What Car? says...
We all know the Porsche 911 GT3 has one almighty flaw – in engineering terms, slinging its engine and gearbox behind the car's back axle is downright silly.
Which is how an early Porsche 911 owner would look once that pendulous rear end started swinging. At that point, with flailing arms, they'd anxiously ponder whether the outcome would be a) Quite Silly – careering backwards through a thicket, or b) Extremely Silly – testing the car's crumble zone against something more solid.
Still, in the past few decades, Porsche has tweaked, fettled and transformed the 911 into a great-handling car. In fact, it's become the default sports car of choice, with even the monster 641bhp Turbo S version becoming so civil and devoid of dastardly dynamics that dear-old nana can pin its throttle with impunity.
Could dear-old nana drive the GT3 with the same blithe confidence? That’s debatable. Today’s GT3 has had the most significant tweaks yet, including a huge helping of extra downforce and, for the first time in a 911, double-wishbone front suspension that's key to improving its front-end grip. It's still not for the fainthearted, though.
You see, the GT3 is, at its core, a racer – a 911 that’s been stripped out, strengthened, sharpened, then shipped out ready to race on Sunday, in championships including the Porsche Supercup (Formula One’s supporting race series).
To qualify for racing, a certain number of GT3s have to be sold as road cars, so some of those stripped-out racers get air-con, sat-nav and a few other creature comforts bolted back in, number plates slapped on the front and rear, and are sold to some very lucky punters.
If you wish, you can have your hardcore GT3 in a more understated Touring specification. Porsche tones down the motorsport connection by removing the rear wing, offering a fully painted front bumper and replacing carbon fibre interior trim elements with dark brushed aluminium. Under the skin, though, the Touring is every bit as focused as its stablemate.
Do the upgrades put the latest 911 GT3 at the top of the supercar tree? Well, without wishing to give too much away, it’s a hell of a thing.
Read on to find out exactly why that is and whether the 911 GT3 has become a bit too hardcore. After all, if you can afford one, you’re spoilt for choice, with rivals ranging from the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracán to the McLaren 720S.
By the way, while you're unlikely to get discounts on a supercar, we can help you find the best prices on most makes and models if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It's a good place to find new sports car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
You notice the Porsche 911 GT3's racing car derivation the instant the engine catches. It settles into a lumpy idle, churning slight vibrations through your spine that, under normal circumstances (when reporting on hatchbacks and the like), we’d chastise. In something as intentionally raw as the 911 GT3, with performance front and centre stage, it merely becomes added drama that immerses you deeper into the scene.
Even in the rarefied world of supercars, there’s something very special about the 911 GT3’s engine. It’s a flat-six, for a start – something that’s unique to Porsche. Unlike the rest of the 911 range (and every supercar bar one or two exceptions, such as the Lamborghini Huracán and Audi R8), the GT3's engine is naturally aspirated, not turbocharged. If you grew up in the Seventies and Eighties and think anything without a turbocharger is bunkum, think again.
The GT3’s 503bhp 4.0-litre responds instantly when you press the accelerator pedal, with no lag while you wait for a turbo to spin up and provide added thrust. It revs freer and higher than most engines, too – 9000rpm, to be precise. That’s worth repeating: nine thousand revolutions per minute. Hardly any road cars can claim to have a more advanced spin cycle but, as we know, the 911 GT3 is part racing car and this engine was designed for the track.
How does it feel to drive? Well, it lacks the hammer-blow, low-end turbocharged surge that the McLaren 720S delivers, but that doesn't mean it's outclassed. It still produces enough torque to get a shift on from 3000rpm, and as the revs rise and the power starts building from 5000rpm, every millimetre of travel you input to the loud pedal correlates to an interpretable increase in thrust.
Such accelerative linearity is telepathy for you, the driver. It’s far easier to read and meter than the elasticated responses of a turbocharged car, which is something you appreciate when there’s this much power available.
Once it’s in its power band, it is still fast. Stonkingly fast. The all-consuming kind of fast that acts physically on your torso and your brain as you try to keep up with the sheer volume of information pouring in. Fitted with the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the GT3 will ping you from 0-62mph in 3.4sec.
