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Every once in a while, Porsche makes the right combination of revisions, throws together the perfect selection of parts, and comes up with something brilliant. The Porsche 911 GT3 Touring is exactly that.

We took the big-wing and PDK-equipped 991.2 GT3 on a road trip from London to Le Mans and back. Then we drove the Carrera T, and told you how it was perfect if you can’t afford the GT3. This time, though, we’ve heard so many people saying that the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring was “the best.”

And it just might be.

(Full Disclosure: Porsche wanted us to drive the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring so bad that we asked for one, and they said okay. We picked it up at the airport, it had a full tank, and we drove it around Los Angeles for a couple days.)

What Is It?

The GT3 is Porsche’s more track-focused version of its 911 model, that you can also drive around without breaking your back too badly. What makes the Touring package option cool is that it loses the big rear wing spoiler, gets a splash more leather on the dash, door panels, and steering wheel, has a unique mesh engine cover grill, and only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. It’s the setup for the rest of us. It’s the setup for those who love moving quickly without demanding a giant wing on the back so that everyone knows you’re the Race Car Driving Man. It’s the setup that doesn’t attract every single cop within a 50-mile radius.

I love this setup more than life itself.

Combining a naturally-aspirated engine with a manual transmission is a dying breed in the Porsche world, and indulging the enthusiast with this option is heaven-sent. The model also arrived as part of the 991.2 update, and almost feels like a big middle finger to all the speculative 911 R investors who were trying to make a buck off of the marketplace created by Porsche offering a wickedly perfect 6-speed manual transmission hooked up to their brilliant 4.0-liter 500 horsepower flat-6, with only 991 “R” units produced.

MSRP for the GT3 starts at $143,600, and my Sapphire Blue tester rang up at $164,210, packing options like the extended range fuel tank (important for when you’re flogging a 500-horsepower car around a track), Porsche’s ceramic composite brakes, a front axle lift system for getting up driveways and going over speed bumps, auto dimming mirrors with rain sensor because sometimes it does in fact rain, and carbon fiber full bucket seats. Porsche says that more than half of all GT3 buyers opt for the bucket seats and PCCBs, as I bet they also appreciate the sportier look and performance, and I would do the same with mine.

The Important Numbers

Powering the GT3 is Porsche’s 4.0 liter flat-six, kicking out 500 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, while revving to an astounding redline of 9,000 RPM. All those revs and horsepower figures are put to the pavement via a 6-speed manual transmission with a side of Porsche’s torque vectoring system coupled to a mechanical limited slip rear differential.

Acceleration figures are 3.8 seconds from 0-60, 7.6 seconds from 0-100, and 11.6 to scream through the quarter mile. Sure those times are all just slightly slower than the PDK equivalent GT3, but this is a purist’s car. A couple tenths mean nothing to the driver who wants to row their own gears, and knows they’re not trying to set the lap record at Laguna Seca.

The Porsche GT3 Touring weighs in at a scant 3,116 pounds, but that figure is actually slightly lighter due to the carbon seats and PCCBs, giving it a respectable 6.3 pounds per horsepower.

As A Daily Driver

I spent the better part of a week in the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring Package, and did so in Los Angeles, taking in plenty of freeway traffic, in stop and go congestion downtown and in Venice, and did longer stints in the optional carbon bucket seats over far more miles than the Porsche PR guy probably anticipated me using. Whoops.

I logged over 600 miles in my test week, and not once did I gripe about the carbon bucket seats nor their lack of heated or cooled functions. Averaging just over 17 miles per gallon was a pleasant surprise considering how many canyon carving miles I put on it, and I love that this GT3 had the extended range fuel tank option, which bumps the tank from 16.9 to 23.7 gallons.

Losing the rear wing spoiler, you can see clearly out of the back window, which is always nice for a daily driver. The GT3 I once drove from London to Le Mans didn’t get many gripes from me for having the big wing, but I do appreciate it not being on the GT3 Touring.

Sure the suspension in a GT3 is expected to be a bit more responsive and firm, but in ordinary driving on the concrete freeways of LA and over bumpy streets in the city, the smoothness and compliance was downright brilliant. Should I want more response and sharper feedback, a quick tap of a button on the center console can provide such things.

