Here’s something intuition won’t tell you: The visceral Porsche 911 GT3 with the Touring package, which mandates a manual transmission and replaces the standard GT3’s freestanding rear wing with a version of the less effective variable spoiler fitted to most of the 911 line, is actually slower than the big-wing car. Despite a 221-pound difference in downforce at their respective top speeds, the GT3 Touring, with its retractable spoiler, is less slippery and is therefore slightly slower. The top-speed difference doesn’t matter (199 versus 196 mph), but the downforce might if you’re on a track.
However, if you drive your 911 on the street more frequently than around a circuit, it’s likely that the benefits of not having the wing—not immediately being identified as a wanker by fellow motorists and improved rearward visibility—are more valuable than the downforce anyway. But that is something only you can decide. Because compromise, as Porsche once famously said on a 911 promotional poster, is for politicians. Or at least it used to be.
The GT3 for the Rest of Us
It’s worth mentioning here that the six-speed manual transmission and the spoiler are the only meaningful differences between a Touring-equipped and a standard GT3 (the latter is available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or the same six-speed manual—overall gearing differences are minuscule). A mechanical limited-slip differential, Porsche Torque Vectoring, and 20-inch wheels are still included. Black leather replaces microsuede in much of the interior, while cloth seat centers solidly locate the driver and passenger (there is no back seat in this 911). Call it a 911 R at a fat discount. Although the GT3 is available new, the ship has sailed on the 2016 911 R, the limited-edition model originally priced at $185,950 that quickly shot to up to five times that amount on the aftermarket.
But we digress. The soul of the GT3 remains its naturally aspirated 500-hp 4.0-liter flat-six. Touring package cars can be ordered with carbon-ceramic brake rotors, the front-axle lift system, and most of the 911’s outsize list of options. Among the few options you can’t get with the Touring is the Clubsport package, which includes a roll cage but isn’t offered in the United States anyway.
Look carefully and you’ll see that the GT3’s variable spoiler isn’t exactly the same as the one found on a humdrum 911 Carrera. Fitted to its rearmost edge is a Gurney flap (rest his soul) that helps its effectiveness. In addition, the variable spoiler’s deployed angle is increased from 15 degrees on the Carrera coupe to 20 degrees on the GT3 Touring.
Those top-speed downforce numbers, because we know you care, are as follows: GT3 Touring, 110 pounds; GT3, 331 pounds. And although the downforce delta at warp speed is significant, that gap shrinks at lower velocities such that at 120 mph—and how much time do you spend there, really?—the GT3 Touring makes 44 pounds of downforce versus the bewinged model’s 132. For comparison, a standard 911 Carrera at its 183-mph top speed produces a small amount of lift.
The GT3 Touring’s spoiler raises automatically at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph. It can be raised manually using a button on the center console—supposedly for cleaning but more often deployed by those opting to wear a dork cap for a while.
All of this is the long way of saying that the GT3 Touring is the discreet GT3—one loaded with sub-triple-digit thrills equal to those delivered by its more track-oriented sibling. If the monotony of Porsche price hikes has grown old for you, here’s something as rare as seeing fairies mate: Porsche isn’t asking a premium for the Touring. It exists as a zero-cost option on the $146,350 manual-equipped GT3. (Dual-clutch-equipped GT3s have a cheaper gas-guzzler tax, so the effective option price is $700.) Expect to see both versions in showrooms this spring. Contact your friendliest dealer immediately if you hope to get one at anything near sticker price.