So, you’re looking at a 2019 Porsche GT3 without a monster rear wing here, right? Not quite.
The 2019 Porsche GT3 Touring is every bit the toned-down road weapon you might expect, but it’s also a few things you might not have expected, so don’t judge a book by its cover – even if the cover does have a wing missing.
You can picture the scene can’t you?
“C’mon, the 911 is our cash cow! There must be another variant you can extract out of it?” Or words to that effect uttered behind a grey concrete facade, inside a very German office at Porsche HQ in Stuttgart.
The 911 R will be the last manual Porsche! Remember the headlines? Oh wait, not quite the last. We’ve got at least one more in mind.
I should note, I’ve been to the Porsche factory, and indeed the museum, and it’s actually not that grey at all…
Anyway, back to the GT3 Touring. The whole GT2/GT3 thing has always seemed strange to me. In terms of real-world weaponry, nothing comes close to a 911 Turbo or Turbo S.
With their savage power delivery, AWD and digitally fast PDK, only Walter Rörhl or Mark Webber would keep up with a decent driver in a Turbo S if they were piloting the track-ready weapons.
What I mean to say is that it doesn’t matter how quick a GT2 RS or GT3 RS is on a racetrack, the better all-condition getaway car has turbo and AWD.
Therefore, I’ve always thought it was something of a travesty that you’d shudder and crawl around town in a balls-out track car – that struggles to make its way over a cigarette packet thanks to the front splitter – when you can have your cake and eat it too, with either of the AWD Turbo twins.
The GT3 Touring isn’t for the faint-hearted either – or should that be faint of wallet – despite being a slightly more sane variant than its nastier sibling. Pricing starts from $326,800 before on-road costs, you see. You do get a lot of power for your money, though.
The 4.0-litre flat-six engine is a masterpiece, perhaps more appealing for its lack of turbochargers, and despite that lack of forced induction, its outputs are prodigious: 368kW and 460Nm revving to a screaming 9000rpm.
Weighing in at a svelte 1413kg, the GT3 Touring is fast – very fast. 0–100km/h in 3.9 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 320km/h. Read those numbers again if you need to. It’s impressive stuff.
You’d think it might be a challenge getting that much anger to the bitumen, and you’d be right – even more so with a manual gearbox. Porsche has you covered in part, though, thanks to torque vectoring and a mechanical LSD.
Sure, it’s more track-focused than a ‘normal’ 911 (if normal is even a thing), but what isn’t there compared to a GT3 makes the Touring interesting. Gone is the ‘look at me’ rear wing, the most obvious visual change, but there’s more leather in the cabin, a beautiful, unique mesh engine cover, and a six-speed manual transmission only.
What is the most appealing trait of the GT3 Touring you ask? The fact that only the cognoscenti notice it. For mine anyway. Those not in the know are blissfully unaware.
While I’ll work my way to its behaviour once things get more willing in a minute, the point that strikes me quickly and most obviously with the GT3 is how liveable it is around town, day to day.
Sydney traffic is hardly the place to get a real sensory experience of any proper sports car, and yet the GT3 rewards with typical Porsche comfort, flexibility and ride quality. That it can torch the wick as hard as it does, while being so benign around town, is really quite staggering.
The cabin is high quality, as we expect from Porsche, but it’s comfortable, too. Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly on test, the rest of the infotainment interface is easy to master, and rearward visibility is much better for the removal of the wing, too.
The driving position is also spot on – sporty but not ridiculous – and while the Porsche isn’t as easy to get into or out of as a Macan, it’s not a human origami affair either.
You’ll want to tick the box that options the nose-lifting system, too – certainly if you live in one of the big cities around Australia where ugly driveways and speed humps are par for the course.
The steering is smooth and precise, the clutch action devoid of any snatchiness, even in traffic, and the gearshift razor sharp, even when you aren’t working it like a Carrera Cup racer – or try-hard Carrera Cup racer in my case. Again, the point needs to be made that the duality of character is truly surprising.
A week spent rolling around town did nothing to dull the way in which the GT3 Touring impresses. Still, while most will use their GT3 Touring to get to and from work every day, it’s the occasional thrash on the right road that lures you into ownership. And that’s where I was expecting the Touring to excel.
That outright ability is only the press of a switch away, too.
The exhaust button delivers more sound – you probably won’t want that day to day – while the sport modes sharpen throttle response, give quicker rev matching, and liberate all the snarling and shrieking you might expect. The impossibly high 9000rpm rev limit is a wondrous example of the truly great naturally aspirated engines.
The thunderstorm that starts down low increases in intensity through the midrange, and that flat-six just keeps bellowing all the way to 9000rpm. It’s addictive in the extreme – especially the midrange theatrics.
You’ll read and hear us frequently use the word ‘linear’ in regard to 911s in general, but even more so the hardcore versions. It’s hard to adequately describe what we mean by that, but it's a multi-layered assessment.
The connection to the car via the steering, throttle and brakes, the way the throttle eases the engine into its power generation, and the way the most subtle steering input delivers exactly that subtly to the road beneath the tyres. It’s hard to find a performance car that is more precise than a 911, it’s that simple.
The GT3 Touring is no different. The savagery of its ability is not designed to be unleashed on Australian roads. You’ll need frequent track days to explore the outer limits of its capabilities.
It piles on speed so quickly that you reach the speed limit before you realise it, and you need to keep a very close eye on things not to get into trouble.
The midrange is the sweet spot, and while you’ll want to use the gearshift as often as possible, such is its precision, the second-to-third blast is the one that puts a stupid big grin on your face.
In fact, on our test road I selected third for a couple of runs, and kept it in third, rolling on and off the throttle, riding the wave of torque between brake applications. Magical.
Thanks to its rear-wheel steering and deep reserves of mechanical grip, the GT3 Touring finds ways to obliterate corners faster than you thought possible with an almost arrogant sense of composure. If the exhaust is open, the soundtrack is immense and blood-curdling, bellowing off the rock walls and into the valleys.
The brakes are unrelenting, as is the grip on offer from the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, even after a good thrashing. Fade? Here? There’s no fade here Chopper.
In the absence of a rear seat, you might feel like you’re paying more for less, but that’s not the point of the GT3 Touring. This is a specific car, for a specific buyer – or should that be specific 911 fan?
It’s not perfect, but no car is, yet even with my anti-911 fanboy stance, I can admit that this is a very special car.
I’d still buy a Turbo or Turbo S if I could afford it, but damn the GT3 Touring is a sensational experience. It really is. It’s possibly a lasting legacy to the naturally aspirated engine, too – every single revolution of it.