Balancing Life’s Highs and Lows with a Porsche 911 GT3 Touring
It all began on a Friday morning at Good Vibes Breakfast Club (GVBC) at Newcomb’s Ranch in the Angeles National Forest.
Balance is a serial habit of existence. Subconsciously or consciously, you’re balancing your head on your shoulders, finding the right work-to-relaxation ratio, and managing optimism with reality. The world balances itself, too, completely independent of me or my intentions. This was apparent when, after I recently drove my friend’s 991 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring, life found its way to balance that transcendent experience with some real humility.
It all began on a Friday morning at Good Vibes Breakfast Club (GVBC) at Newcomb’s Ranch in the Angeles National Forest. I brought my GTI Six Iron, up to the mountain because my new-to-me ZHP has a steering issue that I’m fixing (more on that in another piece). Though my GTI is from 2010, it still uses an old-fashioned key that I have attached to an OHOAT keychain of a Porsche 964 wearing Princess Diana’s “I Am A Luxury Few Can Afford” sweater.
Anyways, I had an OK drive in Six Iron going up the crest. Mainly “OK” because I saw two separate dudes that binned their cars off of the winding Angeles Crest Highway in spectacular fashion; always a quick way to make me slow down. I always take those sorts of omens at face value. I did not want to be that schmuck on the side of ACH.
I saw my friends at GVBC, hung out for a while, and finally sprung the question to my GT3 Touring owning friend about driving his machine, something he offered to me a while ago but I never pressed the question. He said yes, though he needed to get going so he offered me a slight modification: I drive the Touring for a few miles down towards Los Angeles and a friend follows to take me back to my car. Done deal.
I’m normally an even sort of personality and rarely lose composure from sheer excitement, but having the Porsche-shaped Miami Blue keys in my hand was one of those moments. I’ve been lucky enough to own and drive some cool and weird machinery, but as somebody who grew up riding in Hondas and taking the bus this was a different level. Even a year ago, an opportunity to drive a supercar like this felt as distant as the stars. Though my legs shook with the weight of my anticipation, my brain had to sidebar into one dumb thought once I settled into the low seat of the Porsche.
“Key’s on the left, bruh.”
The Touring came to life with the classic 991 GT3 throttle blip-and-settle cold start. Looking around the cabin, I almost felt like I was out of my own body, like I was spending another longing night watching Youtube videos of my favorite journalists reviewing 911Rs and this very model of GT3. Yet, there I was, about to feel a car I could identify by its exhaust note for the first time.
Clutch takeup felt surprisingly light but only relative to what I expected. It’s a medium-light sort of weight, with an intuitive grab point and decent feel over a medium-length travel. It’s about as nice as it gets, and the same could be said about the shifter. It’s absolutely perfect, better than anything I’ve ever felt.
The large round knob has a good weight to it, and the throws are absolute perfection. They’re the apex of weight, notch, directness, length, and mechanical precision. It feels as if the fulcrum of the shifter is directly beneath the shift boot, so the shifter feels short and direct, but the throws still take some distance to make shifting easy and intuitive. There’s this pervasive, metallic je nais sais quoi to the shifter experience that offers the most supreme satisfaction when the gears hit home. Then the engine comes to life.
That beautiful, sonorous, downright musical 4.0-liter flat-six hangs out past the rear axle, a position that’s responsible for the car’s interesting weight balance.
After I crawled out of Newcomb’s Ranch, my first few shifts were around 4,500 rpm so that I could get acquainted with the motions of shifting the car smoothly, to which my friend said, “everybody short shifts it.” I obliged him past the outhouse a quarter of a mile away from Newcomb’s and began to take the car seriously with some 7,000-rpm action before taking my first set of turns.
It was at this point I could finally say it: I have become another journalist schmuck who’s driven a 911 GT3 Touring and totally buys into the hype. I apologize, reader, but the waxing of the lyrics will only continue for a short while longer.
