2022 Porsche 911 GT3 first drive review: Great expectations
The Porsche 911 GT3 is hardly an enigma, yet its greatness is hard to explain. Facts and figures don't tell the whole story and superlatives sell the experience short. Honestly, if I could just embed an audio file of me giggling in this story, that'd be a more accurate method of conveying the emotions this car conjures. But I can't. (And that would be creepy.) But yeah, the GT3 is that good.
I'm not even referring to the 2022 911 GT3, either, even though it totally fits the bill. The GT3 has historically offered drivers a refreshingly analog experience despite our increasingly digital world. There are lots of rad things to nerd out about with this latest 992 generation, but the best thing about it is that it keeps that heritage alive.
The original 996 GT3 was born out of the need for a homologation car (a model designed and sold specifically to meet a motorsports series' regulations). Every subsequent iteration carries on that tradition of bringing race-ready hardware to the road. Take the engine, for example. Porsche says the 992 GT3's 4.0-liter flat-6 is "nearly identical" to the one used in the GT3 Cup race car. When I asked a Porsche spokesperson, they just reiterated: "It's basically the same."
In the 992, the flat-6 delivers 502 horsepower at 8,400 rpm -- ahead of its screamin' 9,000-rpm redline -- and 346 pound-feet of torque. Those are teeny-tiny increases over the 991.2 GT3's 500 hp and 339 lb-ft, but don't let that trip you up. This engine is a chef's kiss, predictable and linear in its power delivery, and endlessly happy to rev. The stainless steel pipes are a megaphone for that harmonious six-pot, plus they actually save about 22 pounds compared to the old GT3's exhaust.
Rather than the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission used elsewhere in the 911 range, the GT3 gets Porsche's seven-speed PDK -- the one that's newly available in the Cayman GT4. With this gearbox, the GT3 can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and will reach a top speed of 197 mph. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are the same small, metal ones you'll find in every other 911, but the PDK gear lever on the center console is brand new. Gone is the electric-razor-looking thingy-doo from other 911 models. In its place, you'll find a girthy lever that's a dead ringer for a manual stick-shift. The tactile sensation of clicking through Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive is nice, but the pull-to-upshift, push-to-downshift manu-matic function isn't so rewarding that it's worth the effort of taking your hand off the steering wheel. Will it fool the quick Cars & Coffee onlooker into thinking you bought a manual gearbox? Maybe. Do I wish Porsche would've instead invested the time and energy (and money) into developing better paddle shifters? Oh my, yes.
Besides, you can just, you know, buy a manual. In an effort to not repeat past mistakes, Porsche is also offering the 992 GT3 with a six-speed stick-shift right from the get-go. That's a particularly smart move for the company's US sales prospects, where 70% of GT3 buyers opt for the manual. (That's not a typo. Proud of you, fam.)
The GT3 continues to use rear-wheel drive and rear-axle steering is standard. But the big-deal stuff is up front, where the GT3 gets the same double-wishbone suspension as the Le Mans-winning 911 RSR race car. (OK, Porsche says it's "adapted" from the RSR, but again, it's basically the same.) The benefit to a double-wishbone setup is better turn-in and increased feedback, neither of which have exactly been lacking in any new 911. The front track is also 1.9 inches broader than a 911 Carrera's, for the added wide-stance traction.
Speaking of traction, every GT3 rolls out on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are pretty much the greatest summer tires around. Up front, 255/35-series tires wrap 20-inch center-locking forged alloy wheels; at the rear, larger 21-inch wheels are shod with pleasantly plump 315/30-series Cup 2s. As far as pure driving performance goes, there isn't a single downside to these Michelins -- except for the fact that they're expensive. But if you really want ultimate grip for track days, Porsche dealers can sell you even stickier Cup 2 R tires. Porsche says you can't technically buy these from the factory because the company doesn't exactly want uninformed owners optioning a car with Cup 2 Rs and then immediately crashing leaving their house on a rainy day.
