2014 Porsche 911 GT3 First Drive

2014 Porsche 911 Coupe

(3.8L 6-cyl. 7-speed Automated Manual)
  • 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 - Action Front 3/4 - 3

    2014 Porsche 911 GT3 - Action Front 3/4 - 3

    Only minor adjustments were made to the front fascia to distinguish the GT3 from a standard Carrera S. | June 28, 2013

45 Photos

It's PDK or Nothing This Time Around

"We are not ignorant, Porsche is not ignorant," says Andreas Preuninger, the engineer in charge of the company's GT series cars, with the air of a man who wishes to draw the current subject of conversation to a close.

We've been discussing the decision not to offer a manual transmission in the new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3. It's a topic of conversation that has consumed most of his waking hours for the past six months and, to be fair to the man, not one on which he can offer much more.

For reasons of cost, engineering and marketing, Porsche has chosen to build the newest GT3 (the car that perhaps connects the company with hard-core drivers better than any other in its model range) with only two pedals.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3

Accordingly, the cognoscenti have gone native on Porsche. There will be no manual GT3, and Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche's R&D chief, has stated that even the RS version of the GT3 will be PDK-only, which would put an end to speculation were it not for Preuninger's pointed assertion that Porsche is not ignorant.

If the lack of a manual hinders sales, I think we can assume that the company will reconsider the strategy. But not for now. It's an automatic or nothing.

No Complaining About the Engine
Given the extent to which the transmission has dominated discussions before anyone has actually driven the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3, it might come as a surprise to learn that the gearshift is not the first thing that grabs your attention in this car. The motor dominates the experience.

There was also much discussion among the Porsche community that the 991 GT3 would suffer for not using the classic split-case flat-6 that lifted it above the regular Carrera. However, the first time you stretch this new derivative of the 9A1, 3.8-liter direct-injection boxer beyond 7,000 rpm, you realize that the rabble-rousing was unnecessary.

This is a sensational engine, smooth and musical from 1,500 rpm to 8,500 rpm, whereupon its character shifts into something altogether racecar for a final 500-rpm push to the 9,000-rpm cutout. Its 475 horses produces one of the most unadulterated mechanical sounds you'll hear in a new car. It's so addictive you keep extending the motor to hear it.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3

And That's Not All
Then there's the chassis. Electric power steering is undoubtedly a negative development for sports cars in terms of driver involvement, but this has to be the best resolved system yet devised. There's more weight than a standard Carrera and a far greater sense of connection with the front axle; in fact, you'd swear it was an entirely new steering system, but the hardware is identical to the normal 911's, as all the changes are in the software and calibration.

A completely new set of lower suspension arms and different tires also contribute. It's certainly a little more muted than the last 997 GT3's steering, but it's pretty damn good.

Better still is the chassis. A longer wheelbase and wider front track already helped the 991 understeer less than 911s of old, but the GT3 is a big step forward. The suspension sits 1.2 inches lower than the standard Carrera and utilizes lightweight components that shave nearly 15 pounds of weight off the running gear. Then there's the rear steer system and an electronic locking rear differential that makes it a revelation on the road: fluid, keen to change direction and far more nimble than its claimed 3,153-pound curb weight would suggest.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3

Grip levels are exceptional for a street car, but if you switch the traction and stability control off you can play with the rear axle just as you could in the old car. The rear steering moves into a fixed position and you end up with a machine that will smoke its tires all day long.

A Retuned Automatic That Works
And only once you've grinned at the brilliance of the engine and admired the advances Porsche has made with the chassis and its seamless integration of four-wheel steering do you stop and think about that transmission. And you ask yourself two questions: Is it a good dual-clutch gearbox, and would the GT3 be better with a good old manual?

