Not a super sports car so much as a hedonist celebration of driving. We play hero for a day with the Porsche 911 GT3 (991.2)
I’ve been saying it to motoring PRs for years. Ditch the can-can girls, wasteful overnight stays, and three-hour warm farm lunches. Just give me the car, a petrol card if you’re feeling generous, and let me go. Of course, when you’re launching the twelfth bumper update of the Chevy Captiva you can’t exactly get away with such brazen austerity, but for me a hard and fast rule is – the more focused the car, the less you should dress it up. For example, I once flew all the way to Mpumalanga to tackle the country’s most demanding and rewarding roads in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Or so I thought, until, we were forced by the organisers to spend the afternoon separated from our Lambos at the Elephant Whisperer; faining interest as we shoveled hay up Ellie the Ellie’s trunk. What an utterly bizarre day. Porsche has exhibited no such folly for the brand new 991.2 GT3. The proviso of the test drive was thus: collect in the morning and make sure it’s back by 4pm and not a second after because it’s being loaded onto a transporter… and (poof) gone forever. Oh, and don’t damage it because it’s the only one on the continent. Any questions?
As is so often the case with something marked in bold and red and underlined for added effect on your calendar, it all began rather anticlimactically. Against a backdrop of intermittent rain, we take a left and a right out the dealership and – gridlock. Someone must’ve been checking their Instagram right up until the moment they went up the back of a stationary car, and now Cape Town is a parking lot. The Club Sport pack on our GT3 boasts lightweight, manually adjustable bucket seats and a half cage, but this was hardly the type of caged I’d had in mind today. No matter, photographer Peet and I take in the generously appointed cabin, splashed with alcantara, carbon fibre and Porsche’s signature dead-ahead rev counter and Sport Chrono pack with a lap timer atop the dash. We even call upon the satellite navigation to plot the quickest route out of this zoo when we make an executive decision to abandon the suggested route.
Freed and with no time to spare, I arm the car to Sport Plus, which automatically dials in two clicks on the damping and opens the exhaust flaps. All it takes is the left-foot brake, right-foot throttle procedure to engage launch control and turn my day and my world upside down. Full throttle in first gear – wah-wah-wah – and blast to 7000 rpm where all the nerves in my cochlea tell me to shift up, but there’s still 2000 rpm to go! Then there’s a second thrust as the flat-six 24-valver kicks harder still – summoning violent mechanical power as if out of thin air. 9000 rpm, bang, up a gear on the scalpel-sharp gearbox, repeat in third, the forward thrust shows no sign of abating – the next step feels like it’ll actual lift off. What in the world just happened here? Try a tested 0-100 km/h in 3.6sec (3.4sec is the claim), 0-200 km/h in 11sec and should you ever find yourself on derestricted stretch of Autobahn, a top speed of 318 km/h.
It’s the fastest car I’ve ever tested, but sheer speed is not what makes this 4.0-litre GT3 tick; of course, it’s its track-honed ethic that reclassifies what you thought was dynamically possible from a road car. Zuffenhausen’s GT department has done a thorough job of tweaking the spring and damper rates and drivetrain mounts to almost the same level as one of its motorsports cars. Enlarged ventilation ducts, outrageous aero aids are all functional, and nominal weight saving keeps the total mass pegged at an agreeable 1430 kg, while high-performance Michelin rubber gives enough lateral grip (when they’re warm) to unseat the fillings in your teeth. The result is despite the drivetrain layout and loosely related nomenclature, the GT3 is worlds apart from a regular 911 Carrera S or GTS even.
With photography in the bag, it’s time to get the hammer down. I’m careful to rebuild heat into the tyres as the car’s been sitting for an hour or so while sharp shooter Peet captured the occasion, and the spitting rain is back to grease up the roads and test the intermittent setting on the wipers. Initially, as I push on, the front end responds with a similar push – as in push understeer – a lot of, in fact. Forget this being an oversteery pendulum like classic 911s, with a pseudonym like ‘widow maker’ that’ll spit you into the hedgerow at any opportunity – the GT3 is fierce, pointy and only gets grippier as the tyre compounds thaw. Similarly, the sombrero-sized carbon-ceramic brakes graduate from a glassy pedal feel and chaffing noise, to a reassuring exactness under foot. Clichéd it may be, but this car quite literally comes alive the harder you drive it, and downforce comes from that wide tail fin, the faster you go.
A good thing, because, like the ever-present Sport Chrono stopwatch, the clock is ticking on my GT3 stint and there’s the small matter of a several hundred kilometres to cover before my 4pm cut off at Porsche Centre Cape Town. No stress. This tarmac killer commands the road with unholy speed and complete control. It’s the rear-wheel steering that especially blows my mind. Said to have been a big factor in the 991.2’s super-fast Nurburgring lap time, lots of clever engineers with strong jawlines programmed it to steer against the angle of the front wheels at low speed and with the angle at high speed, helping the rear axle trace the perfect line through any corner with just a hint of oversteer. It’s automotive witchcraft you can feel is winning you time at every apex. Then there’s the steering that feels as if Zuffenhausen’s engineers pre-plotted the front axle with a map of the road ahead. You don’t steer a GT3 so much as let telepathy do its thing. Then you get braver with your entry speeds, and braver, and braver still, until you lean on the type of unflappable grip that loosens organs.
All the elements – the savage naturally aspirated power, mountainous mechanical grip, hi-tech rear-wheel steering, progressive aero and unflappable brakes – all dial you in to being fast… faster than you ever thought possible, and, surprisingly, a fast that doesn’t require a racetrack to be fully enjoyed. I doubt any other car could’ve got me back to the dealership in time, but here we are with moments to spare. It’s driven straight onto the transporter right before my eyes and shackled into place like ‘Cyris the Virus’. But it’s no sinister character this – it’s simply the new grandmaster of speed – off to spread the gospel somewhere else in South Africa and win yet more disciples along the way.
In a nutshell
A super sports car that exceeds all expectations. Good value, too,
Not as digitalised as some, if you’re into that sort of thing. Takes patience to bypass that understeer.
Engine: 3996 cc, 6-cylinder
Power: 368 kW @ 8250 rpm, 460 Nm @ 6000 rpm
Performance tested: 0-100 km/h 3.6 sec, top speed 318 kph
Tyres: 245/35 R20 front, 305/30 R20 rear
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
CO2 emissions: 288 g/km
Price: R2 800 000