Driving the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 with the 2013 Nissan GT-R on Edmunds.com

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

German Precision Takes on Japanese Muscle


It's no exaggeration to say that we'd go to the ends of the Earth to drive the new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3. Right now our destination in the Austrian Alps feels about as far away.

On any normal day the Fern Pass might seem quite beautiful. However, stuck behind an endless stream of campers when you're driving a new GT3 to a spectacular destination with a 2013 Nissan GT-R in waiting, it's about the most frustrating place imaginable. Gradually and mercifully, the traffic thins and the GT3 starts to stretch its legs.

Then we hit the stretch we've been waiting for. It climbs steeply through a wooded section that's smooth and fast. Then the trees vanish and it clings to a mountainside, hairpins easing the ascent before blending into faster 3rd-gear corners until we're delivered onto a kind of icy, sun-drenched moonscape. After the tedium of our 190-mile journey, this alien scene feels like heaven. By the time we reach the summit, some 9,100 feet above sea level, I can't help wondering if we've brought the wrong rival car.

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

The 545-HP Contender Awaits
We decide it's best not to concede as much to the others who arrived here in the Nissan GT-R. We've learned over the years never to underestimate or dismiss the Nissan GT-R. It remains a formidable beast, producing 545 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 466 pound-feet of torque from 3,200-5,800 rpm from its mighty 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6. And in spite of its portly 3,836 pounds, the GT-R does things that seem impossible. It's thrilling, slightly terrifying at times and seems to compress time and space like nothing else. And in some respects, now more than ever, it does seem like the car against which the GT3 should be measured.

That's because the GT3 has evolved in giant strides and adopted a great deal of new technology of its own. The 991-series GT3 is the most technologically advanced GT3 ever, and by some margin. It features electronically adjustable dampers (like the 997), and more controversially, a PDK twin-clutch gearbox. There's also an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and rear-wheel steering.

In another somewhat controversial change, the celebrated Mezger-designed engine of the previous GT3 is gone. In its place is a dry-sump 3.8-liter direct-injection flat-6 based on that of the Carrera S. Let's not get too upset, though, because the new engine produces 475 hp at 8,250 rpm and 324 lb-ft at 6,250 rpm and revs to a stratospheric 9,000 rpm.

It might be based on a Carrera S engine, but with forged internals, rocker-arm actuation for the valves and hundreds of unique components, it's effectively an all-new motor. It's 55 pounds lighter than the previous GT3 engine, too. Porsche says it's capable of propelling the new GT3 from zero to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds, zero to 124 mph in less than 12 seconds and on up to a 196-mph top speed. It also laps the Nürburgring in 7:25: faster even than the 997 GT3 RS 4.0, so there's that.

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

What Can These Cars Do on the Road?
But this isn't the Nürburgring, and we haven't brought any stopwatches. Here in Austria, we're hoping to discover whether the 2014 Porsche GT3 still pulsates with the feedback that has always been at its core, and if it still rewards those willing to immerse themselves in the process of unlocking the car's potential.

With the Alcantara-trimmed wheel pulled in tight and the seat wound down low, the new GT3 feels familiar. From the Autobahn and the hellish crawl along the Fern Pass, it's obvious that this car is quieter and suppler than the 997 version. The heavily revised PDK transmission shows some refinement as well, yet it's so much more positive than the standard system. The new engine doesn't rattle and fizz quite as much as the old flat-6 with its clattery single-mass flywheel. It also doesn't feel quite so strong in the low to midrange, perhaps due to this car's slight increase in overall weight (up 77 pounds to 3,153).

The steep climb through the woods gives only glimpses of the new engine's top end because visibility is limited and the corners come thick and fast. Even when hemmed in, though, the GT3 delivers savage performance once wound over 5,000 rpm, and in the fleeting moments that the engine spins up close to 9,000 rpm with a hard-edged, resonant howl, the rabid acceleration is something to behold.

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

With the PDK's "Race" mode selected it's instantly responsive, hitting with the speed of a Ferrari gearbox and the lovely, engineered thud of the M-DCT in BMW's M3 GTS. Left to its own devices, the PDK gearbox makes the right shifts every single time, but we're not really interested in driving a GT3 in auto, so we switch to the weighty, short-action paddles. Is it involving? Yes, leaving us free to concentrate on the balance of the car, the braking zones and, of course, to seek out 9,000 rpm again. Once you've tasted that mad rush to the limiter you'll want to live your life between 8,000 and 9,000 rpm. And the noise is pure Le Mans.

