Type the word “visceral” into an online dictionary and you will get this:
“Relating to deep inward feelings rather than to intellect…”
….right then, the 997 GT3 pretty much sums up what makes an automobile “visceral.” Can we move on?
Not so fast. Let’s unpack this a little bit.
You see, the way I look at it, you can pretty much divide the rulebook for buying all cars into three broad categories: cars to get you places, cars to drive and cars to make you look better. The latter might be difficult to swallow, but it’s true. Some of you out there have made a purchase decision based on what your mates and Instagram will think rather than what you’re actually going to use the car for… driving and getting to places. You know the type – revving at traffic lights and showing off about meaningless numbers like top speed.
Sadly, most supercar buyers are automatically identified as falling into this category. The show-offs amongst them have wrapped more supercars around trees than the “More Money than Skill” YouTube video industry can handle. It also means that pretty much every supercar owner gets as many looks of disgust as they do looks of appreciation and admiration.
Here’s the thing though: there are some important and rare exceptions within the accepted rulebook of supercar purchases. Somewhere amongst the mass of exotic cars purchased by owners as self-esteem boosters, if you know your cars well enough, you can identify these key exceptions to the rule. By exceptions I mean cars that are bought by real petrolheads ONLY. The type of car that involves so much effort, skill and commitment to drive hard that its owners should be nothing short of praised.
This 12-year-old GT3 may just be one of those rare cars. Consider the evidence…
On start-up, especially early in the morning, the roar into life will frighten a lesser man back into the house whimpering “right, that’s too much for me.” The GT3 is loud full stop.
But, fitted with an RSS muffler bypass system as this one is, the 3.6l flat 6 is allowed to breathe a bit more. The canorous howl produced is race car loud. The pandemonium of a cold-start will leave even the most tolerant neighbours in a fuss, babies in tears and nearby car alarms blaring.
Soon enough though, the commotion dies down to a clattering and burbling in the background, allowing your senses to be redirected to the job at hand – driving the beast.
So, let’s do exactly that…
Driving around slowly in this thing is not exactly fun. Porsche alleges that this car has a suspension system, but you can hardly tell. It’s noticeably less sophisticated than that of a modern 911. The stiff suspension button has only one use – to make the passenger stop complaining about the normal settings.
The gearbox? A magnificently notchy 6 speed manual that only works well when the car is fully warm and requires a double de-clutch from 3rd to 4th until that point. The clutch itself is a real force to be reckoned with. Clearly this is not a car to get you comfortably from A to B.
But (and this is a big but), none of the above spoil the experience one bit. The contrary is true. Once the GT3 is warmed up, there aren’t many cars that can deliver the pleasure of this German machine. 414bhp isn’t massive by today’s standards, but it’s a perfect amount for the road. There’s something special about the way this car rewards you when you get your inputs right.
There’s an indescribable tactility to all the controls. Everything the driver touches from the feel of the brake pedal to the weighting and feel of the hydraulic steering – even the indicator stalk – is just right. The purity of piloting a vehicle with such theatre on a mountain pass completely defeats many of the best modern driver’s cars.
And best of all, it makes you a better driver. There are very few granny systems on the 997. There’s no stability control. It might be the first GT3 with traction control, but all it takes is a lazy right foot and the rear engine pendulum-effect gets underway. This car doesn’t just deserve your respect, it demands it. To tame it you have to challenge yourself. The car is only as fast as the driver.
Falling asleep at the wheel isn’t a phrase used by GT3 owners, I can promise you that.
You won’t want to drive this car every day. It will probably sit in the garage all week long. But when the weekend comes along, and you’re in the mood to drive, this is the car to take. You will cherish and remember every minute with it.
In this age of rapid technology advancement, control automation and the ever-present desire to remove the driver from the driving experience, this car stands as a bold reminder of what us petrolheads live for. The verdict on the ownership rules for the GT3 should be crystal clear: this is a car to drive, not a car to get you places.