Porsche 911 GT3 driven – Stuttgart's not-so-subtle reminder that it still rules the road

Andrew Frankel
The 911 GT3 is a phenomenal drivers machine, launched against a backdrop of upmarket SUVs that Porsche clearly deems more profitable than sports cars these days - Copyright Dean Smith

There are few things better at making you feel guilty than driving a new Porsche 911 GT3 through the centre of a busy town. Even if you don’t actually start mouthing apologies as the stares accumulate, you will still wish to shrink ever further down into its racing bucket seats until, ideally, you actually disappeared.

And it’s not just that it looks likes it’s just come straight from Silverstone nor even that it sounds much the same way too. It’s that you know something your unwanted audience does not: this car may look like it’s breaking the law when parked, but it’s actually way more naughty even than that.

Porsche 911 GT3 pictures

There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself for it. Pore over the specification sheets and you’ll notice the engine has expanded from 3.8 to 4.0 litres relative to the last GT3 of 2014, and its output from 475 to 493bhp. But in this era of hypercars, that’s not so much these days. You’ll discover a manual gearbox is once more available (customers were not shy in letting Porsche know how they felt about its decision to make the last GT3 with just two pedals) and that it’ll reach 62mph in 3.9sec (or 3.4sec with the paddle-shift transmission). And in a world where sub-3sec runs are becoming increasingly commonplace, that’s more fast than feral.

The Porsche 911 GT3 is an aggressively-styled car, but can its bite match its bark? We think so. Credit: Dean Smith

But none of this says a word about this car’s character and its addictive nature. Moreover, in an era where almost all performance cars have relatively low-revving, slow-responding engines that are aurally rarely better than pleasant, the GT3 offers a naturally aspirated motor plucked straight from the engine bay of the latest racing 911. It sounds so good at 7,000rpm you can almost feel little red horns stretching the skin on your scalp, but it will go all the way to a preposterous 9,000rpm, by which stage you may find yourself a helpless disciple to its devilish ways.

The instruments' conventionality belie a fresh sense of power and purpose Credit: Dean Smith

So you’d better take it somewhere it can be exercised safely and without causing offence. Ideally a race track. And it’s possible that on the way you might ponder whether it’s really worth it: you could, for instance, spend £16,000 less on a better equipped 911 GTS with only a little less power and lot more torque. It will be all of 0.2sec slower to 62mph, but where the GT3 suffers from considerable engine and tyre noise at a constant cruise, the GTS is among the most refined 911s there has been. And it has rear seats, which are handy; the GT3 does not, even as an option.

A spirited drive reveals the new Porsche's true character. Stuttgart's engineers have produced yet another fine driver's car Credit: Dean Smith

But not even a 911 GTS, a car that not long ago earned the full five stars, can approach the GT3 when it comes to the provision of pure driving pleasure, and not just because its smaller turbo engine lacks the snarling, howling, shrieking soundtrack of the GT3. Indeed the more you drive the GT3 the more you realise the engine is just the most obvious of its talents. You may not notice it at first, but at least as impressive is suspension tuned to a different level of sophistication to that of more ‘normal’ 911s.

The levels of grip are beyond anything any sane person would choose to use on a dry road, but where Porsche has been clever is not to destroy the ride quality in the process: it’s firm but so beautifully damped the car is actually as comfortable as its more modestly attired stablemates. And if you do go somewhere you can drive it on the limit, you’ll discover that the way it responds, its poise, balance and feel, is closer to that of a thoroughbred race car than even quite sporting conventional street machines.

The allure of the new 911 GT3 must be experienced to be fully understood. Credit: Dean Smith

Make no mistake, this is the most hardcore GT3 yet, and not just because of that lunatic engine. As Porsche converts itself into an SUV and luxury car manufacturer, this seems to be the company’s way of reminding the world that it’s not forgotten where it has come from, and that such extreme sports cars remain a small but integral component of where it’s going.

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THE FACTS

Porsche 911 GT3

TESTED 3,996cc, flat-six-cylinder, seven-speed paddleshift gearbox, rear-wheel drive

PRICE/ON SALE from £111,802/now

POWER/TORQUE 493bhp @ 8,250rpm/339lb ft @ 6,000rpm

TOP SPEED 197mph

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 3.9sec

FUEL ECONOMY 22.2mpg/14.6 mpg (EU Combined/Urban)

CO2 EMISSIONS 288g/km

VED BAND  (£2,000 first year, then £140)

VERDICT For the money, no other car on sale that can be used every day offers close to this level of driving pleasure. As close a relative to a pure racing car as any fully equipped, tolerably practical road car can come.

TELEGRAPH RATING Five stars out of five

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