Up above the trees and into the hairpins, and with the shock of the ferocity of the drivetrain gradually easing, it's the way that the GT3 changes direction that takes and holds your attention. Combining rear-steering with an e-diff that can be fully open on turn-in creates precision that you wouldn't believe. In fact, you expect the pendulum out the back to start swinging around just from the sheer speed of response of the front Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Active engine mounts ensure that it doesn't, the instantaneous steering response matched by supreme midcorner stability.

Surely the GT-R can't match this thing?

A Sports Car That Obliterates Twisty Roads
The 2013 Nissan GT-R feels gigantic after driving the 2014 Porsche GT3. It also feels heavy and mechanical, the diffs grinding and juddering, the big engine chirruping and snorting, the ride thumping and the heavy steering tugging into cambers and grooves that you can only imagine the car is simultaneously creating and being affected by.

After the litheness and rigid connection you sense with the GT3, the Nissan feels more than a little clumsy. And yet for all that, the GT-R is irresistible when it's rolling. The midrange bite is outrageous, the six-speed twin-clutch gearbox matches the GT3's seven-speeder, and even though you feel the Nissan's weight every time you hit the brakes, the way it dismantles a road is quite breathtaking.

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

And it gets better and more thrilling the harder you go, peeling back layers of its character, demanding confidence and decisiveness. Sure, the GT-R will go pretty bloody fast without you so much as changing gears for yourself, but if you want to get the best out of it, you need to work for it. There's more body roll than in the freakishly controlled GT3, a tad more understeer in really tight corners, and when the rear tires do let go, they do so quickly.

When you squeeze everything out of the GT-R, it's like a force of nature, unstoppable and brutal. The frenzy of boost and power, managing the weight and the often-spiky on-limit balance, working with the four-wheel drive, it's a process that might not seem a very "pure" experience in theory. But the reality is demanding, physical and thrilling enough to send your pulse rate into uncharted territory. It seems we did bring the right car. In fact, against expectations, the GT3 could be accused of being a bit clinical and refined next to the snorting GT-R.

No Manual Need To Feel the Magic
The short answer is that the 991 GT3 still has the magic. The chassis is truly a thing of wonder, with a front end that is hyper-responsive, yet exhibits none of the jumpiness of Ferrari's F12. On the one hand, that means it's a much easier car to drive pretty quickly than the more demanding 997 — which is good or bad, depending on your point of view.

But it also means that there are still great rewards both when you're flat-out on a crazily beautiful Alpine road or cruising gently along in the real world. The depth of its talent and the quality of its controls easily shine through.

Porsche 911 GT3 vs. Nissan GT-R

It really does feel as if you have the GT3 on a string and can do whatever you please with it. That's a measure of the confidence granted by the supple but controlled suspension, the excellent steering and the intuitive, almost invisible rear-wheel-steering system. The PDK setup is superb as well and it certainly contributes to both the GT3's more relaxed character at low speeds and its unerring focus and accuracy in full flight. It gives you scope to experience that searing top-end power delivery regularly and it makes the GT3 faster. Truth be told, however, it also removes a certain something.

The GT3 feels less demanding without that heavy, short-throw manual gearbox and sometimes less satisfying, too. The "involvement" issue isn't just about whether you flick a paddle or move your arm and leg. When you operate a manual gearbox, you have to read the road ahead more accurately and think more about the braking zones, the optimum time to execute a downshift, matching engine revs and how your timing will affect the balance of the car. Remove all of that and it's indisputable that you feel a less crucial part of the machine.

A Close Fight With a Clear Winner
Even so, the 2014 Porsche GT3 is a more exciting and more immersive car than the 2013 Nissan GT-R. It's near-as-dammit as fast in a straight line and murders it on the brakes and through the corners. It has more grip, better body control and is a more rewarding car to tease and work to its limits.

By comparison, the Nissan feels slightly binary, even as fast and capable as it is. The GT3 is exactly what it should be: dazzling, agile and uncompromising. It's also a triumph for Porsche Motorsport, which has taken the bigger, more refined and deliberately more inclusive 991 and created a car of stunning focus and control, yet one endowed with the sort of feedback and interactivity that purists crave. The technology has been used to enhance the driving experience, not just the lap time, a crucial point that makes all the difference from behind the wheel.

Portions of this content have appeared in foreign print media and are reproduced with permission.



  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Mr Salt certainly had one heck of a day out on the road. This article was brimming with the excitement of the task at hand. The character of the two cars is as I expected from previous ones I've read, so I had a feeling the outcome would be Porsche out in front. It was good to hear about how the upgrades in the GT3 are working in a non-track scenario. I wish I had the driving talent (and guts) to push it to the limit like that.