Indeed, it’s especially relentless if you opt for the PDK 'box. It fires you seamlessly from gear to gear, prolonging the accelerative assault. Purists looking for the ultimate interactive driving experience can rejoice that the GT3 is also available with a manual gearbox. The six-speed unit has one of the sweetest shift actions you’ll find on any car and adds another layer of interactivity. We wouldn’t dismiss the PDK without a thought, though. It's so good, and the whole GT3 experience so engrossing anyway, that it absolutely warrants consideration.
What else makes it so engrossing? The divine noise it makes is perhaps most striking. It’s your typical flat-six fandango with added mania – kind of demonic yet delectable. It’s filled with the screams from whizzing camshafts, furiously fluttering valves and pistons pinging back and forth at incomprehensible speeds as you tick past 7000, 8000, then hit the magic 9000rpm. It's probably the best-sounding engine on sale. The only debate is over whether the intoxicating V10 in the R8 and Huracán is more tuneful.
At first, it’s overwhelming. You listen in disbelief as the revs keep going higher and higher, thinking, “This is gonna go pop”. But once that subsides, you simply end up smiling – so hard that your cheeks tingle.
Speaking of tingling, that’s what the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel (it’s leather in the Touring) does in your hands. Even in a straight line, it chatters away, streaming little messages about the road’s surface for you to interpret. When you turn into a corner, it weights up impeccably, letting you gauge the stress on those fat, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and what grip they have left. The only downside is that the front end’s aggressive double wishbone set-up does encourage the nose to hunt about a bit over poorer surfaces, but considering the level of feedback you get, we’re not complaining.
And you really do want good feedback from the steering in a motorsport-derived 911, because if the ambient temperature is hovering anywhere near zero (which it was during one of our tests), the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres stop working to the extent that you'd struggle to outrun a badly driven Lada Riva fitted with dodgy remoulds.
Rest assured, though, when the tyres are gripping, the GT3 could keep pace with pretty much anything. Certainly any version of the R8 and, in actual cornering speeds, maybe the 720S. While it doesn’t have four-wheel drive, the weight of that engine over the rear tyres, pressing them hard into the asphalt as you accelerate, creates extraordinary traction out of corners. Even on a damp track, as long as you’re respectful of the power, it’s surprisingly docile.
That’s on the way out of corners, but it’s exquisitely controlled on the way in and through them, too. It has an inherent precision and adjustability that is exploitable and wholly enjoyable when you get it right. Part of that is down to the latest suspension upgrades and the extra grip delivered by the double wishbones at the front, which helps the GT3 to turn.
It’s also adjustable in the more obvious sense: you can crack out the spanners and tinker with the geometry – to tailor it for the track – and also vary the dampers’ stiffness electronically from a button on the centre console.
With the dampers in their softer mode, the GT3 displays sublime body control. On sawtooth track-side kerbs, it flows across the contours with the ease of a mountain stream over jagged rocks. That control is carried over when you take to the UK’s roads.
Sure, it’s firm and follows every surface undulation intently, but the quality of its damping leaves enough suppleness to accommodate sharp-edged scars (perhaps not to the extent of the very forgiving 720S, though). You won’t feel the cold sweat of fear form on your brow at the glimpse of a distant speed bump, either, because there’s an optional nose-lift feature that raises the front by 46mm.
Did we mention the brakes? No? Well, those are also mega. We tested a car with optional ceramic composite brakes on a track and, from the moment you begin to squeeze the pedal, they fill you with confidence. As with everything about the 911 GT3, they’re part of a perfectly engineered package that’s designed to be intuitive, keeping your mind focused purely on the act of driving, without the distraction of real-time thinking on how to go about it.
Is there anything bad about the 911 GT3? Well, there’s a hell of a lot of road noise at high speed, which makes the Touring specification’s name feel perhaps a little misleading. Road noise is an issue with all versions of the Porsche 911 and this is one of the most focused cars you can buy, so is it really a problem? Not for us.
The interior layout, fit and finish
As with any version of the Porsche 911, the GT3’s driving position is nigh on perfect. It’s right up there with the excellent McLaren 720S in that respect, with the seat, steering wheel and pedals right where you want them. There’s so much reach and height adjustment to the steering wheel that 99% of the population should find it spot-on.
The standard seats have part-electric adjustment and there's the option of 18-way electrically adjustable seats. If you want to keep the weight down, the simple manually adjustable sports bucket seats look the part and also hold you perfectly, hugging you like an overenthusiastic aunt.
