First Drive: 2010 Porsche 911 GT3

First Drive: 2010 Porsche 911 GT3

Halfway around the world, crowds gather at the Shanghai auto show to examine the curiously shaped Porsche Panamera. The first sedan in Porsche's sixty-one-year history looks like a big, stretched, hand-blown 911 - and decidedly unlike anything else on the road. The mere existence of the Panamera is a blow to Porschephiles, proof that their beloved brand's focus is slipping away. Its awkward styling is salt rubbed deep into the wound, and naysayers vilify Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking, who, as the story goes, had the roofline raised so he could fit his egomaniacal - and very tall - self in the back seat. Oh, how those purists groan.

But these cries of sorrow fall upon the deaf ears of a small group of journalists terrorizing small towns in the Swabian Alps with excessive horsepower and speed. None of them care about diesel-powered Cayennes or hunchbacked Panameras. Any talk of Porsche selling out is handily drowned out by the 8500-rpm wail of the best sports car in the world, the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3.

Of all fourteen roadgoing 911 models, the GT3 is the most potent distillate of Porsche's original mission - the ultimate everyday supercar. Let the poseurs have the Turbos; let the old men drive the base 911 Carreras and their wives the convertibles: this is the 911 that won't sit in Los Angeles traffic or idle impatiently in the sweltering South Beach heat. This is the 911 without a sunroof. It's the 911 that, above all 911s, is meant to be driven flat out.

In fact, 70 percent of GT3 buyers take their machines to the racetrack. The other thirty percent, one assumes, have just gotten lost on the back roads on the way there. The GT3, remember, is a homologation race car, and like all homologation cars, it's built for the street only so its manufacturer can take it racing. Unlike many cars with conflicting missions, it performs exceedingly well on both road and track.

The GT3's second appearance in the 997-chassis 911 includes the visual makeover that freshened the Carrera models last year. And, as in those more street-focused models, the changes aren't merely superficial. The GT3 hasn't gained an ounce, but its engine has been bored out from 3.6 to 3.8 liters. It might now be the same size as the powerplant in the Carrera S, but the only thing the two engines share are their alternators and air-conditioning compressors. The Carrera engine uses a two-piece block, whereas the GT3's is a further evolution of the race-proven GT1 flat six, which uses a separate crankcase and cylinders, seven oil pumps, and eight main bearings. It doesn't receive the directfuel injection found on the Carrera powerplant - adapting that technology to the race engine would require extra expense.

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