- Max Speed
The speedo is reading 275 kilometres per hour - that's about 170mph in real money - the car's in sixth gear and there's still about an inch of travel before the gas pedal hits the carpet. This is not Gran Turismo, this is real life and it's the fastest I have ever driven.
It doesn't seem that frantic, though, because the car I'm driving is the new Porsche GT3, the fastest and best-handling 911 there's ever been. In fact, only two things stop me from pressing the throttle to its furthest extent: a slight feeling that the front is getting lighter, despite the GT3's aerodynamic appendages; and the fact that I'm soon going to have to share this stretch of unrestricted German autobahn with some slower-moving traffic (everything else is slower moving today) and you never know when someone will pull out to overtake a truck, not fully appreciating how fast this red machine is looming up in their rear-view mirror.
If you're a Porsche fan, and I sincerely hope that you are, you'll no doubt remember the RS cars that have come out over the years. They were stripped-down 911s, with race-bred engines and chassis. Well, the GT3 is the latest of that bloodline. Only this time, instead of cutting down on weight to improve the power-to-weight ratio, Porsche has retained essentials and luxuries such as airbags, air-conditioning and electric windows, even a stereo, and just added more power. What a great idea. So instead of the 300bhp, water-cooled, 3.4-litre flat six found in the Carrera, we have here a 360bhp, 3.6-litre powerplant that comes from the Le Mans-winning 911 GT1. Oh, and those virtually redundant rear seats have been ditched as well.
This really is a race car for the road and has been built to provide a technical base while satisfying homologation regs for several racing series, such as the Porsche Supercup. (There's also a Club Sport version with a rollcage, six-point harness and battery cut-out switch.) Start with an already stiff body and put in race-tuned springs, dampers, and adjustable anti-roll bars. Open the boot lid and shoe-horn in that fabulous engine, which still manages to evoke the trademark wail of its air-cooled predecessors on the cam. Drive goes through the six-speed gearbox (not the smoothest Porsche 'box I've ever encountered) whose ratios can be selected and swapped to suit whatever circuit you happen to be racing on. Power goes to the 18-inch alloy wheels. There is no traction control. Porsche decided to leave that job to 225/40 and 285/30 rubber on front and rear respectively, a limited-slip diff and the nut behind the wheel. So yes, powerslides are an option.
The last thing I need at the moment, though, is to hang the tail out on this autobahn. I ease off gently, not bothering to change down. The engine is so flexible - there's 273lb ft of torque to play with - I could keep it in top almost all day if I wasn't in the mood for revving the GT3 to its 7,800rpm red line. But I am. The road clears (odd how traffic always comes in pockets), and I drop down a couple of cogs, listening to the engine produce some of the best German music since Beethoven.And also, incidentally, what feels like infinite acceleration. The 188mph max is practically infinite, after all. The GT3 pounds down the road at the speed of thought. Talking of pounds, how many does this example of expensive, exotic machinery go for? 76,500. But drive the GT3 and you can feel where the money's gone. It's behind and beneath you. From the bullet-proof engine with its titanium con-rods and connecting bolts that enable a race-tuned lump to rev up to 9,000rpm, to the neutral, sorted handling, to the four-piston ABS brake callipers that bite the 330mm perforated discs and pull the car up so quickly that your sunglasses could slide right off your nose and hit the windscreen. Almost.
The required autobahn exit comes up and it's one of those long, fast curves down to a minor road. The GT3 just holds its line as firmly as the standard-fit bucket seat holds me. Feed in a little more steering with the three-spoke wheel. It feels precise and perfectly weighted, giving you the confidence to throw the car into corners, knowing that this 911 won't play any nasty tricks with its back end.The ride/handling compromise is most definitely weighted towards handling. The imperfections of the road surface are transmitted up through the car, but for something this fun to drive it's comfortable enough.
We stop for petrol. I take a walk around the car, noticing that the suspension is lower than standard; 30mm, apparently. The body kit that's optional for the normal Carrera is de rigueur here. There's a big front spoiler, covering three radiators, some extra aerodynamic stuff on the sills and that huge double wing thing on the back. This is adjustable by Allen key and the bottom plane has a Gurney flap. I'm sure it does a grand job, but being a bit of a purist, I've always found wings on the backs of 911s somewhat tasteless.
If further reminding were needed of the GT3's sporting remit, the cabin has carbon-fibre trim amongst the leather, and the seat backs are rigid, so trying to get stuff in and out of the back is a faff. It's the smallest of sacrifices. I fire up the engine again. Even with variable valve timing it's still got that lumpy rumble of a performance car at idle.I look at my watch. We've got to get to Munich Airport in half an hour and it's nearly 50 miles away. Easy
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