Porsche Carrera GT

Tim Andrew
Porsche Carrera GT

The Porsche Carrera GT lifts its nose, squats down, and leaps forward like a world-class sprinter out of the blocks. With traction control activated, wheelspin isn't an issue in first or second gear, which clonks in at 48 mph. Porsche claims that the Carrera GT can storm from 0 to 62 mph in just 3.9 seconds-on this run, we record 4.2 seconds, and that feels pretty damned quick.

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Second gear stretches to an indicated 82 mph, third is good for 113 mph, and fourth takes us to 143 mph-close to the chip-controlled top speed for all BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benzes. In the Carrera GT, though, there are still two more ratios to come. Fifth runs out of revs at 170 mph, and sixth takes over at 7000 rpm. Because it's not that aerodynamically efficient (the Cd is 0.40), the Carrera GT tops out at 205 mph-plenty fast but some way short of a McLaren F1, for instance. Porsche tester Roland Kussmaul says that some of the prototypes have been clocked at up to 218 mph, but one would need a ton of room to achieve that. In the vast acreage of the Michelin proving ground at Gross-Dlln, near Berlin, we run out of road at 199 mph. This exercise looks positively stunning from the outside, but on a dry stretch of arrow-straight tarmac, driving this ber-Porsche at this speed is childishly simple.

The Carrera GT is Porsche's fastest and most expensive supercar, challenging the Ferrari Enzo Ferrari and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren for the title of ultimate supercar of the early twenty-first century. Like the others, the Carrera has a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, with a matching drivetrain cradle. Made in Italy, each monocoque consists of more than 1000 individual elements that are glued, laminated, and baked together. Attached to the carbon fiber structure are composite body panels, so you need to look long and hard to detect the few metal ingredients. Among them are the front chassis rails, tubular A-post inserts, fuel tank, and double control-arm and pushrod suspension. The combination of an ultra-stiff structure with suspension components mounted without rubber isolation yields exceptional steering precision and unfiltered, unamplified communication among car, driver, and the road on which they travel.

The Carrera GT is a pure, no-frills Porsche-the suspension isn't adjustable, there's no launch control, no turbocharger, not even all-wheel drive. Porsche has gone out of its way to design a new transversely mounted transmission, officially claiming that existing sequential manuals aren't quick enough but unofficially conceding that its own twin-clutch gearbox couldn't be completed in time. To lower the car's center of gravity, the clutch diameter was minimized, thanks to its ceramic construction.

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