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

Greg Pajo

Let's get going. I turn the key above my left knee, feel that tiny flywheel kick the crankshaft into action, hear the intake snorkels cough then clear their throats, watch the needle of the rev counter tremble in anticipation, lean back and take a deep breath to fight that thump-thump in my palms, legs, and heart. Can we be friends, this Porsche and I? The clutch certainly suggests so. It is quite manageable, responds progressively, and bites with determination instead of overt aggression. The manual transmission is the same we know from the GT3. Stirring the shifter feels a bit like reaching into a sack full of antlers, but once you've got the hang of it, gearchanges are firm and positive. The effort, however, is high enough to provoke an attack of gout, and the throws are long enough to make you wish for an arm extension. Reverse requires a deep dive and then a positive push forward to the left or you'll clash with the first-gear neighbor who lives next door. Surely, the next-generation 911 GTs will benefit from the much more complete PDK dual-clutch box. Redlined at 6750 rpm, the twin-turbo flat six doesn't give you a lot of time to think about the perfect shift sequence. First gear hits the limiter before you can say "Wow!" and second is so short-legged that it will occasionally splay its cogs in protest against rushed downshifts. Sixth is a proper high-speed ratio that wrings out the engine on downhill autobahn slopes, where the red rocket will max out at an indicated 215 mph (Porsche claims a top speed of 205 mph). Where was the photographer to document this achievement? Exactly.

200-mph-plus may sound borderline insane for a rear-engine design originating in the mid-1950s, but this 911 boasts reassuring, newly found high-speed aerodynamic stability. The previous GT2 made me pale with fear above 175 mph, when the front end would pitch and waver and tramline and feel suddenly very light over bumps. That's now gone -- all of it. True, it took a rear wing that any condor would be proud of and a low-flying front splitter the shape of a giant black razor blade to fix these flaws, but the result is a 60 percent increase in overall downforce. The other major dynamic improvement concerns the substantially enhanced suspension compliance. Compliance in a GT2 RS? You bet. Ferrari reinvented compliance with the 430 Scuderia, and the rest of the gang followed suit. Porsche did so first with the new Turbo, and now the company has honed the chassis of the GT2, which feels to me even better poised than the almost equally extreme GT3 RS. Forget Sport mode -- it's suitable only for racetracks. But the Normal calibration of the adjustable PASM dampers, which was chosen to make the car shine on the Nurburgring, also works very well on highways and secondary roads.

The GT2 RS is marginally wider and lower than its predecessor. It also boasts a spicier PSM stability control setting; the tie rods, transverse arms, and spring strut lowers are attached to the body via zero-tolerance ball joints; a pair of so-called rear helper springs keep the main springs under tension even when the vehicle is momentarily airborne, which was thankfully not the case when I drove it.

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