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First Drive

Road Test: Porsche 911 GT2 RS 2dr

£171,468 when new
Published: 10 Sep 2010


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Welcome to the new 911 GT2 RS. Let's talk about first and fourth gears. First gear is relatively long for a first - when you pull away initially, before you get used to it, you give the clutch a dip because the ratio is a little taller than you expect, and you need to feed in a few more revs to get it moving. First runs to 78kph, or 48mph at peak revs of 6,750rpm.

I'm here to tell you that when you launch this car at full throttle, first gear disappears faster than you could possibly imagine. The GT2 RS's engine is a work of art - among its features are a lightweight single-mass flywheel (8kg lighter than its GT2 equivalent) and two variable-geometry vane turbochargers. This engine runs at 1.6 bar of boost. Not sure if you have a mental marker for bars of boost, but it's time you did because 1.6 is a lot of bars - the standard 911 Turbo, for example, runs at only 0.8 bar.

Combine this enormous level of boost with the lightweight flywheel, and factor in a racing-spec flat-six 3.6-litre base motor that is free-revving in normally aspirated form and you get an idea of what happens when you give the RS the full works in first gear. BANG and it's gone in a microflash, leaving your gearchange hand lagging and your eyelids fluttering and the engine on the limiter the first time it happens. It is shocking, and looking at the figures, 62mph disappears in 3.5 seconds, so you're hunting for second in about 2.5. Second continues the trend and revs equally quickly up to 80mph in a single, seamless surge, third gear gets you to 109mph and pulls with the same urgency as the first two, and then there's fourth.

See more pics of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Fourth. Jesus H Christ, Fourth. This side of a Bugatti Veyron or a superbike, I have never experienced anything on the road like Fourth Gear In A 911 GT2 RS. It gets capital letters because it's significant and it's bent right out of proportion. The car pulls fourth like a quick hot-hatch pulls second - it is the same experience as the first three gears. I'm not joking: Fourth in a GT2 RS is a gear that would annihilate just about every car on the road, certainly every car I've driven bar a Bug or a Zegg. It runs all the way to 226kph, or 140mph, and if you've changed into it from third on a flat-out run, you've engaged it at 109mph, a speed you've got to in not much more than seven seconds - that 30mph increment, on a normal quickish A-road, is one that will live with you forever. Because once you start going above 100mph on such a road, it starts to feel very fast indeed - get to 140mph and it starts to feel like you're doing something faintly absurd. OK, I was on a tightish track, but it'd be the same feeling on the road, especially if there are trees. And that 110-140mph blast in the 911 GT2 RS happens in an eye-blink, the car's racing bucket seat trying to force its way through your kidneys. Porsche's official figure for 0-200kph (0-124mph) is 9.8secs, and anything that does 0-100mph in under 10 is shattering.

I'm going to talk about fourth gear some more because I loved it and you don't have anything better to read right now. This 613bhp engine develops its maximum torque - 516lb ft - between 2,250rpm and 5,500rpm. So you can leave the car in fourth down to 2,200rpm, or about 34mph, and then nail it just for fun, all the way to 140 and jail. I did. The 911's little nose pitches into the air and the engine goes about its deep breathing and fourth gear utterly changes the way you think about fast cars yet again, the digital speedo racking up the numbers like an electrocuted calculator. Fifth and sixth don't exactly feel tardy, either - Porsche says the car gets from 0-300kph (186mph) in 28.9 seconds, a figure that I can't really contemplate but know must be incredibly rapid, assuming your car can get to 300kph in the first place - but above 150mph you're starting to encounter some thick drag. Fourth is where it's at, and you hardly want to go much faster than where that gear takes you.

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Whew, so you get the idea. This is fast. And it's fast around corners too. Porsche claims a lap time of 7min 18 secs around the 'Ring. Again, that should ring a mental marker bell. If it doesn't, consider that it is a full 14 seconds faster than the old 530bhp 911 GT2, which was itself a monster, and 21 seconds faster than a four-wheel-drive 911 Turbo.

See more pics of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS

It's not too much for the car, either - the power. It's about adequate and if you ever wanted more, your name is probably Walter Röhrl. The chassis can handle the engine, the question is whether you as a driver are prepared to learn it. I left the stability system well and truly on for my A-road drive, but I suspect that because the engine is so linear and tractable, its throttle response so exact, you could probably drive it rapidly in the wet round a track with all the systems switched off and not be bitten as long as you gave it due respect. It demands quite a bit of respect, this engine, but in every other way - the direct steering, the perfect balance and vivid communication from all four tyres - it's as rewarding and involving as a GT3.

The engine's supremeness is mostly the work of the VTG (variable turbine geometry) turbochargers. The rotors are small, so they spin up very quickly and limit lag, but with variable vanes they can also develop an incredible amount of boost when you need it at peak revs. So you don't drive it as you would an old-school big-turbo car, like a tuned Toyota Supra, where you mash the throttle about half-an-hour before the apex in anticipation of the boost hitting post-lag - you drive it as you would a normally aspirated machine, working with the boost and knowing it'll be right with you when you want it. This is a very natural and easy car to drive quickly, and even rowing it along on the torque and changing up early, a normally-aspirated GT3 RS wouldn't see which way it went.  

Ah, the GT3 RS. Now there's a car. If somebody put a GT3 RS and a GT2 RS on my drive and said ‘please choose', what would I do? Many learned hacks from my despicable free-loading trade would take the GT3 without question - it revs to 8,500 rather than 6,700, sounds more soulful, has a purer throttle response than the turbocharged GT2 and is still fast, developing 450bhp and rocketing from 0 to 62mph in 4.0 seconds.

But I can't agree. Never. Ignoring the price difference - the GT2 RS is £164,107 and the GT3 £104,841, so you've got enough spare change to buy a Nissan GT-R and a GT3 RS for the same price as the turbo car - the GT2 is the one to have. Not only because it's the ultimate, fastest-ever Porsche, but because it's a better car, one that requires greater skill to master. There is nothing quite like its power delivery, and combined with a driveability and tractability at low speed which is as ‘liveable-with' as any hot hatch, you have one of the most amazing performance cars in history. It is an instant classic if ever there was one, especially as only 500 will be made. And now, with European emissions regulations getting ever-tighter, it could be one of the last of the line.

See more pics of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS

I interviewed a famous Japanese tuner many years ago, a turbo master called Hosoki. When I asked him whether he appreciated the linear power delivery and crisp throttle response of normally aspirated cars despite working almost exclusively with turbos, he thought for a minute and then said, "you don't pay good money to watch girls play softball - you pay good money to watch men play baseball". The GT3 RS is a girl playing softball. This car is an Australian rugby league test forward making a heavy tackle.

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