Thursday, 24 March 2016

2016 (2017 MY) Nissan GT-R is Newer than a New iPhone

2016/17 Nissan GT-R
Some cars favour evolution over revolution, and one car which has been championing this 911-like approach to improvement is the Nissan GT-R (ironic given it specifically targeted the 997 Turbo...). Revisions to suspension and software settings seem to arrive every year, with incremental horsepower hikes if we're lucky. Other than getting some fresh headlights two years ago, the only significant change to the outside came in 2011, with the "DBA-R35" replacing the "CBA-R35." That had extra whiskers and LEDs in the front bumper, brake vents in the rear ones and new wheels (plus a revised front chassis structure, hence the different model code). That year, power jumped from ~480 to 530hp and the transmission no longer ate itself alive after more than one use of warranty-voiding Launch Control. It would seem that Nissan needed a few years to recover from such huge changes as reshaping the chrome of the grille surround, because for 2012-14 it was back to gaining 10 horsepower here and shaving off 0.1 seconds to 62mph there, with asymmetrical suspension settings to account for the weight of a driver and eventually nicer leather on the seats. In 2014 we finally got a proper track-tuned NISMO version, which also meant the normal GT-R could now be tuned to be a bit less unforgiving over bumps. A bit...

In 2016, the R35-generation GT-R is getting on for 9 years old, and the interior in particular feels out of date compared to the new Type-991 911 Turbo and second-gen Audi R8 among others. A new wheel design and a software update isn't really cutting it anymore, even though Godzilla remains crushingly fast by all accounts, not least thanks to a staggering 2.8-second 0-62mph time at present and LC you can use without destroying the dual-clutch 'box or your warranty. Nevertheless, it's time for something properly new. Rumours suggest that the 'R36' GT-R will be a hybrid and arrive no earlier than 2018, so for the time being it's the R35 that's getting overhauled once again.

To the casual eye, it's the same. But actually it isn't. Thankfully, for anyone remotely familiar with R35s the differences are a damn sight easier to spot than those on a 911 facelift or a new iPhone 6SCEXWhatever. A lot of things from nose to tail just look more sculpted. The front bumper has new vertical grilles under the headlights to reference the 2005 GT-R PROTO concept car, as well as an enlarged and reshaped main grille with a non-reflective chrome "V-motion" blade standing proud of the usual plastic central bumper cover, while the bumper corners' leading edges flanking the headlights are more NISMO-like and there's a reshaped front spoiler with additional lower corner pieces in black. The side skirts were previously completely flat on the standard car, whereas now they bulge smoothly and dynamically to better guide the air around the wheels and the floor. The rear bumper again has thin vertical protrusions like the NISMO version, under which sit more artfully-shaped rear brake ducts behind the rear wheels, while there's a new silver insert resembling the one in the front grille turned upside down, plus the areas above the quad exhausts are indented horizontally and the area of black plastic reaches slightly higher to make the car look wider (we're told). The updated headlights with LED inserts appeared with the NISMO in 2014, along with the skinnier GT-R trim piece in front of the doors, but both details fit in much better with the new 2016/17 styling in these images. The creases along the bonnet are now little ridges, to better guide the air, and there is yet another new design for the 20" wheels, featuring skinny spokes spaced far apart. Finally, the new metallic orange paint colour is called Blaze Metallic, which sounds like some obscure EDM artist.

In summary, while the shape is certainly familiar, the details are enough to make it look like a new car again. Conversely, the interior is vastly different:

The door trims and seats look familiar, but the steering wheel, dashboard and centre console are all completely new. Nissan proudly state that the number of buttons and switches has been reduced from 27 to 11... although how many of them simply migrated to the steering wheel I don't know. Either way, the new touchscreen display is now a much more prominent feature, an inch bigger at 8" and newly incorporating navigation and audio controls alongside the usual array of performance measurements available. Hopefully it finally has DAB radio too. Appropriately for a car whose name is short for "Gran Turismo Racing," the performance data screens continue to be done by Polyphony Digital (no wonder the replacement is taking so long!), but drivers in real life will also want to know that the metal gear-shift paddles are now fixed to the wheel instead of the steering column, to better facilitate shifting while turning. The air conditioning vents have been relegated to below the new 'screen, which seems like an oddly low-down placement for them, to me at least. But then, any proper nerd knows that real-time boost pressure data is more important than fresh air! As well as your own fingers, the screen can be operated with a new control module by the driver's knee. I sincerely hope the carbon fibre centre console trim is genuine, or else it's as tacky as Inoue.

