Fast doesn’t come much faster than this, at least not real-world fast. If you’re after the accelerative best of any Stuttgart crest or three-pointed star product on sale in Australia today, you’re looking at ’em: Porsche 911 GT2 and Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series.
Entry-level is about as far from these two bad boys as Sydney is from having a conscience. And if you can afford the entry ticket, you probably don’t have one either, though anyone who couldn’t would say that.
This article was first published in the June, 2008 issue of MOTOR
Take the CLK Black. It’s an already ballistic CLK63 AMG only 93mm wider, 48mm lower, 19kW more powerful and $100,000 more expensive. It has an oil cooler for the power steering, a transmission oil cooler, an engine oil cooler and a visible oil cooler for the limited-slip rear diff, as well as carbonfibre front air ducts, plastic front guards, a carbonfibre rear diffuser and a carbonfibre boot spoiler.
The final-drive ratio has been shortened by six percent and its suspension can be manually adjusted for ride height, camber, compression and rebound damping, and front and rear axle track. You can forget the CLK63’s two-person rear bench, too – it has vanished, along with the door armrests and any semblance of pampered luxury. Make no mistake, the Black Series means serious business, in much the same way Don Corleone did. Or Hitler. Or Jeffrey Dahmer, for that matter.
Porsche’s 911 GT2 is no less focused in its efforts to make itself fitter, faster, stronger, more productive. It takes the supersonic 911 Turbo and magnifies it beyond comprehensible belief, shedding 145kg in weight and gaining 37kW/60Nm in thrust. It gets ceramic brakes, a titanium exhaust system, an aluminium bonnet and doors, super-light race seats and debuts Porsche’s new ‘Launch Assistant’ feature. But it’s the GT2’s improvement in power-to-weight – from the Turbo’s 223kW/tonne to a staggering 271kW/tonne – that makes your hands quiver.
"The GT2 charges to its 6750rpm rev limit with such insane ferocity"
Think about that for a minute – the 911 Turbo is one hellishly fast machine, capable of seeing 100 in under four seconds and 310km/h at full stretch, but the GT2 can hit 329km/h and has noticeably more shove, without suffering any of the expected side affects. With its new expansion-type intake manifold, enlarged compressor wheel and flow-optimised turbine for its two turbos and 40-percent more boost pressure (now a serious 1.4bar), the GT2 is unbelievably free-revving and inertia-free.
Indeed, the GT2 has all the lag-free throttle crispness of the naturally aspirated GT3, plus absolutely phenomenal wallop when you ask for it. It’s so tractable that it will pull any gear comfortably from 1200 revs, and even when it isn’t thumping in its massive 2200-4500rpm maximum torque band, it has more grunt than virtually anything on the road.
At small throttle openings, you can hear its wastegate huffing and a sweet, swaying whistling as one of its turbos comes in and out of play. But if there’s 3000rpm showing on its centre-mounted tacho, you better hold on. The GT2 charges to its 6750rpm rev limit with such insane ferocity that you’d think it was sprint-geared, but second will do 130km/h and third runs to nearly 180!
Want proof? Look at the GT2’s rolling-start acceleration – 80 to 120km/h in 1.8sec in third, 2.8sec in fourth, 3.8sec in fifth, and 5.7sec in sixth. It simply beggars belief. No production car on sale in Australia can beat it, or even come close. And it sounds fast as it sucks in the horizon with mind-altering intensity, the turbo’s crazed whooshing overlayed by a distant but angry wail from its titanium rear pipes.
Not that the CLK Black Series is wanting for noise. In fact, its freshly tweaked 6.2-litre AMG V8 bellows one of the best bent-eight soundtracks you and those in the next suburb have ever heard. It’s the very heart and soul of the CLK Black and sounds magnificent from the moment you turn the ignition key – resonating a deep, bassy rumble and enveloping the whole car in song. A revised intake, reprogrammed engine management and new low-back-pressure sports exhaust system have finally managed to bridge the aural gap between AMG’s atmo 6.2 V8 and the old blown 5.4, though the new engine still isn’t quite as thunderous when really being hammered.
It makes up for this, though, with the most delicious exhaust crackle on overrun in any gear at any time, and you can drop its pillarless side windows to magnify the effect. The CLK Black is also nut-job fast – achingly, addictively so.
From the moment you brush its aluminium accelerator pedal, the CLK Black is primed. It has razor-sharp throttle response (that necessitates a deft touch during slow-speed take-offs over scarred urban roads) and uses its shortened final drive and tightly-spaced ratios to brilliant effect. It hasn’t a hope in hell of staying with the GT2 in a straight-line stoush, but 4.7sec to 100 and a 12.7 quarter aren’t what you’d call wasting time.
