The mk7 Golf GTI will bow out with a slightly conflicted special edition
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The new Porsche 911 GT3 is good, right? Oh yes, it’s safe to say we’re fans after driving the PDK version on UK roads. But we also got a chance to drive the new Porsche 911 GT3 on road and track at the official launch. And there, they had a couple of manuals. Ah, the fabled manual GT3, the automotive Second Coming… Yup. Purists rejoice, Porsche’s most focused model now comes with a choice of transmissions. There’s the seven-speed PDK with its paddleshift, but also a six-speed manual with three pedals and a stick, which we’re in here. Well, how does it drive?
Every bit as convincingly as the GT3 PDK, which, given it is absolutely epic, is some accolade. We’ll admit that after experiencing the ferocity of the new 493bhp 4.0-litre flat-six engine’s performance and response, we were a little concerned that the six-speed manual might be a little bit overwhelmed. It. Just. Isn’t. Yes, it’s slower - half a second to 62mph for a 3.9sec time - and loses an electronically controlled rear limited slip differential for a mechanical one, but you’ll just not care. If you’re cornered by a pub bore about PDK being quicker, throw back the higher top speed the manual offers (199mph vs 198mph), and the fact it’s 17kg lighter overall. Not that you’ll ever stop in a pub if you’ve got one of these to drive. It’s better then? We’re not going to call that now. It’s different. Thing is, it still feels ludicrously fast, that new engine’s new-found low-rev flexibility, combined with its insatiable appetite for revs, makes for one of the most compelling drivers’ cars we’ve ever sat in. And the noise, too. You really have to hear this thing to believe it. The way the engine’s note hardens as it reaches its 9,000rpm redline is like little else. Lesser sound deadening and that pared-back interior only add to the all-encompassing, intoxicating racecar notes. The manual transmission adds to all of that again. It’s borrowed largely from the 911 R, though Porsche GT department deity Andreas Preuninger admits they’ve fiddled with it a bit. The result is a shift that’s beautifully mechanical and precise in its action, and as quick as you need it to be. That’s to say very rapid indeed, given the engine’s intensity. Add a clutch pedal that’s perfectly weighted and a brake pedal that’s neatly positioned to roll off for heel and toe downshifts and you’ll never feel the need to press the Sport button that rev-matches on downshifts. So it’s the one you’d have? For me, no question, but then I’d also respect your decision to buy a PDK, as they’re both brilliant cars. Choice is a good thing, and in the GT3 it’s a very good thing, as the entire package is so damn convincing. The new 4.0-litre engine (derived from the GT3 Cup car) is an absolute masterpiece, and the chassis it’s attached is so accomplished, yet approachable and enjoyable. The manual adds another layer to that, certainly regarding physical interaction, but, more crucially, enjoyment at lower speeds. There’s an input/reward thing going on driving the manual, and while we’ll admit it’s ancient tech in a world of millisecond paddleshifts, it still feels entirely relevant, and, importantly, up to the job.