What is it?
Our second look at the Porsche 911 GT3 – but we’ve good reason for going back to Germany. This return visit held the prospect of driving the Clubsport version – an option package that some 45 per cent of customers of the previous generation of the 911 ticked on their way to GT3 ownership.
2016 Geneva Motorshow update: Porsche confirm next generation 911 GT3 will be built with a manual gearbox
Their enthusiasm is understandable. A full 80 per cent of buyers report that they are likely to take their new toy out on the track. For those who intend to do it more than once or twice a year, the extras included in the (almost) no-cost option pack are well worthy of consideration.
As before, the most notable additions are the ones that the GT3 emerges from the factory wearing: namely, the burly half cage straddling the already deleted rear seats and the clasping bucket seats up front (which have to be pre-selected separately).
They come with the mountings for a six-point harness, although the peculiarities of homologation mean that this must be fitted by the owner. Likewise the fire extinguisher and battery kill switch, so there’s still a modicum of DIY fettling to be done before a Clubsport can be truly considered complete.
What’s it like?
Clearly, you could have someone else tightening the various bolts for you, but the thought of showing a socket set to this GT3 is an appealing one; if only because the latest model, infamously shorn of its manual gearbox, radiates technological aloofness.
As there is no mechanical adjustment to differentiate the Clubsport, it, too, is defined by the blasphemous new powertrain – a black-box partnership of such malevolent, moreish ferocity that its 9000rpm impact leaves a scowling mark on the memory banks. Mourn the six-speeder, but it’s hard to imagine impeding the GT3’s progress with anything as rudimentary as a pedal and lever. Short of sequential blinking, ice-pick paddles feel all the world like an appropriate way to pluck at the PDK’s shortened ratios.
Any nagging doubt that the fiercest ‘991’-generation 911 yet would have altered during its pigeon-step into production is duly eradicated within moments. Comparison with the previous ‘997’ GT3 will be protracted but, truthfully, the change in Carrera template brings the current 911 more often to mind. It is that car’s supple athleticism which has been preserved, distilled and re-administered to a stiffer, leaner and wider body.
Likewise, the agility and potency simmering somewhere below the 991’s unruffled surface have been brought steadily to boil by not only the far sharper chassis set-up, but also the notably better means of aiming it down the road. Quite how Porsche has engineered such sinewy resistance into its electrically powered steering rack remains a mystery, but it is the fleshy weight, hint of kickback and measured eagerness that keeps both hands wedded to the Alcantara-clad wheel, and so compulsively involved at all speeds.
Around this desirable cake, the Clubsport’s embellishments orbit like proverbial cherries. The bucket seats feel a little broader than before and certainly better cushioned. The lightweight carbonfibre-reinforced plastic shells still want for a bit more shoulder support, but your hips are largely invulnerable to lateral excess.
With no structural part to play (save for holding up the roof if you dump the car on it), the scaffolding’s effect is chiefly spatial – robbing the rear of a useful perch, yet brimming it with utilitarian swagger and a useful dose of extra confidence should you choose to challenge the limits of the GT3’s mighty grip.
Should I buy one?
So broad is the GT3’s appeal now that opting not to include the Clubsport’s auxiliary items is understandable, given that the standard seats are likely to prove more comfortable, and the cage-less car more practical.
But we’d remain in the sizable minority predicted by Porsche to keep the faith. While the GT3’s talent may now stretch to accommodating a commute at one end, it hasn’t detracted from the model’s supreme ability at the other. Because a track is still required to consistently and best explore this, and the Clubsport is marginally better prepped for doing so, it pips the stock version at the post. Five and a half stars, then.
Porsche 911 GT3 Clubsport
Price £100,540; 0-62mph 3.5 seconds; Top speed 196mph; Economy 22.8mpg; CO2 289g/km; Kerb weight 1430kg; Engine 3799cc, six-cylinder, petrol; Power 468bhp at8250rpm; Torque 325lb/ft at 6250rpm; Gearbox Seven-speed PDK
What is it?