Importantly, there's more widespread use of Nappa leather and soft-touch finishes. The original R35 was a £55,000 car, but the outgoing 2014/15 model is now £78,000 basic and this major update isn't going to be any cheaper (prices unannounced for now). It can't afford to have dodgy plastics everywhere, especially if it's meant to be baiting 911 Turbos and McLarens. This car has never had a problem living up to the 'R' bit of its name, but the 'GT' element is being enhanced with a "smoother, less noisy" gearbox and interior Active Noise Cancellation technology to complement new sound deadening materials for the four occupants (yes, it still has back seats, which personal experience tells me are slightly less cramped than they look due to the long seat base - the real issue is headroom). The windscreen is made of 'acoustic glass' for even more quietness. Tech fans in some markets will revel in the ability to link their phone to the car and remotely operate the door locks, alarm and activate the vehicle tracker or even call the police if it's stolen.

Of course, this wouldn't be a GT-R update without a smidgen more power, so it's got that too. The venerable VR38DETT now makes 570PS (562bhp) and 469lb/ft, an increase of 20 horses and 3 torques. Of course, Nissan are notoriously conservative with their GT-R horsepower figures and have been since the R32 of 1989, so read that as "at least" 570 horsepower, courtesy of improved ignition timing control and higher boost from both turbos. The 0-60 time won't be any longer, but we haven't yet been told whether it's any shorter than 2.8 seconds. Similarly, Nissan haven't yet revealed if that clever sound deadening has increased the hefty 1740kg weight figure. If you voice these concerns in the vicinity of the new car then it can shout over you, thanks to a new titanium exhaust with Active Sound Enhancement valves that make it louder when the situation calls for it. We do know that the car maintains its 0.26Cd drag coefficient despite making slightly more front downforce. How much more? "This much." [holds up hands an arbitrary distance apart]

The other thing it needs is suspension tweaks. Not only does it have "new suspension," but the body structure is more rigid (it's a shame they didn't elaborate on either of these facts). The result is allegedly "the most comfortable GT-R to date" as well as "better stability through quick lateral transitions and higher overall cornering speed." So it's better at both GT and R, then.

The remaining details will be filled in over time, until the new-new-new GT-R goes on sale this summer and magazines test it against seven-figure hypercars to try finding a quick enough rival. Or the 991 Turbo S. Probably just the 991 Turbo S, to be honest.

Until then, watch this surprisingly intense video of a master engine builder assembling the 3.8L twin-turbo V6 all by himself.

Alternatively, if you're still having trouble identifying all the changes, then here are some comparison and detail shots:

Click To Enlarge
For the interior comparisons, the left one is the 2008-15 interior and right is the new one. 

Small point, but I think the newly applied lip around the edge of the outer tail lights is a subtle reference to the short-lived 1973 "KenMeri" Skyline 2000 GT-R.


This was written for SmallBlog V8. Report if found elsewhere. [QEKslbz974vcPE6zKNwN]

Saturday, 19 March 2016

2016 Formula 1 Season Preview

Some F1 cars, yesterday
For the most part, Formula 1 suffered from what you could call "tension deficit disorder" in 2015. If it wasn't for the odd surprise podium and Max Verstappen pulling off fearless moves on pretty much everyone to show us that a 17-year-old can acquit himself in F1 after all, there would have been very little wheel-to-wheel racing of the sort we want to see up and down the grid. Mercedes dominated for the second year in a row, to the point that their closest rival (Ferrari this time) only won three races, compared to the Silver Arrows' sixteen victories in a nineteen-race season. This, along with continued financial imbalance and various committees pussyfooting around whenever a decision on change is asked for, have lead to serious discussions about the future of the sport... which one could argue is surviving primarily on its history at this point.

