Car reviews - Porsche - 911 - GT2 Coupe
Blistering turbocharged performance, engine tractability and response, amazing brakes, incredible grip, neutral chassis, steering feel and response, exclusivity, street cred
Room for improvement
Pricetag, ride could be hard around town, rear-drive chassis could be too twitchy for some, transmission snatch, notchy gearchange, heavier clutch action, GT3 still the purest Porsche
28 Mar 2008
MOVE over, 911 GT3 and 911 Turbo – the GT2 has arrived as both the most potent circuit-ready 911 and the most exciting 911 road car ever.
That's right, Porsche has, as usual, saved the best for last and, as the final 997-series variant before the iconic 911 coupe is replaced yet again, the GT2 sets new benchmarks for performance both on and off the track.
Porsche says the third-generation GT2 has lost none of the widespread customer appeal the more luxurious 996 generation came here with in 2001, and the fact that it has pre-sold more examples of the 997 GT2 than were retailed in the 996's three-year model life tends to support that claim.
Harnessed by an even more intelligent level of chassis control systems, the superior turbocharged performance of the rear-drive GT2 eclipses the ability of both the naturally aspirated rear-drive GT3 and the all-wheel drive 911 Turbo flagship.
This became patently obvious after only a handful of laps at Sydney's technical Eastern Creek Raceway during its launch this week, both in the driver's seat of Porsche Australia's demonstration model and the passenger seat of Jim Richards' Targa-ready car.
Even more so than the race-ready GT3, everything about the GT2 is made for motorsport.
Open the door of the lower-slung body that turns heads with its wild rear wing and gilled rear quarters, and the carbon-backed/leather-faced sports buckets and lashings of Alcantara highlights are immediately obvious.
Fitted with a full roll cage and ancillary safety gear, Jim Richards' Clubsport-spec GT2 is much harder to get into and see out of, and its six-point race harness is not for the claustrophobic.
In recent times, even the most potent Porsches have been understated in appearance, so the wildly-winged GT2 is certainly the most 'out-there' Porsche in two 911 generations.
But nothing prepares you for the unadulterated exhilaration the GT2's force-fed flat six delivers through its rear wheels when unleashed in all its glory. Short-shifting into second before opening the taps out of Eastern Creek's tightening pit exit, the GT2 squirms around on rear tyres that are each more than a foot wide.
It is no cause for concern, though, because the familiar-feeling GT3-style fake-suede steering wheel communicates every imperfection in the track surface, telegraphs clearly just how much grip level remains and reacts instantly to the slightest of driver inputs.
The tiller may feel like a GT3's, but it is easily the most direct-steering, responsive Porsche I have ever driven.
It also produces the most transmission snatch, making it harder to be smooth.
Changing up to third with the undoubtedly notchy but still user-friendly manual shifter before the turbo six zips lightening-quick to its 6750rpm rev-limiter, I tramp on the rock-hard, unbelievably powerful yet highly progressive brakes, which even Jim Richards said he struggled to deteriorate after a day of passenger laps at the Creek.
The GT2 hunkers down into the double-apex Turn Two, wriggling around just as much as it did under power – not because its lacks grip but because it is so confidence-inspiring it begs you to test its limits.
Despite calls to hold off from ever-patient Porsche driving instructor Steve Pizzati, I nail the throttle too hard and too early out of the hairpin, activating the low-traction idiot light on the dash and slewing the $425K Porker sideways towards the concrete retaining wall.
Getting off the throttle just before we overstep the stability control system's surprisingly high threshold level, the GT2 snaps back into line and throws us hard into the front seats as it gets light over hump in the back-straight.
Despite an uncanny chassis balance that revealed only the faintest hint of understeer around the tightening, off-camber Corporate Hill corner, I repeat the mistake exiting the tight Turn Nine hairpin and the two turns back onto the main straight, where the GT2 remains ultimately stable but commands complete attention as it wanders across the track with the slightest of steering inputs.
After three more laps I've learned how much throttle can be applied, and when, without relying on the intuitive, unobtrusive stability control system to keep things rubber side down, but it is apparent that, unlike in the less ferocious naturally aspirated rear-drive GT3, power oversteer is just a jab of the right foot away and it responds even more quickly to the most subtle of throttle changes. This is a supercar that deserves respect, but rewards richly if you get it right.
Seeming to make subtle steering and throttle corrections before I even know the car is sliding, Jim Richards is a picture of relaxation behind the wheel, even when braking a whole 100 metres later at the end of the straight – and despite carrying an extra 20km/h of speed at 240km/h.
A pleasure to watch as he plies his craft and a man that freely admits he has the best job in the world, he says the lighter GT2 is ultimately the quicker racetrack implement than a 911 Turbo – except in the wet, where the extra front-end drive and traction compensates for its 100kg extra mass – because, unlike the AWD 911 flagship, it does not activate its safety systems when you "steer it on the throttle".
And that is without winding up the GT2's wick by a further 50kW and 100Nm, purely via revised engine mapping.
The 911 Turbo might be more effortless to drive than the GT3 and GT2, though, and will almost certainly be quicker in the hands of inexperienced drivers because its cosseting all-wheel drivetrain allows you to exploit the incredible reserves of torque on tap in relative safety.
As Richards and the sky-high pricetag suggest, the GT2 is easily Porsche's best Targa racer straight out of the box, representing outstanding value for the equipment, amenity and ability on offer.
It is undoubtedly the fastest, fiercest and most focussed 911 ever and, to some, offers the best of both turbocharged and rear-drive worlds – notwithstanding the overwhelmingly rear-drive feel of the 911 Turbo.
The GT2 delivers a ride on the wild side that returns the nameplate to its hard-core roots without losing any of the mainstream appeal its 996 predecessor attracted.
As a road car, it distils the essence of Porsche performance more finely than ever.
However, for mere mortals like me, the naturally aspirated rear-drive GT3 remains not only the purest and best-value 911 available, it also delivers the most accessible, unadulterated performance.
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