When the 911 GT3 Touring was announced for the 2022 model year, there was a bit of bad news for drivers in California who wanted their new Porsche to come with three pedals. The new GT3 and GT3 Touring would not be available with a manual transmission there because it didn’t comply with a noise regulation.
Well, rejoice stick-shift fans, because the 911 GT3 will now be available with a manual transmission in California, according to a report from Car and Driver.
Not because California is suddenly alright with the manual cars screaming past redline on its highways, making a racket and waking up Tesla drivers, but because the GT3s had been subject to an out-of-date regulation in the first place.
The outdated standard that the manual-equipped GT3s kept failing was a regulation outlined by SAE J1470, “Measurement of Noise Emitted by Accelerating Highway Vehicles,” which puts a cap on how much noise a car can legally make, as Car and Driver explains:
SAE J1470 aims to measure “the highest noise level consistent with urban driving.” The exact testing method varies based on vehicle size, power output, peak acceleration rate, and gearing, but generally, it involves a full-throttle run starting at 50 km/h (31 mph) and continuing until the engine reaches its peak-power rpm. Manual-transmission vehicles are tested in either second or third gear; given the GT3's curb weight and power output, the procedure calls for third.
You can imagine that going WOT in third gear and holding it would make quite a ruckus. The thing is, the PDK Porsches passed this same test because they weren’t going WOT, again, per Car and Driver:
Automatic-transmission vehicles aren’t necessarily tested at wide-open throttle. The method specified in J1470 states that “the throttle shall, as rapidly as possible, be opened as fully as will ensure maximum acceleration without operating kickdown” (emphasis added), and held at that position until the car reaches the end of the testing area. “Kickdown,” as defined by the SAE, means “a forced downshift to the lowest possible gear (first or low gear).”
The PDK-equipped GT3 can do nearly 80 km/h in first. Certainly, flooring the accelerator in an automatic GT3 would trigger a multi-gear downshift all the way to first. So while the procedure calls for the manual GT3 to run full-throttle nearly to redline in third, the same procedure prohibits full-throttle acceleration in the automatic version of the very same car.
Long story short, not only is the automatic GT3 faster than the manual, it’s quieter, too. At least, under the very specific conditions of the old regulation, which dates back to 1984.
A new regulation for noise compliance, outlined by SAE J2805, mostly replaced the old one in 2008. This regulation was updated as recently as 2020, according to Car and Driver, which means it’s much better suited for evaluating modern cars. As you can imagine, the manual GT3 does comply with the regulations under J2805.
Porsche thought that California would adopt this standard by the time its new GT3 was available. The carmaker had claimed it was working with the California Highway Patrol to address the issue, but it hadn’t given an update on the status or even the nature of what that meant.
It’s likely that all that needed to be done was to coax the Golden State into adopting the newer standard.
In any case, it’s a victory for lovers of manual transmissions in California. Even then, I’m still salty that the manual and the PDK GT3s cost the same now.