2018 Porsche 911 GT3 First Drive
Please Note: I wrote this paragraph three days before I flew to Granada, Spain, to drive the refreshed 2018 version of the Porsche GT3. I wrote it beforehand because I had some specific memories about the bright yellow 2015 GT3 that I wanted like to articulate before they got obscured by the fascination of the new. That GT3 marked the first time in my career I had nothing negative to say about a vehicle.
Carbon-fiber hinges. No, really. Once I got to the press conference at Hotel La Bobadilla, the Porsche peeps told me about the carbon-fiber hinges. There are only two of them, just for the carbon-fiber engine cover out back, and together they save “almost 1 kilogram.” Why not up front, for the frunk hinges? You don’t want to take weight off the nose of a rear-engine car. But really, carbon-fiber hinges? My initial theory was that there was so little wrong with the 991 version of the GT3 that the engineers had to resort to near-gimmick refinements for the 991.2 version.
Another racy example: Below the carbon-fiber hinges rests the GT3’s new heart, and it’s the opposite of a gimmick. It’s a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six that’s good for 500 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, up from 475 hp and 324 lb-ft of twist from the previous 3.8-liter engine, and it still spins to 9,000 rpm. Moreover, the big 4.0-liter is new, not merely an embiggened version of the 3.8-liter flat-six found in previous Porsche GTs. The crankshaft is thicker, more rigid, and hollow because oil is now flowed through it. As such, the main bearings are larger, but the oil pump is smaller because it’s doing less work.
After lunch I was all set to head out on nice hour-long drive around the gorgeous countryside when I saw that one of the Porsche PR guys had put my name on a list of lap sessions in the GT3 manual. The sessions were one car following one instructor, which is a rare treat. Usually they stick you in a group of three or more on track at once. My instructor happened to be a 70-year-old Austrian dude named Walter Rhrl! This is the third time I’ve had the weird privilege to try to keep up with the wiry rally legend on a track. Doing so is a sobering lesson in humility and your own near total lack of skill. Yes, I lead a charmed life. You had better believe that road loop could wait!
There is actually a physical difference between the two cars, other than the gearboxes. Because the PDK car already has a bunch of hydraulic plumbing built in, Preuninger’s team opted to go with an electro-hydraulic locking rear differential. The manual version has no hydraulic veins, so its rearend sports a mechanical locker. Call me a Luddite, but holy damn did I prefer everything about the manual on track.