So what things are happening? Well, the cars will be drastically changed for 2017, we're told, but before that happens we will be seeing quite a few changes this year, so now that Friday Practice in Australia has come and gone, let's go through confirmed changes for the new 2016 season first. I'll tell you about the future... in the future.

2016 Season Preview

Behind the scenes, a response to the chronic lack of major decision making has been the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) giving FIA president Jean Todt and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone a mandate to force through changes to the sport if they see fit, or rather, "to make recommendations and decisions regarding a number of pressing issues in Formula One such as governance, Power Units and cost reduction." This came after C. Montgomery Bernie tried and failed to change the power unit rules to allow an independent budget engine of a different specifications for non-manufacturer teams, following Red Bull Racing's self-inflicted woes finding a supplier after very publicly falling out with Renault... who will continue supplying them this year after all.

Another major off-track change has been the relaxing and imminent abolishing of engine development tokens. Since the new V6 hybrid turbo "Power Units" were introduced in 2014, a system to limit their development over time involved dividing parts of the engine into 42 different categories (or "parts"), which were then worth different amounts of tokens - depending on importance - to modify for next season. Developing or changing all of these parts would cost 66 tokens, but teams were only given 32 with which to make changes between 2014 and the start of last year. In-season development of the power unit was officially banned... until Ferrari found a loophole that would allow them to delay signing off their new 2015 engine specification, rather than having to stop developing in February and make do until the next winter off-season. This lead to the FIA allowing manufacturers to spend their remaining tokens during the season after all, allowing limited chances for improvement for all four suppliers.
Originally there would only be 25 tokens given out for winter 2015-16, but after a series of meetings, followed by a series of committee meetings, the teams agreed that this system was a bollocks idea. It was originally designed to save costs, but the power units themselves are a good four times more expensive than the old V8s anyway, plus the strict limits on development essentially meant that Mercedes, who were dominant right out of the box, kept their advantage and would be harder and harder to catch as the token allocation got progressively smaller until 2020. So instead, the token count remained at 32 for this season, and for 2017 there will be no tokens system at all! All power unit manufacturers will have free reign to develop all day, every day. This will be ferociously expensive, but Honda, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes have got the money to spend, and from now on that expense cannot be passed on to customer teams, who have been (forcibly) promised a fixed, lower price for an engine supply. So really, it's a win-win.

If you're new to F1 and none of the enormous paragraph above made any real sense, don't worry. Next year it will all become irrelevant anyway. Basically, the engine/power unit development will soon be completely open, instead of progressively restricted as was originally planned. Dominance doesn't hold people's interest, so engine builders will soon have freedom to try catching up with each other. Also, independent teams who buy in engines won't be punched in the wallet so much any more by their supplier. Good!

And now to the on-track rule changes! One of the big changes that's been widely discussed is the new tyre rules. Before, tyre supplier Pirelli gave all the teams the same allotment of tyres, split between two wet-weather compounds and two of a possible four dry compounds. Now there are five dry compounds, plus each team can choose up to three of them alongside Pirelli for a given race and have a different number of each. It all gets a bit lengthy to explain from here, so I've made you some visual help! See the infographic below:

Phew. Now that you've sussed out the new tyre rules, you clever thing you, let's move on to the needlessly reinvented Qualifying format! Before, there were three sessions, at the end of which a group of the slowest drivers would not be allowed to advance and would start the race where they qualified in that session, leaving the top ten drivers in Q3 for a "top ten shootout" for pole position. Pretty straightforward, right? Too much so, apparently! So now it's a bit different:

