Take a look at the 2010 model year GT3 and it all looks so subtle, doesn't it? Now you know I'm going to tell you the long list of changes if only to silence your skepticism.
Of all the things making this GT3 really and honestly the best civilian Porsche of all time, item number one is the masses of added downforce fore and aft. All 911 experiences up until the new GT2 included a dose of nervousness. That busy rear end with the axle spitting out all the power and torque available coupled to just a modicum of downforce has consistently made for a dancing front end and a firmer grip on the steering wheel than I'd like.
Thanks to the new design of the 47.3-inch wide fixed rear wing and the extended front chin splitter under larger intakes, at 300 km/h (186 mph) rear downforce is now 132 pounds with 88 pounds in front. These amounts are roughly five times greater than the previous 997 GT3 and they are crucial reasons for the ability to cruise easily at the v-max of 193 mph, frequently with just one hand gripping the steering wheel while I talk with my co-pilot Jesus (he of the Mexican press corps). The difference in the car's confidence and comportment is tremendous.
Former rally champion, chief Porsche tester and Nrburgring know-it-all Walter Rhrl, wisely confirms this. "The secret to the car's big improvements," he says, "is the added downforce." In fact, during a countryside wild ride the champ tells me: "Even if it's wet and raining, I prefer this GT3 racing at the Nrburgring-of course with the optional Pirelli all-season tires and 4mm treads." Just for your knowledge, on perfect dry days he prefers the GT2 for the sheer power and ability to give him 7:31 lap times. This new GT3 with semi-slick Michelin Cup tires laps the Rhrlring in 7:40-a full five seconds quicker than the previous GT3.
Aside from aerodynamic revelations, the other biggest deal here is the new 3.8-liter version of the Porsche flat six. Bore and stroke before on the 3.6-liter engine were 3.94 x 3.00 inches; on the 3.8 they change to 4.04 x 3.01. According to Andreas Preuninger, Porsche motorsport manager for high-performance cars: "We have finally really reached the bore limit with this engine. This is the maximum before we need to create a new engine blueprint." Wall thickness between bores is in fact so thin now that steel cylinder liners have been added for durability as with the GT3 RSR racecars.
This engine is actually based on the flat-six motorsport engine first used for the GT1 Le Mans racer back in 1996. With its heart still in racing, the 3.8-liter mill has not been fitted with Porsche's direct-injection fuel system. Had they done so, practically speaking, private racers would no longer have been able to use the GT3, and that would be bad. And the dual-clutch PDK transmission will never be available for this car. "First, PDK weighs 66 pounds more than the Getrag six-speed manual," says Preuninger. "Then also when I am racing, and want to really finesse the car into a slide, I need a clutch pedal and manual shifter."
The redline for this 3.8-liter GT3 climbs to 8500 rpm, 100 rpm more than before. On upshifts, max power of 429 horses hits at 7600 rpm (max torque of 317 pound-feet at 6250 rpm) and that noise is righteous as well from the quad resonance intake bevels at the rear. The gearbox carries pretty quick and short ratios and it's a psychotically intense feeling actually shifting up to sixth gear at 183 mph in order to reach for the very maximum 193 mph. There's not even a little twitch during that shift and clutch release. Acceleration to 60 mph is way too easy in second gear and happens (conservatively estimated) in just 4.0 seconds. Feels like less.
During dynamic thrill sessions, drivers have a new option available called Porsche Active Drivetrain Mounts (PADM). For $1,000 you can have the two standard engine mounts replaced with magnetorheological engine dampers created by Delphi. These operate intuitively based on car movement and weight transfer forces, allowing more natural powertrain shifts of up to half an inch during casual drives. But when the track calls, engine movements get reeled in to just one tenth of an inch at most, creating motorsport-like dynamics through harder transitional moments at speed. These come available later this year to coincide with North American deliveries. The mounts can be retrofitted later, too.
The H&R rear suspension springs have been modified as well to complement the fresh downforce, and the new rear anti-roll bar is the same used on the GT2. That's clever parts-bin rummaging. They even took advantage of this GT3 modification session to improve the standard and ceramic brakes. The standard steel rotors grow to 15.0 inches in front and weigh 1.3 pounds less than the previous 13.8-inch discs, while the PCCB optional ceramic discs by SGL now weigh 2.2 pounds less each due to the use of aluminum center pieces versus the former stainless steel. The lightness is evident through the steering wheel, and the stoppers all stop real good.
All North American cars come fitted with a leather and synthetic sport seat, the other three styles of seat the rest of the world gets not being homologable in North America only. It's such a bummer, too, because the one-piece competition seats are insanely supportive and comfortable while also being lightweight. Yanks and Canucks also cannot get the Clubsport pack with its half rollcage, fire extinguisher, four-point seatbelts, and battery kill switches.
Having sold 5,200 of the last GT3 including the RS-twice what they had planned for-Porsche plans to build 5,000 units of this GT3 at a starting price of $112,200. She's worth it.
Rolling Swabian alpine two-lanes where the only thing to occasionally dodge is the cow-pie trails left by the harvesting farmers in their tall tractors. The sun is glowing and Walter Rhrl is there, and at night our hotel brews its own beer and the barmaids are hearty and laughing. Every ingredient of the scenario encouraging bold behavior and big stories.