The Second Coming : Porsche 911 GT2 (997) [review}

Car Specifications
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Porsche created a monster of a GT2 the last time around with the 996 GT2 and earned the unenviable nickname of 'widow maker' and for good reason too. So it was with great circumspect that we approached the third generation GT2 (997) now with a whopping 530 bhp sent to just the rear wheels.

It is now clear that the GT range meaning the GT2 and GT3 and GT3 RS are meant for the true hardcore Porsche-philes. The GT2 is derived from the 911 Turbo sans all wheel drive and PTM (Porsche Traction Management).

This shaves-off the most weight and gives the GT2 an added dimension of handling adjustability via the rear wheel power drift and sets off a Pavlovian response to a select few enthusiasts.

A blast in the previous GT2 will leave you wide eyed with terror as the 462 bhp of the bi-turbo engine conspired with the suspension to intimidate the driver rather than help him. Conventional wisdom thought that this sort of power to just the rear wheels was the limit for 911 type models but just to prove us wrong, Porsche’s Motorsport division bumps power to a scarcely believable 530 bhp, up 50 bhp from the 911 Turbo. Could they have lost their marbles?

Talking to the Motorsport engineers we managed to ferret out some secrets as to the design of the new GT2. What used to be a lengthy operation to make these special versions where unfinished bodies are wheeled out of the main production plant and then hand fetteled and fitted with blueprinted Motorsport engines, is now accomplished as if it were another model on the production line.

Development of the GT2 began at the drawing board stage where the Motorsport engineers met up with the 911 development team to make several provisions for the future uber versions of the 911.

Porsche has long been adopting turbocharging so it is unsurprising that they can turn conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to turbocharging. According to the engineers, there are positive and negative pressure waves in the plenum expansion chamber as the intake charge alternatively slams into and enters through the intake valves.

Instead of tuning the intake charge for the maximum pressure point, the engineers tune it such that the intake valves only open for the low-pressure wave. The logic behind this is this part of the charge is significantly cooler and so there is less problem of pre-ignition or instability in the compression stroke.

To compensate and take full advantage of this, boost is now 1.4 bar up from a nominal 1.0 bar previously. This technology results in better-optimized combustion and hence a 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption despite the 50 bhp power hike.

The engine for all Turbo and GT type models are different from the Carrera type flat-6s as these are far more robust. These Motorsport engines trace their lineage back to the M64 type engines. It is the solid block that can withstand such extreme power outputs and maintain a high degree of reliability.

Of course, for a car of this nature, dry-sump lubrication and forged alloy pistons are de rigueur. The exhaust plumbing is now made entirely of Titanium for a weight savings of 9-kg, in addition to the toughness and high temperature resistance of this exotic metal.

Like the GT3, customers can set up their gear ratios to their liking as the construction specifically allows this for different race circuits. With steel synchronizing rings and an integrated heat exchanger the gearbox promised to be very reliable even for track use.

The slick albeit moderately loaded shifter is one of the best in the business and to aid the driver with maximum rev-point shifts there is a upshift indicator calibrated to have advance warning in 1st and 2nd gears to match one’s reaction times but is spot on in higher gears.

Although there is no paddle shift as yet, Porsche has managed to incorporate a launch control called Launch Assist. From standstill all you have to do is depress the clutch, floor the throttle and the engine revs to 5000 rpm and is now under electronic control so revs no higher.

When boost reaches 0.9bar you can then dump the clutch. There is a chirp from the tyres as the clutch hooks up completely and the GT2 blasts into the horizon like being launched from an aircraft carrier.

Porsche warns not to turn off the TC or PSM as this detects wheelspin and curbs engine power, actively applying more and more power keeping close to about 15 per cent tyre slippage as possible.

In this way a burnt clutch is avoided and Porsche says it lasts far longer than their competition. The clutch is not servo assisted like it is in the 911 Turbo and needs a moderate degree of leg power but its tactility is far better and it saves weight in the process without the extra servo mechanism.

The power delivery comes in with a punch like no other. It still has that elastic nature of a turbocharged unit but the two smaller turbos spool up rapidly as it employs variable vane turbines.

While we favour turbocharging mated to automatics, this installation with the 6-speed manual is pretty satisfying with no flat spots as the engine is torquey off-boost thanks to its 3.6L displacement and decently low 1440 kg kerb weight.

In a dry, perfectly straight take-off, one senses the tyres just struggling to maintain traction as the boost reaches maximum despite their quasi track compound and huge 325/30 ZR 19 size. Accelerating onto a slight curve will quickly break rear grip and is advisable to keep the PSM on until you reach the track. No prizes for guessing what happens when there is a drizzle.

