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Porsche 911 2014 Review


There are Porsches, and then there is the GT3.

The razor-sharp road rocket of the 911 family is the car you choose when you're planning some serious Sunday morning fun or heading to a racetrack.

Which is how I come to be cranking through turn one at Queensland Raceway at 128km/h on a hot-and-humid deadline day when I should be sitting in front of a computer.

The GT3 is alive underneath my fingers and feet and I feel alive as I struggle to find the limit in a car which is always a half-step ahead of the driver. A GT3 takes some serious driving. You never feel like a passenger.

Porsche is showcasing its new hero car at QR during a master class that runs as part of the Porsche Sport Driving School under the direction of former Bathurst winner Tomas Mezera. There is no road driving today in the GT3, just an intensive day of track time, driver coaching and in-depth analysis of the track laps. I'd like to escape into the Queensland countryside but Mezera and his crew keep us on a tight leash.

So I can't tell you what the latest GT3 is really like if you're driving in the real world. I know it will be easier to handle than the outgoing GT3, which often felt like an unbroken brumby - demanding concentration and commitment at anything beyond commuter speed - and I also know it is better value with more standard equipment.

Not that the price tag of $293,600, before you think about options or on-road costs, is much of a problem for the 40-odd Australians getting the new GT3. They've already waited nearly a year for their cars, after a series of disastrous engine fires led to a global block on deliveries and a forensic investigation. Every engine in every car was replaced.

The engine is one of the big changes for the GT3, which is part of the all-new 991 family of 911s, as is the transmission, a seven-speed PDK double-clutch job with no manual option, and a major emphasis on lightweight engineering that runs from the 20-inch forged alloy rims to the oily bits in the engine and transmission.

Like a bodyguard in a Hugo Boss suit, the GT3 is suave yet threatening

Porsche's flat-six propels the GT3's 1430kg from rest to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds, on to a potential top speed of 315km/h.

The equipment list runs from aircon and leather trim to electric windows, a seven-inch multimedia touchscreen, bi-Xenon lamps and much more.

The mechanical highlights include six-piston front brake calipers and, inevitably, a giant rear wing and a front spoiler that almost scrapes the road.

The GT3s at QR are also fitted with the $6500 track pack adding racing seats and belts, roll bar and fire extinguisher.

After a thorough technical briefing on the car and its many improvements, Mezera gets things rolling with a typically blunt warning. "You blokes drive cars all the time, but not like this GT3. So take it easy, build up to it, and remember that today is not about the laptime," he says.

Like a bodyguard in a Hugo Boss suit, the GT3 is suave yet threatening. I'm familiar with the latest 911 but there are some differences; the GT3's electronics that are track-tuned, and not just a nanny pack.

I settle in, enjoying the grip of the race buckets and the feel of the leather wheel, select the sports driving program and switch to the sports exhaust. The car sounds confident but restrained, neither threatening nor friendly.

As I accelerate out of the pitlane I get a brutal reminder that the GT3 is a serious sports car. It rides firm, every input on the controls gets an instant response, and the acceleration is brutal. It might not have a turbo but the GT3 engine is a stonker, with a huge wall of power at any time in any gear.

It's more of an experience than transport

The latest chassis has tamed some of the wayward behaviour of earlier 911s, which means it's more stable when braking and far less likely to step sideways if you're asking too much of the back end. The GT3 fires things up a couple of levels.

The PDK gearbox means you can downshift while turning, the electric power steering is alive without kickback, and the engine response is liquid smooth up to the redline near 9000 revs.

I can't say that I tamed the GT3, broke the track record and topped the master class. But I was respectably quick, kept the car on the road, and felt I dipped into about 80 per cent of its potential. Mezera and his crew can exploit the rest.

There is no doubt that the new GT3 is the best yet, that it's more of an experience than transport, and that it delivers a level of driving enjoyment that's only matched by a couple of cars in the Ferrari class.

At day's end I'm hot, sweaty, tired and relieved, but mostly full of feel-good hormones. And I can't stop smiling.

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