English, Road test

Test drive: 2008 Porsche 911 997 GT3 MK1

Things were slightly different in Porsche back in 2008, when the 997 GT3 arrived. Shortly after the GT3 Cup was unveiled, the GT3 saw the light as a street version of that same car. Lately, street and racing 911s are completely independent developments, being just the GT3 RS somewhat motorsport related.

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The 997 GT3 is one of the last Porsches to be equipped  with a Mezger engine (Mezger, not Metzger; that’s a butcher), discontinued with the arrival of the 991 generation. This engine is directly inherited from the 911 GT1, the Le Mans winner in 1998. The motorsport relationship goes even further up to the legendary Porsche 962 and 956.

The Mezger engine is famous for it’s legendary reliability, among other reasons because there is no IMS to fear. Unlike the Aston Martin circles, where everyone tries to make the lowest possible mileage to their cars so they don’t lose value, within Porsche world you can find 911s with this engine exceeding 600,000, 700,000 and even 800,000km. This is how a car should be enjoyed, although some owners do not understand that cars are meant to be driven, not to be garage queens.

Displacing 3.6 liters it delivers 415hp at 7600rpm and a maximum torque of 405Nm at 5500rpm. The red line reaches now 8400rpm thanks to some lighter internal components (30gr lighter pistons, 600gr lighter crankshaft and titanium conrods).

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The power is sent to the 305mm wide rear wheels via a 6 speed manual gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential. Responsible for stopping the just 1395kg this car weighs are 350mm front and rear brake discs grabbed by 6-piston calipers on the front and 4 pot on the rear.

It uses the same Carrera 4S chassis, due to it’s greater structural rigidity, especially because it has a central tunnel not present in the rear wheel drive versions. Moreover, the fuel tank can be placed lower using the space where the front differential would go in the Carrera 4S. Despite using the wider frame, the rear wings are inherited from the Carrera 2, resulting in 44mm narrower body.

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My expectations for this test drive were probably unrealistic. The 997 GT3 has always been my ultimate sports car. I feared wanting to sell all my cars, just to purchase a GT3 after having driven it, but reality was a bit different. “Never meet your heroes” they say.

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In the graph we can see that up to 5000rpm the available torque is quite poor, so that at low and mid range it is not as brisk as someone would expect from a 415hp car. Very long gear rations do also not help here. All in all I do not consider it as enjoyable in a mountain pass as I would have expected before driving it.

Something I really appreciate from all Porsche engines is the superb elasticity that allows them gracefully accelerate in any rev range; unfortunately this is not the case with the GT3. For road use, and despite being a less powerful engine, the 997 Carrera S and Carrera 4S M97 engine is, for my taste, a better suit.

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Adding huge grip to an engine that really needs to be squeezed to get its quintessence, we have the perfect formula for fear instead of enjoyment on mountain roads. Not my cup of tea. Of course I like fast cars, but cars that can also be enjoyed outside of a racing track.

Once seated in the GT3, I was struck by the pedal placement, with an excessive right hand offset, where the clutch is right below the steering column. I don’t remember having noticed this in the 997 Carrera S. Even though it has a floor throttle pedal it’s position is too low compared to the brake pedal, making heel-toe a difficult task. Why using such a pedal then?

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I checked several GT3 owners forums and indeed, this just happens in the 997 generation, not in the previous 996 GT3 cars. Some creative solutions proposed the installation of an over-pedal.

 

Without any doubt the 997 GT3 has the best steering I have ever used. It is not only very quick with 2.65 turns between stops, but it also informs of the irregularities in the asphalt with pinpoint accuracy. There’s total driver involvement, because every hint to the steering wheel becomes an instant reaction of the car. Having achieved such perfection with an hydraulic steering system, I wonder why manufacturers rushed with the electric steering implementation.

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The Porsche usual attack driving position is even more present in the GT3. Sitting very close to the front axle gives a full control sensation that, backed by the steering feedback and a never floating front axle, allows total confidence in the car.

I’m sure this fact, impossible to show in figures, has a lot to do with the superb track times that all 911s are capable of.

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Brake feel is strange, with great bite in the first phases, a phase of no man’s land and again a lot of bite afterwards. I don’t know if it was an issue of perhaps too old pads in the car I tested, or all 997 GT3 have this same feel. I would appreciate your feedback if any of you has first-hand experience.

The GT3 insulation is, as expected in a hardcore track car, poorer than most of the cars I have driven. You can hear every little stone hitting the chassis. Even so, neither the noise is annoying, nor the car is especially hot.

The GT3 adaptive suspension is surprisingly comfortable, while keeping all the masses under absolute control. This is one of those things that keep marveling me every time I drive a top-of-the-range sports car, the comfort quality achieved with suspensions that allow absolute control of body movement were unimaginable for me a few years ago.

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Verdict: Perhaps I was over hyped, but having read almost all written reviews and watched all videos, where journalists can only praise the marvelous engine and chassis; or comparatives in which rivals can only surrender to the absolute supremacy of the GT3, the hype was absolutely justified. It turns out that it’s not as good as they say. Sure, it will be wonderful lapping Nürburgring. Let’s meet in Klausenpass.

Thanks to @mishistoriasdelmotor (htp://mishistoriasdelmotor.com) for the excellent photos in this writing.

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