Porsche 911 GT3

The story of Type 996 tells us that replacing a legendary model is not easy, especially is the mighty 911. From the beginning there are countless of criticism saying it too easy to drive, too characterless, too refined etc.. Face it ! Weissach, 911 die-hard lovers will never forgive you made the successor of 911 more like a 928 or any Grand Tourer. Whenever they read magazines comparing the 996 Carrera with Jaguar XK8 or Maserati 3200GT, fire emit from their eyes. "Bring back the real 911 !" 

To Weissach, the story of 911 told them given a good basis a flawed machine can be transformed into a masterpiece. They remember how the press criticised the early 911 as "uncontrollable", how they fine tuned the 911 to cure most of the unpredictable handling, how they gradually increased power and performance and eventually placed the car in the highest position of sports car history..... The story doesn't end here. Now they are going to play the same tricks to the 996 .... the result is called "911 GT3". 

The "GT3" badge was never used in Porsche's history. There is no secret that it aims at becoming a driving force in FIA's GT3 category racing series, just like the outgoing 911GT2 aiming at GT2 class. As you might have read from magazines, many similarities indicating this is the successor of the mighty 911 RS, which appeared between 1973 and 1997. For example, its racing purpose, it has a larger and more powerful engine (still without turbo), it has stiffer suspensions and lower ride height, it has a version completed with roll-cage like the late RSR. 

However, unlike all the late RS, the GT3 did nothing to save weight so that it is actually 30kg heavier than the standard Carrera 2 on which it based. If you remember, the first 911 RS 2.7 of 1973 tipped the scale at just 980kg, or 150kg lighter than contemporary regular 911. Since then every RS saved weight by ditching equipment and sound insulation material, by using hollow doors and thinner windsceen and windows. On the contrary, the GT3 has the same material and equipment including power windows, ABS, 4 air bags and central lock. Air-con and stereo are no cost option. A pair of tight racing buckets is probably the only lightweight item, but how many kilograms could it save ? Anyway, 1350kg is still pretty light by today's standard. 

The increment of 30kg is nothing compare to the 60 additional horses. Instead of 3.4, the GT3's boxer six cylinder engine displaces at 3.6 litres, still 0.2 litre below the last 911 RS but remember this is a water-cooled unit incorporating 24 valves, variable valve timing at inlet side and 2-stage variable induction like any modern 996. If you can't believe the additional c.c. can contribute to as much as 60hp, you're right. The over-square bore and stroke dimensions (100 x 76.4mm) tell us the former has grown 4mm while the latter has been reduced by 1.6mm, therefore it is optimised for power and rev rather than torque. The output figures confirm this: 360hp/7200rpm up from 300hp/6800rpm, 273lbft/5000rpm up from 258lbft/4600rpm. Other contribution is made by the lightweight titanium connecting rods and higher compression ratio (11.7 : 1 versus 11.3 : 1). Of course, the engine is running on dry sump lubrication for the benefit of racing. Some journalists thought this is a new feature of GT3 but in fact we know it has been using since the first 911 in 1964. 

For those who regard Carrera's engine noise as too silent, they must prefer GT3's louder, harder noise. At the lowest end of the spectrum it pulls eagerly from just 1500rpm at top gear, obviously more tractable than Ferrari 360 Modena's V8. At the other extreme it could revs to 7,800 rpm cut-off, pushes the car up to 188 mph top speed, a record for any production 911 and even faster than the new Ferrari. Porsche claimed 0-62mph in 4.8sec, 0-100mph in 10.2sec, but we know this is usually conservative. Considering a Carrera 2 is already capable of reaching 60mph in 4.6sec, the GT3 could only be faster. Porsche's test driver Walter Rohrl confirmed this by lapping Nurburgring big ring in 7min 56sec, the fastest official record for a production car. (Some said Skyline GT-R is faster, but without Nissan's confirmation.) 

Coupling to the 360hp flat six is a strengthened clutch and 6-speed transmission carried over from the outgoing 911GT2. Clutch pedal feels heavier thus it is easier to engage progressively. Stopping power comes from cross-drilled ventilated discs all round with a diameter of 330mm, equals to Ferrari 360's. Brake calipers are undoubtedly 4-piston aluminium monoblocs, this time coloured in eye-catching red. Wheels are now 18 inches in diameter, wearing 225 width and 285 width tyres front and rear respectively, both are 10mm wider than the arch-rival Ferrari. 

Porsche did not alter the steering mechanism but steering response is obviously sharper and more precise than the Carrera, thanks to the stiffer suspension setting, the low profile rubber and 30mm lower ride height. The mild understeer of 996 Carrera is substituted by neutral steering in most of the time. At the limit, power slide is easier to be held in corner, not only because the new engine has more torque, not only thanks to the changes in suspension, but also because of the consistency of controls. The message is clear : the involving, exciting manner of the REAL 911 has come back !  

It isn't difficult to handle, no, it is just more focused rather than nervous. Ride is firm but still comfortable enough to surprise drivers of any 911RS. Depends on your taste, the adjustable anti-roll bar could be set to favour handling or ride. 

It would be exciting to see how hard the £76,500 GT3 challenges the £101,000 Ferrari 360 Modena. One thing is sure : the GT3's high speed stability is defeated by the Ferrari. Even though there are aggressive-looking air dam, spoiler and skirts, GT3 generates no downforce at all. The front end barely achieves zero lift. The rear end, even whose twin-plane rear wing is set to the most favourable position, is so bad that Porsche refused to unveil the data. No wonder journalists said at above 160mph they felt the car less stable and the steering was lightened. Now I understand why the 360hp GT3 can reach 188mph ! For your information, the Ferrari generates a total 180kg downforce at 180mph. What's wrong with Porsche's engineers ? They used to emphasis downforce instead of top speed. When did they exchange their believe with Maranello ? 

The above report was last updated on 29 May 99. All Rights Reserved.


911 GT3
Rear-engined, Rwd
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
4430 / 1765 / 1270 / 2350
Flat-6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT, variable induction
3598 c.c.
360 hp
273 lbft
F: strut / R: multi-link
F: 225 / 40 ZR18 
R: 285 / 30 ZR18
1350 kg
Top speed
188 mph (claimed)
0-60 mph
4.5 sec*
0-100 mph
10.3 sec*
* Tested by EVO

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