensity of the exhaust that gets even more visceral when a flap opens up at 4000rpm. More torque arriving slightly earlier on the tacho gives stunning thrust in the mid-range through the intermediate gears. There’s a greater willingness to rev out those last 2000rpm to the redline too. It all adds up to a brilliantly effective machine. The response and revvability are both shockingly good. The induction blare, building twice at 3800rpm and 6800rpm, is amazing. High-end power delivery is eerily linear. The rush of speed demands your full attention, though not in a fearful way as the car tracks fabulously well at all speeds.
That manual six-speed Getrag gearbox is the icing on the cake. The dual-plate clutch feels firm and has a very specific bite point. The short gearlever is perfectly positioned close to the steering wheel and works superbly despite being heavily spring-loaded. You need to boss it a little but the reward is a wonderfully snappy precision with no baulking. Sport mode adds throttle blips for perfectly rev-matched downshifts, while rear-wheel steering adds extra stability to the handling. Steering feel is firm with sumptuous feedback through the stout wheel and a lovely directness away from the straight-ahead.
When the tyres are cold you’ll experience understeer in slower track corners but heat brings a big leap in front-end grip, feel and reassuring neutrality. Predictably, back-end traction is mighty, with the mechanical diff and those beefy tyres hardly ever requiring any electronic help. Poise, balance and body control are pure GT3, which is another way of saying peerless. You can option 400mm/380mm carbon-ceramic discs but even the standard 380mm steel units provide the sort of stopping power you’ll rarely need on public roads.
The 911 GT3 delivers one of the absorbing drives available, whether it’s on public roads or the track. This manual model may not be quite as quick around a track as the PDK version, irrespective of who is behind the wheel, but it beats the auto in its remarkable ability to drag the driver into the wonder of the experience.