Porsche strives to exceed itself with each new model, and so it was with the 997-series GT3. Announced in February 2006 alongside the 997 Turbo, it was the purist's Porsche made even more the expert's driving tool, thanks to dollops of new technology and more good old-fashioned horsepower.
The new Porsche 911 GT3 offers unbeatable horsepower -- 415 at 7,600 rpm.
Like its 996 forebear, the 997 GT3 was basically a lightweight rear-drive Carrera coupe with no back seat; a special high-winding engine; unique aerodynamic styling; track-focused chassis tuning; and Turbo-size wheels, tires, and, brakes.
A normally aspirated 3.6-liter engine returned with new and lighter pistons, piston pins, crankshaft, and titanium conrods, plus a larger throttle body, higher-lift Variocam valve actuation, a new three-stage resonance intake system, and a lower-restriction exhaust system that also emitted fewer nasty pollutants.
As a result, horsepower climbed from 380 to 415 at 7,600 rpm -- an impressive 115.3 horsepower per liter -- and torque improved from 285 to 300 pound-feet at 5,500 rpm. The previous GT3 had the highest 911 redline, but the new one's was even loftier at 8,400 rpm.
As before, you could have any transmission as long as it was six-speed manual. This, too, was uprated, gaining shorter intermediate ratios to match the new engine's power profile, plus a "shift up" display in the tachometer for exploiting the expanded rev range to the fullest. Porsche's asymmetric limited-slip differential remained standard.
The suspension retained existing geometry and adjustable front/rear antiroll bars, but all components were massaged and the rear track widened by 0.2 inch versus the previous GT3. In addition, PASM "active" shock absorbers were newly standard, albeit with racing-firm calibrations.
In another first, the GT3 gained standard traction control that amounted to stability (yaw) control in all but name. It also featured the new variable-ratio steering found on other 997s.
Construction was an interesting mix of Carrera outer sheetmetal and Carrera 4 inner structure, the latter chosen because it had room for a larger, "long distance" fuel tank. The C4 skeleton also improved GT3 structural stiffness by eight percent in torsion and 40 percent in bending.
To Porsche's embarrassment, however, curb weight was up some 30 pounds despite aluminum doors and trunklid, plus a new plastic engine lid, though the total was hardly pudgy at 3,075 pounds.
Recalling the last twin-turbo GT2, the new GT3 wore a similar -- and equally functional -- air-relief slot in the nose. Below was a unique front bumper with a wide central intake flanked by small "shark gills." The last were repeated in a specific rear bumper that cradled two centrally mounted exhaust pipes.
A fixed rear wing on Z-shape struts returned but was redesigned to enhance both aesthetics and aerodynamics. Drag coefficient was unchanged at 0.29, but careful shaping of body surfaces resulted in less lift and slightly more high-speed downforce front and rear.
Cockpit decor aimed at the "sophisticated sportsman" with suede-like Alcantara trim for the sports seats, steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake lever, plus exclusive yellow gauge pointers and titanium-color tachometer background. Full leather trim was available, as were racy carbon-fiber interior accents.
The 997 GT3 started at $106,000 in the United States. Similar money netted a new RS version, basically the same car with a different rear window and other detail changes that trimmed 44 pounds from curb weight (to 3,031).
Despite its new amenities and technology, the 997 GT3 was just as much the "race-and-ride" sports car as previous models. If anything, it seemed happier hammering on a track, if only because it could get bouncy on less-than-smooth roads.
Still, Road & Track thought bump compliance "feels better across the board. And unlike the 996 GT3, which tends to dart around on even surfaces, the new car is more sure-footed and less twitchy at speed. It's more composed in general, and less susceptible to highway tramlining despite rolling on 19-inch wheels and low-profile ultra-high-performance tires."
Car and Driver correspondent Juergen Zoellter disliked the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires developed exclusively for the GT3. "These grip rabidly in the dry, but have the traction of a bar of soap when it rains," he warned. "In the dry, however, PASM has made a big difference to the car's usability...[I]t's softer and more comfortable in the standard setting, more akin to the Carrera S than the old GT3."
Select sport mode, said R&T, and the car "gets better the harder it's worked...Really commit to loading the chassis from turn-in to apex, and corner-exit understeer disappears, replaced by excellent grip from both ends of the car. Get on it too hard and the [traction control] seamlessly steps in to tame the tail."
Acceleration? Do the math: same weight as an everyday 997 Carrera and lots more power -- the most of any normally aspirated 911 to date. Porsche said the standard model could do 0-60 mph 4.1 seconds, the RS in four flat, both figures entirely. No wonder Road & Track said the new GT3 was "as fast as [a] 996 Turbo, a more involving driving experience than the new 997 Turbo, and...less expensive than either. [It] isn't for everyone, but for the serious driver looking for a pure, race-bred ride, this is his machine."
The 997 GT3 may be the most focused and exciting roadgoing 911 so far, but Porsche is far from finished with its legendary rear-engine sports car.
Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:
|Porsche 356 ||Porsche 911 ||Porsche 914 |
|Porsche 924, 944, 968 ||Porsche 928||Porsche 959|
|Porsche Boxster||Porsche Cayenne||Porsche Cayman|
For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:
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- 2007 Porsche 911
- 1999-2006 Porsche 911
- 1995-1998 Porsche 911