Porsche makes a good business out of selling endless variants of the 911. This one seems to have been a bit forgotten. Why?
The 911 GT2 did what buyers expected of Porsche: supply lots of power with a forceful gob of acceleration and a butch price to match. For this version, the 2001 GT2, Porsche’s engineers eschewed all-wheel drive, sending 461 bhp to the rear wheels only. The top speed got close enough to 200 mph too. Was it a bit too much though? Why did … they?
Actually Porsche wanted less weight for this hence the raw result. It was the only weigh to go. Deleting all-wheel drive meant the car weighed a whole Clarkson less than the four-wheel drive variant. However, they didn’t
strip out all the luxuries as in the RS. A glance inside would reveal much the same kind of thing you’d see in most 911s of the time: an ugly cliff of a dash, a nasty four-spoker and ovals borrowed from the much better Mondeo console. Still: it´s a Porsche.
In 2001 the horsepower wars were starting in earnest and Porsche had two tools in its armory, the Boxster and the evergreen 911. This was not a lot to fight with. The 911 had to be reworked. And this was not just because of Porsche’s internal goals but because the others were beginning to scuff Porsche´s heels.
For a lot of its history Porsche drivers were used to being only in the same league as Ferraris, SLs and certain Jaguars. Increasingly as the 90s dragged on, BMW M3s and Audi RS4s could zip past Porsches on the Flensburg-Basel morning run. When that RS4 was an estate it galled even more to see it zoom ahead. The ample 300 hp of the Carrera 2 suddenly seemed only adequate. Three Series were offering this in some forms. The 911 Turbo addressed this deficit with 420 hp but was burdened with a bit too much weight and too many niceties.
So, absent an entirely new vehicle, and with the Boxster limited necessarily to lower performance, Porsche sharpened the 911 by sending it on a bit of a diet. Out went the Porsche Stability management, Tiptronic, all-wheel drive and traction control. And the back seats too. That way the power-to-weight ratio improved (if other things didn’t). The limited slip differential stayed and since the Tiptronic option went out with the rear seat, Porsche fettled the gearchange to make it easier to use.
Contemporary reports confirmed the higher speed and other things. The consequences could be seen clearly in its behaviour: over-steer on demand with only sticky Pirellis to keep the car on the winding, narrow road. Reports also indicated that the Porsche 911 GT2 would play ricochet hardball if asked to access that performance: a jittery ride and a wiggly front end (the engine was still in the wrong place after all these years). Tramlining could be enjoyed too so if you planned to race to a nice lunch on Black Forest narrow lanes, best take the Passat VR6. And if the road bucked, the GT2 liked to fly which meant a little less contact with the road. Porsche don´t do airmiles.
That knobbly ride could be credited to the ice-hard suspension: inflexible springs, brusque dampers and stout anti-roll bars more typical of larger vehicles. In reality, on many ordinary roads, the GT2 was just too demanding of road space and too firmly sprung to be of much use. A well-driven VW Golf GTi might very well have the advantage of it. The GT2 really was an alternative to an ICE train: meant for intercity autobahn use but with less space. Used that way, on those wide intercity roads, one had a better chance of dodging the over-steer with its sudden appearance and equally sudden vanishing act.
The real advantage of the GT2 lay in its outright speed, bragging rights and sometime-usability on unrestricted autobahns. And the hefty price – you would not want a car this unbalanced for 30 grand but at over one hundred thousand pounds it made its point with an iron knee. Expensive and nearly useless, the 911 GT2 showed that the flexible framework of the 911 was reaching its limits. Colin Chapman could have seen that one coming.
Wierdly, the 911 which did most of what the earlier cars could, at a lower price was seen to be too nice and pleasant, too cerebral. While some might think the GT2 was a response to criticism, it was already in the pipeline. It makes sense to offer choice – what’s interesting about Porsche is that such variation as might exist in a catalogue of options are solidified and sold as a model which is great for garnering publicity, I suppose.
Details: 3.6 litre quad cam 24 valve twin turbo, six-speed manual, no rear seats, 197 mph and 0-60 in 4ish seconds. Weight: about the same as Peugeot 406.