996 911 GT3 Redux : Porsche 911 GT3 (996 Mk 2) [review]

Car Specifications
Engine: 
3600 cc Normal Aspirated
Cylinder Layout: 
Flat-6 Boxer, 24-valves, VarioCam
Top Speed: 
306 km/h
Transmission: 
6-speed manual
0-100km/h: 
4.5 sec
Power: 
381 bhp at 7400 rpm
Torque: 
385 Nm at 5000 rpm
Features: 
  • Better engine
  • More aerodynamic downforce

It has become clearer now what Porsche has in mind for these specialised models after revealing its new GT3 and GT3RS to the world. Porsche has certainly not forgotten about the RS enthusiast when they killed off the first GT3.

Astute readers among you will know that the GT3 made its brief appearance back in 1999 as a hot version of the normally aspirated 996. Whilst in the original concept it was only to have a limited run, the world-wide clamouring for more of the GT3 made the marketing boys go back to secure an encore performance from the board of directors.

Not surprisingly Porsche bigwigs signed off on another run of the GT3 as it was and was one of the finest, must-have cars there was then but its supply quickly ran out. While the RS type 911s are pure feats of engineering meant for die-hard enthusiasts, the first GT3 sought a wider appeal.

Porsche found out that many buyers of the 964 and 993 RS models has re-equipped the striped out bodyshells with all the luxury bits and pieces that were removed in the name of weight saving. So why not just leave the stuff there and work on the engine instead? Good thinking and the GT3 was the result. They couldn’t have been cleverer.

During its brief life, a surprising number of buyers wanted this harder edge 911 but not something as spartan as an RS, so this GT3 developed into another subset within this niche of hard-core enthusiasts. In its absence the marketing department found that there existed a pent up demand for such a car and through their beckoning the GT3 ver2.0 was reborn, thankfully it is an enthusiast developed machine so fundamentally it should be a good drive.

But Porsche could not just come to the market with the same old GT3 (though it is in our humble opinion, just as good). They had to justify the higher price tag. The biggest change comes in the engine department where an extra 21 bhp has been wrung from the same 3.6-litre engine, now topping out at 381 bhp.

Other detail changes involve reducing aerodynamic lift and keeping the coefficient of drag at 0.30. The downforce is created by a small, splitter like front chin spoiler and new larger rear spoiler. The wheels and tyres also got bigger and wider.

New Michelin Pilot Sport 2 comes as standard with 235/40 ZR 18 in front and 295/30 ZR 18 at the rears. This new combo is responsible for the newfound grip the GT3 has but in the process it seems to lose the tactility of the old car.

The handling of the Pilot Sport 2 is very progressive but has treacle like consistency as one approaches the limit. It drifts but it’s like moving a spoon through thick syrup, very sticky but not particularly sharp or informative. However we have no doubt the superb grip that they provide will help post faster lap times.

We had the opportunity to test the new GT3 alongside the old to see what the new one brings to the party. And apart from the tyres the main discernible change comes from the engine. It sounds different somehow, less raw more refined. Is this what enthusiasts want?

Only time will tell but they have no choice, as the only way to get the old one is pre-owned. However the extra oomph is felt through the seat of the pants as the engine zings happily in an effort to chop off 0.3 seconds from the 0-100-km/h time, now just 4.5 seconds.

The same ultra sharp steering is found in the new GT3 and a very steady hand is required at the helm if the car is not to dart all about over fast undulating roads. The possibility of clipping apices early is a real occurrence as the GT3 turns in with such alacrity.

However the lesson had already been learnt and remembered from the first experience with the GT3 some years back. One cannot relax in a GT3 as full concentration is demanded all the time but it will reward your attention with one of the very best driving experiences to be had.

Except for the GT2, the GT3 is the Porsche most willing to wag its tail. It will drift its tail where the normal 911 steadfastly hangs on in understeer. This machine has posted some of the fastest normally aspirated lap times round Nurburgring in the hands of Walter Rohl and it is precisely this propensity to drift its tail that helps it go through corners with such controlled adjustability.

However it is easy to misunderstand this machine because it seems to have all the luxury trappings like power windows and electric seats. Make no mistake this is a serious, demanding machine and will only come with a 6-speed manual transmission, which by the way, is a gem to use. Nothing is too unwieldy in the GT3, with all controls having just the right degree of heft, making you work for the pleasure not suffer for it.

Unlike the previous GT3, this one has no mention that it will be available in limited quantities. However the few that are destined for our market are already spoken for. This sort of brilliance is understandably a much sought after commodity.

SPECIFICATIONS


ENGINE
CAPACITY : 3600cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : Horizontally opposed 6-cylinders
VALVES : 24 valves, 4-valve heads, DOHC
BORE X STROKE : 100 x 76.4mm
COMPRESSION RATIO : 11.7:1
MAXIMUM POWER : 381 bhp at 7400 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 385 Nm at 5000 rpm

TRANSMISSION
TYPE : 6-speed manual
DRIVEN WHEELS : RWD

PERFORMANCE
TOP SPEED : 306 km/h
0-100KM/H : 4.5 seconds

SUSPENSION
FRONT : McPherson struts, anti-roll bar
REAR : Multi-arm configuration with anti-roll bar

BRAKES
FRONT : Ventilated steel discs
REAR : Ventilated steel discs ( Ceramic available as option)

TYRES
TYPE : Michelin Pilot Sport 2
SIZE : f: 235/40 ZR 18, r: 295/30 ZR 18

SAFETY
ABS : Yes
AIRBAGS : Yes
TRACTION CONTROL : None

MEASUREMENTS
LENGTH : 4435mm
WIDTH : 1770mm
HEIGHT : 1275mm
WHEELBASE : 2355mm
KERB WEIGHT : 1380-kg
TURNING CIRCLE : 10.6m


PRICE IN 2003    : S$ 556,888 without COE

WARRANTY : 4-Years
 

Summary
The second version of the amazing GT3 is both faster and more refined. It purposely avoided being a copy of the ver1.0 and would be the blueprint of the future GT3 RS. Although not a limited production run, the GT3 is about a good a drive as the original with its limited grip from the first Pilot Sport tyres. Still rates well as a cult car par excellence. - AL
Photos: 
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