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Friday 9th May 2008


PORSCHE 911 GT2

GT2s have always been insanely fast. But could the latest incarnation keep up with a McLaren F1, asks Steve Sutcliffe...


OK I’ll come straight out with it. I’m not certain that the GT2 which Porsche GB has been lending out to the press – and therefore to us awfully nice people at PH –  does exactly what it says on the tin. I think it does rather more. Which is nice.


All you need to do is put your foot down just once in second gear and to then hold it there until the limiter says hello at 7200rpm. Then you’ll understand where I’m coming from. This car, or at least the one I drove, is so flaming rapid it feels – from memory – as if it would give little away to a McLaren F1. Not until after you were well into three figures at any rate.

Bearing in mind that it costs ‘only’ £131,070 whereas a McLaren costs rather more than three times as much, this has to make the GT2 some kind of bargain – so long as yours is as quick as Porsche GB’s version…

For the record Porsche claims the GT2 will do 0-160kph (ie 0-99.4mph) in 7.4sec. When Autocar magazine road tested the McLaren back in 1994 it recorded a 0-100mph time of 6.3sec, but I’ll let you into a secret about what happened on that particular day and, more specifically, about that particular McLaren – and its driver – because I was there.


The driver was none other than Jonathan Palmer because that was part of the deal. The magazine was allowed to record a full set of figures on the car but only if Palmer could do the acceleration runs. Secondly, it was almost dusk in early May (two days after Ayrton Senna had been killed to be precise) so the ambient conditions were just about perfect to allow the F1’s BMW V12 to deliver the whole salad. Finally and most controversially, McLaren had removed the cats from the car, thus enabling its V12 to deliver each and every one of the claimed 631bhp, and then some.

What I’m saying is this: in normal circumstances with a regular test driver at the wheel you might just get a McLaren F1 to dip into the high sixes from zero to 100mph. Maybe. Whereas a GT2 will hammer out 0-100mph times in the mid-sevens all day long, with almost anyone who can drive half properly behind the wheel.


So the difference between the legendary F1 and the latest, fastest production series Porsche 911 can nowadays be measured in tenths, not seconds. I don’t know about you but I find that absolutely astonishing – as good an indication as you’ll get as to how far things have come since the Mighty Mac was deemed to be the fastest car the world will ever see, back in the summer of 1994.

Then again, Porsche has indeed come an awful long way since the time when the 968 was around, even if the two previous GT2s have failed pretty comprehensively to aid the company’s development. The first model of 1995 can be excused its wayward road manners because, in reality, it was little more than a homologation car for GT racing. We all know about the 'Widowmaker' nickname which was used, apparently, by Porsche’s own engineers to describe the beast they’d created. Even today the 993 GT2 seems mind-alteringly ridiculous with a 0-100mph time somewhere in the late eights.


It was the version that followed that truly disappointed, though, mainly because it was based on one of Porsche’s very best cars of recent times, the 996 Turbo. In theory the GT2 996 should have been fantastic. In reality it was an understeering, over-powered, under-achieving misfit, and the only way you could get it to behave properly was to tinker endlessly with the suspension to dial out the understeer. Which may well have been oddly satisfying to those who tried and hit the sweet spot, but at the time that was hardly the point.

For this latest version, it’s hardly surprising that Porsche has thrown so much time, effort and engineering impetus into getting the GT2 mixture right. The engine is pretty much the same as the Turbo’s internally but with two new turbo’s, a different exhaust, better breathing apparatus and 1.4 bar boost as opposed to 1.0 - it delivers 523bhp versus 450bhp for the normal 911 Turbo. The torque peak is the same as that of the normal Turbo with the Sport Chrono pack fitted – 502lb ft – but rather than a short burst at this level the GT2 has that figure available all the time between 2200-4500rpm.


Being rear and not four wheel drive it’s also 100kg lighter (down to a reasonably lithe 1440kg)and the six-speed manual gearbox has slightly longer ratios, the quoted top speed rising from 196mph to 204mph.

You expect a car with 363bhp per tonne and 349lb ft per tonne to feel a bit tidy when you put your foot down, but the way the GT2 fires itself at the horizon at the merest whiff of throttle is deeply and deliciously impressive. It’s hilarious, in fact. There is almost no lag whatsoever, and although the compression ratio isn’t higher than in the normal Turbo it feels much more responsive off boost, presumably because of what they’ve done to the exhaust. It’s so crisp you can now blip the thottle wap-wap on downshifts and the crank just spins up instantly – whereas in the regular Turbo it’s a case of blip pedal, wait a moment, shift.


But the real news is what happens when you aim the new GT2 at a few corners. In a nutshell they have sorted it, and I really do mean sorted it. OK there’s still a touch of understeer if you really lean on it through a long bend but, by and large, it goes precisely where you want it to. No understeer, no oversteer (unless you turn the TC off, in which case you’re welcome to the accident you will have), no contest compared with anything at the same money. Aston DBS? It wouldn’t see which way the GT2 had gone, and the same goes for a regular Ferrari F430 (ie a non Scud version).

It steers beautifully, too, with a decent amount of traditional 911-style feedback via the rim but with none of the crunching kickback of old. As for the stopping department it’s hard to think of any other car with number plates that brakes as well, or as consistently from big or small speeds, as the latest GT2.

Faults? The tyre roar from the enormous 325/30 19in rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cups is borderline ludicrous, even on smooth surfaces. On the concrete sections of the M25 I drove it on I couldn’t even hear myself whimper. And although it makes a so-so kind of noise it’s hardly in the same league as the Italians, which is a pity.


Overall the GT2 may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to those who like Porsches it’s the version we’ve all been waiting for. It sits at the top of the model range now in terms of both price and prestige, and it deserves that place, finally. Maybe it does do what it says on the tin. And if you do happen to own a McLaren F1, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Author: sutters