My colleague Gabriel Gélinas recently had the opportunity to attend the launch of the wildest 911 GT3 of all, the 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, at the world-famous Nurburgring race track—arguably the dream of any sports car enthusiast. While the Porsche logo is becoming more and more commonplace on the road, models from the track-focused GT family continue to arouse and fuel the passion of fans for the German prancing horse.
Me? I got to drive the “tamest” version of the GT3 in and around Munich. The 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring is still a beast of a car, but it lacks a few teeth and some bite, making it less intimidating.
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When I first saw the lineup of test vehicles at our disposal, I longed for a bright-coloured sample that would make a powerful statement about its unique position on the sports-car ladder. As it turns out, I had to settle for a more subtle hue, but the good news for buyers is that the 911 GT3 Touring offers the same palette as the more radical RS, except for Lizard Green (though you can specify that one through Porsche’s customization program). How about Lava Orange, Racing Yellow or Carmine Red? There are silver options, too, if you prefer…
Upon closer inspection, the 911 GT3 Touring sports a Carrera-like, automatically extending rear spoiler instead of a fixed wing with vents below the glass. It’s cuter and more low-profile, while making up in top speed what you inevitably lose in downforce. The rest of the car is identical to the RS, with large air intakes up front and ultra-wide tires giving it a serious dose of attitude. But of course the whole beast thing is best appreciated from the rear.
A stripped-down GT3?
According to Patrick Saint-Pierre, Public Relations Manager at Porsche Canada, the Touring Package makes the car a bit more civilized, appealing to those who seek typical Porsche performance, but would rather not be so flashy. It’s basically a wolf in sheep’s clothing, kind of like a GT3 for private eyes.
Inside, there’s one particular element that will excite purists: a clutch pedal. Yep, the 911 GT3 Touring is exclusively available with a six-speed manual gearbox. Hallelujah! For your information, the base GT3 offers both a manual and the acclaimed dual-clutch PDK, while the GT3 RS forces you to choose the latter.
Taking a seat is no easy task, especially when opting for the sport buckets made completely of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. Their aggressive side bolsters get in the way, so you have to go over them and then drop into the seats. Once settled in, though, they fit like a glove. One look at the instrument panel, missing rear seats and numerous racing-inspired components further emphasizes the singular nature of this 911 and sets the tone for a joyful experience behind the wheel.
500 screaming horses
You start the engine of the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring and the growl instantly turns the few heads that had yet to notice the car. This rear-mounted 4.0-litre six-cylinder is the brand’s mightiest naturally aspirated engine, cranking out 500 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. You need to have serious confidence in your driving abilities to switch off all the electronic control systems; remember, this machine costs $163,300 without any options, the same price as a regular GT3.
The clutch requires a strong leg, but it only takes a few moments to start marveling at its effectiveness as well as the extreme precision of the manual gearbox—something you rarely see these days. When you mash the throttle, it feels like your body and the seat become one, especially past 4000 rpm when all the torque comes to work. At the same time, the screaming engine produces a symphony that rivals world-renowned orchestras. What a treat for the ears!
Every time you play with the pedals to shift into a higher gear, your head is pinned back by the seemingly relentless torque. It takes a mere 3.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill and top speed is rated at 316 km/h. Moreover, with its ultra-wide tires that surely cost a fortune to replace, the 911 GT3 Touring literally sticks to the ground, only loosening the rear wheels a bit when you put too much zest.
I implore you to spend time on a track if you want a taste of the car’s full potential. Good road manners are one thing, but you have to push it to really appreciate everything it has to offer in terms of performance. The combination of power, braking, suspension and overall balance unquestionably makes the 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring one of the top athletes in its class, with stellar reliability an added bonus.