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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 6, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Geneva LiveBlog: Golden years

    Neil Briscoe

    Two icons of motoring are celebrating their 50th anniversaries at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Lamborghini is marking a half-century since the day when tractor magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini decided he’d had enough of Ferrari’s shoddy customer service and went and made his own V12 GT car. Across the hall (and like Lamborghini, part of the all-conquering Volkswagen empire) is Porsche, blowing out 50 candles on the glorious 911′s birthday cake. Both brought something special along to the show, but one is rather more special than the other.

    You might expect that one to be Lamborghini’s outrageous Veneno (which means poison, in Spanish, apparently) V12 supercar. Based on the Aventador, it’s entirely made of space-age carbon-fibre, has a 740bhp engine, can do 354kmh and was clearly brought along to the show to try and steal the thunder of Ferrari’s LaFerrari supercar. But in spite of costing more than €3-million a pop, and with all three production versions already sold out, the Veneno fell just a bit flat. With all the fuss around Ferrari’s new baby, it got a bit lost in the crowds, and the somewhat ugly, insect-like styling didn’t do it any favours. Perhaps we put the mockers on it by predicting on this week’s Irish Times Motors Podcast that it would pull the rug out from under the LaFerrari (ahem…). In the end, it just looked a bit silly, a bit pointless.

    The Porsche? Now that’s something of a different story. Porsche has decided to celebrate the 911′s 50th by bringing the all-new 911 GT3 to the party. The GT3, since it first appeared as part of the 996-era 911 range, has been the benchmark Porsche for driving involvement. Lighter, more focused, more agile and more hardcore than a standard 911, it may lack the sledgehammer punch of the Turbo, but it’s frankly all the better for it. A 911 GT3 is all about poise, about feedback and about sheer driving enjoyment.

    And this new one needs to be. There has been much enthusiast hand-wringing over the current 991-generation 911, with its electric power steering, long wheelbase and seven-speed gearbox. Too remote, too refined and too aloof, say the critics. If any of those brickbats can be thrown at the GT3, then the 911 may have finally, truly lost its lustre.

    The omens are good. Porsche insiders who’ve driven the car say that it’s well up to the standards of previous GT3s and while, yes, they would say that, Porsche is not a company given to writing publicity cheques its engineers can’t cash. Let’s not forget, way back in the nineties, it was the Club Sport version of the old 968 that finally convinced true driving enthusiasts that hydraulic power steering could be as good to drive as an unassisted rack. Perhaps the new 911 GT3 will do something similar for electric steering.

    There’s something else though, something that makes this new Gt3 truly great, even before anyone outside of Porsche has driven it. Across the hall, Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren are busily showing off their €1-million (and then some) supercars; exercises in engineering, aerodynamics and electrical assistance and the headline figure for all three is a 0-100kmh time of around 3 seconds. The new 911 GT3 can do that sprint in 3.5seconds, for a tiny fraction of the cost of a P1 or a LaFerrari. It may seem perverse to call a Porsche that will cost around €180,000 in Ireland a bargain, but that number seals the deal.

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