The new front suspension and grippy Cup 2 R tires are partly responsible for the 992 GT3's insane 6-minute, 59.927-second Nurburgring Nordschleife lap time. That's a 17-Mississippi improvement over the 991.2 GT3. Holy smokes. Aerodynamics play a big part in that achievement, too, which brings me to a relatively controversial element of the 992 GT3: the wing.
The swan-neck design isn't exactly beautiful, but damn if it isn't functional. In its standard, how-it-leaves-the-factory setting, the wing accounts for a 50% improvement in rear downforce compared to the old GT3. Put the wing in its performance position and Porsche says that downforce increases by as much as 150% while traveling at 125 mph. The rear diffuser generates four times as much negative lift as the old GT3's, too.
Without a racetrack at my disposal, and without a last-generation GT3 with which to compare, I can't tell you how much better the new car feels during a hot lap. But I can tell you the 992 GT3 is a total riot on the mountain roads north of Los Angeles. It only takes a few turns to really notice the new front suspension -- the 911's already fantastic steering is somehow even better, maybe borderline twitchy, while still feeling 100% natural and communicative. The GT3 goes exactly where you point it with an immediacy I've yet to experience in a modern street-legal sports car, and between the double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension, rear-axle steering and the tires' huge grip threshold, I will absolutely run out of talent long before the GT3 does.
The standard front steel brakes measure 16.1 inches in diameter, clamped by six-piston calipers. Those stoppers are the same size as the ones Porsche uses on the 911 Turbo, but the GT3's are 17% lighter. Naturally, you can spec the GT3 with powerful carbon ceramic composite brakes, which are so effective that I literally wrote "get off the brakes, dummy" in my notebook. It takes a while to build up the confidence to brake later and later into turns, but in conjunction with this car's sophisticated chassis and tires, you can carry a ton of speed through even the tightest of turns.
At 3,164 pounds with the PDK transmission, the 2022 GT3 weighs about 200 pounds less than a base 911 Carrera, and that only adds to the coupe's feeling of agility. The hood, rear wing and ducktail spoiler are all made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and you can get the roof in this material, too. The lightness very much contributes to the general chuckability of the GT3, especially with that more advanced front axle design. This car simply will not quit, and the longer you drive it, the more comfortable you feel. Slowly but surely, you start to loosen your internal reins; the Porsche actively goading you into going faster and faster, without a single oh-shit pucker moment to break your stride.
Is the GT3 easy to live with? Yes and no. The 992-generation 911 is amicable to the slog of day-to-day life and the GT3 offers many of the same creature comforts. Comfy sport seats are standard, though I do love the vice-grip embrace of the $5,900 full-bucket seats in this test car. You can get the same GPS-linked electronic front-axle lift as other 911 models (for $3,670), which will undoubtedly save your chin from scraping, thereby saving your ass from repair bills.
As for cabin tech, you'll find the usual Porsche Communication Management infotainment tech on a 10.9-inch touchscreen in the dash, complete with wireless Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto). Like some other sports cars, the 911 GT3 has a track screen setting to minimize distraction. It reduces the information shown on the displays to the left and right of the tachometer, only bringing up the most critical bits of info like tire pressures, oil pressure, coolant temperature and so on.
Oh, and since the GT3 doesn't come with the 911's otherwise useless rear seats, that's even more room for cargo. This is the functional 911, folks. Purchase justified.
If you want one -- and you do -- you'll need a lofty $162,450 (including $1,350 for destination) to get in the door. And because it's a Porsche, that starting price is just that: a start. Optioned up with a whole bunch of goodies, the Shark Blue (great color) tester you see here rings up for $196,070. Aside from the tacky blue rings around the headlights and on the wheels, I'd probably spec my own the same way. Actually, no, make mine a GT3 Touring.
A nicely optioned GT3 for just shy of $200,000 is hardly an insignificant sum, but on the other hand, consider what you're getting for the price. This is a car that can not only chase down $250,000 Lamborghinis and $300,000 Ferraris, but embarrass them with its cabin tech and modern amenities.
The new GT3 takes all the greatness of the 992-generation 911 and distills it down to its purest sports car form. It's a straightforward sports car that eschews a reliance on electronic whiz-bangery in favor of honest-to-goodness performance.
This is exactly what a GT3 should be.