First drive: Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3

The release of a new Porsche is inevitably followed by an eagerly anticipated track-oriented GT3 version. Designed to appeal to hardcore enthusiasts, this latest iteration is lighter, faster and more technologically advanced than ever before. AOL Cars headed to Germany for a shakedown test.

What is it?

It's what happens when Porsche's white-coated motorsport division gets hold of a 911 – strip it, add racier parts and fit a much-fettled engine. The result is quite possibly the finest 911 ever made.

And that's a big statement – but this car is a big deal. It'll be bought by those rich individuals that want to drive their car to the race track, pop in a dozen laps and then drive home again. And those individuals expect the very best car that delivers in every department. So there's a simplified interior with different instruments, carbonfibre bucket seats, aluminium pedals, a different PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox and adjustable dampers – and that's not mentioning the aluminium wings, roof, doors and engine lid, or the rear-wheel-steering system.

What's under the bonnet?

It's the 3.8-litre flat six you'll find in the 911 Carrera S but it has had quite a substantial amount of work done to it. There's a specially-developed crankshaft and valve train for instance, while the six-cylinder lump now revs up to a wailing 9,000rpm. Porsche has also given its already-excellent PDK dual-clutch gearbox a makeover – the gear changes are just as smooth but seem more definite somehow and there's 'paddle neutral' too. Pulling both paddles behind the wheel whilst in gear puts the car into neutral by opening the two clutches, allowing you to dip the clutch and blip the throttle. It's even greater proof that automatic gearboxes can be made to operate like manual ones. Oh and total power is 468bhp at 8,250rpm and there's 440Nm of lovely torque at 6,250rpm, while 60mph from a stand still comes up in an ear-splitting 3.3 seconds. Top speed is 195mph.

What's the spec like?

Well, 911 GT3 buyers will be forking out £100,540 for their cars and for that they'll be getting carbonfibre bucket seats trimmed in Alcantara and leatherette, automatic climate control (you don't want to roast while you're tackling Club corner at Silverstone, do you?), bi-xenon headlamps and MP3 connectivity. It's sparse but if you want to make your 911 a bit more glam there is a plentiful options list to plunder – features like ceramic brakes (£6,248), LED headlights (£1,926) and a front axle lifting system (want to drive in cities and mount the inevitable speed humps? You'll need this for £2,023). But for those really hardcore track day fans, Porsche does offer a Club Sport package that includes a half roll-cage, multi-point harness seat belts, fire extinguisher and a battery cut-out switch.

Any rivals?

There aren't many to be honest. The very special Jaguar XKR-S GT at £135k springs to mind but the British marque has only built 20 of them so getting hold of one is a great deal harder than popping down to your local Porsche Centre. If you're set on a British bruiser, Aston Martin will happily sell you their V12 Vantage S – but at £38k more than the Porker it's more of an investment, but for that money you do get 12 cylinders, six litres and 565bhp.

Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3

What's it like to drive?

Oh, it's magnificent. It's a total triumph. I know it sounds like Porsche has paid for this review so far, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that because of my lashings of high praise, but it really is very excellent. Gun the throttle and the revs rise to an ear-splitting howl and all the time the PDK 'box is banging through the gears with total precision. The steering is deliciously weighted and precise and you wouldn't even know that the rear wheels turn – it's so beautifully harmonious. It's all wrapped up in an experience that lets you know you're properly gunning it and probably should ease off a tad, but the car is in total control and is always the boss.

The AOL Cars verdict

Well, it's pretty obvious isn't it? In any model series, the 911 GT3 is always heralded as the best 911 you can buy so I should have been ready for it to be good. But I wasn't. Porsche is apparently readying an ever better version – the 911 GT3 RS – but this one will do just fine. It's a titan of modern sports car engineering.

The knowledge

Model: Porsche 911 GT3 3.8
Price: £100,540
Engine: 3.8-litre, six-cylinder
Power: 468bhp, 440Nm
Max speed: 195mph
0-60mph: 3.3 seconds
MPG: 23.0 (combined)
Emissions: 289g/km CO2