2008 Porsche 911


First Drive: 2008 Porsche 911 GT2

By Andrew Bornhop of Road & Track

Dinklage, Germany — Walter Röhrl says the new GT2 has the best rear grip of any Porsche 911 he's ever driven. That's quite a compliment, but with all due respect to Röhrl — a four-time winner of the Monte Carlo Rally — it had better.

That's because this is the most powerful series-produced 911 ever. And unlike the all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo, the GT2 sends its 530 bhp exclusively to the rear wheels.

Imagine that. In the wet. On the Autobahn.

That's how I experienced the car, and I'm relieved to report that the GT2 — which weighs 320 lb. less than the 911 Turbo — is far from the handful you'd expect. The grip from the rear 325/30ZR-19 Pirellis is amazing, and the PSM stability control — not available on the previous GT2 — rarely kicks in. And although traffic and weather conspired against a run to the claimed top speed of 204 mph, the GT2 remains composed well into triple-digit speeds, thanks in part to improved downforce.

Developed by Porsche Motor-sport, the GT2 is more than a rear-drive 911 Turbo. Alan Lewin, a Welshman in charge of GT2 development, channeled Colin Chapman in describing where Porsche has "added lightness" to the car. It begins inside, where the rear seats and sound-deadening have been deleted, and carbon-fiber front buckets with a fixed seatback angle save 20 lb. per side. Deletion of drive to the front wheels also pays dividends, as do massive carbon-ceramic brake rotors that save 20 lb. per wheel.

And out back, where weight savings is especially important, the new titanium muffler weighs 20 lb. less than the 911 Turbo's stainless-steel unit. It sounds terrific too, described by Lewin as having a "bit more spirit" than the Turbo.

The same can be said of the engine. It's essentially the 911 Turbo's dry-sump 3.6-liter flat-6, but fitted with new turbos whose peak boost of 20.3 psi translates to 530 bhp at 6500 rpm and 501 lb.-ft. of torque from 2200 to 4500 rpm. Like those in the 911 Turbo, these Borg-Warner units have variable-vane geometry, but the turbine and compressor wheels have been recontoured for improved response. The hit from half-throttle to full-throttle isn't quite as hard as in the standard Turbo, but it's only because the turbos have already spooled.

On full boost, the surge of momentum and blurred scenery make the GT2 one of the best rides in the modern car world. It sounds like there's a massive air pump behind you, with power lasting to the 6800-rpm redline in each gear. And with each upshift of the 6-speed manual — which has a heavy clutch — the wastegates chirp a happy tune.

Of note, the intake manifold of the GT2 is new, a late development that takes advantage of a cooling "expansion pulse" in the intake air that allows for increased boost and fuel economy. The GT2 also has Launch Assistant. With the car in 1st and the clutch depressed, the driver floors the accelerator and watches the engine stay at 5000 rpm and 0.9 bar (13.0 psi) of boost. At this point, a simple sidestep of the clutch (and a right foot that stays flat) lets the traction control work its magic as the GT2 hits 60 mph in only 3.7 seconds, a conservative Porsche figure.

As with the previous GT2, the track-oriented suspension is adjustable, with shocks, springs and larger front and rear anti-roll bars tuned to quell oversteer. Threaded struts allow the car to be corner-weighted and lowered, but it's already about as low as it can go. To aid front grip, the outer pivot points of the lower control arms and tie rods have been raised 10 millimeters (0.4 in.) to keep the tires squarer to the road. And in back, the aluminum subframe now attaches via steel bushings, helping the rear react quicker to steering inputs, a key to making a car handle well.

Which the GT2 does, allowing Porsche to tune the stability control to kick in only when really needed. You can still shut it off; yet one thing that can't be is CBC, Porsche's Cornering Brake Control. During hard braking in a turn, if the GT2 senses too much yaw, CBC applies the brakes to an outside wheel to keep the car from spinning. It allows some drifting, as Röhrl so capably demonstrated, but provides a welcome safety net.

The GT2 goes on sale in January, at $191,700. Of the 1300 being made, perhaps only 300 will be coming to the U.S. Better get your name on the list early.

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BB06 - 9/15/2014 8:30:10 PM