Aston Martin DB11 Volante 2020 review
Aston Martin again proves less can be more with a cool and sophisticated convertible version of its DB11 GT.
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Just when you think the sun’s setting on the internal combustion engine, Porsche comes up with one of the best ever made. Not only that, it’s naturally aspirated, revs to the stratosphere, can be connected to a six-speed manual gearbox, and is stuffed into the rear end of the latest and greatest, seven-generation version of the legendary 911 GT3.
Plug that Taycan in at the rear of the garage, this race-derived machine is in the spotlight now. And after an intense introduction courtesy of a day long Sydney Motorsport Park track session it’s clear the petrol heads in Zuffenhausen are still in the game.
|Porsche 911 2022: GT3 Touring Package|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
But this time around the aero engineers and Porsche Motorsport department have taken centre stage to fine-tune the car’s shape, walking the line between overall efficiency and maximum downforce.
The most noticeable change to the car’s exterior is a large rear wing suspended from above by a pair of ‘swan-neck’ supports rather than more conventional mounting brackets underneath.
The approach is lifted straight from the 911 RSR and GT3 Cup competition cars, the aim being to smooth airflow under the wing to counter lift and maximise downward pressure.
Porsche says the final design is the result of 700 simulations and more than 160 hours in the wind tunnel at Weissach, with the wing and front splitter adjustable through four positions.
Combine the wing with the splitter, sculpted underbody and serious rear diffuser and this car is claimed to generate 50 per cent more downforce than its predecessor at 200 km/h. Ratchet the wing angle up to maximum attack for the circuit and that number rises to more than 150 per cent.
More generally, at under 1.3m high and 1.85m wide the 911 GT3 makes its performance intent clear, while centre-lock forged alloy wheels (20-inch fr / 21-inch rr) shod with ultra high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber (255/35 fr / 315/30 rr) and dual air intake ‘nostrils’ in the carbon bonnet dial up the competition vibe even further.
At the back, as well as the monster wing, there’s a smaller lip spoiler integrated into the rear deck and dual black-finished exhaust pipes exit at the top of the diffuser in no-fuss fashion.
Similarly, the interior is instantly recognisable as that of a 911, complete with the low-profile five-dial instrument cluster. The central tachometer is analogue with 7.0-inch digital screens either side able to switch through multiple media and vehicle-related readouts.
The heavily bolstered leather and 'Race-Tex' seats feel as good as they look, and dark anodised metal finishes enhance the take-no-prisoners feel. The quality and attention to detail throughout the cabin is flawless.
Any car is more than the sum of its parts. Add up the materials cost and you won’t get anywhere near the price on the sticker. Design, development, production, distribution, and a million other things help deliver a car to your driveway.
And the 911 GT3 dials up some of those less tangible factors to the point where at $369,700, before on-road costs (manual or dual-clutch), it’s a more than 50 per cent step up in price from the ‘entry-level’ 911 Carrera ($241,300).
One hot lap is enough to communicate the difference, although you won’t find a ‘Mind-blowing to drive’ check-box on the order sheet.
It’s part of the car’s fundamental make-up, but that extra dynamic ability requires additional investment in time and specialist expertise to achieve.
So, there’s that. But what about the standard features you might expect in a sports car nudging up towards $400K, and playing in the same sand pit as the Aston Martin DB11 V8 ($382,495), Lamborghini Huracan Evo ($384,187), McLaren 570S ($395,000), and Mercedes-AMG GT R ($373,277).
To help cool things down after (even during) a frantic track day there’s dual-zone climate control, as well as cruise control, multiple digital displays (7.0-inch instrument x 2 and 10.9-inch multimedia), LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, power adjustable sports seats (manual fore and aft) trimmed in a combination of leather and Race-Tex (synthetic suede) with blue contrast stitching, a Race-Tex trimmed steering wheel, sat nav, forged alloy rims, auto rain-sensing wipers, plus eight-speaker audio with digital radio as well as Apple CarPlay (cordless) and Android Auto (corded) connectivity.
Porsche Australia has also collaborated with the factory’s Exclusive Manufaktur customisation department to create a 911 GT3 ‘70 Years Porsche Australia Edition’ exclusive to the Aussie market and limited to 25 examples.
And as per the previous (991) generation 911 GT3, a relatively low-key, de-spoilered Touring version is available. The details on both cars are here.