Official F1 explanation
The big difference this year is that instead of the slowest five/six/seven drivers being eliminated all at once when the session ends, they're eliminated one-by-one in 90-second increments after the first few minutes of the session have elapsed. The "top ten" has become the "top eight" so that seven cars are eliminated in both Q1 and Q2, now that we have an extra team on the grid. As you can see above, the first elimination happens less than halfway through the session. The driver with the slowest time once the elimination timer hits zero is no longer allowed to participate in qualifying, as their grid position is now locked in (pending any grid penalties shuffling the order around afterwards). The timer immediately resets and counts down again until the session is over, arranged so that the final elimination happens when the session ends. This means there will be a two-car shootout for pole position in the last 90 seconds of qualifying. Unlike before, when drivers could finish the lap they were on once the chequered flag fell, this year it's tough luck; at zero, a driver's eliminated immediately.

Is it better? Yes and no. It's designed to add more jeopardy and potential for mixed-up grids, as a driver who messes up his lap time may be punished by losing the opportunity to set another one and being eliminated early. Rather than TV audiences waiting around until the last couple of minutes when suddenly everyone is frantically having one last go at improving, the tension is spread out across the session. It doesn't necessarily mean cars will be on track more, though, as the tyres still wear out quickly and drivers will thus only go out again if their first time turns out not to be fast enough. The real problem is that this system has been rushed in, so much so that it was at one point suggested the new format wouldn't be introduced until the fifth race of the season (so they could adjust the timing software, although that's no longer true and it's being introduced this very weekend at the opening round in Australia), so there may still be some creases to iron out. What if it was raining at the start of a session and then it stops, meaning lap times are suddenly much faster after someone's been eliminated? It would be a total lottery. What if the session is red-flagged due to a crash and somebody loses their chance to avoid elimination, or a driver gets held up and it's not their fault? Another unfair scenario. It's all a bit unknown, which should at least keep it unpredictable to start with (the same is true of the tyre choice, as that was decided months in advance of this race)...

UPDATE: After the new qualifying format turned out to leave the track completely empty during the final minutes of the sessions in Australia and Bahrain, the system has now been dropped and reverted to last year's simpler format. Woo! That means it will be 10 drivers in Q3, not 8 as stated in the infographic above.

The other significant rule change this year is the ban on radio communications to reinforce the rule which says "the driver must drive the car alone and unaided." It's not a complete ban, but so many things are no longer allowed to be told to the drivers during any session that the FIA has found it easier to simply tell teams what still is allowed... and even that list has been significantly trimmed back from the originally planned one. There are now only 24 messages or commands that can be said, which sounds like a lot, but the driver is not allowed any help whatsoever when it comes to start procedures, managing tyre and fuel usage, deciding on changes to race strategy, using different modes on the steering wheel (unless safety or reliability is a critical concern for whatever reason), even finding gaps for going out to qualify. Here is the list of allowed messages if you're interested - you'll have to open it in another tab if it's too small to read:

Essentially, anything that could help the driver run his race that isn't said for safety reasons is outlawed. Teams can still tell the driver to hurry up and how many laps are left, as well as another driver's lap time, but other than that and procedures relating to Safety Car periods and the like, it's down to the one behind the wheel to figure it all out himself. If Kimi Räikkönen ever becomes suddenly desperate for some small talk, he can still discuss the weather with his race engineer.

The FIA have stated clearly that they can hear every radio message and will be listening carefully for any coded messages. Also, the same restrictions apply to information on the pit board displayed as the driver crosses the start/finish line. Maybe teams will start sending texts to the driver's steering wheel instead...

Here are the other rule changes and clarifications for this year:
  • The maximum number of races allowed in a season has increased from 20 to 21.

  • Each driver is allowed five power units (as a set of "components" including engine, turbocharger, MGU-H, MGU-K, battery and control electronics) for the whole season, instead of the previous four. Grid penalties are incurred once they need a sixth power unit or component thereof.

  • Manufacturers are now allowed to supply a power unit of a previous year's specification to teams without re-homologating it.

  • Stricter enforcement of track limits, including deletion of laps involving corner-cutting/extending in practice sessions as well as qualifying.