Gearshifts are smooth yet snappy, and the Speedshift 7G-Tronic’s manual mode will hold your chosen ratio regardless of tacho or throttle position, but it’s a pity it doesn’t match revs on downshifts and it still takes too long to register a manual upshift when the 7200rpm redline is looming mega-large.
The GT2’s traditional six-speed manual is a completely different experience, and not just because it features three pedals and a suede-covered stick. It has a very mechanical shift – cranky and disagreeable when the oil’s cold, but short-throw and rifle-sharp when it’s warmed up and being shunted hard. In fact, the more serious the driving, the better the GT2’s gearbox is. In theory, all that torque should make gearshifting merely incidental, but the Porsche devours each ratio so quickly that your left arm’s seriously busy during an all-out assault.
And, if given the chance, it’s during one of these moments that the GT2 experience becomes alarmingly real. Not because it’s borderline-scary like the slightly ragged 996, but because it’s so wonderfully composed, even in the wet on semi-slick Cup tyres, would you believe. The faster you go, and the faster the corner, the more balanced the GT2 feels, though it’s an incisive weapon in tight stuff, too. It relies heavily on its fat rear stance and enormous rear rubber to channel all 390kW and 680Nm effortlessly to the road, but it’s stunningly effective when doing so.
Only brutal provocation when exiting tight corners in low gears manages to unsettle the tail, though even then the oversteer is fluid and progressive before the GT2 straightens and catapaults itself to the next bend. But what ultimately cements the GT2’s brilliance is its involvement. You’re fed bucketloads of information through both your fingertips and the seat of you pants, and its this synergy between its flawless steering and superb handling adjustability that hammers home why the 997 GT2 is possibly the ultimate race car for the road.
The CLK Black wants to be that, too, but it can’t quite escape the fact it’s a pumped-up version of a relatively flawed regular coupe, despite its new quick-rack steering (with just 2.4 turns) and wider tracks (by 75mm and 66mm, front and rear). The Black feels better balanced and much more planted than the slightly wayward regular CLK63, and its steering has definitely improved in accuracy and feel, but it’s still miles behind the brilliant GT2.
The Black Series CLK still feels a little taily under hard braking or when downchanging into a corner, and you need to be gentle when applying its power out of low-speed bends or hairpins – unless you intend to put its excellent LSD to good use and powerslide your way out.
The bad-boy Benz’s natural tendency is to lean on its nose in steady-state cornering, though subtle power application can easily dial this out. You can fluidly play with the CLK’s balance simply by tweaking its right pedal, but as always, big power applications with ESP off equal big oversteer. Punting the Benz sideways is surprisingly controllable and enormous fun, but even in Black Series guise, that’s still what the CLK is about – arse-out show-ponying and straight-line hot-rodding.
It might be nicely adjustable with the throttle, but it simply can’t match the intimacy of the Porsche. And it’s dinner-plate brakes, powerful and fade-resistant as they may be, aren’t quite up to the exceptional standard of the GT2’s ceramic numbers under pressure. Where the CLK’s brakes feel best is in normal driving conditions, where the Porsche’s ceramics tend to feel a little wooden and unresponsive when cold or at light loads.
The CLK Black’s ride quality is really hard in town, jostling its passengers around thanks to very firm damping, but it smooths out nicely at speed. While it is undoubtedly disciplined, there’s never any crash-through, and while its Pirelli Corsas make a fair noise, they’re much less vocal than the Porsche’s consistently loud Michelin Pilot Sport Cups. But true to 911 form, the GT2 manages to do a terrific job at pretending to be an everyday car ride-wise.
Cossetting it isn’t, but it smooths off bumps that jolt the Mercedes and manages to jiggle noticeably less, although it isn’t immune to the phenomenon. The main issue with the GT2 in town is the lack of ground clearance under its plastic front splitter – particularly over Sydney’s vast array of speed humps.
Climb down into the racing buckets of each car and you’ll be suitably impressed with your surroundings, if not your chances of getting out again with dignity. But it’s the stripped-down CLK Black that isn’t quite up to the GT2’s race-car-for-the-road standards. It has a lovely, chubby steering wheel, a great set of metal paddles and big, metal-plated pedals, but its wheel is mounted well to the left of the seat, as with so many right-hand-drive Benzes (C-class, E-class, CLS).
Like the GT2, the CLK’s body-hugging AMG seats have no lumbar or backrest-angle adjustment, but they don’t have the Porsche’s inherent lumbar support and the race-style cloth trim could wear quickly from the driver sliding in over the tall side bolsters (which Porsche treats with leather).
