2008 Porsche 911 GT2 - Lean Mean Machine

In the case of the latest Porsche 911, the GT suffix stands for anything but Gran Turismo. Guaranteed Trauma is more like it, at least when the beast is not treated with due competence and caution. The new 911 GT2 combines elements of the GT3 (lightweight components, rear-wheel drive) and the Turbo (turbocharged engine, stability control), resulting in the fastest roadgoing Porsche ever.

The GT2 looks about as subtle as a smiling Count Dracula. The front end combines 911 Turbo overtones such as the bright LED turn signals with new extralarge air intakes that are required to cool the brakes and the heat exchangers. The side view features beefed-up sills, ground-hugging aprons, and a set of prominent intake and brake-cooling inlets. But the most butch view is, without a doubt, the rear, which boasts more vertical slats, a pair of large-diameter exhausts, and a fixed biplane wing. The latter increases the downforce at high speeds and incorporates two circular ram-air induction scoops.

On the autobahn, the GT2 sports as much overtaking prestige as police, fire department, and paramedic vehicles combined--with lights flashing and sirens wailing. When lesser cars step aside, the GT2 can reach 204 mph. But you want the tarmac to be dry, reasonably smooth, and--ideally--arrow-straight. And you'd better get used to the car's high-speed potential in installments. In this Porsche, even 150 mph feels mind-bogglingly fast. The noise level is intense, the chassis copies every detail of the road surface, the steering is a live wire covered with gray Alcantara, and directional stability is a challenge even when the wind speed is zero.

But like every 911, this car knows what it's doing, and it requires surprisingly little assistance to maintain the chosen flight path. Trouble is, it takes the driver days, if not weeks, to build up the confidence this car requires. There is so much information available to the eyes, ears, palms, fingers, legs, feet, and seat of the pants that the senses are soon overloaded. Velocity is a drug, and like every drug, it clouds and clarifies at the same time. In the GT2, one needs to learn a fresh set of responses, because, unlike the Turbo, this 200-mph 911 has only two driven wheels. The lighter GT2 turns in with more vigor, decelerates with enhanced determination, and corners with added sharpness. Most important, rear-wheel drive will never pull you out of trouble. And we all know that pushing out of trouble seldom works.

Further narrowing the increasingly slim line between drama and trauma are the semislick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. On dry blacktop, this footwear might make sense for rich amateur racers who don't mind buying a new set of rear tires every two months. Even in the rain, the 325/30YR-19 rear rubber is OK--until there are wall-to-wall puddles on the road. Then the GT2 suddenly starts water skiing, even at speeds as low as 60 mph. Would it not be a good idea to offer at least the option of less extreme tires?

So we didn't see 200 mph. But we out-accelerated just about every mechanical device that crossed our route. Over the first fifty yards or so, the 530-hp, 3175-pound GT2 is actually not quite as quick as the 480-hp, 3572-pound 911 Turbo Tiptronic. From 0 to 62 mph, it's a dead heat at 3.7 seconds each. From 0 to 124 mph, however, the rear-wheel-drive GT2 will beat the four-wheel-drive Turbo, clocking 11.2 seconds against 12.2 seconds. And by the time these autobahn guerrillas pass the 185-mph mark, the GT2 will have carved out an impressive advantage. On damp ground, the GT2 will spin its wheels in first and second gear, especially between 2200 and 4500 rpm, when maximum torque of 502 lb-ft comes in. The closely related 3.6-liter 911 Turbo engine can deliver just as much torque, but it's available only for about ten seconds in over-boost mode.

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