Porsche 911 GT3 (996) Review

9/27/2014 10:47:44 AM
It’s the 2.7 RS of its generation, but for some reason the investors haven’t (yet!) spoiled the huge fun to be had from this modern gem

Here’s one for the hard-to-believe-but-true department. The first-generation 911 GT3 is fully 15 years old. We know because we were there for its press launch in May 1999 - ‘there’ being a limit-free Autobahn near Munich, and where we were certainly not discouraged from, well, let’s just say exploring this exciting new machine’s very considerable straight-line performance. (A backroad return route proved its huge capabilities on the twisty bits, too. As had Walter Rohrl’s sub-eight- minute lap of the Nordschleife earlier that year.)

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) front rear view

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) front rear view

No less difficult to get your head around today is that to those outside a relatively small circle of enthusiastic cognoscenti this modern classic appears to be something of a mystery. Everyone has heard of it, but few seem to believe that they could - or even should - buy one. Perhaps that isn’t surprising for what was essentially a limited-production homologation special, with a top speed approaching 190mph, and there is no denying that the GT3 - which only ever came with rear-wheel drive, a six-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential - does in many ways have a rather uncompromising nature. But with the right specification it is still both entirely road-legal and road-usable (photographer Fraser, who owns this one, famously drives it like others might a Transit van), and you can still pick up a pretty reasonable car, which has been neither ‘tracked’ nor even raced to death, for no more than $67,200. Frankly that makes it, for this writer, the very best of the bunch you see here.

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) side view

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) side view

The GT3 also has one big advantage over any other naturally aspirated 996. Instead of the mainstream cars’ potentially troublesome engine it has - like the 996 Turbo - a power unit whose bottom end is derived in large part from that of the iconic air-cooled flat-six originally designed by Hans Mezger. That doesn’t render it totally immune to mechanical maladies - you might even argue that its character and application and thus likely usage demand still more rigorous levels of maintenance than the run-of-the-mill M96 motors - but by reputation alone it is the one to have. And it can be no mere coincidence that ultimately the so-called generation2 997, and then the 991, returned to a not so very dissimilar layout.

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) engine

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) engine

The GT3’s other trump card is its rarity. Around 1890 of the so-called Series 1 cars had been built by the time production ended in spring 2000, of which about 100 had right-hand drive. Unusually, though, production restarted in 2003, with what have come to be known as the Series 2 - or S2 - models, most easily distinguished from their predecessors by the teardrop headlights of the by then facelifted mainstream 996. But there were only ever some 3000 of those, too (including the even quicker RS variant), and as with any such vehicle trackdays will have taken their toll. (By the same token you need to be on your guard against lookalikes of varying degrees of sophistication, right through to fakes. The best way to avoid being stung - or even buying a genuine car that is a complete turkey - is to stick to bona fide dealers.)

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) interior

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) interior

Simon Lenton of Dove House Motor Company feels that for all-round usability the ‘standard’ S2 is the one to go for, at around $67,200-84,000 although the S1 will - somewhat perversely, he reckons - have the better financial performance. ‘And the RS has just gone mad,’ he believes. ‘The least you’ll pay for a good one of those today is around $100,800.’ Either way, he adds, any 996 GT3 should make a far better investment than a 997 or 991 variant. ‘Although all that could change in an instant,’ he warns, ‘if Porsche ever builds the 991 GT3 with an ordinary manual gearbox.’ We would be willing to chance it, anyway!

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) back rear view

Porsche 911 GT3 (996) back rear view

Technical Specification

·         Model: Porsche 911 GT3 (1999)

·         Engine: 3.6-litre water-cooled flat-six

·         Power: 360bhp @ 7200rpm

·         Torque: 370nm @ 5000rpm

·         Transmission: six-speed manual; rear-drive only

·         Brakes: drilled/vented discs; four-piston calipers

·         Wheels/tyres: front: 8.5j x 18 with 225/40 tyres

·         Rear: 11.0j x 18 with 285/30 tyres

·         Economy: 22mpg

·         Top speed: 187mph

·         0-62mph: 6.7 seconds


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