BREAKING: This Is Our Very Fast First Ride in the 2021 Porsche 911 GT3

BREAKING: This Is Our Very Fast First Ride in the 2021 Porsche 911 GT3

Still Naturally Aspirated, Still Awesome and, Yes, Still Offered With a Stick

  • The new 992 GT3 once again packs a naturally aspirated, high-revving flat-six engine with either a manual or PDK automatic transmission.
  • With less weight and more focus, the 992 GT3 remains faithful to the GT3 lineage despite being spun off the larger, heavier 992 Carrera.
  • The wingless Touring model will return to complement the very winged regular Porsche 911 GT3.

"It's bigger, but not heavier. The aerodynamics are fantastic, without adding drag. We have PDK automatic gearbox that you can shift manually. And the engine, it is still a 9,000-rpm free-breathing engine. It has not lost its aggressiveness, its eagerness to drive, and it's a way to communicate to the driver. This is what the GT3 should be about," says Andreas Preuninger, Porsche's director of GT cars.

He's driving the new 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3, or at least one of the prototypes for the production model that reaches showrooms in 2021, and Edmunds has been invited along for the ride. As ever, the 992 GT3's specification reads like a wish list for committed, demanding drivers, who can rejoice that the Porsche 911 GT3 remains naturally aspirated despite the challenge of getting what's essentially a racing car engine to pass ever more stringent road-car regulations.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

The purist's last stand

"The whole process of developing a car has gotten so complex," admits Preuninger, citing rules centering largely around emissions, economy and noise that have compelled most rivals to take the turbocharged or hybridized route. But Porsche is nothing but stubborn in its engineering stance; you just need to look where the 911's engine is positioned to understand that, and the GT3 remains the model's purest expression. The 992 GT3's turbo-free flat-six with nary an electric motor is no real surprise then. Technically, it's a development of the 991-generation 911 Speedster's 4.0-liter engine, which was itself a slightly modified version of the 991 GT3's mill.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

The few changes to the high-revving engine are primarily focused on future regulations that'll apply to it in its life cycle. There's a particulate filter on the exhaust, then, though it still sounds more GT3 than Speedster in its timbre, deeper and more raucous, lacking the metallic, almost Italianate melodiousness that characterized the limited-run open car. In short, the 992 GT3 sounds great, at least as is possible thanks to those regulations. And it still revs friction-free to the stars, screaming with the sort of fizzing intensity that none of its turbocharged rivals can muster.

It's about the corners, not the numbers

On the spec sheet, there'll be no additional power for the 992 GT3, or none to speak of. Preuninger says Porsche will state 510 horsepower for the new GT3, which is just 10 hp more than the 991 GT3. Preuninger says that the regulatory landscape means getting ever greater power figures out of the engine just isn't possible. Indeed, he cites 80% of his engineering resources being committed to just getting the new GT3 on the road, with the other 20% focusing on "upping the ante." A turbocharged Carrera S will likely match the 992 GT3 on a 0-60 mph run, but the GT3 will come back fighting where it matters — in the corners.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

The gains are elsewhere

It's odd to think about a pure sports car like the Porsche 911 GT3 being all about efficiencies, but it is. Significantly so. While the engine's not seen any leap in power, there are sizable gains in other areas. Preuninger raves about the aerodynamic efficiency, noting that "this car has more than 50% more downforce but at a better coefficient of drag than the previous GT3." That's driven as much by Preuninger's desire for the GT3 to keep accelerating hard deep into three figures on the speed-enlightened autobahns in Germany as it is by the demands of lapping the Nürburgring — the GT3's benchmark. 

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

As a runup to 180 mph on the autobahn demonstrates, it's formidably quick at speed, yet it feels utterly stable too, that aerodynamic efficiency paying dividends here. Thank the race-derived "hung" rear wing, which not only pummels the air into forcing the rear axle downward but cleans up the airflow into the engine too. The rest of the aero strikes a balance: exploiting the air up front for cooling and downforce, directing it along the car's flanks and underneath to add stability, all the while aiding forward progress rather than robbing speed.

As for that lap time ...