  • Stricter monitoring of drivers being released from their pit box - watched from above as well as in front of the car.

  • The stewards now have up to an hour after the race ends to decide if anything in the race requires further investigation. Previously they had five minutes.

  • The rules on passing another car under Safety Car conditions have been clarified and all pertain to confusion when leaving the pits.

  • The curfew during which team members cannot work on the car or enter the garage has been extended by an hour to eight hours.

  • The recently introduced Virtual Safety Car (VSC) system can now be used during Free Practice sessions. It's used if recovery vehicles are within the confines of the track, to prevent another accident like Jules Bianchi's fatal crash into a 6.5-tonne tractor at high speed.

  • Drivers must now wear in-ear accelerometers from the FIA's supplier during all official sessions. This can be used to help check for things such as concussion and to calculate the forces in a crash.

The technical regulations are very stable this year, the most obvious mandatory change being taller cockpit side protection... which brings us to the cars and drivers!

Teams & Drivers:

Renault have finally taken over Lotus Grand Prix officially to create a new factory Renault F1 Team. For those of you keeping track of team history, the branding lineage of the ones nicknamed "Enstone Team" after their home town goes: Toleman -> Benetton -> Renault -> Lotus-Renault -> Lotus -> Renault. If the French manufacturer withdraws from the sport again in the future, this lot should call themselves Toleman again. Everyone loves '80s nostalgia! This team overhauled a dominant Ferrari to win back-to-back world constructor's championships a decade ago in 2005 & '06, in the middle of their previous stint as the Renault factory team. I wouldn't expect that to happen this year though; Renault's power unit isn't the most competitive and the team was bought very late in the proverbial day, so 2016 will be a year of growth for the team as the significant extra financial input slowly has an effect. You'd expect France's only current F1 driver to be in this team, but Romain Grosjean decided that he simply HAAS to have a change of scenery for this year.

On that note, yes, there's an all-new F1 team for the first time since 2010! HAAS F1 Team. They've had considerable technical support from Ferrari, so consider the car as being Italian-American, like Fat Toni from The Simpsons. Learn a bit more by clicking here. Also, it turns out that it might arguably be pronounced "Hass" after all, due to American accents and stuff. But I'm sticking with the version that rhymes with arse. It just works.

Red Bull Racing's pathetic engine saga from last year has resulted in them and supplier Renault being legally divorced and yet still living in the same house for the time being. It sounds like the premise of a sitcom or a soap opera, and on that note the team's engine supplier is officially listed as "TAG Heuer" even though the Swiss watchmaker had precisely nothing to do with designing, engineering or building the power unit. Or rather, if they did design it then it's an amazing coincidence that it's identical to Renault's power unit and built by the same people in the same place in France. To add to all that, Red Bull recently announced a partnership with Aston Martin that involves some Aston Martin stickers in the places that Renault or Infiniti stickers used to be, plus a collaboration on a new hypercar designed by Adrian Newey and intended to be "faster than a Formula 1 car" somehow. Maybe it'll be a blend between Caparo T1 and Red Bull X2010 Gran Turismo. Maybe it will just have a higher top speed. We shall see.
One peculiar byproduct of all this is that Red Bull's "B team" Toro Rosso have to use last year's Ferrari power units, which are OK but will get no development at all. They'd better have a strong start to the season...

Manor Racing have rebranded and look to be a much more promising outfit than they were last year, when they were basically still there due to sympathy from other teams and the fans. This year they have a beautiful new livery, two rookie drivers, 2016-spec Mercedes power and Williams technical support in the form of a transmission, rear suspension system and some helpful boffins. They'll be keeping the likes of Haas and Sauber very honest this year, methinks.

Here's the full rundown in the form of a Spotter's Guide!

It's difficult to imagine there will be much movement in the pecking order compared to last year, but it does seem to be closer between all the teams. As well as seeing if McLaren Honda have actually fixed their engine problems, the two real question marks are the all-new HAAS and good-as-new Manor Mercedes. Oh, and the growing Renault factory team. OK, so there's a few things to think about this year.

