First Drive: 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 Review
For over 20 years, the Porsche 911 GT series has fallen into such a familiar pattern that we all think we know what’s coming next. And the answer is that whether you’re talking about a GT3, GT3 RS or GT2 RS, it’s a safe bet to presume the new car will follow the same philosophy as the previous one in that series, just turned up to 11.
And that is exactly what this new GT3 appears to be. It is actually the seventh since the original was launched in 1999: two generations for each of the 996, 997 and 991 series and now this, the first of the 992 GT3s. It has a touch more power, a smidgeon more weight, refreshed aerodynamics and so on. All the things we’ve come to expect every time Porsche launches a new GT3 in other words. You might even wonder why a hack might bother to go and drive it, were it not such an obviously fun thing to do.
But it’s just as well we did. Because despite all on-paper appearances to the contrary, this is not just a new GT3, but the most changed since the launch of the first at the back end of last century. So changed indeed that it is tantamount to a complete repositioning of the GT3 brand. What’s more, while some will be absolutely cock-a-hoop at this news, others may not take kindly to it at all.
- Attacks corners unlike any previous GT3
- Engine is sublime
- Weight gain of just 5kg over 991 GT3
We don't like
- Not as useable as a road car
- Less eccentric on-track character
- Might force the GT3 RS to become even harder
There are four areas in which the GT3 diverges radically from the script of its predecessor. But before we reach any of them let’s have a quick look at some of the stuff that has not changed so much.
The engine is still a naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat six that spins to 9,000rpm. And thank heaven for that. It’s got 10 more horses than before (but still 10 fewer than the last GT3 RS) and is now said to be all but identical to the engine used in the 911 Carrera Cup racing car. Total car weight has gone up just 5kg to 1,435kg
In terms of its transmission, there is still a seven speed PDK double clutch gearbox as ‘standard’, with a six speed manual available as a no cost option. There is as yet no replacement for the Touring model introduced for the previous generation GT3 but while unconfirmed, it is known to be coming and should be here by the end of the year.
So far, so familiar. So let’s now examine what is so very different about the car. The first point to notice is subtle but important: the front track has been widened by 48mm compared to the previous GT3, suggesting a more planted stance and greater front end grip.
Number two is that the front spring rates have been doubled – yes, doubled – relative to last GT3, which should radically affect both its ride and handling. Why? Because of point three: an aero package that increases maximum downforce by 150 per cent, to 385kg and when there’s than much weight pressing down on the car, you need stiff springs to support it.
And finally there is the front suspension itself which, for first time in the 58 year history of the 911 and 901, now boasts double unequal length wishbones and not McPherson struts. Designed to increase the scope for tuning and also maintain an even contact patch in all conditions, the only other 911 to be so equipped is the current RSR Le Mans racing car.
Taken together, they make this a GT3 like no other before.
Performance and Handling
Don’t expect any big changes in the performance or characteristics of the powertrain. With an all but unchanged power to weight ratio, the new GT3 is a scant tenth of a second quicker to 62mph, and tops out at the same 198mph (199mph for the manual). But it would be hard to pinpoint what you might modify to improve the experience further. The engine is one of the finest ever conceived, its sound above 7,000rpm special in a way it hard to find the words to describe. And while some may prefer the three pedal option, for fans of paddles none could ever change more swiftly or sweetly than these.
The night and day difference with this GT3 is how it handles. Those modifications to the suspension, aero and front track combine with wider tyres front and rear to give this car an appetite for track work no previous non-‘RS’ GT3 could conceive.
Even on your way down the pitlane you notice how much more quickly the car responds to the steering. There’s no rubber in that front suspension, it’s all Rose-jointed just like a racing car. Combine that with the widened front track and the result is a car with a most un-911-like ability to get into a corner.
Indeed the 911’s longstanding limitation in this regard coined the oft-used ‘slow-in, fast-out’ motto of all safe 911 drivers. No longer. Fast in, even faster out should be the new mantra. Such is the car’s desire to sniff out the apex, it actually makes you realise you’ve been almost subliminally managing 911s in the past, being conservative on entry because you know payback is coming when you get to use all that delicious traction on exit. You just don’t need to drive the GT3 like that. It feels about half way to a mid-engined machine by comparison.
And then there’s the aero. It’s not enough to dramatically raise the speed at which the car can tackle a quick curve, what it brings instead is confidence, because the car feels so firmly planted. There’s no vagueness, no wandering off line, it just goes where you want. It makes the limit at high speeds a far less scary place to be. No wonder the car is 17 seconds a lap quicker around the old Nürburgring, call it 12 when wearing the same tyres.
So what’s the downside? On track this is a different kind of fun, more a sense of inner admiration – even awe – at the machine’s abilities than a belly laugh at its eccentricities. Yes, you can absolutely slide it until its Michelins melt, but this is less of a natural state for it these days. It needs provocation.
More significantly, its ride is determinedly stiff on the public road, which really erodes its suitability to daily driving. Some will tough it out because it’s more hard than harsh, but that everyday usability – a key component to many GT3 customers – has been degraded.
Here at least the GT3 is almost exactly what you expect. No rear seats, optional roll cage, three front seat choices from sporty to full race, a few GT3 badges scattered around the place and so on. PDK cars now come with what looks like a conventional gear lever – it’s not – and there’s a new dash display for when you’re on track, which gets rid of everything save your revs, with oil and water readouts on one side and tyre pressures on the other. It’s a thoughtful touch.
Technology and Features
Despite being a wider car with heavier front suspension, bigger brakes, wheels, tyres and more aerodynamic addenda, Porsche has kept the weight gain over the previous GT3 to just 5kg. How? Attention to detail. There’s 10kg shaved from the exhaust system, six from the engine itself and 3.5kg from its mounts. A further 10kg comes from using a lithium ion battery, 4.7kg through thinner glass, 2.5kg now it has a CFRP bonnet, 1.9kg of sound deadening has gone in the bin and rear deck is 500 grams lighter. And that’s before you go for lightweight seats, ceramic brakes, a CFPR roof and any other weight saving option.
We should mention that aero pack too. Like the suspension it is fully adjustable: you can change the angle of the rear wing and tune the front diffuser to trim it out too. And the reason the mounts are on top of the rear wing rather than below? It is the underside of the wing that does the most work, so maximising its surface area simply makes sense.
This, then, is a very different GT3: far more track oriented, far less suited to everyday use on the road. The combination of the aero, front suspension and revised spring rates really do change the character of the car completely.
The odd thing is it appears to push the car into the role traditionally reserved for the GT3 RS, or at least gets it half way there. So the question is what will Porsche now do with the GT3 RS? And the only answer can be to make it even more mad and track focussed than before. Should we rule out it becoming mid-engined like the RSR racing 911s have been for the last four seasons? Not completely, no, though it still seems unlikely.
But there’s an even more compelling question here: what is Porsche going to use to fill the conceptual space the GT3 has just vacated? It is to be hoped that the answer lies in the forthcoming Touring. It won’t have those big wings, so nor will it need massive spring rates to support the body under the downforce they generate. A more softly sprung GT3 Touring, perhaps with some of the sound deadening returned would seem to make a lot of sense. And return the GT3 to the split role of track weapon and daily driver it has enjoyed ever since its launch in 1999.
|Engine||4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six|
|Power||510PS (380kW) @ 8,250rpm|
|Torque||470Nm (347lb ft) @ 6,100rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed double clutch, rear-wheel-drive|
Reviewed by Andrew Frankel