Preuninger's not saying for now, saving this nugget for the launch in 2021, but he does predict that there will be a decent gain around the Nürburgring. That's hardly a shock, though without an appreciable bump in power, the chassis has had a bigger role to play. The rear axle remains akin to its predecessor, so there's a multi-link setup with rear-wheel steering and an almost complete lack of any rubber bushing in the suspension. Even so, and despite stiffer spring rates by around 25%, the damping is such that, along with fine body and wheel control, there's a real suppleness to the ride that's genuinely unexpected. 

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

The front axle is where the biggest changes have been made, with the MacPherson struts of the standard 911 having been removed in favor of a set of expensive, lightweight, forged aluminium wishbones lifted from the shelves marked "Cup and RSR parts." That's meant significant work to the steering, including completely new geometry and, of course, the wider track of the 992. Not an easy task, but one that Preuninger's happy with, the double wishbones proving quicker to react and stiffer without as much friction as the previous setup. On roads he's familiar with around Porsche's Weissach base, the 992 GT3 certainly feels agile, the grown-up character of the 992 Carrera transplanted here with greater immediacy and accuracy. It has the effect of seemingly shrinking the 992's proportions, which is no bad thing given the GT3's sharper focus.

Bigger, yes, but less weight

Weight is always a consideration with the Porsche 911 GT3, and that's no different with the new one. Preuninger says this 992 GT3 weighs no more than the previous 991.2 GT3, with the 2018 GT3 quoted at 3,116 pounds. That means the new car will be around 238 pounds less than a standard 992 Carrera, the drop in mass achieved by the usual GT3 route of removing the rear seats, thinner glass on the side and rear windows, lightweight polyurethane bumpers front and rear as well as significant reductions in sound deadening throughout.

Although the GT department has saved weight wherever possible, there's no longer the opportunity to leave out the air conditioning because, sensibly, nobody ever did so. The front trunklid is now carbon fiber, with cutouts in its structure underneath to give it enough flex to pass pedestrian impact tests. The center-lock wheels are larger, staggered 20-inch and 21-inch front and rear with wider 9.5-inch rims up front (the rears remain 12 inches wide), but they're no heavier. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are 255/35 ZR20s up front and 315/30 ZR21s out back, next-generation in their construction but sharing their compound with the previous GT3's meats.

Stop and go

Behind those forged alloy wheels is a development of the 991 GT3's braking system. The front rotors grow by an inch to measure 16 inches in diameter, while the rear rotors remain at 15 inches. The rotors are now pitted rather than through-drilled like Porsche's racers, and Preuninger says the better standard brake package will likely mean fewer buyers springing for the PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake) option. Do so and the rotors increase to 16.1 inches and 15.4 inches front and rear, respectively, and also significantly reduce the unsprung mass.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

A pick of transmissions

If there's one area that's a Preuninger signature, it's the PDK automatic selector. The engineer prefers to shift the seven-speed auto with a stick rather than the paddles, which is why there's what looks like a manual lever sprouting out of this PDK-equipped 992 GT3 prototype's transmission tunnel. It'll be possible to have a proper manual with six speeds and three pedals that saves some weight over the PDK, though it's paired with a less sophisticated mechanical differential in place of the PDK's electronic rear differential. New for the 992 series GT3 will be the ability to have either transmission across both model types, whether one chooses the winged GT3 here or the subtler-looking Touring model that'll follow soon after.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

Simpler inside

The 992 GT3's interior is predictably pared back over that of the Carreras. The instruments are GT3-specific, the large central rev-counter framed by shift lights like the race cars, with the driver-selectable modes refreshingly reduced to just three: Normal, Sport and Track. Each mode is configurable within its own parameters, the Wet mode of the Carreras not featured on the GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

Body-hugging bucket seats and a comfort seat choice will be provided, with options limited to notables including a front-axle lift system and those lighter PCCB brakes. There's a hint of the launch color under the black cladding — Preuninger always has a story around the hue of a GT3 at launch. Shark Blue will join the Porsche palette with this car, inspired by the blue hull of a superyacht Preuninger spotted while on holiday with his family.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

Edmunds says

The Porsche 911 GT3 has always been uniquely purposeful in its intent, and despite ever-more restrictive regulations, the new 992-generation GT3 promises to retain its purity, agility and core driver appeal. Arriving early in 2021, we'll be driving it soon, and if it lives up to the promise of what we experienced from the passenger seat, it'll be well worth waiting for.

Until then, go check out how its predecessor performs, in both manual Touring and PDK GT3 form, here:

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.

2021 Porsche 911 GT3.