Edinburgh, Scotland - It was a logical move. Ditching the slower manual gearbox in favour of a quicker double-clutch auto in a car primarily focussed on speed only makes sense.
But not all of Porsche’s customers agreed, and when the current 911 GT3 was launched in 2013 with a PDK transmission only, those who fancied a third pedal threw toys from cots. These are enthusiasts who know darn well that changing manually eats precious milliseconds, but are willing to sacrifice a tenth here and a hundredth there in the name of heel-toe throttle blips and good old fashioned H-patternry.
Good news for these folks, is Porsche has listened. Or at least learned from the successes of the manual-only 911R. From September, and for the first time ever, the GT3 will be sold with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK gearboxes. Think of it like straight razors and electric shavers: one for the purists, and one for those who want to get things done as quickly as possible.
But the big news isn’t limited to cog-swapping only, because for the updated GT3, Porsche has also upped engine size and power with a new 4-litre flat-six that’s good for 368kW and 460Nm. That’s 18kW and 20Nm more than the former 3.8, and though the Porsche anoraks might notice the new outputs are identical to those in the now discontinued 911R and GT3 RS, a true anorak will know this is by coincidence only.
The latest GT3’s engine is in fact an iteration of the one in the most recent 911 RSR purebred racecar, and not inherited from those aforementioned models.
No matter. It’s a beast. I had a chance to sample the new goods in Scotland where Porsche was staging its millionth 911 road trip, and each time the road opened enough to get near its 9000rpm redline, my brain nearly burst. This monster delivers huge dollops of torque right off idle, and acceleration is indecently quick even if kept in the lower half of its rev range. But, venture past the 5000rpm mark, and the thing pulls like a freight train and shrieks like the mother of all banshees all the way to the limiter.
I drove the manual version, which with a claimed 3.9 second figure is half a second slower to 100km/* than the PDK model. It is a tad lighter though (17kg to be precise), and for what it’s worth is 2km/* faster on top end. That’s 320km/* by the way. Yikes.
Few cars on sale today, or in history for that matter, have a shift action as positive as this, and each throw of the suede-covered gearknob is met with a neat little snick into place. Lovely. I wasn’t as in love with the Sport mode auto-blip feature though, as each flick of my right foot on downshifts was thwarted by an electronic throttle supervisor. If your heel-toe technique needs computer tutelage, you might be better off with the PDK.
Handling is well sorted too, and though the new GT3 gets the same four-wheel steer system as the previous generation, Porsche’s suspension scientists have fine-tuned shock, spring, bush, anti-roll and 20” tyre settings to better offer an unfiltered feed from surface to steering wheel. Even the carbonfibre rear wing is positioned 20mm higher now for greater downforce. This 911 sticks like lint to velcro, but still manages a reasonable enough pliancy to be driven every day. The GT3’s spread of ability between road and track is possibly the best I’ve ever experienced.
The facelift, which carries the same 991.2 codename as other 911 variants launched last year, also means tech updates and now its touchscreen infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone pairing. There’s also a downloadable track app, for analysing lap data in the hunt for those elusive split seconds.
The local launch is planned for the end of the year (probably around September), and prices start from R2 750 000 including a three-year Porsche drive plan. Pricing is the same for both manual and PDK models. Optional extras include deeper Sports seats or carbon-shell racing buckets, a Clubsport package with roll cage, six-point harness and fire extinguisher, ceramic brakes, LED lights, and alcantara or carbonfibre interior trim packs among others.