We noticed the standard gearing is rather tall with 1st gear reaching 80 km/h at max revs and at 100 km/h the engine is just nudging 2000 rpm, Where in most cars 3000 rpm equates to 100 km/h, the GT2 is already cruising at 150 km/h. And 6th gear is not an overdriven, fuel saving ratio but is actually necessary for reaching the spectacular top whack of 329 km/h.

The car’s aerodynamics is tuned for cleaving the air efficiently with a Cd of 0.32 and there is more downforce than the 911 Turbo on both axles for high speed stability. Of course the penalty for that is crunching that low front chin splitter on curbs that would not normally be any cause for concern.

Adopting the superb suspension from the GT3, the GT2 gets some clever tweaks to accommodate the higher power and weight. Those who know, this suspension is mounted on rose jointed bushings and if one has ever driven a race car equipped with similar suspension joints, the cabin will sound like a running wreck with every nuance of the road fed back into the cabin.

Well, thanks to a magical compound called Silasto, just a thin layer as the bushing manages to filter out the high frequency road noise making the GT2 run just a little louder than the standard 911 Carrera. Moreover with a new damping curve the GT2 feels more pliant than the GT3 despite a 10 per cent rise in spring rates.

The steering is no longer that overly quick-ratio rack from the last GT2 but the variable ratio rack that all 911’s now use. The Motorsport department has concluded that this time it is as good as it gets.

Now when one takes a corner it does not mean chopping off the apex early as this rack feels wonderfully progressive. It only gets quick when you are using it past 30 degrees in either direction for greater agility in corners.

There is much better turn-in grip and less understeer thanks to slightly less aggressive front roll stiffness. But the revelation comes on the autobahn where the darty, nervous feel has been banished forever and the gentler ratio around the straight ahead position offers stable and positive tracking without worrying about drifting into the next lane if one so much as sneezes.

It is too easy to mistakenly think this is just a high power 911 Turbo. In philosophy it is more akin to the 911 GT3 with a turbo motor. Though the GT2 uses the 911 Turbo’s body, at 1440-kg it is 145 kg lighter with much of that saving accounted by the removal of the all-wheel drive system but the new sport bucket seats also help shed 9 kg each.

The Titanium exhaust cuts the exhaust weight by half, about 9 kg. Then at each corner they have fitted as standard, four huge PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes) 380mm in front and 350mm in the back, more stamina and 20 kg less unsprung weight than the steel equivalents.

These are indeed the best Ceramic brakes in the business, operating progressively even in the start-stop city snarl, something that the competition have yet to perfect. All told the GT2 is just 45 kg heavier than the GT3 but with a huge power advantage.

FAST FACTS : PORSCHE 911 GT2 (997)
ENGINE
CAPACITY   : 3600cc, bi-turbo
CYLINDER LAYOUT : Flat-6 boxer
VALVES   : 24-valves, 4-valve heads
BORE X STROKE  : 100 x 76.4mm
COMPRESSION RATIO : 9.0:1
MAXIMUM POWER  : 530 Bhp at 6500 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 680 Nm from 2200 to 4500 rpm

TRANSMISSION
TYPE    : 6-speed manual
DRIVEN WHEELS  : Rear

PERFORMANCE
TOP SPEED   : 329 km/h
0-100KM/H   : 3.7 seconds

SUSPENSION
FRONT   : McPherson Struts and PASM
REAR    : Multi-arm axle with PASM

BRAKES
FRONT   : 380mm PCCB inner ventilated discs
REAR    : 350mm PCCB inner ventilated discs

TYRES
TYPE    : Michelin Cup Sport
SIZE    : f: 235/35 ZR 19, r:325/30 ZR 19

SAFETY
ABS    : Yes 
AIRBAGS    : 6
TRACTION CONTROL : PSM, TC, SC

MEASUREMENTS
LENGTH   : 4469mm
WIDTH   : 1852mm
HEIGHT   : 1285mm
WHEELBASE  : 2350mm
KERB WEIGHT  : 1440 kg
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO: 2.62 kg/hp
TURNING CIRCLE  : 10.6m

PRICE IN 2007   : $862,888 with COE
WARRANTY   : 3-years/100,000 km

Summary
There is no doubt that the performance envelope of this GT2 is enormous and apart from top speed, it would take some serious dry track time for anyone to explore its considerable limits. It is with great relief that we can say the GT2 is a far more sorted beast than its forebear and no longer strikes fear into mere mortals. Rally ace and Porsche's R&D driver Walter Rohrl has set yet another official record time through the Nurburgring circuit in the latest GT2 on stock tyres and just using the normal PSAM settings, lapping the 20.6 km loop in an incredible 7 min 32 seconds matching the all conquering Carrera GT and 10 seconds faster than the GT3 RS making it something of a bargain if you can call $862,888 cheap. With an expected production total around 1300, this will be a rare beast indeed and if 530 bhp is more your cup of tea, you might just want to get off the wait-list for the GT3 and onto the GT2’s.- mp
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