There are two ways to understand the new stick-shift 911 GT3. The first way is to consider it solely as a mechanical object with certain capabilities. The second way is to dig out our old copy of The Raw And The Cooked and truly evaluate it as a product of deliberate myth, artificial scarcity, and unique context. But I’ll warn you before I do that just in case you want to stop reading at that point and return to the front page of the website.
If you’ve been reading the early coverage of the car, you know that this is the idea behind the 911 R in a winged GT3 body. The pre-facelift 991.1 GT3 3.8 was good enough to win PCOTY a few years ago so the arrival of a more powerful variant complete with clutch pedal and the availability of nine thousand screaming revs per minute made this a shoo-in for serious consideration. To no one’s particular surprise, it turned out to be the most desirable 911 we have tested in a very long time. The limited-production 911 R was precisely calculated to appeal to the wacky-cloth retro-obsessed air-cooled cult, of which your humble author is at the very least an affiliate member, but the GT3 dispenses with the cutesy bits and just serves up the good parts.
Porsche’s admirable and exhaustive efforts to keep this 928-sized platform on a diet have resulted in a 500-horsepower car that can often stay within shouting distance of the supercar heavyweight class in most on-road situations. No, it doesn’t have the immediate punch of the 911 Turbo S we tested for PCOTY last year, but that’s kind of the point. Instead of electric-motor torque, you get the thrilling experience of winding the four-liter through its long first and second gears, letting it rev way past the point where anything but a superbike should cry uncle, then finally watching the tach flash red as you snap the solid-feeling shift lever into the next slot. It’s an experience that is unavailable in any other new car for sale today and it alone will ensure that there’s a waiting list from now until the final day of production.
There’s more deliberate atavism on offer here than just a clutch pedal. On track, this GT3 exhibits much of the old bobbing-nose, loaded-tail behavior that characterized fast air-cooled Nine Elevens but which was largely smothered in the early 991-generation cars. It was the only one of our test cars to feel genuinely nervous on NCM Motorsports Park’s back straight and it was the only one that would occasionally hunt the front wheels around under braking. These are behaviors straight out of the greatest-hits catalog and they reinforce the idea that the manual GT3 is aimed at people who have considerable pre-existing experience with the Porsche brand.
Shortly before driving this GT3, I spent a week in Europe with a PDK Carrera GTS cabriolet. It’s fascinating to see all the different characters that one basic vehicle platform can assume; if you drove the GTS and the GT3 back-to-back you’d never guess just how much they share. For me, however, and for the vast majority of people who are dyed-in-the-wool driving enthusiasts, the GT3 is obviously the pick of the 911 litter and it will remain that way until at least the arrival of the wingless GT3 Touring Pack. That car will be the closest Porsche has come in a long time to the Platonic ideal of the early short-wheelbase 911 S. In the meantime, however, this is both a lovely car to drive and an excellent place in which to park some disposable income without too much concern of depreciation.
Now let’s kick everybody but the philosophy majors out of the room and consider the 911 GT3 as an object of critical thinking for a moment. Levi-Strauss liked to talk about how myths needed to be seen in context. If you don’t subscribe to the 911 myth, then what you see here is a car that costs twice as much as a Corvette Z06 but which can’t really match it for power, pace, or poise on track. You can’t understand the appeal of the car unless you’re deep inside the mythical structure that makes sense of rear-engined cars with package shelves where the vestigial rear seats used to be. This isn’t going to create 911 fans. It serves existing 911 fans.
Ol’ Claude also liked to tell us that we understand most concepts in terms of opposites, which is why he named a book The Raw And The Cooked. In this case, what we have is “The Real And The Fake.” The engineering excellence of the GT3 is real, and it’s spectacular. The scarcity of the car, the dealer markups, the unnecessary decision to make the pre-facelift cars PDK-only and thus send 997-generation GT3s into the resale stratosphere? That’s all fake. It’s like Rolex’s decision to limit production on green-bezeled Submariners.
Without putting too fine a point on it, every 911 Carrera out there should have this engine and this transmission available. Period, point blank. Furthermore, the Cayman should have this engine and transmission available. The reasons for not doing so are all tied up in marketing and markup and strategy. It wasn’t always this way. If you look at a Porsche catalog from forty-five years ago, you can clearly see why everything costs what it does and why the different models exist. Today it’s all caught up in this mysterious cloud of branding and image. I understand that it’s very profitable but it can be hard for old Porsche fanatics like me to accept.
That said, if you are lucky enough to have a firm manual-GT3 order placed with your local dealer you should definitely keep it. This is the 911 we’ve wanted for some time: characterful, powerful, and capable of absolutely terrifying pace on the back road of your choice. Can it win PCOTY the way its predecessor did? We’ll see.