I have a problem.
I’m the type of person who feels supremely self-conscious public, especially when sat in cars of the conspicuous type. I much rather be driving in something totally non-descript and blend in with the rest of the traffic. Unfortunately that ethos goes completely against the wonts of car enthusiasts, where the automobiles we love and adore are by default atypical to the masses of drab family sedans and sports utility vehicles. The whole point is to stand out, a double-edged sword for me due to my innate introvert tendencies.
The cars I’ve owned previously have certainly not helped the cause.
A Subaru WRX STI immediately assault the senses with its giant wing spoiler planted on the rear trunk. Thanks to the Fast and Furious franchise, the common folks have been conditioned to look at these (some would say) needless appendages with at best, mild scorn, at worst, great disdain. The STI’s giant rear wing is a signaling device, letting others on the road know that the driver of this car have a high chance of being an abrasive asshole. The STI’s exhaust note doesn’t help things, either: the classic boxer rumble may sound sweet to my ears, but it’s loud and obnoxious to others, and coincidently operates at just the correct noise frequency to trip many a car alarm whenever I drove through a parking lot.
Then I went and bought a convertible, which is even worse for my condition: I’m entirely exposed to the elements, and more devastatingly, the prying and judgmental eyes of other drivers. A Mazda MX-5 Miata innately stands out as a tiny sports car in a sea of SUV monstrosities, and with the top down, it really grabs attention. I was so conscious of outside people that I made sure to not play music over a certain volume threshold when the top was down, otherwise risk disturbing their sensibilities, or worse, they might criticize my love for Korean pop music.
My stress had reached an apex where towards the latter half of ownership, I hardly ever went open-air in the MX-5. The convertible top was my shield against the world.
I must be a sick masochist then because now we arrived at my current vehicle, the central topic of this vertical: the Porsche 911 GT3. For someone who very much wishes to escape into the anonymity of traffic, the 991 is just about the closest antithesis, short of buying something exotic from Italy. People are going to notice me in the Porsche, and short of parking it long term and never putting on miles, it’s a challenge I have to deal with.
I’ve read that to conquer your fears you must face them head on; I can’t afford a Lamborghini Huracan, so the GT3 will have to suffice as the medium. So what’s it like driving around in public in a junior supercar?
It’s been said the Porsche 911 is the gentleman’s sports car, the one to buy if standing out in a crowd is not your taste. The iconic shape that’s been with us for nearly six decades have entered into the public’s subconscious, whereby you wouldn’t particularly notice if one drove by. Indeed a wedge-shaped Ferrari more readily stands out, not only because it’s likely to be painted in a shade of rosso (as it should, honestly), but of its relative rarity compared to the legions of similar-looking 911s sold over the years. On every drive I am bound to encounter another 911 on the road; any model of Ferrari? Not so much.
The incognito sports car theory may apply to “regular” variants of the 911, but from my albeit still brief experience, it certainly does not apply to the GT3. Firstly, buying a copy that isn’t painted in a shade of silver, black, or white portends great noticeability when mixed within traffic, and Sapphire Blue Metallic simply gleams in the sunshine after an appropriate detail job. It’s definitely not to the eye-catching (and searing) levels of a Racing Yellow, but because American consumers have no sense of color taste for their cars beyond the fifty shades of grayscale, a shiny blue thing absolutely stands out.
Though even had I bought the car in black, the GT3’s exhaust note gives away any hope of stealth. It’s a very loud car, not in an obnoxious way, mind you, but to the average person there probably isn’t any difference between the sound from one of the best atmospheric engines ever produced and a 90’s era Honda Civic with an extra-large fart can exhaust attached. Loud is loud, and even without the sports setting activated for the exhaust, the GT3 announces its arrival quite succinctly. Sometimes I wish for a more hushed setting for those early morning getaways or late night returns; no need to let the neighbors know of my itinerary.
The car makes other sounds, too, that a normal car wouldn’t. Again, to me they sound delicious in a very motorsport fashion, but to the laymen, utility and reason is utterly lost. The superior brakes are mighty in stopping the GT3, but they squeal with delight as I approach a traffic intersection. The PDK gearbox is ferociously quick in full attack mode, but around town it clunks and chatters as if something is broken internally. Moving from a stop can be quite a noisy event should my right foot be of overly adequate assistance: with a bit too much input the car will lurch and engine revs will spike, as if a beginner is just learning how to drive a manual car.
It may be an iconic silhouette, but from the outside it’s immediately obvious the GT3 is no ordinary 911. The front and rear fascia is wholly different from the standard car, and far more aggressive. Then there’s the rear wing; not nearly as arresting as the unit on the STI, but it’s in-your-face all the same. It certainly gets in my face: as previously written, the GT3’s rear spoiler sits directly in the center of the already tiny aperture out of the rear windscreen, allowing entire cars to hide behind me, unnoticed.
The car’s miniscule ground clearance is also cause for potential embarrassment: look at this idiot weaving on the road (to avoid potholes) and taking slight inclines at an extreme angle and at such a slow pace, too (to avoid scraping the front lip spoiler).
