They say there are five stages of grieving; beginning with anger, before passing through denial, depression, and bargaining before reaching acceptance. While I have managed to reach some form of acceptance of Porsche’s decision not to produce a manual version of the new 991 GT3, the wounds are still fresh.
Simply put, the previous generation Porsche GT3 (997) is one of the best vehicles I’ve driven in fifteen years in this profession. I love everything about it, from its balance and poise, to its powerful naturally aspirated engine and low-slung, racecar-derived driving position – and its Alcantara-clad manual gear lever.
Personal recent reminders of just how much more involving and rewarding a well-sorted manual transmission can be have come in the form of the new Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. Yet Porsche, in no mood to bargain, remain adamant that the manual ‘box is on its way out.
Stopping just short of telling gathered journalists at the recent international GT3 launch to get over it Porsche instead went on to explain just why its latest generation PDK transmission is the only sensible option to feature in the new car.
While weight savings had previously made a PDK option unviable, technical advances, together with their resulting performance gain, has meant that despite a 20 kilogram mass penalty over a manual transmission the new car is still much quicker than the previous model in all driving conditions.
Another advantage of only featuring one transmission option is that the revised seven-speed PDK ‘box in question has been developed specifically with the performance characteristics of the 991 GT3’s all-new 3,8-litre flat six engine in mind.
Producing 350 kW at 8 250 r/min with 440 N.m of torque available at 6 250 r/min the new engine features direct injection, dry sump lubrication, titanium connecting rods and forged pistons. One of my favourite characteristics of this new engine, however, has to be the fact that it delivers this impressively linear performance all the way up to an ear-churning, eyeball straining 9 000 r/min. Grip either the racing-tuned right steering wheel-mounted paddle or pull the short-throw gear lever backwards for an upshift with the rev needle in this vicinity (and PDK ‘box in Sport mode) and you are met with a sequential ‘box mimicking shove in small of your back. These shifts may happen in 100 milliseconds but their smile-inducing effect on the driving experience lingers.
With launch control (one more advantage of PDK) the new GT3 is able to sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 3,5 seconds.
Another talking point of the new GT3 is the adoption of electric power steering. Aware of the criticism around this technology, particularly relating to its artificial feel and feedback qualities Porsche has extensively reworked this system for improved feedback. The results are quite extraordinary.
Adding further to the new car’s handling prowess is a four-wheel steering system that at low speeds (below 80 km/h) turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels (to a maximum 1,5 degrees) for improved manoeuvrability. Above 80 km/h this system turns the wheels in the same direction as the front wheels (the effect being the virtual lengthening of the wheelbase by up to 500mm) for improved high-speed turn-in.
On the tight and twisty roads of our Swabia test route I was immediately impressed with the levels of grip on offer. Massive 245/35 ZR 20 front tyres manage to tuck the nose in towards corner apexes while 305/30 ZR 20 rubber (wrapped around forged aluminium wheels) keep the rear planted even with enthusiastic footwork around the accelerator pedal.
Indeed the new GT3 is all about improved dynamics. Though, in all honesty 997 GT3 is by all accounts a very rapid vehicle on a twisty road, the new car features a 54 mm wider front track (31 mm wider at the rear), 102 mm longer wheelbase, offers a mind-boggling 20 per cent more downforce and has 25 per cent stiffer body than the old car. All of this results in it being 15 seconds quicker (7 min 25 seconds) around the Nurburgring Nordschleife than the previous car.
Porsche says that 80 per cent of GT3 owners take their cars to the track. Given this statistic I can see the logic behind optimising this race-bred model – including the adoption of the fastest-shifting transmission option and most efficient handling characteristics – to produce ultimate lap times in the hands of owners with varied levels of driving skill. I can also understand why the GT3 is now that much easier to drive on an everyday basis thanks to its superbly refined suspension and mind-of-its-own PDK ‘box (although I can see the GT3 encroaching on Turbo sales as a result).
There’s an undoubted loss of character and ultimate driver involvement in the 991 GT3 but in broadening its appeal I am nevertheless comfortable with the fact that it is one of the finest driving machines on the planet.
Model: Porsche 911 GT3
Engine: 3,8-litre, flat-six cylinder petrol
Power: 350 kW at 8 250 r/min
Torque: 440 N.m at 6 250 r/min
0-100 km/h: 3,5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 12,4 L/100 km
CO2: 289 g/km
Top speed: 315 km/h
Price: R2040 000
Maintenance plan: 5 years/unlimited km
*According to the manufacturer.
Click here to see the GT3 in action.