Porsche 911 (992) GT3 (PDK) and GT3 Touring (MT) Review: Automatically Race Ready
One of my earliest sports car experiences ever was in a GT3.
It was the 997.1 GT3, and it really started my appreciation for Porsche GT cars in general. I loved how raw and visceral everything felt. Often, a car that left me sweating in engagement was always one I loved. The GT3 is that sort of car.
Later, I fortunately had access to the 997.2 GT3 RS every so often and it was even sharper to drive with an even better sounding engine, perhaps thanks to its titanium exhaust. There’s less comfort, but that’s not what GT3s are about, is it?
Those memories were still vivid in my mind when the opportunity came around to drive not only the 992 GT3 with PDK, but also the 992 GT3 Touring with a manual gearbox. The latter would be closer in spirit to the 997 vehicle I drove, and would symbolically be the one I really looked forward to driving to feel the changes across the generations.
GT3s are always highly sought after, but it’s a slightly different situation now. Many soon-to-be owners are patiently waiting for their cars while supply bottlenecks, due to macro factors, have caused a slowdown in deliveries. We are one of the first in Asia-Pacific to drive the 992 GT3s, and we’ll tell you if they’re worth waiting for.
The 992 GT3 in general comes with some headline changes over the 991. Chiefly, it now has a double wishbone front suspension which is straight off the Le Mans 911 RSR race car. It also has a new ‘swan neck’ rear wing which gives 50% more downforce compared to the 991.2 GT3. The Touring does without this wing but at road speeds it did not make any discernible difference. In fact the two cars felt extremely similar despite being very distinct cosmetically.
Both cars use an evolution of the engine from the 991.2 GT3, which is mechanically identical to the engine in the 911 GT3 Cup race car. It is now good for 510 PS (+10 PS) and 470 Nm (+10 Nm), and still revs to 9,000 rpm. On the GT3 both a 6-speed manual and 7-speed PDK is offered, while for the first time the GT3 Touring will also offer both instead of just the manual gearbox. The weight difference between the two gearboxes is only 17 kg.
Weight has been kept the same as the previous car despite all of the changes (1,418 kg with manual; 1,435 kg with PDK) and both the GT3 and GT3 Touring weigh the same, ceteris paribus. There are lighter glass windows, a CFRP bonnet, a lightweight sports exhaust system (latter saving 10 kg) which all adds up. This is impressive considering the 992 is a much larger car with significantly more technology and features.
Both cars have been specified in ‘classic’ Porsche style. The GT3 is in Dolomite Silver while the GT3 Touring is in Agate Grey. Both cars come with the optional full bucket seats which in my opinion is a bit of an overkill on our long road trip, especially with the need to get in and out pretty often for shoots as well to switch cars. Something to note, if you’re going to use the car daily. PDLS Plus also came in both cars, which is a huge boon for night time driving.
A significant difference between the two is the larger 90-litre fuel tank option on the GT3 Touring. On an extended drive like ours it made a huge impact as it allowed a much longer touring distance without having to stop for fuel so often. The GT3 with the normal 64-litre fuel tank could only do about 300-350 km on average, while the GT3 Touring was good for 500-550 km.
The other is the optional lifter fitted onto the GT3 Touring. The front end sits quite low and for car park situations and gravel laybys on the mountain passes, it is useful to have this.
The GT3 on the other hand gains one option which the GT3 Touring does not have - PCCB or ceramic brakes in non-Porsche speak. While the stock brakes are excellent, there is a whole other level of confidence with PCCBs, even on the road. They work well also in lukewarm temperatures, which is a marked improvement from older PCCB brakes.
Technology wise, the GT3 Touring has an updated PCM system which is streamlined and easier to use than the older system in the GT3. The icons are more readily accessible and the overall interface is less complicated. With this update, all USB ports have also been replaced with USB-C ports. There is still the lovely central rev counter although at this point in time, no head up display options are available.
I got my proper full day drive with the bewinged PDK car in Austria on Timmelsjoch (read our opener story for more details on the Alpine passes). On the previous day when we were on Hahntennjoch, rainy conditions along the narrow road with mainly short straights flattered the 992 Turbo S when driven back-to-back with the GT3s. I was keen to see if the GT3s would feel significantly different on the wider and better-sighted Timmelsjoch, with longer stretches to let the naturally aspirated engine sing.
The answer is a resounding yes. We had some patches of sun that day, which helped to get the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres warmed up. With grip at hand through the ‘ready’ tyres, the GT3 with PDK felt razor sharp on turn-in, no doubt the new double wishbone front suspension being a big factor here. The warmer the tyres got, the better the car felt. It was like a dance up the road, the GT3 closely moving step-in-step with my command with precision and accuracy. It felt like a knife that got sharpened more and more with each generation, fearfully effective and awe-inspiring.
However, the 991.2 felt a tad more natural, even though perhaps less able to demolish a road in quite the same way. This is none more apparent than in the steering, which is ultra quick and direct, but seems lighter and more digital.
