New 911 a world apart from the original

The 911 you can buy now is a world apart from the model that kick-started the brand. There are parallels with the man and his 40 year old sweeping brush; it's served him well over the years, only needing two new handles and three brush heads. It's still the same old brush, though.

The 911 you can buy now is a world apart from the model that kick-started the brand. There are parallels with the man and his 40 year old sweeping brush; it's served him well over the years, only needing two new handles and three brush heads. It's still the same old brush, though.

By Iain Dooley

Like the old, faithful yard brush, Porsche's 911 remains just as it was when it was first launched. Its trademark flat-six engine slung out behind the rear axle and teardrop silhouette are the only things it shares with its vintage cousin.

Over the years the 911 has grown in size and power, with the result being the car you see today. At its inception, no one could have imagined a successful racing career and the desire for increasing levels of performance and usability. But here we are, and so is the 911 GT3.

A long way from the lithe and compact original, the GT3 is possibly the best advertisement for function over form. The be-winged and be-spoilered homologation special leaves nothing to the imagination: this car is built for serious speed.

The world of homologation specials is strewn with compromise. Built to satisfy various regulations, what you race must also work on the road. And while the GT3's big wing and speed hump-scraping chin spoiler might boost downforce on the track, they only serve to promote the car's muscular potential on the road. Don't worry, there's an optional suspension lift kit to raise the car's nose when required - money well spent.

Does this make the 911 GT3 something of a chore to drive away from the track? Not a bit of it. What's refreshing is how user friendly it is; from a short trip to the shops to an epic driving adventure, the car displays a level of competence that's hard to match elsewhere at this level.

There's a reassuring familiarity when you slide down into the GT3's competition-influenced seats. Everything is where it should be, as is the case in every 911, although this car's suede-trimmed steering wheel and manual gear shifter hint at a more focused experience.

Wake the car's 3.8-litre flat-six motor and it's obvious that the GT3 is a bit special. There's more noise and a deeper growl than with other 911s, highlighting the fact that this 435bhp competition-biased engine shares little with the company's regular unit. The manual gearshift is also shorter and more direct.

On the move the GT3 reveals itself to be a surprisingly flexible machine. Dispatching the daily commute or a trip to the shops is perfectly within its reach, which is something many racecar 'specials' fail dismally at. With plenty of torque available across the rev range, the car's engine is as docile as you want it to be. Despite boasting a heady 8,500rpm redline, there's never a need to get close to even half that. And you can listen to the radio in comfort, too.

It's away from the daily grind that you'll fully appreciate the car's all-rounder nature, though. From obediently obeying a 30mph limit, you can drive straight onto a track and fully exploit all six gears, all 435 horsepower and a zero to 62mph time of 4.1 seconds.

Engine aside, key to the GT3's astonishing performance is a suspension set up that walks a fine line between satisfying the needs of track drivers and pleasing those seeking a fast road experience. Relatively speaking, the car's suspension is pleasingly compliant for something shod with beefy rubber and boasting a heavy competition bias. Pushing a button can stiffen things up for super-smooth Tarmac, an act that will have you cornering flatter and harder than you think is possible.

Factor in some excellent steel brakes - carbon ceramic items are available and worth it for the track day fans - plus a steering system offering an abundance of confidence-inspiring accuracy, feedback and weight, and it's hard not to be impressed by the car's performance and the talents of Porsche's engineers. And the noise from the car's flat-six engine is a throwback to the gritty, metallic-sounding 911s of old.

The GT3 is good on country roads, too. But you probably worked that out already. The combination of accurate steering, minimal body roll and the sophisticated suspension set up all ensure breathtakingly swift progress. Even with the clever electronic aids turned off, the GT3 is not a car to chew you up and spit you out. If you need to make any corrections the car's progressive nature gives you plenty of warning.

If you're seeking a no compromise 911 you can also use every day, this is it. There is no discussion to be had weighing up the merits of the competition, as Porsche's 911 GT3 is everything you'll need in a fast road car. End of story.

Facts at a glance

Model: Porsche 911 GT3, from 85,564.

Engine: 3.8-litre petrol engine developing 435bhp.

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 194mph, 0-62mph 4.1 seconds.

Economy: 22.1mpg.

CO2 Rating: 303g/km.