Hello, 8800 RPM

A 3.9 liter GT3 RS that claims 500 horsepower meets The Loop — and a 3.8-liter 2010 GT3.

January 24, 2010
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The noise is familiar enough. Grainier than the sewing song of a current Carrera, it’s more mechanical, more serious. But as the red 2010 GT3’s tach needle swings through 4000 rpm and sprints for 8000, the sound isn’t the only thing that’s serious. Acceleration is even fiercer than it was in the last GT3, a 911 that managed 415 horses from 3.6 liters. Question is, can this 435-hp 3.8 eclipse the slightly larger 3.9 in the green 2007 GT3 RS waiting in the next turnout?

What are 200 cubic centimeters? On 3.6 liters, not much: 5.6 percent — right in line with the 2010 GT3’s 4.8-percent horsepower bump. So another 100 cc shouldn’t be worth much, right? SharkWerks, a Fremont California tuner, begs to differ. Company owners Alex Ross and James Hendry say their 3.9-liter GT3 RS makes 502 horsepower on the way to its 8800-rpm redline. We had the same questions you probably do: 997 Turbo power without turbos? GT3 RSR engine speeds on the street? Won’t it blow up? “Yes, yes, and no,” said Ross, who offered to drop the car off for a 1,000-mile test to prove it. When we asked if he could come up with a stock 2010 GT3 for comparison purposes, he didn’t stutter.

As a result, today marks the first time a 2010 GT3 will hit Excellence’s Secret Test Loop. The U.S. press cars have yet to enter the country due to delayed availability for the optional PDEM active motor mounts —so we’ve been waiting since Summer 2008 to find out if the 2010 GT3 builds on the 2008 GT2’s brilliance. Will the latest edition in Porsche’s high-revving GT3 series delight us on the Loop like the GT2 did? Or will it disappoint us there, like 2007’s GT3 did?

Yes, the first 997 GT3/RS left us a little cold. It was hard to say why. From torque to engine note to road-holding to braking to styling to interior quality, it bested the 996 GT3 on every count. Even so, we felt something was missing. Perhaps it was the 996’s purity, but our biggest beef was the suspension tuning. While we loved its grip and turn-in, we found its Porsche Active Suspension Management more re­active than active. The result was a GT3 that jiggled and wiggled on the Loop as well as Infineon Raceway — in both the Sport and Normal suspension settings.

Then came the 2008 GT2. On the Loop and at Infineon, it earned our highest praise. “Put simply, the best road-going 911 I’ve driven, at least on a track,” wrote ALMS driver and Porsche Cup winner Johannes van Over­beek. My take was similar: “On track and the best roads we know, it’s an animal — one with that ‘work of genius’ finesse only Por­sche’s best cars possess… It feels like a Por­sche that Por­sche sweat over, and we’re sure it is.”

Euro­pean Editor Ian Kuah handled our first test of the 2010 GT3 (August 2009) and came away impressed: “The 3.8-liter engine hasn’t lost the previous 3.6’s high-revving charm… 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.” As for handling, he found the ’10 car “tangibly more neutral,” noting “it feels every bit as sharp as the last GT3 but has less of a tail-led feeling at eight-tenths.”

His take only served to increase our curiosity. But while first drives on press trips can be informative, they rarely provide an opportunity to really get to know a car. The Loop does. Hidden in coastal mountains north of San Fran­cis­co, its little-traveled two-laners feature everything from perfect pavement with a diverse mix of turns and elevation changes to rougher sections on which only the best chassis shine. Its tight sections challenge a brake system’s ability to dissipate heat while its long, desolate straights allow fast cars to stretch their legs. Put simply, it’s the best road-test venue we know.

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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