Monday, December 24, 2007

Porsche 911 GT2

There are faster ways to raise the adrenaline than Porsche' s new 911 flagship but most of them are airborne.

IT’S dripping wet at Ahlhorm airfield in Bremen, Germany, and former rally champion Walter Rohrl is at the finer limits of Porsche’s new 911 flagship, the GT2.

It’s an old airfield that dates back well before the Second World War – the kind where you might imagine Junkers and Stukas parked on the grass.

But the snarl of a twin turbocharged flat six defying physics is something that reminds you it’s the wrong era.

That octave nestles within the fastest and most powerful 911 to roll out of Stuttgart.

“It’s the best 911 ever. It has the stability and smoothness of a race car and yet is easy enough to drive to work every day,” Walter says, winding through the gears as we get thrown deeper into the racing sports bucket seats.

No one relished the thought of going skating with 530bhp on perilously wet German B-roads on very fat rubbers.

So Porsche moved the airfield programme forward in the day, hoping for clearer skies later.

For now, the man who gives his seal of approval before a new Porsche enters production, is delivering an unadulterated dose of adrenalin, held teeteringly in check by some 19-inch Pirellis.

“Even with the traction control switched totally off – which you can do for the first time in a road-going Porsche – it is still very predictable and progressive. It never loses its tail suddenly,” he says animatedly, inducing just that in mid-corner before gently stroking the wheel in a counter steer.

Agreed, there is nothing nasty about the GT2's behaviour at half past the limits. For most, those tummy butterflies will come from the gut-wrenching limits in themselves.

Our ride with Walter done, we headed off for a deserted stretch of autobahn to do our own bidding.

The GT2 is not homologated as a race car but is what some call race-ready.

It's a great car to have in your garage for that special outstation jaunt or a weekend at the track.

For the latter purpose, it can be finetuned via adjustable anti-roll bars, spring plates, and wheel camber plates, among others.

Tread lightly and the GT2 is comfortable and unfussy enough to be in all day.

The ride is firm and at lower speeds, at worst, a little nuggety over uneven surfaces.

There is a gentle whine as the turbos spool up and with a peak torque of 680Nm, maintained consistently between 2,200rpm and 4,500rpm, there isn’t a hint of peakiness about the engine.

You can potter about town quite rapidly and overtake many things with minimum gear changes.

Mash pedal to the metal however and the power from the flat six is explosive.

It is so fast that you get a momentary facelift as it whittles past the 100kph mark, 3.7 seconds later – the result of

530bhp propelling just 1,440kg of car.

You have to recalibrate your mind as you shift through the manual six-speeder. There’s help in the form of a flashing red light at 6,000rpm on the rev counter that tells you it’s time to change up – just enough – before the limiter cuts in at the 6,750 redline.

Walter’s personal lap times on the old Nurburgring north track indicate the progress over past icons.

For the 911 RS and 911 GT3, it is respectively 7min 42 seconds and 7 min 41 seconds.

On the new GT2 , it is 7 min 32 seconds.

Nuts and bolts

Porsche has lightened this car in many ways over the standard 911 Turbo on which it is largely based.

Not having the Turbo's four-wheel-drive has given the engineers more room to play around with the front suspension

and steering geometry, ensuring a more upright tyre footprint at all times.

What follows is a steering that jitters with road feel and a turn-in that is bitingly sharp.

The weight-shedding measures extend to eliminating the rear seats and extra light composite seats.

Titanium exhaust pipes and ceramic composite brake discs further lighten the scales, the latter giving for some pulverising braking.

Porsche has wrung an extra 50bhp over the old GT2. The engine is based on the six cylinder boxer seen in the 911 Turbo which uses two turbochargers complete with Porsche’s variable turbine geometry (VTG).

The extra power comes partly from an enlarged compressor wheel and a flow-optimised turbine housing, both of which are laid out for even higher charge pressure.

But Porsche engineers have also combined the turbocharged power unit in the 911 GT2 with a so-called expansion-type intake manifold.

The idea is to use the oscillating intake air during the cooler expansion phase to prepare the fuel/air mixture, keeping the temperature of the mixture lower. This significantly increases all-round efficiency – more power on less fuel. Fuel consumption also drops by up to 15% under full load.

For absolutely sizzling starts, the launch assistance modes require just that you floor the throttle at standstill, the appropriate gear in mesh and clutch pedal pressed to the floor.

The system sets the optimum engine speed, leaving the driver only to lift his foot off the clutch as fast as he can for blastoff.

Ground effects

The weather stays wet and we are resigned to keeping much of the GT2’s capabilities in check but hope comes along on a 10km stretch of quickly drying bitumen.

From 190kph, flooring the throttle in fifth gear hurtles us past the 250kph mark for a quick change to sixth before 300kph registers moments later.

It's hard to believe the rate at which the figures arrive. The autobahn has become narrower and the straights are now long bends as we blink past.

At 300kph, the speed at which a jumbo jet achieves take-off, the GT2 feels glued to the ground.

It’s totally exhilarating and yet the feeling of solidarity with terra firma assures that you are well within the car’s capabilities.

Ease off the pace and the car assumes a nonchalance that could fool some.

From a rear view mirror perspective, we’d suspect only Porsche enthusiasts would have an inkling of the scale of the lurking menace behind them, given the subtle differences between the GT2 and lesser 911s.

That’s because Porsche designers have been at pains to maintain the purity and purposefulness of the original 911 design.

It’s a way of doing things that harks back to the original philosophies behind the 911 – one where the form follows function.

What’s amazing is the gorgeous shape that followed. It's survived 35 years and is in no danger of losing its lustre.

In these days when designers make cars that shout for attention and making a statement is fashionable, the 911 is a refreshing anarchy.

And the GT2 is the epitome of that concept.

Now into its third progression, it remains devastatingly effective.


Porsche 911 GT2

Engine: 3,600cc, six cylinders, horizontally opposed, water-cooled, variable valve timing, two turbochargers with variable geometry turbines.

Maximum power: 530bhp at 6,500rpm

Maximum torque: 680Nm from 2,200rpm to 4,500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive, limited slip differential

Suspension: (Front) MacPherson design optimised by Porsche, cylindrical springs, fully controlled single sleeve gas pressure damper units; (Rear) multi-link, cylindrical springs, fully controlled single sleeve gas pressure damper units

Brakes: (Front) Six-piston callipers, 380mm ceramic composite cross-drilled discs; (Rear) four-piston callipers, 350mm ceramic composite cross-drilled discs

Safety: Anti-lock Braking System, Porsche Active Suspension Management, Porsche Stability Management with three stage control, Traction Control.

Wheels: (Front) 235/35/ZR19, (Rear) 325/30/ZR19

Acceleration (0 to 100kph): 3.7 seconds

Top speed: 329kph

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