COTY 3rd Place — Porsche 911 GT3
Exhilarating and mind-blowingly fast, the 911 iteration is almost too amazing for public roads. Buy one, nonetheless.
The Porsche 911 is, for many, the ultimate expression of man’s fascination with making things explode and going very fast around corners. It is a buttoned-down German suit wearer running flat out down a hill just to feel the sensation of speed, his face suddenly splitting into a grin.
We’d be happy with a base 911, and even happier with the GTS, but on those rare occasions when one gets to drive the even more special, more rarefied models at the top of Porsche’s enormous sports-car tower of temptation, you can absolutely see why enthusiasts climb that ladder, and why they’re not just willing but keen to spend $369,600 on a car like the 911 GT3.
Indeed, after two days of driving it as part of this year’s COTY, and listening to at least one of the judges coming to realise that he has to have one in his life (indeed, it was his vote for overall winner), that price is something of a bargain.
What makes this particular, track-focused and supreme Porsche so special is the 4.0-litre six-cylinder boxer engine at its heart. It’s naturally aspirated, so it revs and sings gloriously, and it’s simply a step above, and a roar beyond, the already incredible engines you’ll find in lesser 911s, with its 375 kW and 470 Nm firing it to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds.
It will continue to accelerate, screaming through the revs, up to and beyond 300 km/h if you’re on a race track, which is where this Porsche belongs. At the Pheasant Wood Circuit where we put our supercars to the test, it was in its element, its paddle-shift changes lightning fast, its ability to make you feel the road through the seat of your coccyx sublime (sadly, the straight wasn’t quite long enough for 300 km/h).
And then there is its steering, which is truly beyond compare; indeed if that was the only asset we were allowed to measure, the Porsche would have won this year for me. The sense of absolute visceral connection through that Alcantara wheel is purity defined.
So, on a track, the GT3 is a weapon—sharp, scintillating, speedy, focused, fantastic—but unfortunately most of us don’t inhabit racetracks, and nor is our COTY testing entirely carried out there, and in the real world, on smooth surfaces, that intense focus on being able to perform to perfection can be an issue.
The GT3’s ride is not awful on public roads, but it’s not great. Firm might be too kind a word. It can also be noisy, because all of the sound-deadening materials have been thrown in a skip to save weight (they also threw the overdrive eighth gear in there for the same reason, which means it’s a bit more buzzy on freeway drives).
Then there are the seats, which connect you directly to the chassis, as if your skeleton has been fused with the car, which, again, is great on a track, but can mean that all your bones are vibrating like a tuning fork on rough surfaces. They are also punishingly difficult to climb in and out of—living with the GT3 on a day-to-day basis would be brutal.
Yes, it’s incredible that you can drive something so obviously designed for a track on public roads at all, and yes, there are times where you’ll find stretches of tarmac in the real world that allow the 911 GT3 to truly shine and properly stretch its legs. But a lot of the time, it can be hard, jarring work to dance it around the imperfections and failings of the Australian road network.
So, the 911 GT3 doesn’t make a lot of sense as a road car, unless that road you’re using ends at a racetrack, and you could argue that it looks a bit silly with its massive rear wing, but every now and then—and every time it’s on a circuit—it has the ability to absolutely blow your mind, and make you want one. Badly.
It may finish third this year, but it was exceedingly close to the top two places on the podium.
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