The term “race car with lights” has been used so many times to describe high performance street cars, that it’s become a cliché, because no matter how fast they are, few cars designed for street-use really have the performance or durability to withstand the grueling demands of the race track. But those who have driven the Porsche 911 GT2 claim that it really is a race car with lights. Is it? Well, you know what? There’s only one way to find out!
We’ll have to go where real race cars live every day, Georgia’s Roebling Road Raceway. And the 2002 Porsche 911 GT2 is well equipped for this environment. Based on the 911 Turbo, but with rear-wheel-drive only, the 3,175-pound GT2 is lighter, more powerful, and more aerodynamic.
Huge vents in the nose direct cool air to the radiators and brakes, while an air extractor on the hood vents hot air away. And the aggressive front apron generates down force, while cutting under car airflow. Lift is further reduced by almost an inch less ride height than the Turbo. Out back, the rear wing offers six degrees of adjustment and carries vents that duct air straight to the engine.
Which is a 3.6-liter twin-turbo flat-six like that of the 911 Turbo. But it produces a greater 456 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque, thanks to higher boost pressure. The only available gearbox is a heavily beefed-up 6-speed manual, while the wheels are 18-inch alloys wearing ZR-rated 245/50 tires up front, and huge 315/30s in the rear. Behind them lurk huge ABS-equipped ceramic brake discs, while the MacPherson strut/multi-link suspension features stiffer springs and adjustable anti-roll bars and ride height.
It all sounds pretty racy, and feels that way too, as it rocks to 60 in only 3.9 seconds. The 1/4 mile takes only 12.4 seconds at 118 miles per hour. And it doesn’t have to slow down much for corners! Turn in is lightning quick, with minimal front push. The massive tires grip hard at mid-corner, but can break loose as you power out into the engine’s thickest torque which lies between 3,500 and 4,500 rpm.
It feels leaner, tighter, and stronger than even the mighty 911 Turbo and demands higher levels of concentration, even under braking, where the ceramic brakes give just a chirp before clamping down. Our measured stops of 121 feet from 60 don’t begin to hint at their true stopping power and endurance.
That’s real race car performance, but is the GT2 a real race car? For that answer, we turned to Bob Miller from At Speed Motorsports, who won the Rookie of the Year title in the 2001 SCCA Speed World Challenge series in his Rogaine-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car!
The track-only GT3 is built in very limited numbers for the European Porsche Super Cup Series. Stripped of all amenities, but strengthened with a full roll cage, it weighs a feather light 2,425 pounds. Power comes from a normally aspirated version of Porsche’s 3.6-liter flat-six with an output of 410 horsepower. The lightweight bodywork includes doors that are little more than an outer skin and carbon fiber liner and a rear wing with over twice the adjustment range of the GT2’s. The suspension shocks and sway bars also offer a much wider range of adjustment. So how much different is it to drive, Bob?
‘‘When you drive the GT2, you immediately sense the difference in mass between the GT3, and entering a corner you’re going to notice it under braking, into the corner you’re going to notice it in terms of the car’s ability to grab that corner and set up for the apex, and then rocketing out of the corner under power you’re again going to feel that mass. Now the GT2’s brakes are fantastic, so from a braking standpoint you’re not going to see too much of a difference. It’s simply nowhere near as loud, much more comfortable, much softer, and it doesn’t dart and grab with every single movement of the pavement. They use different engines, one’s normally aspirated, one’s turbo, and so you have a little bit of the turbo lag with the GT2. But you’re just not feeling that visceral acceleration that you get out of the GT3 Super Cup car.’‘Bob Miller Again, when you’re driving the GT3 race car, your body is pounded. I mean the suspension is at least twice as stiff as the GT2 street car. So the movements of the car, the G- forces that it’s able to hold, the pounding, the noise, the visceral experiences, the smells, the car is approximately 110 decibels, very loud inside. There’s no sound deadening. No insulation anywhere. You step into the GT2, it’s a completely different world. You could probably have Mozart on driving 150 miles-per-hour. It’s very, very easy to drive, very predictable, very quiet.
And very impressive, race car or not! And a whole lot more usable.
The brilliant combination of comfort and performance that is the Porsche 911 GT2 will cost you $180,665, but only if you’re one of the lucky few able to secure one of the mere 500 examples available to U.S. buyers.
So, it’s not a race car with lights, but the 2002 Porsche 911 GT2 is as close as we think you’re ever going to get. It may be a street car, but it’s the only street car capable of living up to the amazing and continuing racing heritage of Porsche.
Engine: 3.6-Liter Twin-turbo Flat-six
Torque: 457 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 3.9 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.4 Seconds @ 118 MPH
60-0 MPH: 121 Feet
EPA Mileage: 15 MPG City 22 MPG Highway