Hello, 8800 RPM

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We’ve tested two 2007 GT3 RSs here, both in the same searing shade of green. After PCNA’s press RS came this one with SharkWerks’ 3.8. It felt like the factory 3.6, but had more power and torque. Enough “more” to justify a projected $17,000 cost? We weren’t so sure. Turns out Ross wasn’t either. He held customers at bay while he and Hendry worked on something he thought might be: a 3.9. Now it’s time to find out if he’s right, among other things.

After hauling up the freeway in the red 2010 GT3, I decide to stay in it heading into the Loop’s first twisty section. Much of the last GT3’s character remains in the new one. The engine is still a little grainy, feeling slightly unhinged. It’s electrifying, exciting the senses in a way no other current Porsche engine does — even those that make more power. The GT3 experience is all about immediacy and is conveyed in myriad tactile differences. Its shifter is notchy and requires a more determined hand. Its clutch asks for more muscle. Its stiffer chassis transmits more road texture and that, along with the buzzy flat six, sends more sensations through its Alcan­­tara-wrapped steering wheel, grippy shell bucket seats, and pedestrian pedals —sensations that remind you this 911 hasn’t been homogenized.

But for a few surfaces, a new radio, and more Alcantara for those who select full leather, the interior is the same. If only the view out back was. Owners who like the new rear wing will be seeing a lot of it; thicker and positioned higher, its blade is perfectly placed to obscure everything be­tween a bus driver’s gloves and a skateboarder’s shoes. We resort to using the tall side mirrors as rearview mirrors, a practice we abandoned years ago.

The road ahead is the Loop at its worst. There’s not a cloud in the sky today, but dampness from rain or fog can stick around for days this time of year and some of the best sections are a treacherous mix of dry pavement with occasional wet spots. Unlike running in the rain, where you build up to an engaging pace and then keep it there, you’ve got to weigh all that dry grip against a few wet sections waiting to exact their punishment. This is, after all, no Carrera 4.

Fortunately, the rear-drive GT3’s original-equipment tires inspire confidence in mixed conditions. It’s our first exposure to Pirelli’s PZero Corsa System, Italy’s answer to Miche­lin’s also-O.E. Pilot Sport Cup. We’ve tested Sport Cups on road and track and, on the Loop at least, prefer Pirelli’s R-compound rubber. While outright grip is similar, the Corsa Systems better mimic normal road tires and thus have more predictable characteristics — especially in the wet.

As a result, we’re able to deploy most of 435 horses. Like the previous 3.6, the 3.8 has a meaty mid-range. This is still very much a horsepower engine that likes to rev, but there’s a nice gain in torque as the largest yellow needle swings up and around to the right. The advantage is dis­cernible, but hardly overwhelming. 20 more horsepower and 18 more lb-ft? Yeah, that sounds about right.

The chassis, meanwhile, has benefitted from lessons learned in the 997 GT2. Cor­ner after corner, the GT3 im­presses. “Roll couple” is a term that has yet to make its way into the greater Por­sche lexicon, but factory engineers use it to describe the way a car’s front and rear ends work together. The new GT3’s suspension tweaks and revised roll centers have worked wonders in that regard. As with the last GT3, there’s loads of front-end grip, yielding immediate turn-in. The boon is that the rear end now feels more in step. Softer anti-roll bars are offset by stiffer springs that minimize body roll as well as brake dive. And, on smooth pavement, the GT3 is as cohesive as the 997 GT2 — but it’s the lighter, sharper tool.

Also from Issue 181

  • 924 Carrera GTS vs. Early 944
  • 1957 356A with a 2.7 RS Powerplant
  • One-Off 993 Speedster
  • Falken Tire: Racing Against Goliath
  • Early 911T Tastefully Modified
  • 550-horsepower 914 V8
  • 986 Boxster with 3.4-liter 996 six
  • Market Update: 924, 944, 968
  • 2009 Carrera S Cabriolet Short Take
  • The $70 Brake Caliper Rebuild
  • Tech Forum: TPMS Part 2
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