First Drive Twofer: Porsche 911 GT2 RS and BMW M3 GTS

Greg Pajo

But this time, the car dictates the pace, the rhythm, the degree of extrovert attitude. This time, I physically feel the asymmetrical diff locking up to enhance grip and traction. This time, the chassis firms up in a semiactive manner, doing everything it can to keep the car on course. Although the tires squeal in protest, the fat and almost treadless 325/30YR-19 Pilot Sport Cup footwear in the rear sticks to the blacktop like maple syrup to your best tablecloth.

After a few haphazard tries, frustration sets in. Not so much about the sizzling, crackling, and now-parked 911 but about the obvious inadequacies of the man whose mission it is to master the monster. We spend the afternoon trying to find stretches of empty road, which ain't easy in the middle of the summer holiday period. On the autobahn, this car has no enemy but one's weaker self. Unlike the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the Nissan GT-R, and the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, which make high speed a relatively virtual zone you enter and leave without lowering or raising your visor, the GT2 RS is intense enough to create tension, noisy enough to phonetically distract, and demanding enough to constantly readjust the focus of your field of vision. As long as you keep your foot down, though, even 200 mph is unlikely to trigger instant cardiac arrest. But the mix of midcorner lift-off and ambitious g-forces remains as hair-raisingly eerie as it always has been in Porsche's rear-engine sports cars.

Once more, it takes time to reacquire the appropriate laissez-faire attitude. This car will sort itself out. It doesn't need an extrafirm grip, minute throttle-angle alterations, or constant corrections at the wheel. It can sort itself out. Bumps may dislocate your glasses, hydroplaning grooves may induce a roller-coaster wallop, and expansion joints may slice your flight path into disorderly pieces, but the car always sorts itself out. Until it starts to rain, until crosswinds enter the equation, or until the radius of a sixth-gear eight-tenths curve is a lot tighter than you remember it.

One can brake so late in the 911 GT2 RS that it's almost ridiculous. But of course you don't, because your passenger would jolt forward like a crash-test dummy and because public roads are poor playgrounds. This Porsche is fitted with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, with drilled and ventilated carbon-ceramic rotors and lightweight brake pads. To make the most of deceleration potential, the GT2 RS comes with extralarge heat-dissipation ducts in the front and with trumpet-shaped air intakes in the rear. When hot, the stopping apparatus shrieks like an old freight train, but that's a small price to pay for braking performance that calls for a replacement set of neck muscles by the end of the day. It's not just the fast-rewind negative acceleration that takes your breath away. It's also the urgency with which this Porsche squashes surplus energy that establishes real confidence, for the first time during this drive. Although it always helps to set the car straight before dropping the anchors, the computers have learned to cope very well with sudden changes like weight transfer, changes of direction, marginal adhesion, and split-friction surfaces. In the wet, it's a completely different ball game, because the Cup tires are very good at water-skiing but quite poor at carving.

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