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ROAD TEST: 2014 Porsche 911 GT3

You're wasting your time driving this car in the city. A GT3 belongs on the track. In city traffic it almost sounds like a race car, rattling and growling like it wants to stall. At idle you can feel the vibration. It rides hard, even without engaging the stiffer suspension setting, and it's pretty noisy inside, especially on the highway.

By Emily Atkins

It was painful to return the keys to the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 after a 48-hour test drive. And it wasn’t simply psychic pain after spending as much of that time in the driver’s seat as possible, it hurt to stand upright. Nonetheless, this is a car I never wanted to get out of for many reasons.

On the street the GT3 stops traffic. Not that the colour matters the car is all swoop and flow gorgeous in any shade, but in Guards Red and with a rear wing big enough for a 747, it gets attention. Little boys can be counted on to point and stare, while the big ones take pictures as you drive by on the highway. It becomes a public service to slow down a tick to let them get their shot, then stomp the go-pedal to unleash the glorious roar as the car leaps forward, leaving them awash in auditory bliss. If the car itself isn’t a show-off, it soon turns its driver into one.

But you’re wasting your time driving it in the city. A GT3 belongs on the track. It’s just going through the motions at acceptable highway speeds. In city traffic the thing almost sounds like a race car, rattling and growling like it wants to stall. At idle you can feel the vibration. It rides hard, even without engaging the stiffer suspension setting, and it’s pretty noisy inside, especially on the highway.

All these attributes point to one big, glorious fact: the GT3 is a race car in street clothes.

The 3.8-litre flat six makes 475 HP and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. The only transmission available is Porsche’s truly excellent 7-speed PDK, a decision that some driving purists question, but often only until they’ve had a chance to drive it on track. The PDK is quick and smart, and for my money I’d rather have it than risk missing a shift with a manual tranny in a car this sophisticated.

The GT3 is very serious about speed and handling. With the rear-axle steering and smart suspension you can launch it through corners far faster than you’d expect and still come out with plenty of road room. The car is loaded with technology to make you go faster. And when you do need to slow it up, the giant brakes will have you slamming into your seatbelt if you’re not careful.

While all this is wonderful, the 2014 911 GT3 has been something of a problem child for Porsche. Every one of the cars built as of March 2014 (including the tester) was recalled to have the engine replaced after two GT3s caught fire. The culprit was a faulty connecting rod fastener. Some buyers who were waiting for their previously ordered cars abandoned ship and moved to a different model, hoping to get on the road more quickly.

If I were in the market, this would not deter me, however. For a car like this to start at $148,800 feels like a bargain. Its 911 Turbo S brother, starting at $208,500, makes 560HP but still only gains a three-km/h top-speed advantage and 0.4 of a second on the 0-to-100 test. Out on the track, where it matters, the GT3 will be just as much fun, or more, as it is a lighter, more nimble car.

Spooling it up on the highway is wildly exhilarating, and the hardest thing to do is lift off the gas when you see the speedo rising into the danger zone. When you know a car is capable of so much more, daily driving is actually frustrating.

The flaw in the GT3 is it’s too fancy. Do you really want, or need, to read your email and texts on a big screen while driving. Is there any music that sounds better than the scream of the flat six?

Strip away the creature comforts and stop pretending it’s a street car. You can’t really have any serious fun in it at legal highway speeds anyway, unless zooming up to the limit and braking hard, or throwing it around on-ramps is your idea of a giggle. Besides, at 130 km/h, the GT3 feels light and darty. The downforce from that massive wing won’t truly kick in until you’re well into lost license territory or pelting down a straight at the track, closing on its top track speed of 315 km/h.

The car’s just not comfortable enough to be a daily driver or road tripper. It’s a superb example of engineering that doesn’t need to be dressed up to go downtown. Just take it to the track.

Amateur race-car driver Emily Atkins has been an automotive journalist for six years, is editor of Fleet Management, Canadian Automotive Review and MM&D magazines and is a frequent contributor to Wheels. A resident of Toronto, she reviews vehicles and writes features. The vehicle she tested was provided by the manufacturer. wheels@thestar.ca

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