GT3 Diaries

February 2019: full wets required

My first month of GT3 ownership can be best summed up with one word: rain. California has been seasonably (or unseasonably, considering the drought conditions of the past few years) wet during February, and it has really put a damper on my ability put miles on the 911.

No, I’m not one of those sports car owners who can’t bear the thought of heading outside when there’s even a hint of precipitation. I bought the GT3 to drive the heck out of it, with absolutely zero concerns for resale-value or keeping things pristine. So then why did the seasonal rain restrain that progress?

It’s the tires.

Produced with an ethos of a track-focused sports car, the GT3 comes fitted from the factory with super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. These particular rubbers may be spectacular on a hot piece of tarmac, but they are hilariously inadequate in the wet, especially when the mercury dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Practically a semi-slick tire, the Cup 2s lack the typical sipes that wick away water from the tread surface, therefore driving on them during proper downpours is best avoided.

Unfortunately, four of the five weekends since I bought the car in January have seen proper downpours. While I can simply swap out the Cup 2s out for a set Pilot Sport 4S tires, having just dropped over six-figures for the GT3 itself, not wearing down the Cup 2s completely before replacement probably isn’t financially wise (as if buying the car, is).

Sadly, not nearly as many miles as I had hoped for in the first month of ownership.

Moving on to the unpleasant matter of insurance. At about $300 a month, I have to say the GT3 is surprisingly less costly to insure than I had expected. Obviously it is still fabulously expensive, rightly so given the price of the vehicle, and the fact I am a single male in my early 30s living in San Francisco – the congestion capital of America. Far too many inattentive drivers, and far too much property crime on parked cars around these parts.

The insurance premium includes the stipulation that I don’t commute with GT3 on weekdays (I take public transit) – it’s strictly a weekend pleasure vehicle. So for the privilege of piloting a 911 for only the eight weekend days out of a typical month, it costs three times more than a brand new, daily-driven Mazda MX-5 to insure. Lovely.

I mean, none of this was ever going to be inexpensive.

And that includes the cost of fuel. Before purchasing the GT3 I went nine months without owning a car, so it was jarring to have to pay attention to gas prices again whenever I pass by a station. As expected, the car returned horrendous mileage numbers: in February I averaged 14.9 miles-per-gallon. The GT3 is rated at 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, which relatively speaking isn’t that bad for a 475 horsepower, non-turbo sports car. Obviously I didn’t buy such a machine to be obsessed with excellent gas mileage; it’s simply something fun to keep track of.

The GT3 feels special to drive at all speeds, whether stuck in San Francisco’s inexplicable weekend traffic, or bombing it down my preferred local mountain road (Highway 35). The car offers an incredible sense of occasion, the sort of vibe and fizzy feeling that only the most special of cars provide. I don’t suppose it’ll ever get old and stale: every time I slide into the driver seat, I fight bouts of disbelief that I actually own this effervescent machine.

And that specialness seeps outwards from the GT3, affecting other drivers and pedestrians around. A normal 911 is an incognito sports car, but the GT3 is an absolute extrovert, even when cloaked in subtler hues like my Sapphire Blue sample. The loud, motorsport rumble of the flat-six engine, the roar from the sports exhaust, and the unapologetic mechanicalness of the PDK gearbox; all announcing to the outside world that this is not a typical car. The GT3 does do blending in with traffic well, unless there’s also a Lamborghini.

As mentioned, much of February was a rained-out, and in conjunction with the cold weather, opportunities to the exploit the GT3’s renowned capabilities were severely blunted. Getting the Michelin Cup 2s up to operating temperature was near impossible, and any sort of standing water leftover from the rain caused the car to hydroplane unresponsively. There was nary a chance to explore the limits of the car.

Even so, I can sense the GT3’s limits will take quite some time and courage to fully suss out. The car’s front-end grip seems endless, and because it stays supremely flat when cornering, it’s up to me to gather enough confidence to push increasingly harder into a turn. The steering response is phenomenal, changing direction with an immediacy and accuracy that’s close to telepathic. Steering feel is superb; the wheel dancing delightfully in my hands to the undulations and imperfections of the road surface. It can’t match the last bit of tactile sensation with the hydraulic unit on my old WRX STI, but for an electrically assisted system, it’s darn close to faultless.

