Autocar’s Richard Bremner has pitted the Porsche 996 GT3 against the recently-upgraded Porsche Cayman S in a new versus used test.
The Cayman will cost you £45,499 before options, while a 1999-2005 GT3 can be had from £35,000 for a Mk1 and £45k for a tidy Mk2. Both are unadulterated driver’s cars, both robust enough for regular road and track use and both sufficiently desired that their depreciation curves are navigable without too much pain.
The GT3 Bremner sampled was a well-kept Comfort version belonging to Nigel von Tunzelman. It is from the second batch of 996 GT3s, with 376bhp rather than the 355bhp of the first series, but either way you’re getting a car more special than those extreme spoilers imply. The key is its engine, this water-cooled flat six based on the unit used for the turbocharged 1998 Le Mans-winning GT1.
The GT3 may be a classic in waiting, but so is the latest Cayman S. Its new 3.4-litre, direct-injection flat six now delivers 316bhp rather than its predecessor’s 261bhp, it rides on slightly wider tyres and the power steering map has been altered slightly.
It instantly scores over the 996 with a classier, tidier and quieter cabin, although road roar from the optional 19in tyres sometimes drowns out the radio. The Cayman is more surprising for its sheer get-up-and-go pace, which is mighty impressive for what, in the end, is a lower-order Porsche.
B-roads are the recommended habitat for the GT3 if you’re not slaying seconds on circuits. It will cruise motorways happily enough and has the pace to shrink them massively, but for demon thrills to get you addicted, find a swooping open road, spin the yowling six beyond 4500rpm and learn all about the magic of weapons-grade 911s.
Given that one of these Porsches is almost a racer, you might expect its running costs to make you wince, but Specialist Cars of Malton says the GT3’s servicing outlays are as for the standard 996: an intermediate service costs £210, the 12k £240 and the 24k £430.
The Cayman’s costs are the same, if spread over longer intervals of 10k, 20k and 40k, but the GT3 will probably cost usefully less to own overall, despite its pricier appetites for fuel and brake pads, because depreciation will be low.
Its values are buoyed by limited supply – Porsche sold only 193 Mk1 996 GT3s and 221 Mk2s – so the GT3 the shrewder buy financially. You could just about live with it as a daily car as well, in return for huge occasional driving highs.
But this car is best enjoyed in the way Porsche intended, as a track-day missile and entertainment toy. If you’re a multi-car household and can afford it, buy now. But if your choice must be your daily driver, it has to be the Cayman S. Its scope for combining practicality with the capacity to thrill is near unrivalled at this price.
Read the full article in this week's Autocar magazine, which is on sale now.