We all remember that one present sitting under the Christmas tree. However liberally the wrapping paper had been used, there was no disguising what it was. Bicycles are tricky like that. Bottles, too. But often, far from dulling the anticipation, this knowledge heightens the desire to rip into the thin layer of snowman-covered paper. Which bike? Which bottle? What color?
I felt somewhat the same standing in front of a prototype of the new 911 GT3. The wrapping in this instance was plain black, and although the badges had been masked, I don't think anyone would mistake it for a Lamborghini. Some details though, like the rear bumper, had been rather more effectively camouflaged and, of course, I don't have x-ray vision, so I had absolutely no idea what was beneath the bodywork. Tantalizing.
Thankfully, Andreas Preuninger, the man in charge of Porsche's GT cars, often finds it quite hard to keep things secret, so he probably told me more than he should when I met him near Stuttgart for a sneak preview of (and passenger ride in) the new 992 generation of the GT3. You can hear him spill a large portion of the beans if you watch the Carfection film that accompanies this piece, but for this feature, I'll pull out some of the highlights.
The front suspension
This is the biggest development for the new GT3, and it's a really big deal. This will be the first time that a road-legal 911 has ever rolled off a Porsche production line with a double-wishbone front suspension setup. Historically, the 911 has always had a MacPherson strut front suspension, and so it remains with the rest of the 992 range. However, since the first 991 RSR was unveiled seven years ago, the top-tier racing 911 has had double wishbones at the front, and so I suppose it was only a matter of time before it trickled down to some of the road cars.
The main reason for wanting double wishbones is that it can allow much better control of camber in the corners. Essentially, as the car leans, the outside tire's contact patch stays flatter to the tarmac, which means more grip more consistently. The downside of double wishbones in the front of a 911 is packaging, but somehow this has been resolved for the latest GT3. Exactly how is one of those tantalizing details that we'll have to wait a little longer to find out.
The rear wing
Since the first spy shots emerged of prototypes testing, this is probably the aspect of the new GT3 that has kept the internet chattering most. It's fair to say that the swan-neck rear wing is divisive in the way it looks. Preuninger is adamant that it will look fantastic once the camouflage is off and the spars are revealed, but the overarching design will obviously remain. Of course it hasn't been done for aesthetic reasons; it is there for performance gains. The under- or suction-side of the wing is actually the harder-working side, and by keeping it completely clean it can work more effectively. This allows the wing to have less angle of attack and therefore reduce drag, which is good if you find yourself on the autobahn or attending a v-max day on an airfield.
The new 992 is a bigger car than the old 991, but Preuninger is very proud of the fact that the weight remains the same at around 3,100 pounds. This was achieved by various measures all over the car. The rear glass is now the lightweight stuff found in the old GT3 RS. The lid of the "frunk" is now made of carbon fiber. The exhaust is lighter. The materials used in the interior are lighter. And even where things are heavier, there is a reason; the standard steel front brake discs, for example, have grown from 15 inches to 16 inches in diameter, but the weight gain is "negligible," according to Preuninger.
The engine and transmissions
The biggest achievement with the drivetrain is perhaps that there is no real change. I'm sure once the figures are released there will be a real performance gain, but we won't be seeing earth-shattering numbers. And that's absolutely fine as far as I'm concerned, because to me, it's much more important that the flat-six is still naturally aspirated and revs to the heavens. I'm also delighted that there is still the option of eitheror a dual-clutch PDK (seven-speed, not the heavier new eight-speed found in the rest of the 992 range).
There is obviously lots of concern these days about how the addition of gas particulate filters affects a car's voice, but I can assure you that the engine in the 992 GT3 still sounds utterly wonderful. The slightly baleful howl of the flat-six is glorious, whether you're inside or outside the car.
So, there we are, a few of the standout features of the new GT3. The front suspension is what I'm most interested in experiencing, because from the passenger seat (you really can sit wonderfully low in a 992 if you want), it feels like there is a surprising amount more lateral grip than before, yet the ride also feels a touch more pliant.
When the wraps finally come off, we should find out a bit more about both the straight-line performance and cornering ability of the car from acceleration numbers and a Nurburgring lap time. But what we won't know until we actually drive it is how the front suspension has changed (if at all) the feeling though the steering wheel -- one of the most crucial elements of the GT3's appeal. Preuninger is adamant that we won't be disappointed.
For now, I'll leave you with one more tantalizing detail that I glimpsed through a tear in the wrapping paper. The first time you see a GT3 undisguised, I'm pretty sure it will be blue.