Payne: Taking it to the limit in Porsche’s 911 GT3 supercar

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 15, 2021

Braselton, Georgia — Inside The Driving Club garage, which offers regular track time on the challenging Road Atlanta Raceway here, Porsches proliferate. As they do at M1 Concourse car club in Pontiac. And Autobahn Race Club in Chicago. And anywhere else enthusiasts go to satisfy their need for speed.

The reason is simple: Porsche makes the world’s best sports cars. They may not be the flashiest. Or the most expensive. But they are relentlessly, ruthlessly good at carving up race tracks.

Just as relentlessly, better models keep coming. Say hello to the 2022 911 GT3, the new Porsche standard.

The 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 shows off its athletic skills at Road Atlanta Raceway.

Hustling down Road Atlanta’s pit straight, I stabbed the enormous 16-inch brakes at 140 mph into Turn One and the car slowed as if enveloped with an invisible net, yanking my eyeballs from their sockets. With double-wishbone front suspension right off an IMSA RSR race car and rear-wheel steering, the 3,150-pound beast rotated effortlessly into the fast right-hander — and I was hard on throttle before I reached the apex.

How hard? I caught Patrick Long, Porsche’s ace IMSA driver, in a 911 Turbo S — the fastest car in Porsche’s non-GT stable. As good as it is, the Turbo S doesn’t have the GT3’s huge swan-neck rear wing for added downforce. Or that front suspension. Or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tires that stick like flypaper to asphalt.

Long wasn’t dogging it. At the top of the hill into Turn 2, he vaulted over the inside curb to keep the pace while my GT3 effortlessly carved around the curb, glued to his tail.

“I have to nail the curbs to stay ahead of you guys,” laughed Long afterward to a group of journalist drivers who had come to Road Atlanta. “The GT3 is that good.”

That’s what the Porsche GT3 does. It makes hero drivers out of amateurs. I can rattle off the GT3’s stats for hours: 502 horsepower, 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds, 197 mph top speed.

But those are numbers common in the supercar class. What separates the GT3 — and all Porsches — is how effortless it is to drive fast.

While shredding one of America’s most fearsome race tracks, it was imperturbable. Rock solid. Poker faced. Never once does the car scare me, snap out of line or push menacingly close to the apron. Quite the contrary — it constantly demanded more of me. I came off the track perspiring, not because I was sawing the wheel, but because of the absurd g-loads I was carrying. And in a production vehicle, mind you.

Long demonstrated the full capabilities of the car earlier in the day. He lapped Road Atlanta in 1 minute, 26.46 seconds — just 7 seconds off the pole time set by the fanged, stripped, full-roll cage 2,700-pound IMSA GTD Porsche GT3 at last year’s Petit Le Mans road race. (“I wish race cars had rear-wheel steering,” laughed Long).

Credit the inherent goodness of the Porsche 911 recipe.

Around Road Atlanta's swooping curves the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 is imperturbable, its rear-wheel-steer and double-wishbone front suspension making for sharp handling.

The $162,450 GT3 is based on the standard $90,000 911. It is a car so good that, as my colleague Eric Tingwall at Car and Driver once wrote, it will challenge rational thought: “Instead of asking, ‘How much does it cost?’ you’ll start thinking, ‘How can I afford it?’ Sell your family’s fourth-generation vacation home. Siphon off your kid’s college fund. Steal from the collection plate. All of these are sane ideas after some quality time in a 911 … ”

For my trip to Road Atlanta an hour northeast of the city, I drove the all-wheel-drive 4S version of the 911. I gave little thought to the infotainment system (which is a good thing, since the 911 lacks only in electronic functionality, with navigation system/voice commands notably inferior to the high bar set by BMW and Tesla). The car was a constant source of amusement.

Luffing along an empty stretch of highway at 75 mph in eighth gear, I pressed the Sports Response button. The dual-clutch transmission instantly downshifted to third, the flat-six engine shrieked like a poked Tyrannosaurus rex and I vaulted down the road at (speeds withheld to preserve my license).

Country roads are even more fun with the 911’s limitless grip and legendary rear traction. Curves are a blur. Stop signs become excuses to do launch-control-assisted 0-60 mph runs. Such taxing behavior will test other, mere mortal, performance cars. The 911 will do launches all day.

The GT3 takes this tasty recipe and bellies up to the buffet bar to add even more meat.

The interior of the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3.

Red meat like the delicious 4.0-liter normally-aspirated flat-six cylinder engine that is one of the jewels of autodom. It’s a reminder in this EV-obsessed age of the visceral appeal of automobiles. I’ve been in love with flat-sixes since I was a teen, and GT3’s 9,000-RPM shriek never ceases to entertain.

It’s the same engine that inhabited the last-gen GT3 RS that I flogged at Road America three years ago (that’s right, the GT3 will ultimately get an even more potent RS variant).

So it’s not the engine that shaved an astonishing 17 seconds off the last-gen GT3’s Nurburgring lap time. It’s the attention to engineering detail that marries chassis, engineering and tire technology into a more perfect union.

You read that right: minus-17 seconds. The 2022 GT3 broke The Green Hell’s magic 7-minute barrier. I’ll pause while you pick your jaw off the floor.

In addition to the aforementioned double-wishbone front suspension, tires, adjustable-rear wing and rear-wheel-steer, the 911 GT3 gains carbon fiber hood, a different front nose for better downforce, air scoops for cooling, 1.9-inch wider track and center-exhaust system.

All told, the Porsche makes 317 pounds of downforce at 125 mph, and 770 pounds at top speed. When you are at full chat through Road Atlanta’s lip-puckering downhill esses, you want all the downforce you can muster. The GT3 will do loads for your self-esteem.

And for flattening your pocket book. But if you want to keep up with the Joneses at Road Atlanta’s Driving Club, you need the best money can buy. The GT3 has raised the bar again.

Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne turned some hot laps around Road Atlanta in the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3.

2022 Porsche 911 GT3

Vehicle type: Rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-passenger sportscar

Price: $162,450, including $1,350 destination fee

Powerplant: 4.0-liter flat-6 cylinder

Power: 502 horsepower, 346 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 7-speed automatic; 6-speed manual

Performance: 0-60 mph (3.2 sec., mfr.); top speed, 197 mph (198 mph, manual)

Weight: 3,126 pounds (automatic as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 15 mpg city/20 highway/17 combined

Report card

Highs: Precise, predictable handling; that flat-6 sound

Lows: Hard-sprung daily driver; big sticker

Overall: 4 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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