Needless to say, the GT3 is a super obvious car, more so than the STI or the Miata, and it’s something I had to learn to deal with as I immediately become the center of attention everywhere I go.
To my great surprise, other cars on the road are quite friendly towards the Porsche, perhaps an acknowledge of the GT3’s speed potential. On the local mountain roads I’ve driven on for years, never before have the mundane cars in front me be so eager to yield position at the earliest turnout opportunity. The stubborn few who aren’t so nice are quickly dispatched with as soon as we reach a straight bit of road (with suitable passing lines, of course). On local city roads, other drivers give me an equally wide berth, which is lovely, I have to say.
It seems that while the 911 GT3 absolutely stands out in a crowd, the general opinion towards 911 drivers skew very positive. The lack of antagonism from other drivers sure is a nice feeling, and it does alleviate a good deal of my social anxiety. I certainly don’t feel like a jackass driving it, which contrasts with say driving any BMW, or a Nissan Altima. Indeed, the model of car you drive have an influence – good or bad - towards how other drivers on the road perceive you. Fair or unfair, the human mind loves these sort of mental shortcuts to quickly judge a situation. It’s about survival: if I see an Altima coming up rapidly behind in the rear-view mirror, I am for sure moving the heck out of the way.
So I’m happy the GT3 has an overall positive effect on others, and while I didn’t buy the car for that purpose, it’s always nice boost to the ego when I get thumbs-up from others on the road. I’ve also seen pedestrians take out their phones for a quick photograph, and one time returning to the parked car after grocery shopping, I “caught” a middle-aged couple posing in front of the car for pictures.
In that perspective, the good response from others have certainly helped my stress of being in public and not blending in. The work to lessen that stress continues on, and the GT3 provides a solid training ground. My anxiety gets to its most acute at a busy gas station, with me standing next to the car, waiting for the pump to fill the relatively enormous 23-gallon tank. While plenty of people in my shoe would feel a sense of “look at me” pride, I’m merely counting down the seconds until I can get in the car and disappear again.
Like I said, a work in progress. Do you have similar introversion and public aversion? Buy a junior supercar!
As expected, the amount of mileage this month is down dramatically due some expectedly busy weekends. It’s just as well because California gas prices have gone insane, and not having to fill up too many times with 91-octane at $4.50 is a relief. In fact I only filled up once during May, the fewest in a month since I bought the car.
For one of those busy weekends I flew to Dallas for my good friend’s graduation, and I’d be remised if I didn’t make a comment on how vastly cheaper gasoline is in the great State of Texas, by nearly two dollars compared to communist California. Not to mention the highest octane available in Texas – and most other sane States in America – is 93. Just once I wish I could feed the GT3 the optimal quality of gas and have a go in it with the engine at its best potential. There’s a few stations here in California that sells 100-octane, though if I’m grumbling about gas prices at four dollars, I’m not about to then fill up with super high octane at nearly 10 for a gallon.
With such low miles this month, there wasn’t much new revelation to be had with the GT3. Even on the occasions I took the car out, I only had the time to do a few highway runs. It was more for the purposes of not letting the car sit, rather than going out to enjoy and explore. Which explains why I’ve finally managed to beat the EPA estimate for miles-per-gallon (city) month, a somewhat dubious achievement for the type of car a 911 GT3 is and represents.
In city driving, I have come to really appreciate the abilities of rear-wheel steering. Purist may bemoan a loss of absolute clarity to chassis dynamics with these helper devices, though I lack any point of reference because one I’ve yet to sample a different 911 variant, and two the GT3 is fitted with rear-wheel steer as standard. What I can readily benefit from the system is how it shortens the turning circle of the car; the amount of maneuverability is similar to the far smaller MX-5 I had previously. For the purposes of ease in navigating tight urban spaces, the GT3’s rear-wheel steer is a brilliant feature.
In the same vein of the rear-end doing something counter to the front, on a particular drive on a rainy day I found out the car will allow for quite a bit of slip angle even with the traction and stability systems left on. Coming out of corner I inadvertently got overly familiar with the gas pedal, and the rear-end lit up in response, leading to some rapid counter-steer movements before the car straightened back up again. To my surprise there were no traction lights flashing the dash, it was all just me.
Like a long and engaging novel, it’s going to take some time for me to be completely comfortable in the GT3; I’m still on the first chapter, as it goes.
Lastly I have say the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are fairly decent in the wet, more so than I’d expected when I initially bought the car. The GT3 isn’t nearly the handful I thought it would be in the rain, given that the Cup 2 rubber is as close to a track-focused tire possible without heading into full slicks territory – and not street legal. The immense grip in the dry is well-known, and I’m looking forward to accessing those reserves now that our region is finally heading into the dry months. I reckon I’ll still make the switch over to slightly less extreme Pilot Sport 4 tires when the Cup 2s are worn down, though I can’t be definitive until I cross that bridge.
Date acquired: January 2019
Total mileage: 26,449
Mileage this month: 288
Costs this month: $371.84
MPG this month: 16.6 mpg