If there were a children’s book about the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3, it would be called Downforce and the Magic Tires: A Control-Arm Adventure. That’s because Porsche, upon examining the best-handling version of the 911, decided that what it needed was better handling. So the new GT3, based on the 992 generation of the 911, gets the first unequal-length control-arm front suspension on a 911 street car, along with a 1.9-inch wider front track, 150 percent more downforce, and a set of barely domesticated race tires—Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2Rs. To demonstrate the GT3’s new tricks, Porsche brought one to Road Atlanta and turned us loose. Well, sort of. To forestall journalistic overexuberance, we’d follow a pace car: a 911 Turbo S driven by longtime Porsche pro driver Patrick Long, a guy who can drive 150 mph while watching the rearview mirror and still have 70 percent of his brainpower to spare. Probably more.
We got three sessions, with the first devoted to track (re)familiarity and general warmup. I headed out with Long’s pregame pep talk in mind: We’d stay off the corner curbing, and he’d gradually ramp up the pace as long as I kept up.
The first thing you notice is that, even at a mild pace, the transmission is absolutely on point with its gear selection. The steering wheel paddles are there, sure, but you don’t need them. The GT3 is the only 992 model to stick with the previous-generation PDK transmission (a six-speed manual is available, too), a seven-speed with unique ratios. Ditching the eight-speed unit found in other 911s is one way that Porsche kept the GT3’s weight within 11 pounds of its predecessor, despite the car being physically larger. The one we recently tested weighed but 3222 pounds. The rear glass is so thin, you can see it distort when you attach the suction cup for a GoPro.
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The second thing you notice, once you enter a straight, is that signature noise: The 9000-rpm 4.0-liter flat-six, with a throttle body for each cylinder, issues a howl that I want to compare to a gigantic circular saw, but that’s not quite right. Saws tend to slow down the further they get into a rip, the tone dropping a couple of octaves along with rpm. The GT3 does the opposite. Revs climb ever quicker as rpm builds, the timbre rising with the tachometer needle. If this is a buzzsaw, it’s one that spit the plank, out of control. That wild appetite for revs would probably be the dominant personality trait in any other car. Not this one.
Because once everything’s all warmed up and we start hitting the corners with some intention, it’s clear that this thing will slay nearly any other street-legal machine on a twisty road (or, in this case, track). We recorded a silly 1.11 g on the skidpad, and that figure doesn’t even accurately convey the total amount of potential grip. Since this is the rare street car with actual downforce, you have to remind yourself that you can corner harder at 110 mph—at, let’s just say, the unnerving right-hander before the front straight—than you can in a hairpin where you’re relying on pure mechanical grip. That swan-neck rear wing has two manually adjustable positions, one that’s flat for low drag and one that’s angled for downforce. We’re using the downforce setting.
It’s always hard to tell, when you’re following a race driver in a different type of car, whether they’re actually trying to lose you or just humoring you. But as we get into the second and third sessions, it does seem like Long is pushing it a little—at least in the corners. On one lap, over the bump at the top of the hill, under the bridge, I see the Turbo S’s rear end skip sideways as Long powers up and over. There are a couple other times when I can see his rear end sliding around, and eventually Long abandons the no-climbing-the-curbs dictum and starts drawing some fairly straight lines. At Turn 3 he sends it up over the wide paved area on the inside of the turn, and I follow suit, feeling the GT3’s right side go momentarily airborne before the hand-of-God aero shoves it back to the pavement a little quicker than gravity would have accomplished on its own.
Turn-in is immense. With that wide front track, standard rear-wheel steering, and the pseudo-race Michelins, it feels like you can tighten your line whenever you want. Those tires, by the way, use the Sport Cup 2 carcass and the tread compound of a race slick, with a millimeter less tread depth for good measure. They like to run hot, 150 to 160 degrees, and once they’re warm they start picking up rubber from the track surface and flinging it everywhere. Out on the back straight, at about 135 mph or so, you start hearing the whump-whump-whump of the tires shedding clots of rubber. After a session, there are black streaks of molten rubber along the flanks of the car.
The back straight is also where Long likes to remind us that his car has 640 horsepower. Quick as the GT3 is, there’s not much that hangs with a Turbo S in a straight line. Long tends to hammer it up to about 145 mph or so and then cruise toward the hairpin left at the end of the straight. Eventually we ramp it up to 155 mph but we’re still braking way early, which is fine with me. A couple years ago I drove a 991 GT3 RS here, and this car feels quicker.
By the third session, I’ve moved to Track mode, and the main difference seems to be that the transmission becomes crazy aggressive—there is now truly no need to use the paddles. Also, I was pleased to discover that the GT3 will still bristle if provoked. On one lap, I’m not quite straight into the braking zone on the back straight, and even that smidge of steering lock combined with hard braking causes the tail to give a disdainful wag as it unloads. Which is my fault, sure, but it’s also nice to know that Porsche hasn’t completely banished every remnant of orneriness from the GT3.
This is a car that otherwise makes you feel like a hero. Whether you are or not.
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