In fact, actually, this is shaping up to be a genuinely intriguing season, especially compared to last year. I hope it delivers!

Written for SmallBlogV8, not other places

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

911R = 500PS + 6MT x 991

When Porsche released the type-991 generation of 911 GT3 with no option of a manual gearbox, the internet cried foul. "The GT3 supposed to be the driver's 911 and should thus champion continued use of the clutch pedal, we say! The dual-clutch transmission is too heavy and they're diluting the GT3 name and ethos! Why would a company want increased sales, anyway?!" That was before they even remembered the electric steering assist or spotted the new rear-wheel steering system. Meanwhile, customers merrily queued up to buy a 911 that revs to 9000rpm and goes about as fast as light travels. Well actually, it wasn't quite that simple - some actual GT3 customers also cried foul at the paddles behind the wheel, evidently telling Porsche they weren't going to buy the new one. Thing is, as well as broadening the car's appeal, Porsche needed to make the new GT3 better and more competent than the old 997 GT3 it replaced. The big semi-auto transmission cut out time shifting gear because that's time spent not accelerating. "The PDK allows you to gain a whole car length with every shift," said Porsche.

"We don't care," said a handful of customers, "we bought our cars for fun first and foremost."

Porsche appeased the enraged with the manual-only Cayman GT4, a car that borders on perfection were it not for overly long gear ratios and an engine that's only ever very good, never truly great. But the GT4 signified a very important shift for Porsche Motorsport; they're now having to differentiate between cars that are for ultimate performance and cars that are for ultimate driver engagement, as they are no longer entirely one and the same.

This brings us neatly to the latest addition to the Porsche Motorsport road car range, and the latest wet dream for all motoring journalists everywhere. Take the GT3, simplify and add rightness. Get the 911 R.

2016 Porsche 911R
First of all, the stripes. They're a direct reference to the 1967 Porsche 911R, a very limited-edition stripped-bare version of the 911 for racing and rallying. It set endurance records and wore black side stripes, while a BP-sponsored one added red or green over-the-top stripes like the ones you see here. On the face of it, though, it's hardly Porsche's greatest stripe job. I'd much rather remove the top stripes and just keep the side ones. Or replace the top ones with Martini stripes, which improve literally anything.
UPDATE: Their online configurator shows that you can actually have it with no stripes at all if you want. However, the body is only available in white or silver.

The reference isn't purely superficial though (like it is with, say, the 718 Boxster...). As well as borrowing the name and stripes, the new 911R uses the same engineering philosophy. The '67 car weighed a flyweight 800 kg thanks to the doors, bumpers, bonnet, engine cover and side/rear windows all being made of plastic. The interior featured almost nothing. It was just the raw essence of a 911. The same is... almost true in the new 2016 car. It starts out as a 911 GT3, then removes the rear wing, air conditioning, stereo, rear seats and a few other things. The exterior body panels are made of carbon fibre, the rear and side windows are plastic, while the roof is magnesium and the carbon-ceramic brakes are, amazingly, standard-fit when they're usually a £6250 option even on GT3s. The result is a car weighing 1370kg wet, which in a modern context is 50kg lighter than the allegedly-hardcore GT3 RS and 60kg under a normal GT3. This is partly due to the single most important feature of the entire car: a six-speed manual gearbox (not a 7-speed like the Carreras). This saves 20kg despite the added weight of a third pedal!
The old 911R had an uprated engine, too. So does the new one. It features the 4.0-litre, 500-horsepower engine from the RS, despite still having the slightly narrower rear tyres from the normal GT3. Need another sign that it's not all about hitting the numbers on a track?

