CARANDDRIVER: 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Manual Review
2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Manual
Conducting a 9000-rpm symphony is even more fun with the DIY gearbox.
JUNE 2018 BY RICH CEPPOS
PHOTOS BY CHRIS DOANE
If there is one universally embraced truth among car enthusiasts, it’s that high-performance machines deserve soul-stirring engine notes. That’s why every discussion of a vehicle’s capacity to thrill inevitably lands on the question, “What’s it sound like?” Whether the stirrings from under the hood and gushing from the tailpipes evoke Slayer or Mozart doesn’t matter as much as whether the music is moving. Without auditory magic, something big is missing from the driving experience.
No such worries about the 500-hp Porsche 911 GT3. Along with the rest of the car, its naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine—the GT3 and its RS variant are the only non-turbo 911s currently available—is built at the Porsche Motorsport race-car factory in Flacht, Germany. Porsche Cars North America slapped a “Made in Flacht” vinyl decal on the decklid to ensure you know that this car is a first cousin to Porsche’s factory-built rennwagens, but that much is obvious the first time you fire it up and haul off down the road.
Hit It, Maestro
We’ve tested a GT3 before, equipped with Porsche’s lightning-quick PDK seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Now that we’ve sampled one with the six-speed do-it-yourself gearbox, we think it’s the best way to conduct a symphony that starts as a loud, deep-chested, low-rpm bellow and then morphs into an even louder bawl, finally giving way to a dozen keening table saws ripping through mahogany as the tach needle rushes to the 9000-rpm promised land. Did we mention that it’s loud? At wide-open throttle, the concerto crescendos at a stunning 100 decibels, measured at the driver’s ear. That’s among the loudest production cars we’ve ever measured. It hurts so good.
Like many manual-transmission cars, the GT3 gives up a skosh of straight-line quickness to its automatic counterpart—0.5 second to 60 mph and 0.4 second in the quarter-mile—but it’s a skosh you’ll never miss. Our GT3 tester turned in an 11.5-second, 125-mph quarter-mile, essentially identical to a 650-hp Chevrolet Corvette Z06 equipped with a manual transmission and the Z07 track pack. (Both the Porsche and the Chevy roll on track-ready Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.) The GT3 goes on to pass the Z06, beating it to 160 mph. And here’s a surprise: Despite an 8250-rpm power peak and just 339 lb-ft of torque found way up at 6000 rpm, the GT3 feels fully caffeinated at low revs, responding forcefully to every prod of your right foot. The much shorter gearing compared with the standard 911’s seven-speed manual helps.
Being able to manually engage the GT3’s gears makes for an even more engaging driving experience. The manual GT3 is like a bigger Mazda Miata in that there’s a singular joy in working the slick gearbox and being in full control of the revs and the motor’s music. The microsuede-covered shifter requires but two fingers of effort, and the clutch action is light, buttery, and intuitive.
If the delirious powertrain were all that distinguished a GT3 from its normal 911 brethren, it would be more than enough. But the rest of the car is as special as its heart. It would be easy to drape the moniker of “race car for the street” on the GT3, but that would slight it. To be sure, it is equal parts road machine and track weapon, but it’s also seemingly uncompromised—brilliantly adept at both roles.
Track-inspired cars can feel twitchy, harsh, and abrupt on the street, but not the GT3. The information coming back from the road to your fingertips and the seat of your pants is vivid and pure but never brutal; the GT3 is comfortable enough to drive cross-country.
The Racer’s Touch
It is, of course, brilliant at the track, too, but you needn’t cane a GT3 there to appreciate the breadth of Porsche Motorsport’s genetic modifications. The race-car flavor comes through in ways small and large, like the subtle clunk when you slip the shifter into first gear, the sharp pffftt of intake air when you tip into the throttle, and the centering stripe sewn into the steering-wheel rim at 12 o’clock. Deeply pocketed, microsuede-trimmed sport seats—carbon-fiber racing bucket seats are available—bearhug you in corners but also are all-day livable. And, of course, there’s the way the GT3 looks, from its aggressive stance to its in-your-face carbon-fiber rear wing, which helps add up to 340 pounds of downforce at extra-legal velocities.
And therein lies the GT3’s brilliance. It has just enough race car in its bones to thrill you but not so much that it will ever put you off. Our test car was a stripper by Porsche standards, with only heated seats, auto-dimming mirrors, a larger fuel tank, and GT Silver metallic paint on top of its $144,650 base price—just the way we’d order one. A GT3 comes with all the basics: air conditioning, navigation, and the racy sport seats and steering wheel, but the interior trim is otherwise simple. You could load it up from Porsche’s vast options list like any other 911—but why? If this sounds enticing, unfortunately your chances of scoring one at this point are minimal unless you ordered one months ago or are willing to pay tens of thousands over sticker.
The GT3 is neither the most powerful, the quickest, nor the most expensive 911. But it delivers a driving experience so glorious that we can’t help but wonder if it is a great Porsche or perhaps the greatest Porsche? We’ll dodge that one for now, but this much we know: We love it. And we love it even more with the manual gearbox.
VEHICLE TYPE: rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
PRICE AS TESTED: $146,910 (base price: $144,650)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
DISPLACEMENT: 244 cu in, 3996 cc
POWER: 500 hp @ 8250 rpm
TORQUE: 339 lb-ft @ 6000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION (F/R): struts/multilink
BRAKES (F/R): 15.0-in vented, cross-drilled disc/15.0-in vented, cross-drilled disc
TIRES: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, F:245/35ZR-20 (95Y) N1 R: 305/30ZR-20 (103Y) N1
WHEELBASE: 96.7 in
LENGTH: 179.6 in
WIDTH: 72.9 in HEIGHT: 50.0 in
PASSENGER VOLUME: 47 cu ft
CARGO VOLUME: 14 cu ft
CURB WEIGHT: 3276 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 3.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 7.5 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 12.3 sec
Zero to 150 mph: 17.6 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.4 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 7.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 6.1 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 11.5 sec @ 125 mph
Top speed (drag limited, mfr’s claim): 198 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 141 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 1.08 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 16 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 16/13/21 mpg