One of the frustrating things about the Porsche 911’s 57-year evolution is the engine’s gradual disappearance. Not in a literal sense… just visually. Forget about cracking open the new GT3’s engine cover and watching your friends’ jaws drop. There’s nothing to see here.
In fact, Porsche has placed a large ‘4.0’ script on the rear bodywork above where the engine undoubtedly lives as a reminder of its existence. But the powerplant lurking in there is a jewel worthy of a floodlit showcase.
Based on the unit used in the 911 GT3 R race car, it’s a 4.0-litre, all-alloy, naturally aspirated, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder producing 375kW at 8400rpm and 470Nm at 6100rpm.
It features high-pressure direct-injection, VarioCam valve timing (intake and outlet), and rigid rocker arms, helping it scream to no less than 9000rpm. The race car using the same valve gear pushes on to 9500rpm!
Porsche uses interchangeable shims to set the valve clearance at the factory, the solid rockers in place to handle the high-revving pressure, doing away with the need for hydraulic clearance compensation at the same time.
Individual throttle valves for each cylinder are located at the end of a variable resonance intake system, optimising airflow across the rev range. And dry sump lubrication not only minimises oil surge, it facilitates a lower engine installation.
The cylinder bores are plasma coated, and the forged pistons are pushed in and pulled out by titanium connecting rods. Serious stuff.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual gearbox, or a seven-speed version of Porsche’s own ‘PDK’ dual-clutch auto transmission, and an electronically-controlled limited slip differential. The GT3 manual works in parallel with a mechanical LSD.
The 911 has traditionally held a sneaky ace up its sleeve in the shape of a pair of compact seats in the back for a classic ‘2+2’ configuration. Surprisingly handy for short trips three- or four-up, and just right for kids.
But that goes out the window in the two-seat only GT3. In fact, tick the (no-cost) Clubsport option box and a roll bar is bolted into the back (you also pick up a six-point harness for the driver, a hand-held fire extinguisher and a battery disconnect switch).
So, fair enough, this isn’t a car bought with day-to-day livability top-of-mind, but there is a storage box/armrest between the seats, a cupholder in the centre console and another on the passenger side (make sure there’s a lid on that cappuccino!), slim pockets in the doors and a reasonably generous glove box.
Formal luggage space is limited to the front boot (or ‘frunk’) which offers 132 litres (VDA) of space. Enough for a couple of medium-size soft bags. But even with a roll bar in place there’s a heap of extra space behind the seats. Just make sure you find a way to strap that stuff down.
Connectivity and power runs to a 12-volt power socket, and two USB-C inputs, but don’t bother looking for a spare wheel of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option. Porsche’s weight-saving boffins wouldn’t have it any other way.
Porsche’s official fuel economy figures for the 911 GT3, on the ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban cycle, are 13.7L/100km for the manual, and 12.6L/100km for the dual-clutch version.
On the same cycle the 4.0-litre six-cylinder emits 312g/km of C02 when matched with the manual gearbox, and 288g/km when combined with the auto.
Hardly fair to assess a car’s overall fuel-efficiency on the basis of a pure circuit session, so let’s just say if the 64-litre tank is brimmed (with 98 RON premium unleaded) and the stop/start system is engaged those economy numbers translate to a range of 467km (manual) and 500km (PDK).
Given its dynamic abilities the 911 GT3 is like one big active safety device, its sharp responses and performance reserves on-board to constantly aid crash-avoidance.
That said, there’s only modest driver-assistance tech included. Yes, the usual suspects like ABS, as well as stability and traction controls are present. There’s also tyre pressure monitoring, and a reversing camera, but there’s no AEB, which means the cruise control isn’t active, either. No blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic warnings.
If you can’t live without those systems maybe a 911 Turbo is a better option. This car is single-mindedly focused on speed and precision.
If an impact is unavoidable, there are six airbags to help minimise injury - dual front, dual side (thorax) and side curtain. The 911 hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The 911 GT3 is covered by Porsche’s three-year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included.
Off the mainstream pace, but on par with high-end performance players like Ferrari and Lamborghini, although Merc-AMG sits at five years/unlimited km. The duration of cover is possibly influenced by the number if kays a 911 is likely to travel over time.
‘Porsche Roadside Assist’ provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer.
The main service interval is 12 months/20,000km. No capped-price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour rates by state/territory).
Turn 18 at Sydney Motorsport Park is a cracking corner. The last turn onto the start-finish straight, it’s a sweeping left-hander with a late-apex and tricky camber changes on the way through.