The PDK here is a vastly different piece of equipment to the one found in other Porsches. It has shorter gears with tighter spacing and can shift between them in under 100 milliseconds the instant you pull either paddle, both of which have half the movement of a regular PDK paddle. Even the gearlever has been changed to allow a pull backward to bring an upshift, as it should be in any racing car.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3

With seven gears and a motor that revs to nine grand, it's hard to argue against this gearbox for road use. As a powertrain package together they are compelling, the paddles allowing you to nip that 9,000-rpm limit and enjoy the crack of exhaust as the revs drop a little. It's a new kind of driving: one that hard-core GT3 fans might not buy into, but from behind the wheel the car feels utterly alive. You can even disengage the clutch by pulling both levers to simulate a clutch-kick.

About That Manual Gearbox
As slick as the PDK is, a car like this should surely offer both options. For those who want to work a stick and enjoy the fruits of their own skills, often learned over decades, the new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 will be a slight disappointment. But I defy any of those people to not celebrate how impressive this car has become.

The interior is exactly what you'd expect of a GT3: a light twist on the 991 theme with a few scattered badges, that imposing 9,000-rpm red sector and, should you want them, carbon bucket seats. If there's anything to wince about, it's the hand-me-down steering wheel and shift paddles from the last-generation 997 Turbo S.

Only time will tell if Porsche made the right decision with the 991 GT3's specification. It's a stunning car to drive: faster, more agile and, well, plain better in every area. But the GT3 brand also contained an unspoken contract between driver and machine that has been slightly broken with the insertion of two metal paddles. We'll have to wait and see if the sales numbers reflect any loss of enthusiasm.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Comments

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    You know I like a manual transmission just as much as the next guy, but when you have a car that gets this close to being a race car, its hard to bemoan Porsche for putting the fastest transmission possible in it. Also, its not like you can't get a manual in other Porsche models, so its not really a limiting factor.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    You know who will complain about the lack of full manual: auto writers and people that visit sites like this, most of whom couldn't afford a GT3 anyway. A few genuine Porsche buyers will also complain, but Porsche will sell every GT3 it wants to build with absolutely no problem and continue to make one of the highest profit margins in the car business while doing so.

  • strangelove strangelove Posts:

    Sales will be fine. The damage will be subtle, but important over time. Though if Ferrari can get away with it, perhaps Porsche feels they can as well.

  • cjasis cjasis Posts:

    bankerdanny is entirely correct. Porsche will selll every single one of these that they make but there will be a hard core group of Porschephiles who will bemoan the lack of a three pedal manual forever. If you don't agree, look no further than those who continue to pine for aircooled motors in the back of their 911's. Personally, I think Porsche stumbled here in their choice. They could have easily offered a proper manual and, as Porsche is so good at doing, charged a silly surcharge ($4,000?) for the option to "cover the cost of federalization" and therefore kept the hardcore GT3 guys happy too. I bet, if Porsche's stumble over their dumb [non-permissible content removed] PDK buttons on the 2009 911 is any indication, that there's a strong chance they do just tha. BTW - I think, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, that the carbon, fixed back buckets pictured here and discussed herein aren't coming to the US... at least not initially. Due, again, to federalization.

  • aston_dbs aston_dbs Posts:

    Yes, please. The moaning + whining of manual gearbox is truly getting old. Some people still want to press buttons instead of touch screen on their phones? Be my guest, but please let other people enjoy the new technology in peace. I truly (and have always) enjoy the superb PDK in the latest Cayman S and 911 4s. If this PDK version is EVEN better than those, I am totally sold (again). The last GT3 is already brilliant (the RS version is too much for me); I can't wait to test drive this one.

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    The few modern automatics I've driven (BMW's 8-speed, for example) are superb. But darnit, I want a 3rd pedal in my racecar. I agree with the above: Porsche should've simply offered their 6 or 7-speed manual trans for a substantial upcharge. The purists would've been sated, the collectors would pay it, and Porsche would break even. So that all being said: That is a gorgeous GT3 and....6.6 pounds per hp. My goodness, that's gotta make your face wrinkle back when you hammer it in 1st.