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    I will give Edmunds credit for one thing, and that is they finally picked the correct match-up. They selected a left hand drive Porsche vs a right hand drive Japanese spec GT-R which probably contributed to the driver not being able to handle the GT-R as much as he could have if provided a left hand drive American spec version. That being said, I will admit the Porsche is more refined and balanced, but I would easily take the GT-R just because I have driven a couple and it's an amazing car.

  • marcos9 marcos9 Posts:

    Both very nice cars - and both are not silver, which is a plus!

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    I honestly cannot understand why anyone would choose a GT-R over a GT3, even considering the $50k price differential. Buying one over a standard Carrera I can see, but if you plan on doing any track driving at all the GT-R is just a piece of work. It overrides your inputs 50% of the time and when it isn't doing that it is slamming into a wall of crippling understeer. Certainly it is absurdly fast. I mean take your breath away and feel a bit of physical pain fast. However, that just doesn't matter to me. If a sports car doesn't become an extension of yourself what is the point? These cars should be about the way they make you feel. The GT-R is one of the most disappointing cars I have ever driven on a racetrack. The way it drives on the street at 8/10ths make you think it would be a phenomenal track car, but somehow a disconnect arises at 10/10ths. A 911 GT3, on the other hand, feels special whether on road or track.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Comparing an N/A car trying to suck in 9,000 rpm worth of air against a twin-turbo setup at 9,100 feet of elevation? Whose idea was this?

  • smcgrath1 smcgrath1 Posts:

    30000 more. 70 less horse power. great call edmunds

  • themandarin themandarin Posts:

    Nissan looks like an Altima coupe w/ sports package

  • johbot johbot Posts:

    Funny, you're comparing the new GT3 to a car that's had basically the same tech for the last 6 years. I guess Porsche finally "gets" it since the "R" was beating them since it was released back in late 2007. I do have to admit, the new GT3 does rock though, but comparing it against the GTR is almost too funny in that the GTR is the benchmark for a lot of the new cars being released as of late. 2016 will be here soon enough and the new R36 will set another benchmark for Porsche engineers to go back to the drawing board.

  • smokeymn smokeymn Posts:

    This is basically a reprint of the British magazine Evo's article about the GT3. Being that the reviewers are English and are accustomed to driving right hand drive cars I don't think GTR's spec was a factor. I would imagine the GT3 being left hand drive might have been more of an issue. Interesting article none the less with great photos.

  • The truth is, both are fantastic cars. The Porsche will always be the best track car because the engine is in the rear. Simple. if you are seriously in the market for a Gt3 or a 991 Turbo/Turbo S cab, i can try help. call me @ 770-643-6100. My name is Billy and I am a certified Porsche sales ambassador.

  • r35mike r35mike Posts:

    As a 2012 GTR owner I can attest that under steer on a track is an issue, but this is easily resolved by switching to 285/35/20 Michelin PSS. Note the GT3 is on cup sport tires which are DOT approved but very dangerous when wet. also most articles fail to address how detuned the GTR is from the factory. I bumped mine up to 575whp for less the $3k. Switch tires and tune her and you have a totally different car!

  • pgordon888 pgordon888 Posts:

    As a city dweller with garage parking for only two cars and a toddler, back seats matter to me. Hence I chose the 2014 GT-R over the GT3 (assuming I could wait the year backlog for GT3 delivery). The back seats in the 991 do not weigh that much so Porsche should really offer them as an option on the GT3, especially now that it is moving closer to the grand tourer capabilities of the rest of the 991 family.

  • jmunjr jmunjr Posts:

    I've driven these cars on the track. The GT-R requires an enormous amount of speed to really shine in the thrill factor. It simply seems kind of boring otherwise, well if you have experience on the track. This doesn't make it an inferior car, it just makes it a different car. Minor suspension upgrades make a huge difference on the track however. Good sway bars alone transform the car tremendously and the understeer diminishes quite a bit, though it is still awesome in stock form. As for the car "overriding your inputs", if you are a good driver even in R mode this is extremely rare, and if you are a bad driver well then you'll see this more often, though really it isn't necessary. I drive it with all electronics other than ABS turned off and the car really comes alive as it allows you to have a bit more fun. At Circuit of the Americas the GT-R with the nannies off was a thrill and very balanced and predictable. Make a mistake and you are rewarded with a very well designed and forgiving chassis. Unlike many cars you have a lot of control beyond the limit with the GT-R, and as a driver with a lot of track experience this is what I am looking for. Much of the criticism of the GT-R stems from the fact that many of these drivers aren't pushing the car hard enough and doing so with electronics turned on. I actually find the nannies mostly unintrusive unless I'm trying to horse around or at certain turns at a very few tracks. Turning them off is the key.

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