Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2021 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience
There are few, if any, more rewarding, engaging or intense experiences for those in pursuit of the thrill of driving
Ultimately it comes down to whether you’re a wing kind of person or not, because with the second generation 911 GT3 Touring, regardless of the aerodynamic device you choose, everything under the skin of the GT department’s 992 is the same. From the potent flat-six motor, the new double-wishbone front suspension, the choice of a manual gearbox and now, for the first time on a Touring, the seven-speed PDK, too. Even the downforce generated is the same regardless of whether you go fixed wing or adaptive.
There are a few aesthetic details, quite a few in fact, to distinguish the Touring from its bewinged brother (although it weighs the same at 1413kg for the manual, 1435kg for PDK). From the painted front bumper inserts, aluminium window trim (rather than black anodised, although the latter is available as an option) and more interior surfaces trimmed in perforated leather and brushed aluminium in place of carbonfibre and Alcantara, the new GT3 Touring exudes menace, even when parked alongside a regular GT3.
There’s no escaping those openings in the carbonfibre front bonnet and larger air intakes cut into the front bumper. Even without a rear wing, the Touring has a brooding presence to lift it against a Carrera S, its bespoke active rear wing and engine cover telling those who know that this 911 has been through the GT department.
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No matter how many times you’ve sat in a GT3 there’s something about it that raises expectations when you sink into its seat, in this case the optional fixed-back carbon bucket, flex your fingers around the steering wheel and glimpse the GT3 script in the analogue tacho for the first time. As a series production car that makes you feel hardwired to the hardware, few match a GT3, even the 992 Carrera on which it’s based.
Then there’s the engine, all 4-litres, 503bhp and 347lb ft of it. Individual throttle bodies and a new exhaust system were added for this generation of GT3, and if you go for the PDK gearbox it’s the seven-speed unit from the previous generation 991 model rather than the new eight-speed unit fitted to the 992 Carrera models. The manual transmission also does with one less ratio than the seven-speed unit available with the Carrera S and is all the better for it.
It’s a near-flawless powertrain. An engine that lives to be revved – the limiter isn’t called into action until 9000rpm – and delivers its peak power and torque at 8400rpm and 6100rpm respectively, yet is as tractable and useable when using only fifty percent of those crank speeds as it is intoxicating, ear-splittingly brilliant and ferocious when you use every last rev. And it sounds glorious. Addictively so, even with a gas particulate filter added to the exhaust.
Both gearboxes are unchanged from the winged car, which means PDK shifts that demonstrate there are double-clutch gearboxes and then there are Porsche double-clutch ‘boxes. McLaren and Ferrari might win the ultimate shift speed race by a milli-second or two, but the Porsche box feels no slower, yet does without the violent transmission thump every time you pull a paddle. But… few things match a manual gearbox and a rev hungry, large capacity naturally aspirated engine. If this makes us sound like luddites, so be it, but there is more to driving than looking at a stopwatch.
But it’s not the GT3 Touring’s engine and transmission that totally hogs the limelight, rather its chassis. When Henry Catchpole first drove this generation of GT3 on the road, there was a small question mark over the car’s on-road behaviour. A sense that in the pursuit of outright performance too much of the GT3’s suppleness had been eradicated. Now either Weissach reacted to the feedback or that early pre-production car wasn’t running the final chassis settings, because as per the first UK registered GT3 manual and PDK models Steve Sutcliffe drove in Wales recently, the Touring we drove around the south east of England has a remarkable set of on-road manners.
It refuses to allow its Cup 2s (a Pirelli Corsa tyre is also an OEM fitment) to chase chambers, allow kickback to work its way through the steering – it’s perfectly weighted, rich in texture – or let bumps and lumps to throw it offline. It rides with a level of compliance wholly unexpected of a GT product, filtering out the noise, absorbing the worst and feeding back the detail you need. The level of confidence it inspires is a step above what has gone before, which wasn’t exactly low in the first place. How absorbing and compliant is the chassis? Sport mode quickly becomes the damper setting of choice even on poor surfaces due to the tighter body control desirable at higher speeds with no discernible trade off in ride quality.
The fitment of those double-wishbones on the front axle has also resulted in the front end reacting both quicker to inputs and being more precise and linear in how it gets into a corner. Yes, this does mean that that unique 911 sensation of managing weight over the front to bid it into the turn has gone, which for some will be a layer of interaction they miss, but for others it means a more precise, rewarding and ultimately more capable car. One that settles quicker, inspires confidence earlier and allows you to strike a balance that allows you to work with its immense levels of grip – the mechanical diff of the manual gearbox-equipped car we drove delivering a further layer of mechanical precision.
Perhaps the most telling and appealing aspect of the GT3 Touring, which goes hand-in-hand with its more subtle appearance, is that it remains a car that rewards you so much more than others, even when you’re not extending it to its limits, following in the tyre tracks of the 911 R and its Touring predecessor it remains the connoisseur GT3 choice.
Price and rivals
Is the £127,820 Porsche charges for a manual or PDK GT3 Touring relevant if, as the internet will happily tell you, Porsche won’t sell you one unless you’ve offered an organ from one of your closest relatives to the dealer principal? For some, no, for the optimists happy to put the hours in calling dealers to secure a slot, yes.
For the money (before you’ve sacrificed your credit line to the options list) few cars offer the pure bred performance of a GT3 Touring, other than perhaps a used 991 generation GT3 or a two-year old Nismo GT-R. Find an additional £25,000 – or the cost of your Porsche Exclusive options – and you’ll find yourself on 2018 eCoty winner territory with McLaren’s 600LT. We’d be happy with any, but a manual equipped GT3 Touring would be hard to ignore.