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2018 Porsche 911 GT3 review

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  • 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 review



    There’s nothing that bothers me more than seeing someone look at this and say ‘what’s the point, you can’t drive it properly in Australia?’ or ‘we all go the same speed limit’. Okay, sure. You go drive your super-practical A to B car and leave this Porsche and a general sense of happiness to me, thanks.




    Spending about $350,000–$400,000 on a car is no small feat, even for the rich. So the next time you see someone driving a car like this updated 2018*Porsche 911 GT3 (991.2), appreciate it a little, and try to realise that it’s not there to impress you. Though, it does that too.




    You almost don’t even need to drive this Porsche 911 GT3 to appreciate it. Even with the engine switched off, it looks menacing. It’s hard to miss that gigantic rear wing that now proudly wears the 4.0 badge to indicate its engine upgrade from 3.8, now borrowed from Porsche’s Carrera Cup car.




    With 368kW of power and 460Nm of torque (up from 350kW and 440Nm), the new GT3 sees a reduction of 0–100km/h time of 0.1 seconds, now at 3.4 seconds for the PDK (3.9 for the six-speed manual).




    Our particular car came with the seven-speed PDK system (more on that later), which alongside its options (listed at the bottom) put the price before on-road costs at around $360,000. Given the long queue for one of these at the moment, haggling on price may be an exercise in futility.




    Jump inside and the 911 GT3’s cabin is in many ways similar to a normal 911, apart from the optional bucket seats ($8870) and the six-point racing harness (illegal to wear on public roads) for the driver’s seat ($1150 for the passenger seat). Oh, and you know, there is a fire-extinguisher for when you take the kids to school and they misbehave, and if things get really rough, the half rollcage will be there to provide some needed reassurance.




    Ignoring the racing bits, the actual cabin is very much 911, and that’s starting to look a little old-school. The infotainment system, the cabin layout, it’s all very classically beautiful, but considering this is a car that competes with the likes of the Audi R8, new Aston Martin Vantage and Mercedes-AMG GT R, it’s a little out of fashion and it screams for the new 992 911 to hurry the hell up.




    But, and it’s a big but, no-one is buying a GT3 to complain about the ageing satellite navigation or the fact that you have to pay $3390 for a pretty ordinary Bose stereo that really should stay in a brand like Mazda, while Mercedes – as an example – uses Burmester as standard in the GT. Unlike some other Porsche models that also offer Burmester audio, you can’t get a better system than the Bose in the GT3, but it’s a ‘no-cost option’ to remove the stereo altogether – bargain.




    The good news is that you actually don’t need a stereo. Turn the GT3 on (you’ll need to insert the key and turn, like in those old-school movies from the 2000s) and the new race engine roars to life with a growl that makes you realise why you can happily hand over your year’s bonus for one of these.




    It’s not a rough idle like the GT3 RS, but given it’s a giant six-cylinder naturally aspirated engine, there is not much that can beat it for sheer audible pleasure. But, for whatever reason – likely an indirect result of environmentalists and ever-tightening regulations around engine noise – the sheer awesomeness of the race motor doesn’t come on till well past 4000rpm.




    The party trick of this car is, of course, its capability to cleanly and happily rev to an astronomical 9000rpm (more than the old GT3 RS engine), so you can be forgiven for thinking that having limited engine noise under 4000rpm isn’t an issue. But it is, because even with the exhaust button pressed, the GT3 is far too quiet and undramatic at low speeds. Even in first gear you’ll need to come close to, or actually break, the speed limit of local roads to get it to properly sing. Otherwise, if driven lawfully (if that’s even possible in this car), it doesn’t crackle, it doesn’t pop, and it doesn’t do all the attention-grabbing effects one may hope for.




    Don’t get me wrong, this is an absolute cracker of an engine. It sounds like a race engine because it is, and the power and torque delivery across the rev range is intoxicating, so insanely linear and useable, and always begging you to keep revving and revving. But unless you have god-like willpower, you will find yourself sitting in the high rev ranges as much as possible just to listen to what a sports car should sound like. It’s also a stark reminder of why the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged engines in the standard 911.2 911 range have lost some of their character with the muffled turbo sound.




    However, if you drive it sensibly, then in terms of its attention-seeking abilities, it’s like the antithesis of a rear-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan, which you can have for a smidgen more. But take it up a twisty mountainous road where 8–9000rpm is the norm, and the GT3 sings so beautifully it can make you a little teary. It will also leave the base-model Huracan in its wake. Seriously.




    Last year, I spent a day out at QLD Raceway driving the 991.1 GT3 RS for 80 full-speed laps with professional instructions and race-car-like telemetry on hand – a driver training day that should be mandatory for any GT3 or GT3 RS owner – and I can hand on heart tell you, this new GT3 is in almost every way just as good as the old GT3 RS.




    It’s so planted, it’s so stable, it turns in with such precision and finesse, and it inspires so much confidence that you have to wonder why every sports car manufacturer in the world doesn’t buy the GT3 for benchmarking purposes (though many do use the 911 in general). This is how a steering wheel should work, and it’s not even hydraulic!




    The only problem with it, so far as I could see, is that its limits are so much higher than your driving ability that you start to push and push, and get so confident without ever really finding the point at which the car and the laws of physics may have a minor disagreement. And if and when you ever do, it’s probably too late to reflect with an ‘Aha!’ moment and apply corrective steering and pedal input before you meet your doom. This is a race car and it demands to be driven with the same level of respect and fear.




