2017 Porsche 911 GT3 review: Better than the GT3 RS and 911 R?

A facelift to be forgotten? Or a proper step forward and a car to scare 911 GT3 RS and 911 R owners? It's time to drive the new 493bhp Porsche 911 GT3

4y ago

Two full days in the new GT3 and we’ve come to a shocking conclusion. It’s pretty damn good. You’ve (hopefully) watched our video review so now maybe you’d like to hear more…

And if you haven't watched the video, see it here:

And part 2 here as well:

It will come as no surprise to you that the new 911 GT3 is an uncommonly good car. The last one was, too. And the one before that. In fact, all GT3s are pretty much unforgettable. The light, narrow 996 GT3, the various flavours of 997 that all share a gritty, mechanical feel that’s so rewarding, and the scalpel-sharp 991 with an engine that revs to 9000rpm and a PDK ‘box that fires home shifts with nary a pause.

But what might surprise you – it certainly did me – is how much of a step it’s made from the last and already breathlessly exciting iteration.

Fastest Porsche 911 GT3 evolution yet

On paper the changes are evolutionary and about what you might expect. There’s more aero –155kg of downforce at the vmax – thanks to a smoother underbody that accelerates the air to the new rear diffuser that you might recognise from the limited edition 911 R.

The rear wing stands 20mm higher and is mounted further back to claw as much assistance from the airflow as possible, too. The intake scoops beneath the main aerofoil directly feed the throttle body and add 20bhp of ram-air effect at the GT3’s top speed of 198mph. It covers 0-62mph in 3.4-seconds with the PDK gearbox.

The chassis features similar detail changes to hone the car just that bit further. The springs and dampers are revised, there are helper springs at the rear, all the components have been optimised to reduce friction.

The GT3’s clever rear-axle steering system has also been retuned and Porsche Motorsport (who develop the ‘GT’ cars) continues to refine and perfect the EPAS fitted to 991-generation 911s, claiming they’ve taken another leap in terms of feedback with the 991.2 GT3.

It will come as no surprise to you that the new 911 GT3 is an uncommonly good car

Jethro Bovingdon

However, the big news is the drivetrain. Out goes the 3.8-litre direct injection flat-six from the old car and in comes a much-improved 4.0-litre version. You may remember (depending on your geekiness levels) that the 991-generation racercars persisted with the old ‘Mezger’ engine even when the road car switched to this new family of flat-sixes?

Well, it did. But now the Cup racers and even the might RSR have finally adopted the direct injection 9A1 family of engines (Mezger sounds so much better), and the race programme has directly benefitted this GT3.

The biggest change is the adoption of a rigid valvetrain instead of a more commonly used hydraulic set-up. Usually these are a nightmare to maintain but Porsche claim this system should run to 186,000-miles without the need for adjustment. It reduces friction by 20%, with benefits to power and response and allows lower oil pressure and hence less fatigue on the engine and fewer pumping losses.

A new two-stage intake system is also said to much improve low- and mid-range response. The 4.0-litre engine produces 493bhp (500PS) at 8250rpm, 339lb ft at 6000rpm and revs to 9000rpm. That matches a 911 R or GT3 RS for power and beats them for reach by a small but braggable 200rpm.

Return of the manual gearbox

Oh, yeah. The manual. I almost forgot. Yes… you can once again order a GT3 with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’ll cost you exactly the same as the PDK car – from £111,802 in the UK, $143,600 in the US and €152,416 in Europe. But the early cars are all PDK and so – for now – we can only recommend that ‘box in theory. We do, by the way. Anyway, here’s what the GT3 is like.

My first go in the car is on track and so I get to wind-out the engine immediately. It’s stunning. There’s a deeper, more complex note in the mid-range and a whole lot more volume. It’s actually quite shockingly angry.

The response is also much, much improved. I never really felt the old car was asthmatic at low revs but this thing really hauls and the way it picks-up if you roll onto the accelerator at, say, 4500rpm is almost frightening.

For once the old ‘race car for the road’ adage feels about right. This is one fearsome motor. And the best bit is yet to come: The way it revs out to 9000rpm is extraordinary.

Let’s not be too down on PDK because it does at least give you a hope of keeping up with the engine. It too is faster, sharper, more immediate. Better yet they’ve ironed-out the silly surge between gears in PDK Sport mode and just left a supremely positive, scintillatingly fast shift. It adds to the relentless, furious feel that courses through the whole car.

911 GT3 on track

The chassis has a lot to cope with, then. But it does. And then some. Yes, there’s a little mid-corner understeer on the circuit but what’s really impressive is how tolerant this GT3 is at the limit. Unlike the pretty intimidating GT3 RS, this car encourages you to get the rear of the car moving to help pick the perfect line.

In fact, be it with a lift on turn-in or just a big bootful of power, it’s easily provoked and then held in lovely gratuitous slides. The quite heavy but consistent and accurate steering aids this behaviour almost invisibly. The rear steering is just that. You don’t feel it in operation but boy do you appreciate the agility and stability.

911 GT3 on road

Out on the road it’s a furious thing. The ride is actually pretty supple but the engine is so aggressive. So much so, I wonder if GT3 owners who only came on board with the 991 generation because it was a bit more usable might be frightened off. It’s noisy and intense and, unlike the last car, you can’t just forget it’s a GT3. It’s closer in spirit to the last RS and perhaps even louder and more uncompromising.

Unsurprisingly, that’s fine by me. A GT3 should be a bit of a workout and when you’re driving one you should always be reminded you’re in something special. This car delivers that sense of occasion at all times. It is a deeply wonderful thing.

Price: £111,802 (in the UK)

Engine:  3996cc, direct-injection, flat-six

Layout: Rear-engined, RWD 

Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch auto or 6-spd manual

Power: 493bhp at 8250 rpm

Torque: 339lb ft at 6000rpm

0-62mph: 3.4sec (PDK) or 3.9sec (manual)

Top speed: 197mph (PDK) or 198mph (manual)

Weight: 1430kg (PDK) or 1413kg (manual)

Economy: 22.2mpg (PDK) or 21.9g/km (manual) on the combined cycle

CO2: 288g/km (PDK) or 290g/km (manual)

Tags: #Porsche #911 #GT3 #Porsche-911 #Porsche-911-GT3 #911-GT3 #review #driven #drive

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