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A purist's dilemma: Which specialty Porsche rates above them all?
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It's not always the speediest racing machine that wins the day when discussing dual-purpose, street-legal cars
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By BRENDAN MCALEER
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Friday, June 8, 2018 – Print Edition, Page D1


BOWMANVILLE, ONT. -- With the push of a button, the Porsche GT2 RS cleared its throat, the tone changing from guttural warning growl to a sound disturbingly like that time Steve Buscemi got fed into a wood chipper in Fargo. Uh-oh: The king of the 911s is an angry beast, eager to strip flesh from the broken bones of the unwary.

This is the most powerful factory 911 money can buy and, with a lap time of six minutes 47 seconds, the unofficial fastest production car around the hellishly difficult Nurburgring. In the Porsche world, there is no metric for which the GT2 RS does not peg the meter. It's the fastest, the most expensive and the most carbon-fibrey. You get the general idea.

Yet, while the speediest racing machine usually wins the day, such is not always the case when discussing dual-purpose street-legal cars. Think of it this way: The loudest stereo doesn't always play the sweetest music.

Happily, the GT2 RS isn't alone here at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park today; the king is flanked by courtiers of speed. There's something here for nearly everyone, from the sublimely effortless to the ridiculously fast.

LIGHT MAKES RIGHT: 911T To begin the morning, a little lemon sorbet. While the GT2 RS exists to post up the kind of numbers that have Italian engineers shouting their most creative blasphemies, the 911T is not for bench racers. It is based on the standard Carrera and, for an extra $12,500, offers exactly no extra horsepower. It has the same 370-horsepower, 331lb-ft 3.0L turbocharged flat-six.

What you get, instead, is less. The 911T gets a slight weight savings over the base Carrera, thanks to thinner glass on the rear and rear-quarter windows - this is a shared element with the GT2 RS. It also gets a 10-millimetre-lower chassis with adjustable damping, rear-torque vectoring with a limited-slip differential, the Sport Chrono selectable driving modes, 20inch wheels, a standard sport exhaust and fabric door pulls.

The available options list for the 911T is also a bit longer than the regular Carrera, including the I'm-sorry-how-much $5,940 carbon-fibre fixed-back seats.

These come bundled with a nocost rear-seat delete, for an added 20 kilograms in weight savings.

You might as well remove the doors. The 911T is ideal when kept as simple as possible, with the standard short-shift manual transmission, rear seats to carry your plus-two kids and almost no other options to distract from the driving experience. It is effervescent to drive, light-footed and lithe with its narrow body.

Truth be told, this is more a road car than a track car, but you can ruin its purity and improved lap times with Porsche's doubleclutch gearbox and costly carbon-ceramic brakes, if you must.

That's missing the point (maybe just buy a Carrera S instead), as the 911T is all about the sound and experience of driving quickly.

You know: having fun. Remember that?

FLAT-FOUR FURY: 718 CAYMAN AND BOXSTER GTS

Until the next-generation 718 GT4 debuts with its naturally aspirated engine, the GTS is the highest trim available for Porsche's midengined duo of entry-level cars.

Well, I say "entry-level" - at around $92,600 to start for the hard-top variant, you might need to check under the couch cushions before making the leap to 911 ownership.

Or perhaps not. While the new turbocharged flat-four engine doesn't have the ripping-silk sonorousness of the previous flatsix Cayman and Boxster, it does provide some serious power.

What's more, the balance of the 718 twins is closer to perfection than the 911's classic-but-flawed rear-engine weight bias.

Both cars are ferocious little beasts, three-quarter-scale versions of the 918 supercar. With a peak 365 hp from the 2.5L turbocharged four, and 317 lb-ft of torque hitting at 1900 rpm, the 718 Cayman GTS responds with performance the older version can't match. Using its standard torquevectoring rear axle to pivot like a boxer on the ball of his right foot, it surges forward on corner exit and lands a punch right on your grinning mug. You'll miss the sound, but you'll love the power.

STUTTGART SLEDGEHAMMER: 911 GT2 RS Any driver approaching the GT2 RS, as it sits there in a blend of malevolence and carbon fibre, might be forgiven for feeling a few butterflies in their stomach.

Previous iterations of this machine were called the widowmaker, with a reputation for turning to bite the hand at the reins.

Sometimes, they couldn't even find the hand afterwards.

But that was then. Today, thanks to technology, the GT2 RS is as obedient as a well-trained Labradoodle, albeit one inexplicably fitted with a pair of solid rocket boosters. Lateral grip is immense, the brakes are capable of shedding inertia like a top fuel dragster's parachute, and Porsche's traction and stability control systems are all there to help you keep a leash on things.

Thus, the GT2 RS isn't scary; it's hilarious. The equipment list gives some insight into the lunacy: Standard water mist cools the intake charge for that nucleargrade power plant; magnesium alloy wheels save unsprung weight and add $14,840 to the already $20,540 optional Weissach package, and are so popular the so-equipped GT2 RS accounts for 80 per cent of the world's magnesium-wheel production; sections of the front bumper are designed to be popped out and, combined with adjustment to the rear wing, provide up to 450 kg of downforce. The optional sway bars are made of carbon fibre. The muffler is titanium.

Then there's the power from the turbocharged 3.8-litre flat-six engine, which is just silly. A pair of monstrous, 67-mm turbochargers do away with Porsche's clever variable turbine geometry, exchanging mass flow for a little lag. You won't notice the latter, as the GT2 RS surges forward towards anything you point it at, as if the accelerator was a fast-forward button.

The Dodge Charger Hellcat also makes 700 hp. If you purchased a 1960s-era Volkswagen Beetle and tied it to the roof of the GT2 RS, then it might be about as slow as a Hellcat. Maybe.

Is all this well-managed yet brutish excess worth the staggering cost? To some, there's no price tag too large to be king of the hill. And with fewer than 100 cars coming to Canada, expense won't be as much of a barrier as will availability.

THE G IS FOR GOLDILOCKS: 911 GT3 However, if your pockets are only regular deep, not coal-mine deep, fret not. As much as the GT2 RS inspired crazed cackling any time the accelerator touched the carpet, it wasn't the one I most wanted to bring home.

Instead, at about half the price, it was the GT3 that provided an unmatched combination of racebred feel and friendly usability.

With a naturally aspirated flat-six engine redlining at 9000 rpm and producing 500 hp, Porsche's winged machine screamed like a demon and wrenched at your guts.

Yet, the GT3 isn't your enemy, it's your co-conspirator. It wants to find a way to make you quicker. With lower torque at higher revs, the stability and tractioncontrol systems have less fussing to do, so you can get on with the business of being smooth, finding the right line, and then singing along as that glorious 4.0L hits 7000 rpm, 8000 rpm, 9000 rpm.

You could do this sort of thing all day, until the tires and fuel ran out, and they made you go home.

Pity not the person who has to pick from among these fine machines. This isn't a dilemma, this is being spoiled by choice.

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Associated Graphic

The GT2 RS is the fastest, most expensive and most carbon-fibrey vehicle in the Porsche world.

BRENDAN McALEER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Any driver approaching the GT2 RS might be forgiven for feeling a few butterflies in their stomach: Previous iterations of the machine were called the widowmaker.

PHOTOS BY BRENDAN McALEER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Today, thanks to technology, the GT2 RS is as obedient as a well-trained labradoodle, albeit one inexplicably fitted with a pair of solid rocket boosters.


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