    Do not apply if the thought of driving one of these things on the limit doesn’t scare you, because it should.




    We would go so far as to say the GT3 is close to the Huracan Performante for its dynamic ability (though lacking the power and braking force), and then it starts to make sense why it beat the old GT3 RS’s lap time around the Nürburgring (7:12 vs around 7:20). Though to be fair, the 991.2 GT3 RS has now done a ridiculous 6:56.4, which is quicker than the 918 hypercar and one of only five production cars that have ever managed to go under the seven-minute mark.




    Why is it quicker?*Apart from some minor updates to the suspension and aerodynamics, Porsche has installed dynamic engine mounts and a locking rear differential in addition to rear-axle steering, which helps noticeably for better turn-in. Like similar systems, it turns the rear wheels in the same or opposite direction to the front wheels depending on how fast you're going.




    As much as I hate to admit it, those cynical car-hating bastards I mentioned at the beginning are right*– there is no road in Australia you can drive this thing anywhere near its limits, which is why it should be tracked. Often. Porsche knows that too, so the warranty is covered for any mechanical issues that are unlikely to come from its track use (remember this is a race engine to start with). If you buy one of these and don’t track it, then you’ve well and truly wasted your money.




    Now that you’ve decided you need to own one of these, it brings us to the question of the transmission, because there are a lot of reasons to buy a manual GT3. It’s more of a driver’s car, it’s more raw, and if you don’t intend to daily it, it adds a level of excitement to the driving experience that is hard to match regardless of how amazing Porsche’s latest PDK system is – and it’s f#*king amazing.




    Usually, I would herein talk about why the manual is the purist’s choice and it adds soul and character that is sadly missing from today’s supercars (and 50 per cent of new GT3 owners agree with that assessment), but honestly, buy the PDK. Yep, I said it. Buy the auto over the manual. Apart from the fact that it’s 0.5 seconds faster to 100km/h, it would have to be one of the best gearboxes currently in existence. It’s so rapid in its shifts, it’s so smooth at slow or fast speeds, it’s just excellent.




    No doubt the manual – which we haven’t driven – will be outstanding in its own way, but unless you really need to emphasise that this is a car for pure enjoyment and not lap times, the PDK will be hard to beat. Oh, and it’s the same price as the manual, because Porsche is clever like that, offering a manual gearbox that clearly costs much less than a PDK, but knowing the purists will be frothing over it, so making it a ‘no-cost option’. Hey, let’s make the car a bit cheaper and make the PDK a ‘no-cost option’?




    Then there’s the second question, can you daily it? There’s no sugarcoating it, this is a race car. It can be a pain to get in and out of, it’s raw, it will bottom out if you don’t use the lift system religiously, and I personally wouldn’t let my wife anywhere near it because those centre-lock rims are too precious to damage.




    But it doesn’t quite go to the same extent as the GT3 RS, it rides decently over bumps (it will get super firm if you press the sports suspension button), but you wouldn’t exactly call it a poor man’s RS, either. It’s worth noting that this lacks all the modern active safety features you’d get in some of its competitors, and it also hasn’t been crash-tested, but if you’re asking me, you can 100 per cent daily this no problem. But I would’ve probably said the same thing about the old RS.




    In fact, talking to folks that have got a deposit on the new GT3, a common question is whether it’s the one to go for – now with its updated 991.1 GT3 RS-beating engine – or does it make more sense to buy a second-hand RS for a tad more?




    To answer that question, we actually took the GT3 over to CarAdvice friend and car lover Jay Gordon (who you may remember set the record time for an around-Australia trip), who owns a GT3 RS (and many other supercars – and even two Teslas, but we have forgiven him for that). He is frequently seen taking his GT3 RS through McDonald’s drive-through, so he knows a thing or two about day-to-day driving. We asked him for his thoughts, which we have echoed here:




    My GT3RS certainly feels and does, in fact, have a lot more rubber, but you would have to be a better driver than me to take advantage of the difference offered over the new GT3. On the other hand, the new GT3 holds that manic note over 8k RPM for a moment longer, which is wild, but the RS sounds more raw across the whole range. It's more dramatic and racecar-like as a result.




    If it was my money, I would say a well looked after second-hand GT3RS is definitely still a lot more striking. If it was dollar for dollar, so I would still buy an RS, but the performance difference between the 991.1 GT3 RS and the 991.2 GT3 is pretty slim.




    While Porsche continues to sell its excellent 911 range with its turbocharged heart, it’s essentially buying CO2 credits for those lucky enough to be able to afford GT versions of the car, be that a GT3, GT3 RS or the monstrous GT2 RS. It would be inhuman to own any of those three and not wake up with a smile on your face, so go on, buy one. It’s better than you think, and if there were such a thing as a ‘no-regret warranty’, this car would have it with an unlimited-kilometre lifetime offer.




    2018 Porsche 911 GT3:
    • Sports bucket seats $8870
    • Black LED main headlights including Porsche Dynamic Lighting System (PDLS) $6830
    • Bose surround-sound system $3390
    • Wheels painted in satin aluminium $2390
    • Carbon Interior Package $1730
    • Reversing camera $1690
    • Privacy glass (rear window and rear side windows) $1290
    • Sport Chrono Package including preparation for lap trigger $1190
    • Automatically dimming mirrors $1190
    • Six-point racing harness for passenger $1150

    Standard price combined with fitted options: $358,770



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