Typically, in a road car it’s a waiting game mid-corner as you remain pretty neutral on the power before finally clipping the apex and feeding in the gas while opening the steering to set up for the downhill run past the pits.
But all that changed in this GT3. For the first time it features a double-wishbone front suspension set-up (derived from the mid-engined 911 RSR racer) with the multi-link rear arrangement carried over from the last GT3. And it’s a revelation. The stability, accuracy and sheer grip on the front end is phenomenal.
Squeeze the throttle more firmly than you’d think possible, well before the apex on T18, and the car just holds its line and rips through to the other side.
Our track test session was in the dual-clutch version of the GT3 which features an electronically-controlled LSD, rather than the manual’s mechanical unit, and it does a phenomenal job.
Add in the ludicrously grippy, yet utterly forgiving Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and you have a sensational combination.
Sure the 911 Turbo S is faster in a straight line, taking 2.7sec to blast from 0-100km/h, while the GT3 PDK needs a ‘lazy’ 3.4sec. But this is the precision instrument with which to dissect a race circuit.
As one of the tame racing drivers on hand to help facilitate the day said, “This is the equivalent of a Porsche Cup car of five years ago.”
And the GT3 is light at 1435kg (1418kg manual). Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) is used to construct the front boot lid, rear wing and spoiler. You can have a carbon roof, too, for an extra $7470.
The stainless exhaust weighs 10kg less than a standard system, there’s lightweight glass in all the windows, the battery is a smaller unit, key suspension components are alloy and the forged rims and alloy brake calipers reduce unsprung weight.
That lightweight agility and sharp turn-in is further enhanced by an element of four-wheel steering. At speeds up to 50km/h the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts, to a maximum of 2.0 degrees. That’s the equivalent of shortening the wheelbase by 6.0mm, reducing the turning circle and making parking easier.
At speeds above 80km/h the rear wheels steer in unison with the fronts, again by up to 2.0 degrees. That equates to a virtual lengthening of the wheelbase by 6.0mm, improving cornering stability.
Porsche says the new GT3’s standard ‘Porsche Active Suspension Management’ (PASM) system has a “larger bandwidth” between soft and hard characteristics, as well as faster response in this application. Although this was a track-only test the switch from ‘Normal’ to ‘Sport’, and then onto ‘Track’ was brilliant.
Those three settings, accessed by a simple knob on the steering wheel, will also tweak the ESC calibration, throttle response, PDK shift logic, exhaust, and steering.
Then there’s the engine. It may not pack the turbo punch so common in its competitors, but this 4.0-litre unit delivers copious amounts of crisp, linear power from step-off, rapidly screaming up to its 9000rpm rev ceiling, with F1-style ‘Shift Assistant’ lights in the rev counter blinking their approval.
The manic induction noise, and rasping exhaust note that so rapidly builds to a full-blooded scream are pretty much ICE perfection.
The electro-mechanically assisted steering is superb, transmitting everything the front wheels are doing with just the right weight in the wheel.
That’s a big advantage of two wheels at the rear doing the driving, leaving two at the front just for steering. The car is beautifully balanced and steady, even when upset by clumsy braking or overly enthusiastic steering inputs.
Seating is race car secure, but comfortable at the same time, and the Race-Tex trimmed wheel is pretty much ideal.
Standard braking is ventilated steel rotors all around (408mm fr / 380mm rr) clamped by aluminium monobloc fixed-callipers (six-piston fr / four-piston rr).
A straight line acceleration/deceleration run was one of the warm up exercises during the test, and standing on the brake pedal to slow the car from warp speed was (literally) eye-widening.
Later, hammering around the circuit for lap after lap they lost none of their power or progression. Porsche will fit your GT3 with a carbon ceramic set-up, but I’d save the $19,290 required and spend it on tyres and track fees.
And if you’re lacking a support crew to keep you informed from the pit wall, fear not. The GT3 track screen reduces data display to circuit-focused information only. Things like fuel level, oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp, and tyre pressures (with variations for cold and warm tyres).
Track driving the 911 GT3 is a memorable experience. Put it this way, when told the session would be finished at 4:00, I hopefully asked if that was am. Another 12 hours behind the wheel? Yes please.
The new 911 GT3 is the quintessential Porsche, built by people who know what they’re doing. Powered by an epic engine, underpinned by a brilliant chassis, and equipped with precisely tuned, professional grade hardware across its suspension, steering and brakes. It is superb.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.
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