Gran Turismo is more than a video game
Let's cut right to the chase. The 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 is our favorite Porsche. It's as if everything that Porsche has ever known about fast cars has been stuffed into this 911. Lightning reflexes, check. Sensuous sex on wheels, uh-huh. Neck-stretching cornering grip, you betcha. God-awful speed, abso-bloody-lutely. Heartlessly cruel to the inexperienced? Well, no, actually.
Why is the 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 so damn good? First, there's the small matter of 40-odd years of relentless refinement for the 911 package from the hard-headed guys at Porsche. But the real key to the GT3's prowess can be traced back to the decision Porsche made in 1999 to end its factory-backed racing program with dedicated prototype sports cars and instead concentrate on customer-based motorsport with modified production cars.
Racing doesn't improve the breed; it is the breed
Those who watched this year's Sebring 12-hour race saw no fewer than seven Porsche 911 GT3 RSR racecars mixing it up in the GT2 class. All right, Porsche pilot Jörg Burgmeister came up a fender short after some controversial last-corner rubbing with a Ferrari F430 GT. But hey, that's racing. And it's what Porsche lives for.
In order for Burgmeister's RSR to be eligible for competition as a production-based car, Porsche has had to homologate the 911 GT3 with racing's sanctioning bodies by maintaining "continuous production" and selling a specified number of road-going copies. This is the mission of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. While street-legal, the GT3 RS is a track car built in very limited quantities. Its existence is a direct consequence of Porsche's commitment to racing the 911 GT3 RSR.
Our screaming-yellow GT3 is a great track car, but it's a bit more civilized than an RS — but thankfully not too much. Just like the GT3 RS, the GT3 has the same 415-horsepower, 3.6-liter engine; six-speed manual transmission; essential suspension bits; massive brakes; and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires.
But our GT3 does lack some of the GT3 RS's racing-style goodies. The RS has rear haunches that are 1.7 inches wider to homologate the widest possible rear track and rear wing for the RSR racecar. And while the RS's engine has a lightweight single-mass flywheel to help it rev as responsively as possible, the GT3 has a heavier dual-mass unit for smoother, transmission-saving power pulses.
We didn't miss these things one iota. Besides, the tire sizes of the RS and GT3 are identical, plus the GT3's lack of a big backside means our car has a better drag coefficient (0.29 vs. 0.30 Cd) and less frontal area (21.5 vs. 22.0 square feet) than the RS.
The new one to beat
Just a few yards down the road, the raw high-performance personality of the GT3 is immediately apparent. The car communicates with you on almost a subconscious level, sending messages about the road through the steering, brakes and powertrain. When you reply, there's no hesitation in the car's response. No slack. No heavy control efforts. And the ability of the car to maintain its balance is eerily good. Playing the guitar takes learning, but whistling you just do. Driving this car is like whistling.
Push it really hard, and the GT3 responds in kind. The poise of the GT3 amidst both the cone forest of the test track and the back roads of the San Gabriel Mountains is a tribute to the numerous refinements that Porsche has made over the years to this rear-engine chassis. Or maybe it's just the massive, sticky 305/30ZR19 Michelin rear tires. (For the record, the fronts are 235/35ZR19.)
And there's no electronic stability control to get in the way when you get really serious about speed. The GT3 does things the old-fashioned way: It's got excellent stability, and it's easy to control. For the first time, GT3s come with the Porsche Active Suspension Management system (PASM), which features a sport mode that's been optimized for smooth track work.
But the limits of this car are way up there. We had to go to our test track to find them. Even then, our Speed Yellow GT3 exceeded all expectations.
Three out of four ain't bad
Our jaws dropped after the GT3's 75.3-mph run through the slalom, which pummeled the 74.0-mph mark set recently by a 2007 Lotus Exige S. And the Porsche's 1.02g performance on the skid pad is the highest we've ever recorded.
