Munich, Germany—It’s not everyday you get a chance to drive a supercar on a road that’s perfectly designed for it, particularly in a country that happens to be its birthplace.
But that’s precisely the opportunity I got. Even sweeter, actually, as I got a one in a million chance to drive two very special Porsches for two consecutive days on two different countries: a Porsche 911 GT3 in Germany followed by a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid in France. No, I didn’t drive one car to the next country. (Porsche chartered a flight from Munich to Montpellier in the south of France.)
Which brings me to the beer capital of Deutschland—or perhaps the world. And I’m in a red ground-bound missile that hurtles from zero to 100 in 3.4 seconds and achieves a mind-boggling 318km/h. In the time a typical sedan can reach 100km/h, the 911 GT3 would already be at 200km/h. The GT3 is a rocket.
As it should be. An even faster version, the GT3 RS, just set a new record at the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany—a blistering 6:56.4 set just last April 18 (making it only the third Porsche to break the seven-minute barrier on that track, putting it in the same company as the legendary Porsche 918 Spyder).
And I still can’t believe that the car’s handlers would let loose a jet-lagged Filipino journalist they’ve just met on public German roads in one of Germany’s fastest, most powerful (and most expensive) cars.
But there they were, ushering me into the driver’s seat—after the obligatory selfie with the car—and waving me off the driveway of the Hilton Munich Hotel that’s walking distance from Munich airport. Just me, the car and another journalist from Singapore with whom I will alternate driving and navigating chores over our 300-kilometer drive.
So what exactly is a 911 GT3 and where does it slot in within the 911 lineup? People are familiar with the 911. It’s been around since 1963. The base 911 is the Carrera, followed by the Carrera S (which expands with the all-wheel drive Carrera 4 and 4S), the Carrera GTS, which is then followed by the GT3 (and the even faster GT3 RS). The normally aspirated GT3 is regarded as equal to the legendary 911 Turbo in power and price (depending on the engine and features options list).
All these variants come in coupe, cabriolet, and, except for the Turbo, targa body styles. But while the Turbo is luxuriously outfitted and substantially heavier, the GT3 is the hardcore racer, almost stripped of all superfluous equipment not designed to help make it go faster. (There is still the even faster and more rare manual-only non-turbo 911 R that comes bereft of wings and other body add-ons and, last but certainly not least, the 911 GT2, which combines the GT3’s hardcore rear-wheel drive chassis and an even more powerful version of the 911 Turbo’s engine.)
The 911 GT3 may slot in below the 911 Turbo in power and price (by slight margins), but it gives away nothing on the racetrack. That’s because the GT3 is primarily a racecar that’s legal for the street. There’s a very unsubtle wing standing tall on the tail end of the car. There are racecar-like wheels and brakes. And the business-like all-black cabin is swathed in grippy Alcantara material instead of the more luxurious leather found in the Turbo.
There is much less sound insulation, so you’ll feel a more intimate and elemental connection with the car, the road, and the wind. In the fight against NVH, Porsche concedes against N. Nonetheless, driving on the city streets of Munich, the car is surprisingly noise-free, docile, and easy to drive. The 500ps 4.0-liter flat-six thrums happily in the rear. It won’t grab attention with any engine or exhaust noise the way an Italian supercar or American muscle car would. (But it does turn a lot of heads—even in supposedly sports car-jaded Germany—with its sparkling Guards Red paint job.) The 911 GT3 never feels nervous or jittery when you step on the throttle. There is no sudden surge of power that can catch you unaware, just a delightfully linear power delivery as you step on the accelerator deeper and deeper.
On the speed-unlimited stretches of autobahn, the GT3 stretched its legs to an indicated 210km/h. That’s about as fast as traffic would allow—which is saying something about German expressways and the impressively high skill and discipline of German drivers, who would switch to the middle lane when they see the red missile rocketing towards them in their rearview mirror. The roar of the mighty naturally aspirated flat-six as it redlines in first, second, and third gears is simply glorious. The GT3 comes with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic (which is actually more like a clutch-less manual in its internals.) I drove the PDK, which is not only vastly more convenient and easier to drive then thestickshift, but is also quicker in a drag race or on a racetrack because of its quicker, near-instantaneous gearshifts.
But the best driving was reserved for the country roads, which were mostly empty on our Sunday drive (except for the time we got stuck behind a procession of vintage tractors in a charming rural Bavarian town for a seemingly eternal 15 minutes). The winding two-lane roads allowed us to exercise the car’s race-tuned suspension, which delivered racecar-like razor-sharp handling without ever feeling too harsh even on the rare bumps we encountered. We also got to play with the PDK gearbox by flicking the shift paddles up and down the gears as we carved apex after apex along the sinuous roads.
Such was delight we took in driving the 911 GT3 in its native birthplace that before we knew it, we had traveled close to 300 kilometers in less than four hours, feeling every bit as energized as when we embarked on our drive. For a jet-lagged journalist who had only arrived in Munich less than 12 hours before after almost 24 hours of travel from Manila, that says a lot about the car. The Porsche 911 GT3 is simply extraordinary.