What of the others? It’s hard to believe that the previous GT3, based on the 997 iteration of the 911, was first shown almost 10 years ago, or that the Gen 2 version we’re using today has been around for six.
It was the last to use the blue-blooded old ‘Mezger’ race engine, completely different from those in all other normally aspirated 911s of its era and equally unrelated to that in all modern 911s, GT3 included. It offers 429bhp from its 3.8 litres, 40bhp less than the 991 offers from a similar (but not identical) capacity, a deficit offset only in small part by it being 35kg lighter.
Still, don’t read too much into the fact that its 4.1sec 0-62mph time is 0.6sec slower than the modern GT3’s. That says far more about the 991’s launch control and instant-shift transmission than the far smaller real performance gap between the two.
The same cannot be said for the 996-generation GT3, which also has a Mezger engine, albeit a fifth of a litre shorter in stature. It’s 54bhp shy of the 997 and 94bhp off the 991’s power, and although it’s lighter than both, it’s only a mere 15kg below the 997’s weight. Its 4.5sec 0-62mph sprint is quick, but it’s still a like-for-like 10% slower than the 997.
Then again, you will pay a lot less for a 996 GT3 and drive a car that is rarer than the other two. Prices for unmodified, uncrashed cars start at around £60,000 and rise to as much as £85,000 for an immaculate, low-mileage cars like that seen here.
Gen 2 cars are more expensive than the originals, but not by much.
If you want a 997 GT3, you’ll be looking at £70,000 for a first-gen car but closer to £100,000 for a Gen 2 model, which means if you’ve had one from new and looked after it, it has probably been, in effect, a free car.
As for 991 GT3s, Porsche’s website still quotes a £100,540 list price but fails to mention that they’re no longer being built now that production has been given over to the GT3 RS. The reality is that the cheapest right-hand-drive standard 991 GT3 we could find is currently listing at £137,000, or more than double what you’d pay for a clean 996 GT3. It’s good, but is it that good?
I drove the 991 first because, as the most recent, it provides a benchmark against which the others may be judged. And it will have the breath out of your lungs on the first decent stretch of road.
It’s not the performance itself, but the way it is delivered – the sounds, the elasticity of its torque supply, the rifle-crack gearshift and that manic 9000rpm rev limit. They speak of a very special car indeed, one engineered to a point where it was more than good enough, then engineered a great deal more.
If anything, the 991 is more remarkable still in the corners, because its rear-engined, rear-wheel drive architecture has evolved so far that it has become the opposite of what 911s used to be: as tolerant of over-exuberance and driver error as its ancestors were merciless.
It doesn’t understeer in time-honoured 911 style, and its nose doesn’t bob up and down as 911 prows have for generations. It just turns in, accepts full power even before the apex and, with the four-wheel steering doing its thing, rockets away. For a car of such speed and ability, it is breathtakingly easy to drive.
But how easy should a GT3 really be? It’s a question Porsche has clearly been asking itself, and the proof lies not only in the fact that the new GT3 RS is no pussycat at all, but also in its as-yet-unannounced decision to reintroduce a manual GT3, just for those who care more about driving involvement than lap time.