The brakes are stupendous, with massive six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears clamping the optional rotors of the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB). They bite down hard and deliver excellent modulation with great pedal feel. They hauled down our GT3 from 60 mph in just 102 feet — a foot better than our result with the 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo. Since composite rotors are illegal in most premier racing series, PCCB is an $8,840 option here. As a bonus, they reduce unsprung weight for more responsive suspension action and also have been engineered to last longer than steel rotors.
The GT3 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine differs from the 3.6-liter mill found in the standard Porsche 911 Carrera. The 3.6-liter GT3 engine employs a costlier modular construction that delivers durability even under the continuous high loads that come with racing conditions. The cylinder barrels can be easily swapped to facilitate changes to different displacement categories.
In our GT3, all this boils down to 415 hp at 7,600 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm. And don't forget the red line of 8,400 rpm (the crankshaft is good for 9,000 rpm in racing applications). At the track, this engine catapulted our 3,238-pound test car to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds on the way to the quarter-mile in 12.2 seconds at 116.1 mph. It's not the fastest car we've tested, but it's damn close.
Track-worthy, but not track-bound
Far from being a one-dimensional, high-strung thoroughbred, the GT3 will slog through traffic just fine, too. It also helps that the action of the six-speed transmission and the clutch are well sorted. And with the PASM active damping in the normal range, the ride isn't overly abusive. Stiff, for sure. But we'd take it. You'll want to keep a spare lip for the front spoiler, though. The combination of the spoiler and the GT3's on-the-deck ride height (it's 1.2 inches lower than that of a standard 911 Carrera) transforms every driveway into the Rubicon Trail.
The most glaring clunker in this car is the Byzantine controls that come with the $3,070 Porsche Communications Management (PCM) audio and navigation system. It doesn't much matter, as the wicked soundtrack barking from the flat-6 engine was enough entertainment system for us.
Considering its gravity-shifting acceleration and light-speed nimbleness, few other production cars can keep up with a well-driven GT3. At a base price of $106,795, the GT3 is a performance bargain compared to the 911 Turbo. Even with the trick brakes, PCM navigation stereo, bi-xenon headlights ($1,090), Chrono Package Plus ($690) and painted wheel caps ($185), our test car's total price of $120,670 still slots in below the base price of the Turbo.
Our GT3 does exactly what people expect Porsches to do well: steer, stop and haul ass. All at the same time if need be, and at a very high level. The GT3 produces world-class performance just a couple of short steps removed from that of legendary racing iron, and it does so in a package accessible to mere mortals. This is the essence of the Porsche story, and it makes this car an unforgettable thrill.
To paraphrase Ferris Bueller: If you have the means, we highly recommend you pick one up.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot says:
I just played a game of Moon Patrol. That's right, Moon Patrol, the bizarre Williams Electronics video game from 1982 in which a six-wheeled rover with two guns (one firing horizontally and one firing vertically) rolls across a lunar surface shooting at flying saucers.
What's this have to do with a Porsche 911 GT3? Relax, I'm getting there. Moon Patrol always ends by running my processing abilities right to the ragged edge, holding them there for a few tantalizing seconds and then pushing them over. It's a deadly effective way to accomplish two goals. First, it guarantees I'll feed endless rolls of quarters into the slot. Second, despite rudimentary controls and ancient graphics, this game still stimulates part of my brain that modern games never will.
The same thing happens in Porsche's purebred 911 GT3. First, unlike most of today's performance cars, it's not watered down with the compromises demanded by hordes of sissy-pants buyers. Sure, there's adjustable suspension so you don't have a brain aneurism driving it over expansion joints, but the GT3 still manages to be purer than any other performance car you'll ever drive. Its controls demand deliberate inputs and it delivers similarly deliberate reactions. Best of all, like Moon Patrol, it brings me to that tantalizing edge of my abilities but it lets me safely stay there as long as there's a smooth ribbon of tarmac in front of the car.
In the GT3, even I am a hero. Even though I'll never lap the Nürburgring in 7 minutes 42 seconds like Walter Röhrl, it makes me feel like I can. It's hard-edged without having a hard edge. It's supercar-fast without being supercar-deadly. And that combination might just be enough to keep me from expiring in a spectacular yellow splatter.