170 miles later in the red GT3

What a day.

I originally expected this car to be ready for pick up sometime yesterday. It’s amazing how much of a drama queen you become when that estimate doesn’t become firm reality. However, pretty sure it was due to happen today, so I took a day off in anticipation.

8.03 am the photos of the car started to trickle in to my mobile phone from the dealer, with the car having just been unloaded from Germany. Generally, a Porsche dealer needs about 3 days to do a full and thorough PDI on a new car. Mine was completed in about 6 hours and they did a sterling job – no doubt a driving factor was my incessant communications trying to establish where exactly the car is!

My initial thoughts after driving about 150 miles (most of which were admittedly horrible motorway miles) are a little surprising. Can I say “The same, but better” without appearing to recite from the Book of Cliches? It’s very very close in character to the original car. The main big area of change is in the aesthetic. Considering we’re taking about an evolved Porsche, that may come across as an oxymoron, but for someone who’s lived with GT3’s for a collection of about 4 years, these are big changes.

That spoiler is the money shot. It’s big and bold without being at the expense of cohesion, there’s no indication that this may well be an aftermarket bolt on option as often the RS models appear to be. The added height and size does make a minor difference to rear-view visibility, but I saw that as a bonus as it hides many of the flashing headlights I seem to acquire shortly after overtaking someone…

The wheels are also spectacular in form and function. The single bolt effect has 2 benefits, one being lighter rotating masses and second being a fast wheel swap, great for trackday tyre swaps. Looking down from above the wheel, the blades have a protuding style that makes them look big. Coupled with the gun metal finish, they look fabulous as a contrast to the red. And what a red. I’d not have thought that guards red would look so fresh, but somehow this GT3 gives it a new lease of life and today it looked vibrant and alive in the sun of our indian summer here in UK.

The daytime running lights give it an air of quality as some of the Audi’s often do. They are LED’s, as are the excellently designed rear clusters, and do a brilliant job of announcing the car as a ‘different’ 911. The main xenon’s are so powerful that they annoyed the hell out of my fellow GT3 driver who I drove up the M1 with today. On full beam they practically wake the birds at night from their peaceful slumber.

Otherwise, apart from the added vent in front of the bonnet, deeper, longer front skirt and reshaped rear bumper, it’s business as usual with the classic 911 tear drop given added menace from an emphasised addition of wings and aerodynamics.

Inside, things are familiar and despite the new PCM3 (sat nav and comms), everything else is predictably Porsche. There is no design in the interior as you’d find in an R8 or an Aston Martin, but the layout of the switchgear is usable and easy to find. They’ve removed a lot of the buttons from gen 1 as the interface is now touchscreen. Coupled with my iPod connection option and the telephone bluetooth module, my iPhone now sits tucked away in the glove box with all my functions available either from the PCM screen or my stalk. The interface is well designed, easy to use and is fast processing too. There were no delays in browsing music or indeed navigating the awesome touch screen sat nav which has a fantastic POI integrated too. With my telephone module I was also able to utilise live, dynamic traffic reports on the fly.

Club sport, light weight buckets are business as normal with the only difference being that they didn’t creak anymore like my old ones! A minor problem with carbon fibre seats. The steering wheel has changed, it’s not very pretty to be honest, but the size is good and with fresh alcantara, felt very comfortable in my hands.

How does it drive? Well, the cars come ready run in on bench dyno’s so the car is good to go, despite some prudence required to run in gearbox, clutch etc. As the new starter motor quickly chirped over, the first thing I noticed was how much smoother the gearbox was with the gearstick moving effortlessly into it’s pockets with satisfying clunks, unlike the gen 1 which had a tendancy to grumble a little – especially from cold.

Power is certainly noticable, mostly in the mid to high range there’s a sense of added urge. It’s still a brand new car so despite the obvious tightness of components, there’s definitely a nice power improvement, at least you can feel the extra 20bhp. Not sure most people would, but having spent 2.5 years with a gen 1, it was nice to see a subtle increase to power without compromise to balance.

The exhaust appeared to be a lot more vocal than before too – I assume a result of managed airflow. It’s louder, no doubt, even at idle, and strangely enough, with the windows open, there seemed to be a lot more driver focused noise. It’s great to hear and the provision of the sport button allows this noise to be modulated.

Brakes were superb on the road. They made for difficult heel and toeing, but this might be because of an elevated pedal height due to brand new pads. On heavy braking, heel and toeing is much easier as you’re pressing the brake pedal much harder. The feel was great, with a touch of the brake pedal returning an appropriate response with feel modulated all the way down to the stoppers. At the moment, I’m happy to have not opted for the PCCB’s as the steel’s have proven excellent on road. How they perform on track is a different matter but I fear they may melt into oblivion.

Suspension too is even better sorted. There’s a feeling of utter compliance and it appears to be a little better than the gen 1 at soaking up undulations and changes to road surface. Whether this is an actual revision or an effect of placebo is unknown. The front ARB is from the GT2 which now has adjustable settings. This will be explored soon, together with a better track day geometry and suspension set up.

Didn’t get an opportunity to play about with the stability control. There were 2-3 eerie moments today when it appeared there was some over zealous control of the traction with power appearing to be cut down on slow speed bends. The old car would not have needed traction control at these points so I’m wondering if it’s because the tyres are still new. I hope that this sorts itself out otherwise the installment of the new stability control will be switched off by me.

All in all, an accomplished car that is pretty much identical to the previous car it replaces, but with a whole catalogue of very small changes. There’s a sense of tightness with the car, a lack of any slack, that allows you to extend on its immense repertoir of capabilities knowing full well that there is a clear line of communication between car and driver that is always vibrant and energetic. In my opinion, the original 997 GT3 was a perfect car. To elaborate and improve on so many areas has led to the development of a car that is yet again without peer.

I have a couple of trackdays booked, that’s when I’ll test out the new dynamic engine mounts. Can’t wait.

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