Next to Tesla hitting it big on the stock market, the popularity of the Porsche 911 GT3 is most unlikely automotive success story of the last 20 years.
The GT3 proudly bucks every trend. Its cabin is not filled with gigantic screens and it does not rely on high-tech gimmicks to sell itself. Porsche’s sports car is not a hybrid, let alone a plug-in or an EV. Its engine isn’t even turbocharged. It doesn’t have all-wheel drive, but it does have a manual transmission. It doesn’t claim to have the most horsepower, or the highest top-speed and in a drag race from 0-100 km/h it’ll get beaten by any number of electric sedans, including Porsche’s own Taycan.
The GT3 is not as exotic as a Ferrari, nor as attention-grabbing as a Lamborghini, but the Porsche is similarly unsuitable for everyday tasks; there is only a patch of carpet where the rear seats would normally be in a Porsche 911. And, as large as the swan-neck rear wing is, it’s not exactly practical, although you could use it as a picnic table in a pinch.
The car’s engine only has six-cylinders, not 12, or even eight, and Porsche hasn’t bothered to make the motor in this new GT3 any more powerful than the old one. It’s gruff and incredibly noisy, in part because the car uses lightweight glass to shed pounds. It makes almost no compromises in the name of comfort.
And yet, despite everything, the GT3 is beloved. Its reputation has only grown along with its sales over 22 years and several iterations. It’s not a niche product anymore. Having been showered with awards from every car magazine for two decades, the GT3′s secret is out. It’s become an unlikely halo product for Porsche.
For the all-new 2022 model, based on the 992-type Porsche 911, the company’s tight-fisted accountants let the engineers spend even more money developing this GT3 than any previous one. Clearly, there’s a tidy profit to be made from pleasing a growing number of drivers who want a sports car that bucks all the trends.
Much of Porsche’s development budget was spent on getting a highly-strung, naturally-aspirated engine to pass strict new emissions tests, said Frank-Steffen Walliser, the vice president in charge of sports cars at Porsche. “That sometimes gives us sleepless nights,” he said. How much longer will race-bred engines like this remain legal? Walliser and his colleagues aren’t sure, so enjoy it while you can.
According to the engineers, the 4.0-litre flat-six motor is largely the same as company’s racing engines, and it sounds like it. It revs with the inertia-free feeling of a superbike up to 9,000 rpm, thanks in part to the fact the motor sucks air through six-individual throttle bodies. Unlike turbocharged and electric motors, you’ve got to work to get the best out of this engine since peak torque – a relatively modest 346 lb-ft – arrives at a sky-high 6,100 rpm. It’s no more powerful than the old GT3 because there’s no point in having more power on the road. To use all 502 horses you’ve got to hold your nerve and spin the engine up to 8,400 rpm, at which point it’s making a mind-numbing noise that reverberates through your bones. Others drivers look on as if something’s wrong, but, as far as meditation goes, the GT3 is better than any new-age sound bath.
Apart from that engine, the other notable change in the 2022 GT3 is that it now uses double wishbone front suspension, which is a first for a roadgoing 911. It’s a more precise design that demands fewer kinematic compromises. In plain English, that means the car turns better, giving you more confidence to dive faster and faster into corners. It also makes the ride feel slightly more plush, but don’t go thinking this is a car you can drive day in, day out.
The GT3 is a bad choice for posers who want to dawdle around town and make a scene at the valet. For that, do your lower back a favour and get the 911 Turbo S instead. The GT3 is unapologetically uncomfortable at low-speeds. It skims the ground, scraping pavement over sharp speedbumps or parking ramps. But what did you expect? You wouldn’t think a fighter jet would make a nice private plane, would you?
In truth, the 2022 GT3 is only an incremental improvement over the outgoing model. It’s the same as ever, only better: telepathic steering with a wheel that’s constantly fidgeting in your hands, a chassis that’s ready to do whatever you ask of it, brick-wall brakes, and a pure, analog, old-school driving experience. It wasn’t broken, and Porsche hasn’t fixed it. But the fact this car still exists, and that there’s still an eager market for it, is enough to warm the heart of even the most jaded and cynical car geek. As transportation, it’s terrible, but as a driving experience, the new Porsche 911 GT3 is as good as it gets.
2022 Porsche 911 GT3
Base price/as tested: $180,300/$222,340
Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six
Transmission/drive: six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic/rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): TBD
Alternatives: Lamborghini Huracan EVO RWD, McLaren 600 LT, Mercedes-AMG GT R, Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition, Audi R8 V10 Performance
It’s larger than any GT3 before, and looks it. If you’re not a fan of the can’t-miss-it wing, Porsche offers a no-cost Touring Package that deletes the wing to create the ultimate stealthy sports car.
It’s expensive, at $180,300, but as per Porsche tradition you’ll need to spend around $20,000 on options like additional leather and carbon-fibre bucket seats to make the cabin feel as special as it should.
Doing 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, the GT3 won’t win every drag race, but straight-line speed is child’s play compared to this car’s real party trick: lapping the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under 7 minutes. The power is well matched to the grip from the fat 315/30-series rear Michelins.
It’s the same infotainment system as you’ll find in other new Porsches, which means it’s fast and intuitive. The selectable Track Mode display on the dash is a nice feature that minimizes distractions. For some reason, Porsche insists on a strange twist-knob to start the engine rather than a button.
Well, there’s a passenger seat and a front trunk, but carrying cargo only adds weight, which, you should know, is the enemy of lap times.
As good as driving gets, if you’re willing to sacrifice comfort and practicality and possibly your sanity