  • carmageddon carmageddon Posts:

    The shop where I get my 911 serviced here in Silicon Valley specializes in racing, and the bays are typically filled with 997 GT3's. From talking to their owners, I think the only concern any of them will have about the 991 version is whether it's faster than what they've got now. They're all about winning and nothing else. As to the joys of shifting a manual, every one of the GT3 owners I've spoken with owns multiple Porsches; if they want to drive a stick, they've got one. It just may not be their race car.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    This isn't really a complaint (nor is it relevant for at least a few years since I cant' afford a GT3 'new')- but considering how vocal the supporters of manual transmissions are, I'm not quite sure why they don't just offer a revised 7 speed manual. Unlike those pining for air cooled engines, it's not impossible to go to one- It's a fairly minimal investment to begin with (calibration, the few transmission component differences to the PDK, testing.. heck it even fits the same dimensionally) and if it gets 20% more sales, I'm not sure WHY Porsche wouldn't do it. The Boxster/Cayman manuals seem better, in any case.

  • themandarin themandarin Posts:

    Like the 3.8L wing. Wouldnt mind seeing the tailpipes too

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Simply put, the Porsche engineers have determined that human gear shifting is the weak link in extracting maximum performance from their top 911. With ruthless German efficiency they have solved that problem. ;-)

  • aston_dbs: .7 RS is too much for you? Dedicated track cars and race cars ride harsher, so that's nothing. There are people who DD GT3, so it looks like you are better off with fluffy cars like the DBS in your name. Great analogy with the phone btw, because that is not comparable at all.

  • jmaroun jmaroun Posts:

    Ok, the GT3 is a race car..makes sense to have dual clutch paddle shifters like Ferrarri. The 911 Turbo is a FAST Sports Car with GT ammenities..and most people who buy this car are, face it...kinda old. no offense, as I am approaching that category in another decade. But what about the Alpha Romeo 4C? Why the F does that car not come with a manual, if not as default, at least as an option??? This is supposed to be a driver's car! ----------------- Two possible explainations: 1.) Auto Industry is CHEAP! they put profit over ideals or 2.) Auto Industry knows better than the consumer what is truely better. I mean that, not in a facetous way. Perhaps the manual is not as fun as the latest dual clutch paddle shifting transmissions and to be honest, I have yet to try one out. I will when the 4C is available.

  • tbone85 tbone85 Posts:

    Edmunds is making this harder than it should be. First they kill InsideLine which took me from being a daily visitor to maybe weekly. Then the site doesn't work for me with the latest public release of FF. Now they are forcing multiple copies of the same post according to what I'm reading on this thread. I'm sorry to be off topic, but I like the information on this site (although not nearly as much as InsideLine). It just shouldn't require a separate browser or make duplicate posts.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @tbone85 I'm using FireFox21 and all is good here. The double tapping is a server problem coupled with the impatience of those posting.

  • 06speed6 06speed6 Posts:

    It's the type of GT3 drivers demand now. The Last GT3 was a car you would tow the track or drive there if you like. The new GT3 is a road car you can drive on the track. Trouble for me is, aren't all 911's sports cars you could occaisionally drive on the track? Because each shift is perfect, the way parts are built in the drivetrain have changed dramatically the transmission also cooperates with the stability control and all wheel steering. I like the 1st Series 997 GT3 with the 3.6 motor, PCCB Brakes with its unique rear spoiler. All these iterations add value to each in my opinion. Who knows, the next generation could be a hybrid as new electric drive units make it to the track.

  • stonehammer stonehammer Posts:

    like most legends, the name outlives the original intentions... but who am i to say, haven't driven a gt3 since 2004

  • aurun007 aurun007 Posts:

    I am a diehard manual transmission driver. Have owned a Ferrari F355GTB with a manual and I am not complaining that Porsche hasn't offered a manual tranny on the 991 GT3. I purchased a brand new manual trasmission turbo 911 of the 997 variant at the end of 2012. I am happy with my decision because Porsche will no longer offer the manual tranny on the new Turbos, Turbo S's, nor the GT3's. I guess I got lucky with my decision to not wait for the 991 Turbos to become available even though the new 991's are faster and quicker. I like having to change gears on my own and use my skills I have acquired over the years...

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