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|
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.
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|
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!