With the longer straights it was also then possible to get the engine to its glorious 9,000 rpm redline more often. This mattered a lot, because a lot of the awesomeness can only be found at the top end. Yes, the mid-range is also satisfying, but it is like eating only the middle of a cake and not the topping and base. Utilising the whole rev range, the GT3 sounded and felt like a race car.
PDK definitely helped add to that impression. It feels even faster in the GT3 than in the Turbo S - they’re completely different gearboxes, for one. The GT3 does with one less cog and is also more responsive in making use of every horsepower the engine can muster. It is so good that I’d much rather be in manual mode shifting myself, because it just responds so quickly and telepathically. It felt like the engine and gearbox were made for each other.
But the happy hours did not last. Rain soon set in and it even became foggy for quite some time. The roads became drenched and again it wasn’t the most suitable conditions for the GT3. In this scenario, the GT3 felt skittish and nervous. The tyres are impressively grippy in the wet up to a point, but once there is standing water on the road there is nothing much they can do either.
When that happens, traction control is kicking in every time one accelerates. With every hairpin, it comes in again to quell oversteer. Understeer has to be managed with utmost discipline - it feels like the front will push if you so much as try to taunt it. I’m really curious about how the car would feel with more appropriate tyres.
It continued to rain and we made the decision to continue our journey eastbound towards Lienz instead of waiting for clearer skies, in order not to arrive too late. We passed through small, quier Alpine towns in Italy that strangely mostly spoke German. Even though speed limits kept changing, thankfully, the speed sign recognition ability in the cars allowed us to make the most of every opportunity we got to go faster. And so did the GT3, with the PDK making quick responses a cinch.
However, in town and especially those with cobbled streets, the new suspension setup of the GT3 is very apparent in its stiffness. In fact, it reminded me of the 997.2 GT3 RS. The car’s width was definitely felt as well where two-way streets only had enough space for one direction to pass each time. For roads like Neo Tiew back home, the driver in the Turbo S would feel nervous with heavy vehicles oncoming.
The next morning it was once again raining as we departed from Lienz. Immediately the manual gearbox required more focus and is a better perk-me-up than any amount of coffee. It is a breezy, easy affair with a light clutch and an equally light gear knob. This didn’t surprise me so much as I already felt this in the manual 991.2 GT3 Touring. Personally, I appreciated the lighter clutch but preferred the heavier, rifle-bolt like shifters in the 997 generation. Undoubtedly, the 992 is far easier to drive and exploit with its lighter weights.
After crossing the Grossglockner toll booth (and receiving a warning on possibly snowy conditions), I switched on auto-blipping as I wanted to drive with more commitment without having to think about blipping manually. If I could admit, this really helped me to go faster and the blips happen not just on downshifts, but also on upshifts too to keep the engine spinning at the right rpm. However, trying it back-to-back with it off, I still relished the challenge of doing it myself and I am sure given more time it’s something that enthusiast owners will still default to.
Because of the need to be more intentional with the gearbox and also to work with its longer ratios, the GT3 Touring is somehow always driven with less aggressiveness than its PDK counterpart. In straights which would have gotten the PDK to automatically downshift to an optimum gear and then upshift at every redline, with the manual it was easier (and perhaps faster) to let the current gear run its full course and the upshift at the redline. In more twisty roads along the Grossglockner, mainly gear 1 and 2 will be engaged, but on the PDK up to gear 3 would be used. All this makes the GT3 Touring a less hurried experience but no less pleasurable.
Mechanically, both cars are identical and there is still much to relish about the engine and the chassis. Point to point on the road and on the track though, the PDK-equipped will probably be faster no matter the skill of the driver.
There was little doubt that the 992 GT3 will again be spectacular to drive, and it is, even though the weather provided challenging conditions. If we remember that these are essentially race cars on the road with semi-slick tyres, the GT3s coped admirably well.
The handling offered, when conditions allow, is yet on another plane from the previous car and almost doesn’t feel 911. Quantifiably, that is good as the 911 drivetrain layout was never meant to work for a sports car. The front end bite and neutral balance in the 992 GT3 would never hint of an engine at the rear.
It offers the rarified naturally aspirated experience that is already in the enclave of the ultra exclusive set but at a segment that is almost completely offering forced induction of some form. Porsche has managed to make the car still sound sensational while wearing OPFs. It also allows you to pair it with a manual gearbox. This in and of itself should be celebrated, and imagine how much other cars in the range had to compensate to ensure the GT3 still exists. We are on the last days of the GT3 and I don’t know for how much longer we’d still see it in its form today without any electrification or forced induction of some kind.
This much is also apparent - that the 992 GT3 seems designed from the outset to be paired with the PDK. I felt that the PDK was really a ‘match made in heaven’ for the engine and purist thoughts aside, it really is the superior gearbox for the car.
The manual, while being a good gearbox as a standalone, seems to have its shine dimmed a little when placed next to the ‘perfect score’ combination of the PDK and that engine. So I never expected to say this, but I had to reverse my opinion about the GT3 Touring with PDK - it’s an odd combination philosophically, but in practice it absolutely works, with its purer looks yet with a devastatingly race-car drivetrain. It’s the spec that I would pick.
Credits: Text by James Wong; Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club