The CLK Black isn’t as comfortable over long distances as the Porsche, either – not just because of the lack of lumbar, but because of the trick carbonfibre AMG door trims with real aluminium handles. They might look shit-hot and weigh less, but that’s at the expense of proper door armrests, which sounds pedantic until you try plying the Hume without them. Considering the hardcore GT2 has lovely stitched-suede numbers with the 911’s excellent door bins underneath, and considering the CLK’s more grand-touring focus, it’s a bizarre omission.
Likewise removing the CLK’s rear seats. AMG would’ve been better off keeping them because it leaves a massive expanse of scooped-out space in what is normally an excellent four-seater coupe. It couldn’t have saved more than 30kg, though that’s purely speculative.
It’s the GT2 that delivers the better interior. Sure, you’ll never escape the tyre roar, even with the Porsche’s superior and great-sounding Bose stereo cranked to 11, but it has a perfect driving position, better seats, better finish, and more convenience features ... as it bloody well should for 426 grand. And its race-style seats have neat leather straps hanging from their backs that you can pull to flip the backrests forward and access what was once a very poor excuse for rear seats. In the GT2, it’s simply a carpeted shelf prepped for posh luggage. In the CLK Black, you need to slide its fixed front seats right forward to get to its two fluff-lined slippery-dips.
Ultimately, that leaves us with two totally different cars from quite divergent manufacturers. There are dearer Benzes than the $299,000 CLK63 AMG Black Series, but with just 50 crossing the high seas, few as rare. As the first of AMG’s premium ‘Black Series’ models to make it here, following in the footsteps of 2007’s fixed-roof SL55 Black, it makes its mark as Australia’s ultimate performance Benz – a car that’s both suave and savage, like Anthony Mundine dressed in a shoulder-padded suit.
But there’s something confused about the CLK Black. Without manual tuning of its underpinnings, it’s a flawed track car, unable to get anywhere near the Porsche’s focus or composure. But at the same time, AMG has introduced compromises – like the missing armrests and seats, the fixed buckets and the tough ride – that impinge on its outright ability. Much as you can’t help swooning for the CLK Black’s gloriously symphonic engine and its larrikan character, it isn’t quite the racer for the road that its look and image imply.
Unlike the exclusive Mercedes, the GT2 is a regular production model, but seeing its basic sticker reads $425,700, exclusivity is guaranteed to be part of this car’s deal. Porsche Oz has already pre-sold 31 new GT2s and there’s a chance of a few more heading south, but this bahnstorming baby will be treading the gravel of very few U-drives.
When there’s so much excitement packed into one compact little coupe, who could leave it parked anyway?
The GT2 is simply the finest example there is of an everyday race car. It can do boring and ballistic in equal measures, though virtually nothing can match its explosive firepower.
Where the standard 911 Carrera is everything you could ever want in a sports car, it manages to be the same in a truly magnificent supercar. Fast, you are GT2.
Mercedes-AMG CLK63 Black Series specs
Body: 2-door, 2-seat coupe
Drive: rear wheels
Engine: V8, DOHC, 32v
Material: alloy head/alloy block
Bore/Stroke: 102.2 x 94.6mm
Power: 373kW @ 6800rpm
Torque: 630Nm @ 5250rpm
Fuel/tank: 98 octane/62 litres
Test consumption: 16.9L/100km
Kerb Weight: 1685kg
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Final drive: 2.82
Suspension: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
Tracks (f/r): 1568/1540mm
Steering: power rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.75m
Lock-to-lock: 2.4 turns
Brakes: 360mm ventilated/drilled discs, six-piston calipers (f); 330mm ventilated/drilled discs, four-piston calipers (r); ABS, ESP
Wheel: 19 x 9.0-inch (f), 19 x 19.5-inch (r), forged alloy
Tyres: Pirelli P Zero Corsa
Size: 265/30ZR19 93Y (f), 285/30ZR19 98Y (r)
Price: $299,000 (as tested)
Porsche 911 GT2 specs
Body: 2-door, 2-seat coupe
Drive: rear wheels
Engine: flat 6, DOHC, 24v, twin turbo
Material: alloy head/alloy block
Bore/Stroke: 100.0 x 76.4mm
Power: 390kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 680Nm @ 2200-4500rpm
Fuel/tank: 98 octane/90 litres
Test consumption: 14.4L/100km
Kerb weight: 1440kg
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Final drive: 3.44
Suspension: struts, A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Tracks (f/r): 1515/1550mm
Steering: power rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.0m
Lock-to-lock: 2.6 turns
Brakes: 380mm ventilated/drilled ceramic discs, six-piston calipers (f); 350mm ventilated/drilled ceramic discs, four-piston calipers (r); ABS, EBD, PSM, TC
Wheels: 19 x 8.5-inch (f), 19 x 12.0-inch (r), alloy
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup
Size: 235/35ZR19 87Y (f), 325/30ZR19 101Y (r)
Price: $437,560 (as tested)
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