The 911 GT2 is Already Retro

When the thermometer starts to dip, drivers like to call it “boost weather.” Engines, and turbos, are operating at much better efficiency, yielding a driving experience at its peak for the year.

With that in mind, it would seem like an excitable time to finally experience the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 – its twin-turbocharged flat-six powers the fastest 911 ever built for road use at the time. But instead, the December weather just reminded us of how intimidating the GT2 was meant to be.

On paper, it doesn’t seem complicated: a 911 Turbo without the weight of an all-wheel drive system. Going down the spec sheet raises your eyebrows, with 523 horsepower and a top speed that leaves 200 in its rear-view. But it’s another thing once you feel it. A GT3 911 serves you acceleration like a five-course meal, the GT2 simply bakes it in a pie then throws it in your face in jest. You’d think this has to be the limit, but Porsche saw even more potential and built an RS version in 2010.

But for the time being, all the focus is on our GT2. And you need it, too; the Pilot Super Sports barter with the frigid road for grip, the rear-driven set asked to supply it exclusively, unlike the 911 Turbo. Any miscalculated driver input puts you on the brink of $200,000 disaster, which is why at this time in any other GT2’s life, it’s tethered to a battery tender in the garage, cozy under a custom-fitted cover. Nobody ever looked at the forecast, saw temperatures in the 20’s, and thought, “I think I’ll take the GT2 today.” But we did.

Our snow-white GT2 suited the landscape of the Malvern farmlands that were anticipating a coating any second. The back roads, doused in a fine layer of leftover salt, carved through the hillsides that were once a vibrant green now desaturated. The trees didn’t even express a hue of the color at all. Our only lively scenery was the GT2 and its playmate, an Amaranth Red GT3.

It was probably for the better, as it let us spend more time driving than taking photos. It may look good in photos, though maybe just a dressed-up 911 to the untrained eye, but the unparalleled experience of the GT2 can only be felt in the driver’s seat.

It’s far from the only car that prioritizes the simplicity of driving over literally anything else, and it’s not even the fastest in its own Porsche family – the notorious Carrera GT is up there. But in a 911, a lineup that features cars you can drive everyday, the savagery of the GT2 is remarkable, if not refreshing, if not a bit terrifying. Porsche Motorsports has long practiced developing sports cars that are uncompromising in capable hands, but difficult to tame with anyone less.

On everyday roads, you won’t be toeing the line on the upper limits of the GT2, but you see what it’s on about. If you dare tap into the boost, you’re launched so unexpectedly that your primal reflex is only to back off and reel it back in for fear that you’ve done too much. But even at low speed, the GT2 is demanding and there’s no time to rest. With the weight of the clutch, you’re prone to losing it at low speeds as you can only be so delicate. The margin of error is minuscule and you’re reminded in any situation.

Scarcely is there a car so binary, with each driver input graded pass/fail for vehicle control. Gear shifts, for one, require commitment. There is no finagling the car from one gear to the next; it’s a firm yank or shove, it’s conviction. It’s best to have a big breakfast that morning, because the GT2 is going to need a lot from you.

At this point in the automotive landscape, that makes the GT2 practically retro. The computers in modern supercars help stitch together the missing pieces of performance, and smaller analog sports cars are hardly as tall a task.

In that sweet spot sits the GT2, where you’re rewarded for your skill and effort, but constantly reminded that spirited driving requires your undivided attention.