Just about everything was sublime. The suspension is firm, but not jarring, and certainly responsive. The engine has this physics-defying breadth of ability that makes available a mule kick of torque at all engine speeds, but it becomes a breathtaking wail above 7,000 rpm. At 8,000 rpm, the ECU changes the variable valve timing to start doing some serious overlap, which causes the signature metallic, motorsport-bred howl to 9,000 rpm. The most glorious resonances pulse through the entire car and into your bones as you explore its limitations.
Lusting my whole life to even be around machinery like this doesn’t prepare you. The dimension of feeling the vibrations, interacting with the intangibles, the shades of gray that don’t exist in audio, video, or writing, is what makes these cars special. Nothing could have prepared me for the greatness of this car.
Although this experience had me feeling like I’d finally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I did notice two flaws in an otherwise magnificent car. The gearing is too long, especially for how many rpms I have to play with. Revving out to the top of third gear is hideously fast, though I never had time to confirm what the actual speed was. I didn’t get to shift or enjoy the powerband nearly enough, though the voluminous torque of the engine allowed me to pick any gear.
The steering also left me slightly wanting. It’s Porsche electric power steering, so it is very good, but somehow I wasn’t feeling the texture and the buzz I was expecting. The steering is still great, but I’ve felt more feedback from some older hydraulically assisted sports cars I’ve driven. It also had a slower ratio than I was expecting, but it was natural and easy to use, with a good buildup of effort and intuitive feel. Part of my issue might be attributed to the GT3’s rear-engined layout, which is significantly different from what I’m used to driving. Either way, the handling balance of the car is neutral and friendly, but multi-dimensional for sure.
Neither of those things are deal-breakers, however, and even though there’s a galaxy between my real life and one that involves affording a GT3, I’m not left with a sense of real lust or desire. I’m grateful to drive it at all. My spiritual connection to this experience is so deep that it almost lives within me, and I feel like I’ve overcome an important obstacle that I placed in front of myself. It’s done. I’ve driven one of the greatest cars that will ever be made.
With the dream drive completed, I returned to my beloved GTI. Though I traveled a lifetime and saw a thousand sunsets, I was back at GVBC not 20 minutes later talking to my friends about what I just experienced. Then the worst happened.
The realization spread over my body like an invasive vine. “My keys,” I thought to myself. “Where did they go? Shit!” They weren’t in my pocket. Did they fall out in the Touring? The one going all the way down to Los Angeles, the opposite direction of where I needed to go? It was about noon, and I needed to be home around 2:30 p.m. to drive my mom up north that same day.
The familiar weight and contour of the rectangular Volkswagen keys in my pocket never felt more absent. I now had no reception to call my friend with the Touring, and a GTI parked with no way to move it at Newcomb’s. The situation would have felt dire, if it weren’t for my immediate recognition of what this was. Balance.
My friends who were with me, bless their hearts, came to my rescue. We hopped into my friend Kate’s Volkswagen Tiguan back at GVBC with the 944 Turbo trailing us and headed down towards reception where I could call my friend and confirm the location of the keys. We stopped at the turnout where I swapped out of the Touring hoping that the keys fell out as I got out, but no luck. Turns out, I became that dude on the side of ACH.
When we found a pocket of reception, we got my friend on the line, and he found the keys. He left them at his place for me and Kate to retrieve, and I let my buddy in the 944 head home.
I felt a deep inner peace as Kate and I trundled along the Los Angeles city streets, got my keys, and returned to the mountain for a second time. This experience could have been frustrating, maddening even, yet I still had my friends beside me, helping me through a tough situation, and getting me home even when they didn’t need to. Once again, the word “balance” wafted through my mind.
It was 2:30 p.m. by the time we got back to the car, and I squared things away with my mom on the drive back up. Everything worked out OK, I bought Kate some lunch and gas for her trouble, and I went home from the most humbling day I’ve had in recent memory. With the soaring highs come pressurizing lows, and once you make peace with that, things will come out OK. That day certainly did.