Today, the first GT3 seems a little conservative, but at the time Porsche wasn’t sure how such a car would be received. In fact, the GT3 sold out almost at once. Soon there would be no limit to the extent of thefirm’s ambitions for its new GT sub-brand.
Porsche 996 GT3
0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 190mph; Kerb weight 1350kg; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3600cc, petrol; Power 355bhp at 7200rpm; Torque 273lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
Three generations of the Porsche 911 GT3 tested
The worst - 996 GT2 (2001)
It seems a trifle churlish to call any Porsche GT car ‘the worst’ at anything, but the first water-cooled GT2 (let us not forget the rare and scintillatingly scary air-cooled 993 GT2 of 1995) was the least satisfying to drive and the most flawed.
It didn’t lack power, even though the 456bhp delivered by its twin-turbo 3.6-litre engine is bested today by the normally aspirated 991 GT3. What was missing was focus, which seems a strange thing to say about any car sporting a GT2 badge.
But it was true. For all its performance and hunkered-down looks, the GT2 was a touch too civilised for its own good. It didn’t sound as good as we’d hoped and it was surprisingly comfortable, which would have been fine had the car been a hero on the track.
But it wasn’t. It was tricky, and not in the finely balanced, edge-of-oversteer way of some of the more challenging 911s, but the slightly too soft, imprecise, will-it-won’t-it way of a 911 on compromised suspension settings with rather too much turbo lag and not enough throttle response.
Porsche 996 GT2
0-62mph 4.1sec; Top speed 196mph; Kerb weight 1440kg; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3600cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 456bhp at 5700rpm; Torque 457b ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
The fastest - 997 GT2 RS (2010)
Porsche will tell you sub-optimal track conditions are the only reason why its brand-new GT3 RS has not yet posted a faster Nürburgring lap time than the 997 GT2 RS. Be that as it may, right now the GT2 RS remains the quickest road-going production Porsche GT car and, by some margin, the maddest.
Porsche never intended it to have 611bhp, but the race engine was happy to take it. The effect of such an output was impressive, but nothing like as memorable as that resulting from 516lb ft at 2500rpm fed to the rear wheels alone. The resulting car was a pure weapon, frightening to those who understood what it was capable of and dangerous to those who did not.
So overwhelming was its character and so vast its performance that it became perhaps the first turbocharged Porsche with a claim to being an even greater driver’s car than its normally aspirated equivalent. But one question remains: how does Porsche follow an act like that? We await to see the answer with breath duly bated.
Porsche 997 GT2 RS
0-62mph 3.5sec; Top speed 205mph; Kerb weight 1370kg; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 611bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 516b ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
Porsche 911 GT3 RS versus McLaren 675LT
The best - 997 GT3 RS 4.0 (2011)
The greatest version of the world’s greatest sports car? We would say so. Just 600 examples of the 4.0-litre GT3 RS were built, complete with a 493bhp power output, and most customers needed to show that they’d owned at least three GT3s before having a hope of being offered one.
At the time, it was the final farewell to a dozen years of GT cars based on the 996/997 platform, a car intended to be the last GT3 with a manual gearbox, although we’re pleased to report that Porsche is having second thoughts about that. Boasting a unique aerodynamic package, rose-jointed suspension and an RSR crankshaft, it didn’t merely look like a racing car; it very nearly was one.
And yet it still did that other stuff GT3s do so well, such as making the journey from home to the track bearable. Except that it did it better; the real difference provided by that blue-blooded engine was not the additional power but the muscular mid-range torque. It made the car easier to balance, easier to skid and easier just to drive along a normal road.
It was an essential distillation of all that was good about those GT cars - one £128,000 concentrated shot of GT goodness. Except that they cost rather more these days. Finding one is hard enough, but nothing like as hard as locating the £350,000 likely to be required to secure it.
Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0
0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 193mph; Kerb weight 1435kg; Engine 6 cyls horizontally opposed, 3996cc, petrol; Power 493bhp at 8250rpm; Torque 339b ft at 5750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
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