Last fall at a track event I got the chance to drive a Porsche 996 GT3. It left an impression on me. It wasn't the fastest or the sexiest car I've driven, but, simply, the best car I've driven. The GT3, any GT3, is just that good. Tight, connected, visceral – it's everything you want in a car. It's the most honed-in version of the most evolved car on the planet. So after writing some words about the 996 GT3, David, a Drivers Edge instructor and commenter on this very blog offered to let me try out his newer 997 GT3 RS for comparison. In the name of science, I agreed.
I went to MSRH for some slow laps in the 997 GT3 RS. It's all sort of a blur of throaty exhaust sounds and Alcantara touch surfaces, but what I've gathered is this: the 997 is much grippier in the front end than the 996 was. You don't feel the steering input just melt away the deeper you go into the throttle. The 997 feels more like a 'normal' car in this regard. It seemed (potentially due to suspension settings and whatnot) that the weightshift wasn't as dramatic or noticeable when you accelerate as it was in the 996.
The gearbox is fantastic — effortless and precise, with a firm clutch engagement. The RS uses a lighter clutch/flywheel that revs quickly and makes starting from a stop a little trickier, but easy to get the hang of. Gear selection is smooth, precise and deliciously mechanical (as oppossed to "rubbery").
I don't normally think of a 911 as very cramped, but with the steering wheel in its lowest tilt position, I kept bumping my right hand into my knee during right turns. Did I mention the wheel (as well as shifter) is covered in Alcantara? The full-size wheel is a major contrast from the go-kart wheel in a Lotus Elise or Evora. I reason that the larger diameter helps you dial with greater precision.
What else, brakes? Didn't really engage them, probably didn't even get heat in them. Grip? I got no where near pushing it, and besides — it was on Hoosier slicks! But after our slow session, David got behind the wheel for some proper laps.
I can't fully describe those laps in a way that gives them any justice, but it was the fastest I've ever gone around MSR Houston, by quite a bit. Awesomely, the speedometer on the GT3 reads in massive, 25-mph increments, and from what I could tell were on the north end of the space between the 125-mph and 150-mph notches. Seeing someone go so quickly around the track, so calmly is inspiring. He never fought the car and never made any huge corrections, which he attributed to the car's incredible communication – he could always read what the car was about to do. It was an incredibly calm series of laps, honestly, and an amazing experience.
So the previous GT3 was the best car I've ever driven, and the 997 GT3 RS is a better car than that was. Incrementally better – not really leaps and bounds. It offers more of what made the 996 GT3 so good, but it would be impossible to be disappointed with either. Still, it makes this the best car I've ever driven. And it was fantastic to see it performing at its peak.