With the rear tires constantly struggling for traction on damp roads, the only proper exercise I gave to the GT3 is with the sublime engine. The atmospheric 3.8-liter flat-six indeed lives up to all hype and expectations; if the GT3 were only its engine, and all its handling prowess was for naught, it would still be worth every penny of the admission price. The achingly wondrous howl as the tach needle races towards the 9,000rpm limiter is an experience I wish I can savor forever. The GT3’s engine is the soul of the car, the party trick that makes me giggle foolishly every single time. 

True agony is the waiting period before the engine oil is up to temperature, blocking me from pushing the needle towards the fun portions of the tachometer. The beautiful joy of punching it out of a corner, listening to the motor’s sweet upward crescendo, and then looking down at the instruments to see the engine is only at 6,000 rpm, with 3,000 more revs to go. If turbochargers and electric power are the future of automobiles, this motor in the GT3 is one heck of a send-off for atmospheric induction.

Then there’s the automatic gearbox. I’ve always been a manual transmission zealot, but the dual-clutch PDK in the GT3 have turned me to the dark side; it is so good. The shift speed is sensational, impossibly immediate and free of mechanical drama. Downshifts are crisp and rev-matched to perfection. It can all be manually controlled by the driver, using either the PDK lever or the steering wheel paddles. For all intents and purposes the PDK is a manual gearbox with the computer operating the clutch. It retains a few true manual attributes. too: the car doesn’t move unless you give it throttle, and it rolls backwards on inclines.

I was irreparably hooked from the first time I performed a wide-open throttle gear change at redline. The shift was astonishingly quick, yet my foot remained flat to the pedal, and the exhaust bellowed a quick satisfying ‘whomp’ to signal the changeover. It’s an event a manual transmission can’t hope to replicate. Also cannot be beat is the PDK’s ability to equally function like a true automatic. Manual purists can call me all the names they want: it’s super nice and comfortable to have the GT3 do all the shifting for me when I’m sat in traffic.

Enough with waxing positive - it’s a 911 GT3: It had better be good, right? Let’s nitpick about some of the negatives I have found. No car is perfect, and as you live with one for extended periods, annoyances and quirks that weren’t noticeable during the test drive will certainly crop up.

The GT3’s extremely low ride height is just on the margins of useable. On only the second day of ownership, I’ve already crushed the front lip spoiler on a concrete parking curb (read the story here). Any driveway or speed-bumps have the potential to ruin my afternoon, so apologies to the cars following behind me, because really, I do need to slow down this much.

I’m sure the fixed rear wing does superb aerodynamic alchemy to keep the tail-end of the car planted, but it’s located at a rather awkward spot. Looking at it from the rear-view mirror, the spoiler is right in the middle of the rear window. Cars behind me at a certain distance is completely blocked from my view. It’s no wonder the wing got raised to a higher position on the 991.2 GT3s.

Relating to the wing obstructing the view out back, it’s baffling that a car with an original MSRP of nearly $145,000 does not come with a backup camera. It’s not even an available option, because the GT3 is considered a track car, and fitting cameras and sensors for superfluous stuff like parking needlessly adds weight as is therefore sacrilege. I am only sort of joking: Porsche is a company that famously uses a sticker instead of a badge on their RS cars to save those last extra few grams.

Reversing the car during parking maneuvers is interesting to say the least.

For whatever reason, the back portion of the rear wheel-well is completely open; there are no inner fender covers. I thought the piece was missing when I looked through it the first time and saw the exhaust system instead of a typical liner. A quick online search informed me that’s how it is from the factory. Aesthetically it doesn’t bother me, but the GT3’s rear tires are a foot wide, and when rocks and gravel inevitably get kicked up onto the exhaust tin-work, the responding noise is not pleasant at all.

I’ve only had the GT3 for a little over a month, so it’s still very much the honey moon phase. That said, I’ve no doubts the decision to purchase this car was the correct one. The 991 GT3 is a stunningly special, once in a generation sports car, and I’m too fortunate to get own one

As we head towards Spring and warmer weather, I look forward to truly testing the capabilities of this car. 2nd gear pulls in a straight line are extremely fun, but the GT3 is made to tackle corners. Let’s get this rain over with, please.


Date acquired: January 2019
Total mileage: 24,685
Mileage this month: 910
Costs this month: $763.39
MPG this month: 14.9 mpg