The new Porsche 911 GT3 Touring Package tones done the styling, but keeps the blistering performance.
Internal combustion engines are getting more efficient. Emissions controls and more precise combustion means less wasted energy – a by-product of which is noise. That means they’re also losing some of their character.
Some manufacturers scramble to claw back excitement with artificial pops and bangs from the exhaust, or augmented cabin noise. Porsche, on the other hand, fits its 911 GT3 Touring with a 4.0-litre atmospheric engine, equipped with a single throttle body for each of its six cylinders, that revs to 9,000rpm. It’s done the trick.
It’s mechanically identical to the unit fitted in the recently-launched 911 GT3 – the Touring Package providing a cosmetically toned-down version of the track-focused sports car. It’s priced at $369,700 plus on-road costs, whether you opt for a six-speed manual gearbox or the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic driven here – this latter transmission an option for the first time on a GT3 Touring.
The most obvious concession to subtlety comes at the back, where the huge swan neck-mounted rear wing has been deleted – a small retractable item takes its place. Other changes on the outside include anodised aluminium trim, applied in a suitably understated fashion on the window surrounds. The bumper section surrounding the front air dam, which is painted black on the GT3, is body coloured for the Touring.
Its styling might be more understated than the existing GT3, but many cues pointing towards the fact that this is no ordinary 911 remain. The fabulous centre-lock 20-inch alloy wheels stay, as does the vented bonnet crafted from lightweight carbon fibre, and fat central-exit twin tailpipes.
Hop inside and there’s a more road-biased feel. Much of the Alcantara of the hardcore GT3 is gone, a mix of black leather and fabric taking its place. It remains a two-seater; not only does losing the rear seats – too small for most humans anyway – help to save weight compared with regular 911 models, but it brings the added bonus of better rear visibility, more so here thanks to the lack of that wing.
The fixed back carbon fibre-backed sports seats are incredible; the steering wheel an ideal size and with a huge range of adjustment; the pedals straight ahead. The driving position is pretty much perfect.
Twist the starter, and the engine fires busily into life. There’s a lot going on – mechanical chuntering, the sound of components whirring and clunking and buzzing. It’s an engine with no filter.
The same can be said of how it drives. At low speed the GT3 feels stiff. Large bumps will rock the whole car, as if there’s very little suspension travel. The steering hunts out subtle cambers in the road.
In some cars this sense might be taken too far to the point of irritation, but here it feels well-judged. The movements and twitches never feel like a fight, because the car is so agile and the steering so precise – rather, it just helps to relay more information about the road surface to the driver.
It takes very little speed before the ride improves. Left in ‘Sport’ mode (‘Track’, as the name suggests, is best suited to a smooth surface) the quality of the damping begins to make its presence felt at anything beyond 20kph. Those bumps are still there, but they become gradually more rounded and less jarring. For the most part, it rides better than many of the current crop of hot hatchbacks.
The all-new double wishbone front suspension layout – a first for a 911 road car – no doubt plays a part here. It helps the way the GT3 corners, too. We’ve already discovered just what a remarkable level of control it provides on track; on the road, it makes the GT3 utterly unflappable.
You’re well aware that mid-corner bumps are there, but the GT3 doesn’t seem to care. No matter how much speed you carry, or how undulating the surface, it remains unfazed. The steering is wonderfully precise too as it gently wriggles in your hands. Do you notice the lack of downforce of that missing rear wing? Of course not – on the public road at least.
Combined with the relentless grip from the Michelin Cup 2 tyres and phenomenally powerful brakes, which give so much confidence, it’s hard to think of a car that can cover ground so effectively on a winding road. It’s simply brilliant.
Despite all the superlatives we could throw at this chassis, it still plays second fiddle to the engine. Obviously, there’s the bare performance stats; 0-100kph takes just 3.4 seconds. But there are plenty of other performance cars, even EVs that are as quick as that – but none accompany the speed with such theatre.
From 3,000rpm onwards, the mechanical chunter becomes smoother and more tuneful. Plant the throttle and those throttle bodies take a sharp intake of breath and the exhaust barks as the car launches forward.
Then it revs, and revs, and revs. You may initially change up at 7,000rpm or so, thinking the engine has reached its peak. But it has more to give, and sounds more glorious the closer to that 9,000rpm red line you reach. The power constantly builds right up to its 375kW maximum at 8,400rpm, so there’s always incentive to enjoy that noise.
Each upshift is brought home with an instant response from the steering wheel-mounted paddles, and the temptation to blip an equally snappy downshift just to hear that engine sing a little higher is often too hard to resist. It’s the area of the 911 that, once combustion engines are gone, we’ll miss the most.
When we first sampled the GT3 on track we were unsure of how the firm set-up would translate into road driving. We needn’t have worried – sampled in more subtly-styled Touring Package guise, the chassis really shows its sophistication. It’s married to one of the most sublime engines fitted to any car on sale today. Compared with rival performance machinery, it’s even staggeringly good value for money.