I recently had the opportunity to spend a day behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3. It was an excellent experience, and I highly recommend picking one up, assuming that you are completely out of your mind.
I'll explain what I mean by that in a second. But first, I'm going to provide a little background on the GT3 for those of you who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. Imagine, if you will, a standard Porsche 911: one of the greatest driver's cars of all time. And then they add more power, and better suspension, and improved aerodynamics, and unique styling touches. And then they sell it to the kind of person who alerts IKEA to mistakes in its furniture assembly directions.
Yes, GT3 owners can be pedantic – and the reader who let me borrow his car is no exception. Even though I actually worked for Porsche, he knows far more about the company than I ever will: he can tell you LeMans victory years and engine codes; racing drivers and model year changes. Whereas all I really remember is a) how many manual Cayennes they sold, and b) where the office copy machine is located. So I was pretty surprised when he handed over the keys to his GT3 and told me to have fun. And have fun I did, as you can see in the attached video.
What you can't quite see in the video is a full, comprehensive review of the car. So I'm going to do that here, in print, to help answer that age-old question that's really weighing on everyone's mind: should I spend $85,000 on a high-performance Porsche because an Internet blogger told me to?
We'll start today's review with a discussion of the vehicle's ride: namely, it's awful. And I don't mean awful like: "Oh, the roads suck, and I have sport suspension, woe is me!" No, no. I mean awful like you're driving along and you start to wonder: "Hmm… when did they pave this road with bathroom fixtures?"
In fact, when you're driving a GT3, virtually every road feels like it's paved with jagged metal pieces and huge, uneven boulders, placed directly in the street in order to make you hate your entire existence, and your car's existence, and the very existence of Ferdinand Porsche, and the nation of Germany, and all of its little fair-haired soccer-playing children. You can feel every bump, every crease, every little dip in the pavement. Before long, you realize that you've made a horrible, terrible, awful mistake, and you want to go back home and climb inside your soft, comfortable bed, away from all the bumps and bangs and smacks and thuds. And then you finish backing out of your driveway.
Speaking of backing out of your driveway, the GT3's suspension also poses another major problem: ground clearance. Although the owner of this car gave me the exact ground clearance figure, presumably measured in millimeters to the nearest thousandth, I've forgotten it. So I'll give you a rough estimate: the GT3's ground clearance is approximately equivalent to one regulation toothpick.
Now, admittedly, this isn't a problem when you're on the race track, or when you're driving on the sort of flat, perfect roads they have over in Germany. But it becomes an issue when you want to do something wild and crazy, such as go to the grocery store. Here's what happens: you're in the parking lot of your local grocery store, or mall, or bank, or whatever, and you come to a speed bump. And as you slow down to a crawl, and line up the car to hit the exact perfect angle without scraping the fragile front bumper, you realize something: you've spent $85,000 on transportation that can't actually transport you.
But at least the styling is pretty cool, right? Well, this matter is up for debate. Some people think the GT3 is a handsome, attractive, beautiful car that combines the best of modern sports car design with a series of excellent styling touches inspired by a racecar. Personally, I think it looks like a 911 with a foosball table strapped to the back. But no matter what your view, you have to admit that the GT3 won't exactly get you noticed: this is no Lamborghini, or Ferrari, or Aston-Martin, and unless you encounter a fellow car enthusiast on the road, people probably just think you're driving around in "a Porsh."
The interior, though. Surely the interior is filled with luxuries, like ventilated seats, or modern infotainment, or cutting-edge gadgets, or a laser jet printer, or a saltwater fish tank, or a conference room. Well, that's not quite the case either: the 997 model I drove didn't have any of that stuff. In fact, it didn't even have a navigation system. Instead, there was a small electronic display that looks like the kind of thing you would've typed "80085" on when you were an excitable elementary schooler with a new calculator.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, brings us back to why you have to be completely out of your mind to buy a 911 GT3: because you compromise on virtually every aspect of the driving experience, and you spend an enormous amount of money to do so. For reference, a 997 GT3 like the one I drove can easily cost upwards of $80,000, while an all-new model is $131,000 before options. So why would anyone bother with this car? Why would anyone put up with the harsh ride? The bare-bones interior? The low ground clearance? The lack of equipment?
Simple: because the Porsche 911 GT3 one of the best vehicles I've ever driven. Get out on an open road, away from all the crap that you shouldn't do in a GT3 anyway, and the car starts to make perfect sense. I could use all the auto journalist buzzwords — the handling is sublime, the steering feel is "perfectly weighted", etc. – but I won't bother. Instead, I'll just say this: Handling is awesome. Acceleration is awesome. Steering is awesome. Gear lever is awesome. And the entire package, put together is really, really awesome. It is, in sum, one of the best cars I've ever driven; a far more enjoyable tool for tackling the back roads than my Ferrari.
So would I buy one? Absolutely not. I could never get this thing up my driveway – and even if I could, the roads in my area would eat it alive. No, the GT3 isn't for me. And it's not for people who want to get noticed, or people who want to own a luxury sports car, or people who want a fun car to cruise around town. Instead, it's the perfect car for that wealthy suburban dad who wants a fun track toy that he can run hard once a month – and then drive home, taking the long way, without stopping at the store to pick up milk. Because he could never make it into the parking lot anyway.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.