Slot the key into the ignition and the new Porsche 911 GT3 fires with a bark every bit as attention-grabbing as that of its predecessor. There is a mischievous pulse to the engine at idle, a nod to the motorsport-derived engine and its performance-enhancing trickery. Press a button on the centre tunnel to engage Sport, and the familiar bass-heavy rumble hardens in character and increases in volume.
Gear lever into Drive and we’re away with a fleeting nudge of throttle. The steering feels urgent and beautifully weighted. The dual-clutch gearbox automatically picks up second and then third as we run up the hill from Zuffenhausen, showing a new user-friendly disposition to the Porsche road-racer. Given its narrow sporting focus, the latest 911 GT3 rides with great composure with its adjustable dampers set to Comfort at low speeds.
As we hit the autobahn, a searing surge to the far side of 155mph reveals another thing: a truly mighty engine. From 3.8 litres, it produces a wonderfully sonorous 468bhp at 8250rpm and torque is 324lb ft at 6250rpm. Subjectively, there is far more mid-range shove and greater flexibility than in its predecessor. The inclusion of direct injection for the first time also provides a new level of smoothness, high-end determination and an exhaust note that begins to assault your inner organs as you set sight on the 9000rpm limiter. Although meeting only Euro 5 emission standards, it is also claimed to return over 22.0mpg on the combined cycle. And no, it doesn’t come with anything as mundane as automatic stop-start.
The latest Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) is no ordinary dual-clutch gearbox, but one developed specifically for the rigours of sports car racing. The shift quality is remarkably smooth yet has a rifle-bolt action at the business end of the dial. Revised gearing, said to be 15 percent shorter than the old 911 GT3’s, combines with added shove and scary traction to endow Porsche’s latest road-racer with an official 0-62mph time of 3.5sec, eclipsing its predecessor by 0.4sec. Top speed is 196mph.
Porsche has provided the new 911 GT3 with what it calls a paddle neutral function. When you pull both shift paddles, the clutches of the gearbox open, essentially placing it in neutral. When the shift paddles are released, the clutches engage again, as if you’re dumping the clutch on a conventional manual. Doing this at standstill with the stability control switched off and the engine buzzing near the red line results in a burn-out of monumental magnitude, followed by startling straight-line acceleration once traction has been restored. Alternatively, it can be achieved on the run.
The steering is also completely new and rather special. The front electro-mechanical system is a development of the 911 Carrera S’s and, as on the upcoming 911 Turbo, it works in conjunction with an electro-mechanical rear-wheel steer system. Up to 37mph, it operates the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts, enhancing low-speed agility. Above 50mph, the rear wheels are operated parallel to the front wheels for added longitudinal stability.
What we discover, once we turn off the autobahn and head across undulating valley roads, is that the complex steering system imparts a much calmer feel without any distinguishable trade-off in overall response compared with the conventional hydraulic arrangement of old. There is also exquisite, wonderfully consistent weighting. And the rear-wheel steer? Frankly, if Porsche had not revealed its existence, we may never have noticed it. Which is just the way it should be.
We’ve only scratched the surface of the Porsche 911 GT3’s potential dynamic boundaries here on public roads. To experience this car at its best you need a circuit, because its ability to carry big speeds through corners without any premature breakaway on road-legal tyres is quite remarkable, as exemplified by Porsche’s claim that the new car has already successfully lapped the Nürburgring in 7min 25sec – 2sec faster than the even more focused Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0.