Zuffenhausen, Germany - Speed matters when you're talking about supercars. The base Porsche 911, which is pretty sweet and very fast, will run to 174 mph, and the 911 Turbo tops out at 189 mph. The new 911 GT2, however, is capable of reaching 196 mph. To some people, of course, acceleration matters even more than outright speed. The Carrera 2 can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 5.2 seconds, and the 911 Turbo beams you there in a supernatural 4.2 seconds. The GT2 shaves another 0.1 second off that time. On paper, the GT2 would hardly seem to justify its $69,000 premium over the Turbo, but on the road, it's a different matter entirely.
Even Porsche insiders admit that the GT2 is a very specialized vehicle. "Unlike the 911 Turbo, the GT2 is not a perfect everyday car," says senior project manager Hartmut Kristen. "Don't get me wrong--this is a great long-distance cruiser. But it's a car that needs the right weather and road conditions and calls for a driver with plenty of experience. It's a great car to have in your garage for that special Sunday morning or for a long weekend at the Nrburgring Nordschliefe." Kristen explains the GT2's mission and its position within the 911 family thus: "The GT2 should do for the Turbo what the GT3 has done for the naturally aspirated 911. It is even more powerful than the Turbo, and it is a lot sportier, as well as more raw-edged. This is not a centerline product. Instead, the GT2 is the ultimate 911 for serious drivers."
On the day of my drive, I hopped out of a Carrera 4 and into the GT2, feeling instantly at home: It has the same instrument panel and interior layout (the test car's Kevlar trim is, fortunately, not compulsory) and the same sport seats (racing buckets are a no-cost option). Even the engine sounds familiar. There is a characteristic rasp at idle, an angry yell when you floor the throttle, and a trademark full-bodied roar above 5000 rpm. The clutch is a little heavier than those in other 911s, though, and the shift-lever action feels different because the GT2 has a quicker and lighter cable linkage in place of rods.
We're off, and wow, this Porsche accelerates as if someone had pushed the fast-forward button. First gear stretches only to 39 mph, a speed that arrives so fast that the tach needle hits the 6750-rpm limiter before the dopey driver (me) has selected and engaged second gear. Second takes the GT2 to 73 mph, and this time I'm ready for the upshift when it is due. Third stretches to 106 mph, with fourth being theoretically good for 133 mph. Like every 911, the GT2 has a six-speed manual transmission, but, considering the massive maximum torque of 457 pound-feet that is on tap between 3500 and 4500 rpm, a four-speed gearbox would have done just as well. Unlike the GT3's engine, the twin-turbocharged six-cylinder does not depend on high revs to deliver the goods, producing instant power in any gear, at any revs, or at any throttle position.
The top-of-the-line 911 puts 41 more horsepower on the road than the 220-pound heavier, 415-horsepower Turbo, but it does without all-wheel drive and PSM (Porsche Stability Management) skid control. The only traction control, apart from the driver's right foot, is provided by a mechanical (instead of brake-activated) limited-slip differential. The locking ratio under a trailing throttle is a high 60 percent, which drops to 40 percent under power. The only problem is that the torque transfer between the rear wheels given by the mechanical diff is too abrupt; the car feels as if it wants to snap back from the course you've chosen. This 911 isn't about smoothness or balance but is a hard-edged, uncompromising, bobbing and throbbing, street-legal racing car.