2007 Porsche 911 GT3

Riding low to the ground on one-piece, nineteen-inch aluminum wheels, the GT3 oozes the bad-boy cool of a channeled custom, and what with all the ducts-for brake cooling, ram-air engine intake, and aerodynamic efficiency-it carries more scoops than an ex-hippie manning the counter at Ben & Jerry's. The adjustable rear wing, meanwhile, is big enough to turn heads at a NOPI import drag race. Porsche claims the integrated Gurney flap generates 55 pounds of downforce. The only problem is that you have to be sailing along at a speed of at least 186 mph to suck up every last ounce.

The cockpit layout is standard 911, which is to say smart, stylish, and comfortable, tastefully upgraded with Alcantara for the steering wheel, gearshift lever, and assorted interior surfaces. Air-conditioning, a CD player, and six air bags are standard; a nav system is optional. The carbon-fiber seats (and bolt-in roll cage) won't be offered in the States, but, frankly, the highly supportive standard seats make more sense for everything short of track-day shenanigans.

The ignition key is in the standard Porsche location, left of the steering column, but I realize something's up as soon as I crank it. Not only is the engine throatier than usual, but it also idles with a dragster stumble. To withstand the stresses of racing, each cylinder head is cast integrally with three cylinders, then bolted to a split crankcase housing an eight-bearing crank. Racing applications also justify dry-sump lubrication and exotic weight-saving components-titanium rods, forged pistons, sodium-filled valves, and hollow-cast camshafts.

The progressive clutch makes pulling away from stoplights a snap, and the car is docile in traffic. The ride is harsh even with the PASM set to soft, but it's by no means a deal breaker. At 4200 rpm, the engine note abruptly changes character from domesticated animal to feral beast as the butterflies open in the trick exhaust and route gases directly to the muffler. From there to the 8400-rpm redline, the GT3 just pulls and pulls and pulls and pulls. The super-short ratios of the transmission add to the racing-car sensation. The slightly notchy six-speed manual-the sequential gearbox is reserved for the race model-requires authoritative inputs, but it's perfect for high-speed work. Porsche claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds and 0 to 100 mph in 8.7 seconds, and I'm a believer.

During a brief joy ride along the serpentine mountain roads outside Verona, I realize that the feel of the gearbox is symptomatic of the GT3's personality. This is a car that demands a firm hand, that goes better when it's driven harder. At five-tenths, it's just an expensive conveyance. But as you approach the limit, it hunkers down and corners with astonishing aplomb. The bliss quotient rises even higher when I punch the Sport button, which not only recalibrates the dampers to racetrack stiffness but also boosts engine output by 14 hp and 11 lb-ft of torque.

But public roads aren't the right place to wring out a car, and neither is a makeshift autocross circuit. Fortunately, I get a thrill ride on the Adria racetrack with R"hrl, who calmly slides the GT3 around hairpins, bounces over curbs, and generally has his way with the car. The big surprise is that he doesn't bother to turn off the traction control system, which folds automatic brake cifferential, automatic slip control, and engine drag control into a single unit. "The car has so much grip that it doesn't really make a difference," he claims.

Even with R"hrl at the wheel, the GT3 isn't as precise and transparent as a racing car. But it's a formidable track-day weapon out of the box. Besides PASM, the GT3 is designed to permit dozens of mechanical suspension adjustments, and gear ratios can be swapped with relative ease. "Three-quarters of our GT3 customers say they use their cars on a regular basis for track days and club events," Kristen explains.

And honestly, that's what the GT3 is built for. On the street, it lacks the visual drama and cultural cachet to justify the premium over a run-of-the-mill 911. Only on the racetrack can it express itself. And it won't be too shabby getting you there and back.

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