Well, it’s been over a thousand miles now and to be honest, I’ve been a little anxious about this milestone. You see, having picked the car up 2nd January this year, the last four weeks can largely be described as my ‘honeymoon’ period. Ownership during this time can have a warped sense of subjectivity about them. You are utterly blind to any negativity, you allow yourself to be flattered by every minor instance with the car and coming up with new excuses to ‘pop out’ slowly becomes an increasingly challenging task. As a result, you become so enamoured by its every ability, you become unable to entertain the notion of a negative thought. Now that my 1000 miles are complete, are the rose tints in my spectacles of a different colour?
Rewind to 2nd January and I’m at the dealers collecting my car. As a New Year’s present, you can’t top a brand new GT3. I’d had an order down for the car for nigh on three years and my anticipation leading up to collection had been borderline delirium. Since collection, the last three weeks have largely been snapshots of memories from one intense moment to another as I try to compile some order to my recent experiences.
I’m sure we’ve all been spoilt with news of how the 997 GT3 has become a creature comfort tool. Don’t let recent stories of compromise delude you; this is still a very focused car. I’ve gone for the extreme end of the spec with carbon buckets (which are superb and maintain comfort and rigidity in equal measure) and the club sport pack (rear roll cage, harnesses and other trackside toys). Both of these add an air of menace to what appears to be Porsche’s attempt to bring the interior of the 997 into the 21st century. It’s a mighty fine job as my 996GT3RS had an appallingly bland, albeit functional, interior.
The damper button has been utterly useless on UK roads – I’ve booked three track days so I’ll reserve judgement on this until then.
My favourite feature is definitely the loud button that they’ve ingenuously marked as ‘Sport’. It does two things. It relaxes the traction control without turning it off, but most importantly, it opens a valve in the exhaust that turns the car into an operatic sequence of gearshifts. Recent Porsches rarely sound great – they sound menacing and gruff, but vocally they’re devoid of music. I’m happy to say that it has been rightly addressed as this car now displays an addictive array of notes that has you hitting 8200rpm at every opportunity. It’s challenging when you’ve only got 12 points to play with as it is a massive exercise in self-control, but it really does present itself as an excellent excuse to nail the throttle at every opportunity. In fact, I’ve often been told to slow down by people in other cars when I’m comfortably within the speed limit. Two weeks ago, a businessman came running up to my window and cried foul as he adamantly tried to warn me against speeding beside his office again. I had hit an almighty 27MPH.
There appears to be an incredible cohesion about the car, starting from the banshee power plant, right down to the hi-tech tyres that display supernatural levels of grip and traction. With reports already about owners having to replace these tyres after four thousand miles, you can see why. The soft compound Cups make for reassuring driving in all conditions, but a recent drive across torrential rain gave me a moment that terrified and dazzled in equal measure. At about 85MPH I hit some standing water on the M25 and before I knew it, my backside shook so violently, I’d have immediately qualified as a hip-hop groupie. The car soon regained composure and whether that was because of my frantic corrective gestures, or the benign nature of the car is a point of contention. Regardless, the comical disparity and contradiction of Vivaldi through my optional Sound Package Plus system as I screamed Holy Mary Mother of God was as direct a lesson in the limits of the tyres as I can imagine. I’ve since learned to avoid puddles.
The ‘sling-shot’ is ever more pronounced in the 997GT3 though, with fast in, faster out being the apex approach of choice. There’s still an incredibly rewarding process of nailing the throttle just on the exit to a bend and witnessing an experience only possible in a rear engine, rear wheel drive car. As a meteor skims orbit, the GT3 is catapulted out of the corner with ferocious vigour.
The engine, too, is a diamond with a breadth of ability that demonstrates a diverse range of talents, from the low down, no quibble pick up, straight up and beyond to the deliciously intoxicating scream at the top end. It takes a while for you to remember that when your natural reaction to shift up presents itself, you’ve actually got another 2000 revs to use. Get into the flow of using the whole range and you’ll learn to enjoy the relentless urge as the car picks up its torrent of revs in a remarkably consistent and obstinate fashion.
The only option I’ve skipped is the carbon ceramic brakes. I’m still unsure as to whether this was a right decision, but with £5k replacement costs, that’s 10 times the cost of steel equivalents and at the end of the day, it just comes down to whether you can afford them or not.
It’s Sunday evening, about 6pm and I decide to take the car out for a drive. I punch in some random town names in the amazing sat-nav, uncheck the ‘motorways’ box and select ‘shortest route’ to guarantee some traffic free A and B roads. What followed were six hours of sheer drama. With freezing cold temperatures outside, my windows fully open (sound is amplified from the engine and exhaust) and my heater on maximum attack, the experience is one I have not had in many years. As I rolled back into my garage at 1am, having covered four counties and over a tank and a half of fuel, I felt exhausted as an entire evening of hard-wired adrenaline started to catch up with me. Ears ringing from almost 300 miles of flat six pounding on my lobes, I collapsed onto my bed as thoughts of fluidity, traction and sheer capability drilled into my consciousness kept me awake for many hours. It was surely one of the most electric drives I’d experienced in a long time.
This is not a car for the faint hearted. Focus, concentrate and you are rewarded with driving pleasures that hark back to the time before speed cameras and Livingstone.
As I throw my thoughts into words, it pleases me to find difficulties in establishing negatives. I guess this honeymoon period is set to last!
Cem Kocu – Jan 2007