The Geneva Motor Show is not really the place to come with subtle yearly refreshes and facelifts, it demands the newest and very best each brand has to offer. Porsche and McLaren had these projects in the works for years, but 2017 was the culmination and assembly of these ideas in one place.
The German brand known for its sports cars delivered such in the form of the new 2018 911 GT3. The GT3 utilizes a familiar formula, but one that was partially absent for the early 991 generation. It shed weight for every ounce of performance, but you had no choice other than to let the car do the shifting, or click through the paddles. For the 2018 model year, there is again the option to row your own gears with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Not lost among that groundbreaking news is the revised powerplant and engineering that again makes the GT3 name a true motorsport-inspired, road-approved sports car. The updated 4-liter flat-six engine pushes close to 500 horsepower, and if left to accelerate freely would reach nearly 200 miles per hour. That’s mostly unimportant in the real world, but it’s no secret where the GT3 calls home: the track.
Simply based on appearance, the GT3 separates itself from the touring-capable 911s of today. The carbon rear wing dominates and features greatly on the back end of the car, but the changes aren’t just superficial. It is raised and moved further back, reducing drag as it cuts through less turbulent air. The rear diffuser’s exhaust air openings are a new design, and the aerodynamics up front are tweaked as well for the sake of airflow at speed. Beyond that, it’s more of the same. The interior is a standard blend of Alcantara and carbon fiber, but aside from just the look of performance, the GT3 features optional carbon fiber-reinforced plastic bucket seats for rigidity and weight reduction in motorsports use. Rear seats are rendered superfluous in any trim.
While the GT3 carves its niche as a track day warrior, Porsche hit the other end of the spectrum with the world debut of the production-spec Sport Turismo variant of the Panamera. The Sport Turismo is a more elegant and spacious take on the practical Porsche estate, sculpting a shooting brake shape and packaging the next-gen Panamera goodies inside.
Porsche has its bases covered from street to track devotion with its two new centerpieces, but McLaren’s new 720S pushes itself to the extreme in all different directions, all at once. Replacing the 650S, a capable everyday driver with ballistic racing qualities, the 720S features all the luxuries applicable to a car of its magnitude. Sumptuous leather, class-leading efficiency and visibility along with redesigned doors to allow for easier exit and entry almost plead with drivers to find reasons to take the car out every day.
The 720S is the most visually distinctive McLaren produced, with few visual cues shared with other models. It is even the first modern McLaren to do away with the Speedmark-shaped LED headlights, now having a redesigned cavernous light cluster that invites smoother airflow through the body, while also increasing night visibility at speed.
High speeds are always best achieved at the track, and in the track setting is where some of the 720S’ novelties are best demonstrated. The Track mode in the 720S, activated by the familiar knobs on the redesigned center console, literally flips the dash gauge cluster to a slim setting that displays only vital track information, such as speed, current gear and revs with a shift light. It adds that bit of extra flair when flogging the 720S powered by its redesigned twin-turbo 4.0 V8, which consists of 41% new parts compared to the previous engine, and now outputs more than 700 horsepower.
But if pure speed and lap times are not the ultimate goal, McLaren has a solution for that crowd too. Variable Drift Control is the new mode for misbehavior, in which drivers can toggle the responsibilities of stability control for track driving engagement like no other. Instead of simple cut-and-dry modes, the user can pinpoint the exact settings they desire with just the touch of a finger. The simplicity of functionality gives McLaren the driver’s edge.
The extremes that each of these cars reaches for will inevitably become the new “normal” for Porsche and McLaren, and in the coming months, expect to see and hear more about these groundbreaking vehicles as they find their way to the RDS Automotive Group.