DUSSELDORF, Germany – As I get the signal to start an acceleration and braking test, my left foot is firmly pressing the brake pedal, and I'm about to blast off using the 911 GT3's launch control feature. It's actually pretty easy to activate: just press the SPORT PLUS drive mode button, keep your foot on the brake, stomp the gas pedal and let go of the brake when the driver information centre confirms the system has been triggered.
During the next few seconds, I feel adrenaline rush through my veins as the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3's naturally-aspirated, 3.8L flat-six engine shrieks, the rear tires burn a layer of rubber against the asphalt and I shoot forward as if I've been clobbered in the butt by Thor's hammer.
I'm firmly strapped up to the sport bucket seat, but my brain isn't, clinging to the headrest with its fingers slipping as its feet are flying in the air. At the end of the straight, two rows of cones approach faster than kids around an incoming ice cream truck; I slam on the brakes – which include ceramic, cross-drilled discs, no less – and the car stops on a dime as my brain gets body-slammed back into my skull.
The only things I succeeded in doing during that exercise was the keep the car going straight, and belching out a swear word so loudly that I basically ruined my fellow journalist passenger's attempt to film the launch with his smartphone.
Simply put, the 911 GT3 is a street-legal race car with a luxury-car cockpit. Sure, a 911 Turbo is more powerful and slightly quicker off the line, but this car is special. Without the help of turbochargers, its engine spins to 9,000 rpm, produces 475 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque while being managed by the company's seven-speed PDK automated gearbox with paddle shifters, but with shorter ratios. No manual is offered.
It's a little heavier than a base 911 Carrera, but lighter than a 911 Turbo. Porsche figures the GT3 can hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 3.5 seconds. Knowing that their performance numbers are generally conservative, the car could be quicker still. It feels mind-blowingly fast.
Unlike the Turbo and Turbo S variants, the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 is rear-wheel drive, although it is fitted with rear-axle steering for increased agility on a track or a winding country road. This car sure can handle itself on a track.
And that's where we all-too-briefly sampled the GT3. The Aldenhoven Testing Center, located about 45 minutes southwest of Dusseldorf, is comprised of multiple different sections for evaluating vehicles, including a dynamics area, a handling track and an oval circuit with banked curves. We used the latter to test the car's acceleration and braking prowess, but the real treat behind the wheel of the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 obviously was the handling course.
Now, I'm no race car driver, but there's no denying that the GT3, driven back-to-back with the 911 Turbo and Turbo S versions, was the most comfortable circling around the very tight and tire-challenging circuit. It's a beast, but actually feels civilized and unintimidating, as long as you keep your limits as a pilot in mind. According the Porsche – and using our own common sense – the car's longer wheelbase and wider rear track improve its handling and stability.
Visually, you can spot a 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 from its less extreme sisters by its slightly reshaped nose, a curb-scraping spoiler lip, a slim air inlet at the base of the trunklid, outside mirrors with v-shaped bases, central dual tailpipes as well as centre-lock alloy wheels. And let's not forget that douchebag-y rear wing that adds downforce during high-speed driving.
So, here's a race car you can actually drive to the track. What's not to like? A few things, actually.
Fuel consumption around town is rated at 18.9 L/100km. I know I'm missing the point here, but that's about 35% more liquid gold than in a 560-hp 911 Turbo S. A race-car suspension may be cool on a track, but driving around town should be pretty tiring. If you're out on a stroll and it starts raining, the factory performance tires – 245/35ZR20 up front, 305/30ZR20 at the rear – will likely feel like they were dipped in Astroglide.
It's priced from $148,800, and includes a cockpit trimmed up like just about any other 911. The steering wheel is wrapped in grippy Alcantara, and there are no audio or cruise control buttons mounted on it to distract you from driving. Alcantara also dresses up the shift lever, the doors, the roofliner and portions of the heavily-bolstered, power-adjustable leather sport seats.
A CD player with a seven-inch touchscreen is standard, while a Porsche Communication Management system is available, adding navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and a jukebox hard drive.
There aren't going to be many units of the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 on the Canadian market, so buying one at retail price – let alone finding one in the first place – will be tough. At the same time, rarity means exclusivity, and those lucky few who get their hands on a GT3 will likely cherish their ride dearly. I strongly suggest you track this car, or else it would be a total waste on public roads; if you're looking at a GT3 just to cruise around town and draw attention, shame on you.
Come to think of it, I'd probably do the same.