When the sun is shining

by Jeremy Clarkson

Porsche 911 GT3:  A happy, weekend whizz-about car to drive when the sun is shining.

The car park in my local pub was always filled, every Friday night, with grey Range Rovers. But in recent months I’ve noticed the electrical Porsche Taycan is starting to make its presence felt. And it’s easy, when I’m inside, enjoying some devilled kidneys, to spot who’s driving them, because they rush over and tell me. I try to be polite and look interested as they explain how fast their cars and how much more reliable it will be than the grey Range Rover they sold to buy it. And I usually wrap up the conversation by inviting them on one of my shoot days this autumn. That should shut them up; when they get stuck and use all the battery power to try to free themselves and it’s raining and going dark and they’ve missed lunch.

I turned up last weekend in a Porsche of my own, the new 911 GT3, and it felt good to be driving a petrol-powered, old-school dinosaur. It felt, I should imagine, how that kid felt when he stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Pointless and futile but satisfying nevertheless. It was as though I’d stuck a spanner in the cogs of a wind turbine. That said, I didn’t actually know it was the new GT3. It seemed like only yesterday that the last new one came along and since then we’ve had the GT3 RS and the GT2 RS, and in my mind, your mind and the mind of everyone who’s got better things to think about, they’re all the same. But it was the new GT3, which I find faintly encouraging. I’d sort of got it into my head that Porsche had redirected its entire engineering department to the business of making electrical cars for people with second homes in the Cotswold’s and hipsters in Los Angeles, and that the 911 would be allowed to wither and die.

On the face of it they haven’t done much to move things along. Take the engine. They couldn’t fit a turbocharger, obviously, because then it would be a Porsche turbo and that, to people who have more adenoids than friends, is a different thing altogether. So it’s still a naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat six that produces just ten horsepower more than it did in the old GT3. And only seven more torques. They were, however, forced by Greta Thunberg to fit all sorts of eco clobber, which added a few pounds, but they’ve shaved the odd gram here and there from the body panels and the interior and the windows so that, in total, the new cars only five kilograms heavier than the old one. This means that in terms of straight line speed the new cars no faster from 0 to 60 and tops out at an identical 198mph.

So there we are. Porsche has been so busy trying to out-Tesla Tesla that the maypole around which Porsche’s fans have danced for years has come on not one bit. Aha. But it has. Because Porsche says the new cars way faster around the Nürburgring than the old one thanks to massively improved aerodynamics. They say, for instance, that at124mph the fearsomely complicated-looking “swan neck rear wing, which can be adjusted manually by owners who really don’t have any friends, develops 50 percent more downforce than the old car. Hmm. I don’t like downforce. When I turn into a corner like to have a sense that something mechanical is in play. Being told that I can turn into the bend at150mph because an invisible elephant is sitting on the back of the car always causes both an eyebrow and my right foot to raise a little. I know from Formula One that rear wings work because I’ve seen what happens when they come off, but trusting them, for me, is like trusting God.

Happily, there are also significant changes under the car, because at the front there’s now double wishbone suspension, like you get on Porsche’s racing cars, rather than MacPherson struts. I’d imagine that to traditionalists in the Dog and Dullard this will have caused much spluttering into the Britvic. But I couldn’t really tell much difference. The steering was always very, very good on a GT3 and it still is. Another change is the fitting of a stainless-steel exhaust system and at first I thought it would drive me a bit mad because it gives off a sort of baleful and hollow sound that rises and falls with even the tiniest movement of your right foot. Weirdly, though, I grew to love it, and not just because it was a constant reminder that this Porsche has an engine. Not something from the back of a fridge. I loved the interior too.

My car had the optional PDK gearbox but the lever looked like the sort of thing you’d get in a manual. And it was the same story with the starter button, which is shaped to feel like a key. Praise should also be heaped on the sat-nav and infotainment Centre, which remains one of the easiest to use on the market. It is a bit strange, though, having a 21st-century screen and aircon and so on in front of you while just over your left shoulder there’s a hunk of scaffolding. Whoever heard of a luxury race car? It’s not a race car, though. Not really. It may have tech that was spawned on the racetrack but it still feels like a sportscar. It certainly doesn’t want to get any bigger, but despite the size this is a car you fling around with gay abandon. It’s a happy car. A whizz about and smile car. I mean this: it has more in common with a Mazda MX-5 than with a Ferrari.

There is a problem, though. The clever thing about the old GT3, which I liked and admired in equal measure, was the way it felt like a sportscar but, when you weren’t in the mood, it could settle down and behave itself. It rode beautifully, cushioning you from the slovenliness of Britain’s roadworker Johnnies. This one doesn’t. It’s fidgety and bouncy, all the time, like what we used to call a badly behaved child. Certainly, at my age, I couldn’t live with it on a daily basis, and I dread to think how harsh the forthcoming hardcore RS version will be. This means the GT3 is a weekend car, something you’ll use only when the sun is shining and the roads are right and you’re in the mood. You may think it madness to spend nearly £128,000 — and a lot more if you want wheels or seats or any of the other things on the options list — on a car you use only occasionally, but actually it could be worse. One of the men who rushed over to tell me about his new Taycan the other Friday explained he only really uses it at weekends when he’s “in the country”. Right. I see. So he’s bought an electrical eco car as a second vehicle. I think that really is the definition of insanity.

The Clarksometer: Porsche 911 GT3 992

Engine: 3996cc, 6 cylinders, petrol

Power: 503bhp @ 8400rpm

Torque: 347 Ib ft @ 6100rpm

Acceleration: 0-62mph: 3.4sec Top speed 198mph

Fuel: CO2 21.7mpg / 294g/km

Weight: 1,435kg

Price: £127,820

Jeremy’s rating: ★★★★☆