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 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.
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.
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, its 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, so we’d be surprised to learn that it doesn’t work well on most UK roads.
Sure, it’ll be firm and follow every surface undulation intently, but the quality of its damping should leave enough suppleness to accommodate sharp-edged scars (Perhaps not to the extent of the very forgiving 720S, though). You shouldn’t feel the cold sweat of fear form on your brow at the glimpse of a distant speed bump 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 911s, and this is one of the most focused cars you can buy, so is it really a problem? Not for us.