The dash is easy to understand, with proper buttons for most of the key driving functions and a configurable digital driver display. The only analogue element is the typically huge rev counter that sits smack-bang in the middle of the two 7.0in screens, with bright blue lights that flash just before peak revs to give you a visual nudge when it’s time to change up a gear. In track mode, any superfluous elements on the screens, such as trip or navigation information, are culled to reduce unwanted distractions.
Visibility is great out to the front and pretty good behind, at least compared with most mid-engine sports cars. The horizontal line of the big rear wing in the rear-view mirror is a slight blot, but the Touring version replaces that with the standard 911’s minimalist active spoiler.
Whether you choose to keep the wing or not, it’s well worth adding the optional Park Assist pack to avoid an embarrassing bump. It adds rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, while the adaptive matrix LED headlights are another add-on worth considering. You get regular LED headlights as standard.
The infotainment touchscreen is as per regular 992-generation 911s. It’s 10.1in across and the software is responsive. There are also plenty of features, including Google Maps navigation, onboard wi-fi and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Music lovers can upgrade the standard eight-speaker/150-watt stereo to a Bose surround-sound system with 12 speakers and 570 watts. With that amazing engine providing the soundtrack, we really wouldn’t bother.
The 911 interior is well built, as you’d expect for the money. All the controls and switches feel solid, and while the standard GT3 car and the Touring package version look almost identical inside at first glance, there are enough small touches to give the cars distinct personalities.
The standard GT3, for example, gets lashings of Alcantara and carbon fibre while the Touring’s interior features an understated blend of high-quality black leather and brushed black aluminium. Of course, there are seemingly endless ways to personalise your GT3 further, but they come at a price.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
With it being a sports car, you might not expect the Porsche 911 GT3 to be roomy, but there’s a surprising amount of space in the front. Leg room is more generous than in the Audi R8 and there's much more room all round than you get in the Lamborghini Huracán. Even if you’re six-foot-plus, you'll have no trouble fitting in.
The rear seats you get in other 911s are ditched in both the standard GT3 and the Touring version to save weight. Unlike with its mid-engined rivals, that leaves lots of extra luggage room behind the front seats, in addition to the fairly small boot up front. Those spaces combined makes the 911 GT3 one of the most practical supercars going.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
There's no doubt about it, the Porsche 911 GT3 sits at the pointy end of the price spectrum. That’s a polite way of saying it’s expensive, although relatively speaking it’s a bargain.
In performance terms, it’s not far off the extreme pacesetters, such as the Lamborghini Huracán and McLaren 720S, but it’s considerably cheaper – about the same price as the Audi R8 Plus if you’re a cash buyer. That’s a lot of bang for your buck for what’s a specialist sports car. In fact, comparatively speaking it makes the standard Porsche 911 Carrera look a little pricey.
And you are unlikely to lose a bean to depreciation when you sell it. Traditionally, Porsche 911 GT3s go up, not down, in value – although that brings us to the bad bit. It’s not a limited-run model as such, like the GT3 RS, but it is produced in very limited numbers, hence the positive resale values. So while you can walk into your local Porsche dealership and order one now, there’s no guarantee that it’ll arrive before GT3 production ends.
Running costs aren’t for the faint-hearted, either. Servicing costs are higher than for regular 911s and, while Porsche claims it’ll average around 22mpg, that’s more like 15-17mpg at a reasonably brisk, real-world pace. Still, this is all meaningless if you have the wherewithal to buy a 911 GT3 in the first place, so don’t worry about it.
Surprisingly, given its reputation, Porsche finished a disappointing 25th out of 30 brands in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. That was a joint finish with Audi, by the way. It’s not all bad news, though, because 911s come with a comprehensive three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, including breakdown assistance.
As standard, you get some creature comforts, such as two-zone climate control and part-leather seats, but this car is about performance, so look elsewhere if you want your backside massaged by the seat and to gawp at pretty ambient lighting. That said, if you are drawn to the understated looks of the Touring Package, we have good news for you – it's a no-cost option.
We’ve already mentioned some of the options to consider, including the Park Assistance pack. We’d also suggest adding the front axle lift system, the ceramic composite brakes (which are brilliant for the track and prevent fade compared with cast-iron disc brakes) and, if you’ve opted for a standard GT3, the no-cost Club Sport Package, which adds a roll cage and fire extinguisher.
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|RRP price range||£99,275 - £183,260|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||23.5 - 28|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,178 / £13,364|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£14,356 / £26,729|