Messing with a winning recipe like the 911 is always a risky thing to do. Just like trying to alter the perfect Michelin star recipe, one different ingredient can ruin the dish.
Consequently, the decision by Ares Design to create a 911 variant even Porsche itself doesn’t sell could have gone horribly wrong. It hasn’t.
The Italian coachbuilding company flew Carscoops to Italy to drive what they dub a Porsche 911 GT3 Targa. The name alone provides a hint of just how special this car is. It doesn’t tell the whole story, however.
Italian Coachbuilding Reloaded
Founded in 2014 by former Ferrari and Lotus exec Dany Bahar and based in Modena, the company wants to bring back the coachbuilding business of yesteryear. Bahar created Ares Design shortly after his somewhat controversial departure as Lotus chief executive. Before that, he played a pivotal role in getting Red Bull and Toro Rosso into Formula One. An impressive rap sheet, then. There’s perhaps no one better to lead a company like Ares that wants to do things a little different.
In between work on one-offs commissioned by wealthy clients, Ares is developing on a host of limited-run models using modern underpinnings outfitted with bespoke bodywork inspired by classics. Most notably, the marque is developing a Lamborghini Huracan-based recreation of the DeTomaso Pantera dubbed the Panther.
A Special Kind Of Rocketship
The car we’re driving may not be on that level, but it’s a 911, so it has to be good, right?
Despite what the name may suggest, the 911 GT3 Targa built by Ares isn’t really a GT3. It is based on a 911 Targa 4 GTS and has had OEM 991.2 GT3 and GT3 RS bodywork fitted. Ares intends on building 12 examples and the car I drove was Bahar’s personal car. Fortunately, I didn’t find that out until after the drive.
Sliding into the car, you’re immediately welcomed by a low seat and a small steering wheel, two absolutely necessary ingredients for any sports car. For the most part, the interior has been left untouched, but one look through the wing mirrors and the wide arches remind you this isn’t a typical GTS Targa.
In its bid to replicate the performance of the GT3, Ares has modified the 3.0-liter six-cylinder on a number of fronts. For example, it receives a hybrid turbocharger, the throttle body and intake parts of a Turbo S, a high-pressure fuel pump, tuned ECU, and a bespoke exhaust. Combined, these result in a total of 575 hp and 675 Nm of torque, roughly the same power you’ll find in a Turbo S. Pinning the throttle, the GT3 Targa accelerates through the streets of Modena with impressive pace.
Not Everything Is Peachy
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows on the engine front, however. Down low in the rev range in any gear other than first, the car offers very little punch. Doing a pull in second gear, there’s not much power to speak of until the pistons are firing at over 3000 rpm. From there, the boost kicks in hard and fast. Revved out, this thing is a rocketship and the minimal power down low simply encourages you to keep the car in the first 3 or 4 gears to properly enjoy Porsche’s wondrous PDK transmission. The car is not quite Turbo S rip-your-face-off kind of quick, but few vehicles are.
As powerful as the engine is, it lacks any real character. This isn’t the fault of Ares but rather speaks to Porsche’s dull-sounding turbo’d 911s. Beyond the satisfying bark it emits on startup, the engine is surprisingly quiet from behind the wheel, even with the roof off.
Porsche’s latest 4.0-liter six-cylinder in the back of the GT3 is perhaps one of the finest production engines launched in the last two decades and is sorely missed in the Ares car. To my ears, it also sounds better than pretty much anything on planet earth. Having this operatic soundtrack with the Targa roof could very well make for the perfect 911.
Verging On The Edge Of Greatness
While driving, all I could think about was how I would sell all my assets, sell every possible internal organ I could, beg for a massive loan and buy one of these if there was a 991.2 GT3 engine behind the cabin. Granted, sourcing these engines could prove a challenge and actually building a GT3-based Targa would be extremely costly for Ares.
Engine aside, the Ares GT3 Targa offers all you’d expect from a high-end 911. Fantastic steering, seemingly endless traction, confidence-inspiring brakes and a driving view, unlike any other car. Ares elected to replace the standard suspension with a set of KW adjustable coilovers. On decent roads, the ride is firm but comfortable. On rough roads, it could be a different story.
Looks may be subjective but you’d have to have a few loose screws in the head if you don’t think this car looks fantastic. As the 911 GT3 Touring revealed to the world, Germany’s best sports car looks fantastic without a towering rear wing. A Targa roof improves those looks only further, as do the 21-inch wheels from the GT3 RS.
Although our drive of the Ares Design 911 GT3 Targa was brief, we had enough seat time to realize that it verges on the edge of greatness. Ares’ decision to create such a vehicle was an absolute masterstroke. If there was a GT3 engine behind the seats, it could be the finest modern-day 911 of them all.