Porsche 911 GT3 review: the most involving 911 ever goes manual
April 13, 2018
Before we focus on the manual gearchange, it’s worth talking about what’s new on this 2018 GT3 compared with last year’s iteration. It’s based on the 991.2, which means it’s more evolution than revolution – although isn’t every new 911 like that? Either way, the most important thing here is the naturally-aspirated powerplant at its heart.
While Porsche might have sacrificed the purity of the flat-six by turbocharging the standard models, Stuttgart knows better than to touch the sacred cow that is the GT3. Nothing but natural aspiration will do for the most track-ready 911 – well, until the next one...
Porsche says this is a new engine that appears in the GT3 Cup racers and is built for a spine-tingling 9000rpm redline, a height it can reach thanks to axle-mounted rocker arms, a stiffer crankshaft and bigger bearings. Serious stuff.
And I can have a manual GT3 this time?
Yes you can, and after a few months we’ve finally got our hands on one. While many people will prefer the instantaneous click of the PDK auto transmission, there’s a good argument that a six-speed manual gearbox is just ‘right’ for this car.
Firstly, this is the drivers’ 911, and it makes sense to have even more control up to that screaming 9000rpm redline. We’ll explain what the car is like to drive in a minute, but the tactile, haptic nature of the GT3’s gearshift just offers another plane of connection to the flat-six behind you.
Secondly, in a car this fast and this direct, it’s useful to have something else to think about and master when driving on the road. While you can use the PDK to catapult the GT3 into the horizon, it’s not advised on public roads.
So what’s the manual ‘box actually like on the 2018 GT3? We found it very satisfying to use - there’s a pleasingly engineered, precise feel to the shift and it’s intuitive when you’re chasing the the limiter. Yet it’s still usable enough to sit in London traffic without a stress. What’s more, while you can blip and change down manually by default, flicking the GT3 to Sport gives you rev-matching for that physically rewarding, racing experience. Cheating’s allowed in 2018, right?
And what about the GT3 with PDK?
A precise snap change at 9000rpm is not something you want to get wrong but PDK gets it right every single time; when you’ve got the throttle pinned it slides the next gear in with the precision and speed of a card shark taking your money.
It also allows you the guilty pleasure of a perfectly-executed launch control start over and over again; this car isn’t really about straight-line speed yet it makes an event out of it nonetheless.
Clearly it's fast then?
By any measure. Given that in supercar land these days 700bhp-plus has become almost expected, it’s worth remembering the GT3 makes do with 'only' 493bhp. Do the two-pedal dance and it will fire itself to 62mph in 3.4 seconds and to 100mph in just 7.9, with a magnificent, cultured holler accompanying you the whole way. Deliciously precise and devilishly fast, no turbo engine – not even built by Porsche – will ever be this good.
So what’s the Porsche GT3 like to drive then?
We’ve driven lots of supercars, and one thing that seems to wear off after the first few is the feeling of speed and excitement you get when first firing one up. Sure, cars like the Honda NSX, Audi R8 and McLaren 720S are by no means boring, but once you’ve experienced the low-slung speed of a supercar the novelty tends to wear off. Until the GT3.
Even on normal roads, the first five minutes in a GT3 feel like a totally different experience to other cars in the same price bracket. It’s loud, stiff and thanks to rear-wheel steering shaving off a virtual 20-30cm of wheelbase, it’s remarkably pointy too– but it’s still as usable as a standard 911. But this Porsche isn’t about pootling around town; seek out some more suitable roads and full sensory overload is unleashed.
With the Clubsport pack’s rollcage clanking away behind you, the timeless metallic scream of the flat-six and crisp, positive gearchanges to your left-hand-side, driving the GT3 is a very special experience.
With PASM in its standard mode you can tackle pretty unruly B-roads at higher speeds and the GT3’s specific spring and damper tuning sucks it all in, no doubt assisted by the helper springs on the rear axle that allow a softer set-up. It gives you greater freedom to exploit that sensational motor without fear of the road conditions getting the better of you.
And this is the most accessible GT3 ever. Stay the right side of heroic and there are spectacular depths to its ability.
Drive it in textbook fashion and it grips and steers with composure and reassurance, all while covering ground at a significant rate. But if you’re more Keke than Nico you can dance around the outer limits, trailbraking into bends to get the nose locked in and teasing the rear out with micrometric precision on the throttle.
Where new GT3 beats old is that you can do this more of the time – with the single proviso that on the standard-fit Cup tyres a sprinkling of rain requires an extra large slice of restraint. A bigger buzz more of the time; sounds like a worthwhile improvement to us...
Is there anything else new on the 991.2 GT3?
In classic Porsche fashion, it’s all about detail tweaks. The front and rear aero packages have been redesigned, with a mix of polyurethane and carbonfibre to save weight. Downforce is increased over the previous GT3 and the engine scoops have been redesigned to increase the air supply. A true spotter will pick up the differences, everyone else will just be wowed.
What else do I need to know?
Only how much money you can lay your hands on. The £111,802 GT3 isn’t a limited-edition model, but the total number built is limited by the availability of parts. If you have the means, don’t even hesitate. But buy it for keeps...
Read more about the 2017 GT3 in our preview here
Porsche 2018 GT3 review: verdict
This was hardly a car Porsche was going to get wrong. In fact it could have made some token changes and still sold every single one without breaking sweat. But GT3.2 is so much more than that, building on the brilliance of the old car by making it more accessible and usable but without any dilution of the sensory magic that makes it such a joy to drive in the first place.
We know what you’re thinking: another 911, another glowing review. But spend five minutes exploring the GT3’s ability on a suitable road and we guarantee you won’t think any differently. As for the manual? It’s not the fastest transmission to stick in your GT3, but it’s the right one.