2008 Porsche 911 GT2 - Lean Mean Machine

Every 911 is an anachronism, thanks to the position of the engine and what it does to the weight distribution. Within this archaic layout, which dates back to Ferdinand Porsche and thus almost to the Austro-Hungarian empire, the six-speed manual gearbox feels even older than the environment it works in. The lever movements feel emphatically mechanical, and the clutch is much too heavy. Like the BMW M3, the new GT2 is crying out for a dual-clutch paddleshift transmission, which allegedly will appear next year. Short-legged and yet evenly spaced, the six-speed must be stirred regularly for optimum results. First is good for 49 mph, second takes you to 81 mph, third maxes out at 110 mph, fourth runs out at 141 mph, and fifth will want to hand over the baton at 172 mph.

The GT2 is the first Porsche fitted with launch control. How does it work? Engage first gear, depress the clutch, and floor the throttle. Instead of hitting the limiter at 6750 rpm, the tach needle will stabilize at 5000 rpm. Now drop the clutch. What follows is a noisy--and smelly--conflict between torque and traction control. Since the flat six loves to rev, a red arrow flashes at about 6000 rpm to give you (just) enough time to shift up. Traction is enhanced by a limited-slip differential. Porsche Stability Management (PSM) allows you to choose among three settings: fully active, PSM off, and PSM and traction control off. PSM off is the best compromise between grin and spin. Like a Formula 1 car, the GT2 in this setting modulates wheel spin without usurping the driver's control over drift angle.

The GT2 not only eclipses the Turbo in terms of power output, it is also far more melodious. The stereophonic turbocharger whine, wastegate whistles, and intake resonance become almost physical above 5000 rpm, and the note emitted from the new titanium exhaust system evolves from a low-tech clatter at idle to an incredibly dense, multivocal, high-rev implosion that's loud enough to make guardrail rivets pop as the GT2 rushes by. Prick your ears, and you may even be able to decipher the nine oil pumps that feed the dry-sump lubrication. Listen closer, and you can perhaps hear the new intake plenum that's been replumbed for added intake-charge cooling. Check out the digital gauge, and watch the boost pressure climb to 20.3 psi. These may be little things, but they add up to a measurable gain in performance that, according to Porsche, allows the GT2 to lap the Nrburg-ring in seven minutes and thirty-two seconds--that's Carrera GT territory.

Like the body and the drivetrain, the base 911 chassis underwent plenty of fine-tuning. Ride height was lowered by 1.0 inch, the rear track was widened by 0.6 inch, and the active dampers were stiffened mercilessly. The rubber suspension attachments were re-placed with metal, the rear-axle crossmember switched from steel to aluminum, and the kinematics were modified for reduced understeer. In addition, the antiroll bars, the springs, and the wheel-camber mounts are now adjustable.

To reduce weight, the doors and the trunk lid are made of aluminum, and there are no rear seats. (The same is true of GT3 models.) Europeans can specify the no-frills Clubsport kit, complete with a roll cage, a six-point harness, and a fire extinguisher at no extra cost, but customers in North America won't have that option. Carbon-ceramic brakes and navigation are included in the U.S. list price of $192,560. Is the GT2 worth $84,200 more than a GT3 with cast-iron brakes? Is it $56,660 better than a 911 Turbo with carbon-ceramic brakes? Yes and no. For the ultimate thrill--which occasionally equals the ultimate scare--rear-wheel drive is obviously still a must for 911 superheroes. And 530 hp is bound to be more desirable than the 415 hp or the 480 hp of the GT3 and the Turbo, respectively.

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