As explained in a walkthrough video from evo magazine, the 911R retains the rear-steer system even though it adds around 5kg. This decision was not made to set faster lap times, but because it makes the car more agile on turn-in, which boss man Andreas Preuninger qualifies by asserting that agility is part of the fun of driving a sports car, and that "it felt like a truck without it!" The engine also uses a lightweight single-mass flywheel, which in turn saves 5kg, to improve engine response and give it a bit more "zing," the consequence of which is a snappier clutch off the line. Because it's Porsche's most powerful non-turbo engine other than the 918's V8, the 911R needs downforce... but Preuninger was firm that it must not have a rear wing and must have a completely clean profile to look purer and more classic. Instead, you might be able to spot a bigger diffuser with hanging fins spread across the rear apron, just below the central exhaust pipes. This, along with a Carrera's pop-up spoiler, allows for a stable lane-change on the autobahn even when you're closing in on the car's 201mph (323km/h) top speed - which incidentally is higher than the GT3 RS's 193mph thanks to lower drag. The wingless-ness also allows the car to look appropriately like a simplified GT3 to casual onlookers... if casual onlookers know exactly what a GT3 looks like.

Inside, there are more efforts for a neoclassical look. The carbon fibre bucket seats can be trimmed in brown leather with '60s style "Pepita" fabric centres, which is brilliantly odd when placed alongside cutting-edge carbon fibre trim pieces. Fabric door pulls replace plastic handles to denote a hardcore attitude. The steering wheel has a unique finish that's altogether more modern - the three-spoke metal frame is finished in satin black rather than the usual polished bare metal. As a statement of intent, there is a big glorious plastic hole in the middle of the dashboard where the air conditioning and stereo controls aren't. There's just a little shelf for your second pair of sunglasses instead. You can add the a/c and the TFT infotainment screen back in for free if you've completely missed the point of this car. I would've charged £2500 as a penalty if I was Porsche, but hey.

As mentioned above, there are no rear seats. This is not a 911 set up to be a grand tourer. It's a short-distance 911 for waking up before 6am on a Sunday and exploiting any empty back road you can find. Wind through the trees, drift through the hills, blast down the autobahn. Go home again and have breakfast, saving money on coffee because adrenaline beats caffeine by miles (per hour).

This one has the creature comforts added back in which makes it less good
Another obscure retro touch is the green-coloured numbering in the instrument cluster. There's a "make the exhaust louder" button, while the button marked SPORT is mostly there to add an automagic throttle blip function to your downshifts if you haven't learned to heel-toe by yourself yet. Thanks to the need to row your own, the 0-62 time is 3.7 seconds, almost half a second behind the be-paddled GT3 RS from whence the engine came. But numbers like that are not the focus here. The numbers to really get concerned about are these: Prices start at £136,901 and they will only build 991 examples of what is essentially the perfect driver's 911 from the water-cooled era. Unless the next GT3 is manual and naturally aspirated, it isn't going to get any better than this. This is peak 911. Road testers call every new version of the GT3 "the ultimate 911" and when they say it this time it might be the last time they actually mean it.

Still, if you do have that much money to spend on it (budget £150k to account for any optional extras), then you'll be pleased to know that a limited-run enthusiast's 911 is an absolutely bulletproof investment. Well, I suppose for it to be the perfect sports car the value needs to be able to rise whether you hoon the living daylights out of it or not. I can almost guarantee that a 911R won't drop below list price. Ever. Sad for the dreamers, a dream for the saddos who buy cars and lock them away as investments.

But maybe, just maybe, some of the 991 buyers will be actual car enthusiasts. Those GT3 customers who rejected the current paddles-only car might afford this - even though it's £5601 more than an RS - and take it to a track, not to set lap times on their Sport Chrono Pack but to savor those laps. To feel the car moving around. To learn the dying art of masterful clutch control. Better yet, don't spend all day at Silverstone, go and find some of the greatest driving roads in your home country, then in the one next to it, then in the next continent.

It's the ideal driver's car. Go and drive it.


Here is evo's video of two happy enthusiasts, columnist Henry Catchpole and Porsche Motorsport boss Andreas Preuninger, picking through more of the details and explaining why they're there. Let it enthuse you.

This was written for SmallBlog V8. Follow the blog on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus!