OJAI, Calif. — California State Route 33 north of Ojai is a truly wonderful stretch of asphalt that crests a mountain range in Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County north of Los Angeles. Its miles of curving canyon roads contain plenty of sharp, tight turns that require something nimble, but there are also stretches that warrant a car with some real muscle. A small group of us were driving north from Ojai for Monterey Car Week, and I had the keys to a 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 – the perfect car for just this occasion. It’s been 20 years since the original race-bred Porsche 911 GT3 debuted. That 996.1-generation car was never sold in the United States (although we did get the refreshed model in 2004), but Porsche brought one over from its museum in Germany just for this occasion. But that wasn’t enough. Porsche also brought a PDK-equipped 2019 911 GT3, a 2019 911 GT3 RS, and the first 718 Spyder to hit American pavement. All three GT3s are the outgoing 991.2 generation. Meredith came, too. That's the name given to a blue 2013 918 Spyder that Porsche occasionally pulls out for shenanigans like this, with Hurley Haywood in tow. You might recognize the name; he’s a man with just a bit of experience behind the wheel of Porsche racing cars. Our pace up the coast was brisk, six cars playing lead-follow with a Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. Like a game of gasoline-powered musical chairs, I got seat time in everything to see just how far things have come in 20 years. With any 911, there’s a sense of familiarity from behind the wheel. There are far more buttons and knobs in the new car, and the materials are an order of magnitude nicer, but the wheel, pedals and shifter are all placed in roughly the same spot. The five-dial instrument cluster is essentially the same, too, even down to the font. I do wish the steering wheel in the 996 tilted in addition to telescoping. A long torso and fixed-back seats meant I couldn’t see the top of the tachometer. It’s more than just the seating position that feels familiar. Both cars are powered by rear-mounted naturally-aspirated flat-six engines. The 996 makes do with a 3.6-liter unit making 355 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with a 7,800-rpm redline. Named after its designer, Hans Mezger, this legendary engine is partly descended from the water-cooled engine in the 911 GT1 race car. Over the years, the engine has grown larger and more powerful. The new GT3 uses a 4.0-liter flat-six derived from more modern Porsche engines, unrelated to the earlier Mezger design, making 500 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Redline is up to an eye-watering 9,000 rpm. Power in both cars is sent solely to the rear wheels, and while the 996 makes do with a six-speed manual, the current GT3 is available with a slick shifting seven-speed PDK transmission in addition to a six-speed. …
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|MPG||19 City / 24 Hwy|
|Transmission||7-spd auto-shift man w/OD|
|Power||540 @ 6400 rpm|
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