The 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 was a "one-year wonder" in the best sense. Picking up where the 1999-2000 model left off, it was a grand farewell for the 996-series and a defiant final riposte to its critics.
Porsche aptly termed this GT3 "a pure sports car for the Porsche purist." AutoWeek simply called it "the ultimate driver's 911." Road & Track concurred: "In this latest iteration, the 996 platform finally gets to show its full potential. Quicker, stiffer, and graced with an intoxicating new powerplant, the  GT3 illustrates that Porsche still knows how to build a true driver's machine." And this one was completely street-legal even in the highly regulated U.S.A.
The 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 was completely street-legal -- even in the U.S.
Omitting nonessentials shaved a whopping 318 pounds to achieve a 3,043-pound curb weight despite the usual all-steel construction. Porsche also attacked the 3.6-liter G96 engine to trim reciprocating weight as much as possible -- from conrods, pistons, piston pins, valves, and valve lifters. The valvetrain work alone saved 4.8 pounds. Another 4.4 were shed by removing the crankshaft vibration dampener, which was deemed superfluous.
Other changes included a new two-stage resonance intake system, low-restriction exhaust, a reprogrammed engine computer, revised cam profiles, recalibrated Variocam valve timing, and uprated dry-sump oiling system. With all this, the new Porsche GT3 in U.S. tune claimed 380 horsepower at 7,400 rpm, 285 pound-feet of torque at 5,000, and an 8,200-rpm redline, the highest of any 996 model.
Six-speed manual transmission remained mandatory but received shorter (numerically higher) fifth- and sixth-gear ratios to enhance acceleration. Additionally, the top four gears switched from brass to steel synchronizers for increased durability. Porsche's "asymmetric" limited-slip differential was standard. As in its other applications, this allowed up to 40 percent wheelspin on takeoff, up to 60 percent thereafter.
Suspension was basically twin-turbo GT2, but rubber strut-top bearings were replaced by steel balls to reduce deflection under high cornering loads, thus increasing precision. Adjustable camber, ride height, and antiroll bars catered to different "driving styles" -- and weekend racing venues.
Brakes were even larger than the vaunted Porsche Turbo's, with steel rotors of 13.8-inch diameter fore and 13-inch aft clamped by six-piston calipers. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes were optional. Front wheels and tires were also per GT2, but the rear tires were slightly slimmer 295/30ZR18s.
Bodywork was customized with a specific nose and side skirts, plus a new, taller fixed spoiler with three-position adjustment. Unseen but appreciated were little "spoilers" within the wheelarches for directing air to the brakes.
Also for aerodynamics -- and shared with all other 996 models -- was a three-piece bellypan made of composite materials, running from the front axle to the engine. The two-place interior (no back seat here) featured lightweight leather-covered front buckets, as well as power windows, air conditioning, and even an in-dash CD player.
Porsche planned to build 3,000 "Mark II" GT3s through mid-2004. Some 750 came to America, where base price was just $100 short of $100,000. The same money bought a competition-oriented Clubsport version with cloth seats, six-point racing harnesses, fire extinguisher, battery cutoff switch, and a bolt-in roll cage that stiffened the car by 20 percent.
A lot more money bought a GT3 RS weighing 50 pounds less, thanks use of carbon fiber for the hood, engine lid, rear wing, and door-mirror housings. Engine outputs were unchanged, as was the 190-mph top speed, but Porsche said low-end acceleration was a tick faster. Production here was some 300 units. All were finished in white with bright-red wheels and bold GT3 RS lettering on red lower-body striping.
The Porsche GT3 was emphatic proof of how less can be more. Take 0-60 acceleration. Porsche modestly claimed 4.3 seconds for the "consumer" version, but AutoWeek posted 4.18, and Car and Driver clocked 3.8 in a preliminary test. Even more impressive, the Porsche GT3 was just fractionally slower than the much more powerful, but heavier, Turbo and GT2. Road & Track reported 0-100 mph at just 9.5 seconds and a standing quarter-mile of 12.4 at 113.8 mph. The magazine also got 0.92g on the skidpad, a bit down on GT2 lateral acceleration.
Even so, most every road test praised the Porsche GT3 as the most controllable, fun-to-drive 911 in many moons. R&T described it as "frenetically rushing you from one corner to the next. [The GT3] still possesses the 996 platform's stable nature, but thanks to its stiffer, more responsive chassis tuning, everything feels more direct. Any changes in throttle inputs have an immediate effect on chassis dynamics. Roll out of the gas slightly in mid-corner and the front tucks in while the tail lightens up. Roll back on and rear grip returns. Like its racing brethren, the GT3 can be braked hard and deep into turns, repositioned with a little throttle modulation, then happily drifted out at exit."
Car and Driver judged the ride too rocky except on the smoothest pavement, but it, too, loved the sharp, athletic handling -- and the engine sound. "Its deep-throated wail is the most enthralling and mesmerizing soundtrack we've heard since 1998."
It was a glorious last hurrah for the most popular 911 series ever. The 996 may have been controversial and not universally loved, but it served Porsche and its customers exceptionally well.
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
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- 1995-1998 Porsche 911