Personally, I’m still coming down from last Wednesday’s State Of Play deep dive into Gran Turismo 7, which consisted of more than 30 minutes of very pretty 4K car footage and answered loads of my nerdy questions. But amid all the enthusiasm, it seems Polyphony Digital quietly snuck something into the trailer I missed, that more and more fans are noticing. That old Beetle up there doesn’t have a Beetle engine in it.
You see, about 23 minutes into the footage, series creator Kazunori Yamauchi talked about the level of customization and breadth of parts on offer in GT7 and used a 1966 1200-series Beetle to prove his point. This struck me as sort of a weird segment of the presentation, because it’s not like you couldn’t soup up a really slow car in older GT entries; that’s basically been the bread and butter of the entire series since day one, save for the PSP offshoot and GT Sport.
This Beetle is heavily modified, with basket-weave BBS rims, thick tires, a widebody kit to contain them, a ducktail spoiler and no front bumper. It looks fantastic. It also makes 455 horsepower from a 3.78-liter engine, which is our first tip that something isn’t normal here.
Cut to the Car Settings screen, where we can see that GT7 now names the models of engines in its cars. That’s cool enough by itself, but the motor in this Beetle isn’t the standard Typ 122, which you could probably guess because it’s more than three times the size.
Instead, it’s the M96/76-Porsche-’01 out of the 996-generation 911 GT3. Gran Turismo nerds will note that car already appears in GT Sport, and Yamauchi owned one once upon a time. This is the “Mezger” engine, named of course after longtime Porsche engineer Hans Mezger. First minted for the 911 GT1 racing program, it later found its way into Porsche’s hardcore 911 variants in various forms, as Speedhunters neatly explains:
As many parts of the GT1’s motor were evolutions of well-developed and race-proven technologies, Porsche decided it was the perfect basis for range engines destined for its high performance and homologation 911s. They included the GT3, GT2 and Turbo versions of the new water-cooled 996 911.
The bore and stroke of the GT1’s engine were increased to allow capacity to grow to 3,600cc, and variable camshaft timing was added to the intake cam. While the forced induction motor for the Turbo (M96/70) received two turbos and the GT2’s engine (M96/70S) received even bigger ones, the GT3’s version (M96/76) got titanium connecting rods, bigger valves, and a high 11.7:1 compression ratio.
I’d assume that the M96/76 in this Beetle received a “Bore Up” upgrade, which is why it measures 3.78 liters instead of 3.6. That upgrade appears in the shop screen, pictured below:
What’s really strange about all this is that the feature was never verbally acknowledged in the State Of Play — which, I reiterate, was more than a half hour long. The official Gran Turismo site doesn’t mention it either. Therefore we don’t know how it works or, technically, if it’ll even be in the final product. I’d hope it would, because it’d be extremely disappointing if the working example everyone’s seen isn’t consistent with what’s possible in game.
There’s reason to be optimistic though, because Yamauchi himself retweeted a comment from a fan written in Japanese, calling attention to the engine swap:
That’s very encouraging. Engine swaps would be a really big deal for GT7, because no Gran Turismo has given players that capability before. Forza Motorsport and Horizon have, in all their iterations — though the feature has changed over the years. Back in the old days, Forza used to tell you exactly which car the engine you were swapping in came out of. It stopped doing that sometime during the Xbox 360 era, likely due to cross-brand licensing issues. It’s a bit less satisfying without the official labels, but on the flip side keeping things generic allows Microsoft to get away with letting players put popular engines, like Chevy small blocks, in just about anything regardless of the badge on the hood.
Presumably GT7 won’t offer quite the same degree of freedom if Polyphony is set on attaching brand names to each motor. But at least intra-family hardware — say, engines in Porsche, Volkswagen and Audi models — should be interchangeable. That’s a good place to start, though many questions remain. For one, how will GT7 handle drivetrain and transmission swaps in these situations? Assuming we don’t get any more insight between now and release day, we’ll have to wait until March 4 to find out for ourselves.