Porsche 911 GT3 by Pfaff TuningAug 24th, 2016
If you’re used to driving “regular” Porsche 911s, you will think, in your first few minutes behind the wheel, that the 911 GT3 is broken.
Start it up from cold and the engine chunters, grumbles, and rattles in a a particularly ill-behaved manner, the car’s stripped-down cabin reverberating and boomy with the noise. Roll out of your parking space and onto the street and you immediately notice the lack of sound insulation as you hear every little piece of grit pinging off the car’s undercarriage. Unlike a regular 911, the seven-speed, dual-clutch PDK gearbox doesn’t “creep” forward at stop lights, and requires a slightly deliberate push on the gas to engage first gear. The rear wing blocks your view of what’s going on behind, the low front end can scrape in the city unless you’ve ordered the optional front-axle lift, and the steering wheel jiggles and wiggles in your hands as it rides every ridge and imperfection in the pavement.
But then you start to notice that, despite sitting unfeasibly low, that the track-spec suspension still manages to take the edge off even the worst downtown Toronto potholes. That the PDK, left to its devices in normal mode, snaps seamlessly between its gears as well as a modern automatic. That despite all of the race-car stuff, it’s still a Porsche 911: comfortable to sit in, easy to see out of, a car that that is still made for driving, whatever the situation.
As the car warms, the engine’s idle settles down a bit, but the car never gets quiet. That’s okay. Memo to Porsche: while we love how you make every successive generation of 911 faster, more efficient, and more capable, the latest models are almost too sophisticated and refined for their own good. You don’t need to drive the GT3 fast, or on a racetrack, to feel how special it is; rip it through first and second gear along a downtown street at 50 km/h, and its pin-sharp throttle response, magnificent engine noise, and communicative chassis make every drive, at any speed, an event.
German engineers, relentlessly pursuing perfection on all fronts, have forgotten that someone dropping north of $150,000 on a Porsche probably wants it to feel racy, to have a little bit of an edge to it. It’s no wonder that 911 GT3s – the last bastion in the 911 range of natural aspiration, extra-high revs, and of, well, noise – are frequently selling for over MSRP on the used market. Morning coffee runs feel like you’re qualifying for Le Mans, and weekend drives stretch on and on, interrupted only for brief stops for fuel and to catch your breath.
It really is that good.
I could go on and on about the immediacy, precision, and perfect feel of the GT3’s steering. Or how the nudges from its four-wheel steering (at low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts to virtually shorten the wheelbase; at higher speeds, they turn in the same direction) give the chassis an almost magical combination of nimbleness and stability. Or how the body control and damping is pure perfection, maintaining a flat cornering stance without running the ride. Or how the calibration of the PDK gearbox is so good that, even to a save-the-manuals diehard like myself, you never miss an H-pattern and clutch pedal.
But all of these things – each one of them an exemplar of mechanical perfection, of best-in-class performance – pale in comparison to the GT3’s engine, a thrashing, wailing, head-banging rock opera of flat-six magnificence whose volume, tone, and instrumental mix you control with minute precision every time you flex your right foot. Response to the throttle is so sharp that it will cut you, but so progressive you can smear power onto the ground through those 305-section rear tires like warm butter. In stark contrast to the perfect, linear power delivery of modern turbocharged engines, the 3.8-litre six goes through four distinct steps in its power band – gruff and a little uncooperative below 2,000 rpm; ripping-silk smooth and free-revving to about 6,500; a headlong, roller-coaster rush from there to 8,000, accompanied by a nose that will rattle the windows off buildings.
Your inclination at this point would be to back off the throttle or change gear, but it’s actually past 8,000 where the real magic happens. Keep your foot in it, feel the engine climb from there to 9,000 (you’ll want to keep your eyes on the road) and in those fleeting moments, there’s no better car on the road.
With a few select tweaks from the team at Pfaff Tuning, this GT3 is even better. Since the car comes from the factory without rear seats and belts, a red-painted roll cage complements its track focus, adds strength, and looks awesome. The car looks lowered but the suspension is, in fact, stock, but a track alignment allows it to turn incredible lap times, abetted by the 20-inch, red-painted Forgeline wheels and Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires. Thus set up, it’s still comfortable, but a total track monster, if one that, thanks to those tires, is not an ideal companion in a sudden thunderstorm.
In the week I drove the GT3, thanks to a number of other events happening throughout the Pfaff network, I also managed to get behind the wheel of two separate McLaren 570Ss, and a Pagani Huayra BC. After driving all of these cars, it was no surprise that my daily-driver BMW M235i felt tall, slow, and soft, but what was a surprise was that it was the GT3 I longed for most to put in my garage. It doesn’t have the outright speed of the other cars, but the magnificence of its engine, the brilliant balance of its chassis, and the fact that it’s just civil enough to drive all the time, made it one of the year’s most memorable drives.