Making good use of Apple CarPlay, I was able to get around town via the long-awaited addition of Google Maps interface, which is far more user-friendly and just downright better than Porsche’s PCM navigation. Also, if you’ve got any slope in your driveway or office parking lot, you definitely want to tick the option box for the front axle lift, which my tester had equipped.

Testing The GT3-worthiness In The Canyons

Knowing that you can comfortably daily drive the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring, it’s obvious that any Porsche with GT lettering stamped on its rear has to excel along a winding road or on a race track. We took a route with a shitload of sweeping turns, tons of elevation change, and some epic views of mountains and canyons happy to remind you how far you will fall if you get any stupid ideas about how well or fast you think you can drive.

Given that I’m a human and not some weirdo race car driver, the bumpy bits of CA 2 through the Angeles National Forest gave me more rigidity in the suspension response and twitched the steering only slightly more than I prefer, so I kept the suspension in its normal setting. The exhaust and sport buttons which quicken throttle response, give the car quicker rev-matching, and make all the wonderful noises were definitely engaged.

While giving the GT3 Touring a thorough thrashing, it kept finding ways to push harder than expected through fast sweepers, thanks to the trick rear-wheel steering and mechanical diff. It is sublime. With a redline of 9,000 RPMs, it was easy to leave Porsche’s super crisp and short throw shifter in 3rd gear, and use that huge, and hugely flexible, powerband. The GT3's manual transmission is said to be developed and equipped extremely similar to the famous 911 R box, which is a good thing.

There are gobs of torque available in the mid-range, considering that this is a high-revving naturally-aspirated engine, and the 4.0 liter flat-6 out loves when you opt to stay above 6,000. Any shove of the throttle above that RPM will reward you with a smooth shove of power, continuing to pull power all the way to the top of the rev range, and doing so with the song of one wicked exhaust note. Especially if you’ve clicked the console button to engage the louder exhaust valves.

In an age when plenty of cars pack 500 horsepower, the GT3 may not seem like it provides a ton. Yes, there’s the GT3 RS with a hint more performance, and the 911 GT2 RS packs 700 horses into its twin-turbo package, but I love this naturally aspirated motor. Five hundred horsepower is more than plenty, and never did I find myself begging for more juice from that flat-six on any stretch of road. It’s totally usable.

With the quite pricey and absolutely must-have option of the PCCBs equipped, any braking zone was met with a hard application, a great scrub of speed, and the best damn pedal feedback I’ve enjoyed in any fast road car. Dropping nearly nine pounds of unsprung weight at each corner, their stopping prowess is aided by Michelin’s always grippy and reliable Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and they’ve got zero pedal fade.

Any Complaints?

Maybe it could be packing a rocket booster option or a button to instantly clear traffic on a fun road, but Porsche nailed it.

I don’t care that there isn’t a back seat, and that the front two seats aren’t heated or cooled. I don’t care that it has a slightly firm ride. You aren’t buying an S-Class Mercedes. You’re buying a GT3.

What’s The Grade?

It’s perfect. Porsche put insane amounts of effort and calibration into the GT3 Touring, and they’ve even improved over the 911 R so many compare this car to, which I drove privately last year. The steering is spot on, light, and direct. The brakes have the best sensation and performance over cars far more expensive. The engine defines the perfect horizontally-opposed greatness, filled with the strongest of power bands I’ve ever felt from a Porsche. The looks are subtle yet sporting. Losing the rear wing of the standard GT3 gives back the 911's classic swept profile, while only being quickly recognized — met with the nod of respect — as the Touring model by those with a keen eye for Porsches.

I have driven damn near every modern Porsche since the 1990s, and always love a GT3 variant. I judge them on a stronger scale, because of the high expectations to continue being brilliant. Recently I said that the Carrera T is the best 911 you can buy if you can’t afford the GT3, but if you’ve got the extra coin at your disposal, there’s no reason not to get a GT3.

People are going to hold on to this 911 for a long time. Jerry Seinfeld would call the GT3 Touring a “dead guy car” as he does his 1973 911 Carrera 2.7 RS. One that only changes hands when the owner dies. That’s what I believe. If I owned this car, you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands to take it away from me. The Porsche 911 GT3 Touring is the best road car they have ever delivered.

Sub-Par Photographer and Reasonably Quick Test Driver

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