This stretch of road I know. It runs from the A8 Autobahn to Muhlhausen and into the hills. A short downhill straight leads into a dip and then an open, uphill S-bend with good visibility. Normally, I’m hesitant to keep the throttle pinned here because the dip tends to unsettle most cars — right where you’ve got to turn in and commit.
After a couple hours of hard driving in Porsche’s 2010 GT3, however, I’m feeling a bit braver than usual. Its awesome capabilities are more accessible than in versions past, and that leads to the confidence to push harder. A quick heel-toe downshift to third comes before settling the car and getting ready for the dip. Old GT3s — especially 996s — would bounce their noses in a pronounced manner at the dip, unsettling the front end just when you needed all the grip you could get up there. The new GT3 processes the bump better, yielding the grip I need to commit to the turn on throttle.
Revised suspension settings mean the new GT3 is tangibly more neutral. It feels every bit as sharp as the last 3, but has less of a tail-led feeling at eight-tenths, two steps before exceeding the limits of the wide, grippy Michelin Cup tires out back. At least, that’s my read within sane limits on a deserted public road.
The new, 3.8-liter engine hasn’t lost the previous 3.6’s high-revving charm. If anything, the top end is more aggressive — now pulling 100 rpm higher, to 8500 rpm. Just as you think it might be fading past 7600 rpm, it keeps on going. The last 900 rpm may not be of much practical use on the road, but they’re very useful when you want to preserve momentum and ensure you’ll drop right back into the powerband from gear to gear. Low-end torque was already quite good in the first 997 GT3, but it’s even stronger here, the 3.8’s extra torque making the dash between curves an immediate, effortless affair.
If there’s one thing I’m wishing for, it’s the single-mass flywheel of the last GT3 RS. The 2010 GT3’s dual-mass flywheel is a shade lighter in line with an aggressive weight-savings program, but it is still a big, heavy dual-mass unit that doesn’t allow the 3.8 to rev quickly when blipping the throttle for heel-toe downshifts. Good thing the short shifter is as good as ever. The one in this 1,000-mile test car is a bit stiff, but it’s so, so mechanically positive.
Back on the Autobahn, traffic means it will be impossible to verify the car’s 194-mph top speed, but two runs to 174 mph prove the new GT3 is nearly hands-off stable at 150 mph and beyond. Also helping our appetite for high speed is the latest electronically variable suspension system. While the ride seems little different around town, the stiffer springs and revised damping translate into a noticeably better and more secure ride on the Autobahn.
It’s not a bad place to be at speed, this GT3. The interior is as good as any 997’s, which is to say very good indeed. The dash is laid out logically, and the revised PCM radio/nav/phone touch-screen first seen in 2009 Carreras is a welcome addition. Past that, the only changes for 2010 boil down to minor surface treatments, a new three-spoke steering wheel, and Alcantara on the lower dashboard.
When we reach Zuffenhausen, we’re greeted by a wide smile on the face of Andreas Preuninger, the head of Porsche’s high-performance road car division. He has just returned from a test at the Nürburgring with Walter Röhrl, where Ferrari’s F430 Scuderia was used as the benchmark. He won’t be drawn on lap times, merely saying that the GT3 was faster. (We later learn Röhrl managed a seven-minute, 40-second lap.) And, says Preuninger, a new GT3 RS is coming…