200 MPH Club 2005 Ford GT, Lamborghini Murcielago, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, and Porsche Carrera GT

Charlie Magee

(We really do have to stop for a second and mention price. The Ford stickers at $141,245. That's about half the price of the Lambo and more than $300,000 less than either the Mercedes or the Porsche. That's if you can find one at sticker. We're seeing as much as a $75,000 premium on eBay-peddled GTs, which still makes entry into the 200-mph club a bargain.)

Lorio feels that the Ford is the easiest of our four to drive and the most like a racing car in looks, "a rather charming combination. Clutch and gearbox are super-easy. It's very American in that its engine gets the job done but isn't terribly sophisticated or exotic. It doesn't zoom to the redline or sing an aria, but it does rocket the car down the road." Rocket, indeed. Feeling too normal? Step on the throttle. The GT's 550-hp V-8 keeps things real.

Passenger Side Interior View

Now, let's talk Porsche.

Lorio: "The sound of the Carrera GT revving its engine is straight out of pit lane at the Indy 500. There is absolutely nothing else like it."

Sherman: "The engine zings like a buzz saw, the steering is crisp and sure, the chassis grips as if tied to the road by steel cables. It makes all the sounds and swings that car enthusiasts live for."

Gillies: "Enough power to send you straight to jail for a long time. Fourth is good for 140 mph plus, so I don't know where you would ever see max revs in sixth. The Mulsanne, maybe?"

We love the Porsche. It's no secret that our affection begins with one of the most amazing engines ever to live in a production car. With 605 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque, it can be hard to stay on top of your moves. Step on it, and you've reached the redline. Upshift, and . . . you've reached the redline. Upshift again, and you can break the tires loose. Upshift again, and the power is still pouring on like nothing you've felt in your life except on a racetrack. The last thing on your mind will be to turn on the radio.

The quality of the Carrera GT's ride is astonishing, despite its monster wheels and tires, which do follow road grooves enough to notice. But it takes a real cow path to unnerve this car. Steering is alive in your hands, and lateral acceleration blows the others into the weeds.

Full Driver Side View

It stops the way it goes-like, now-its nonmetallic brakes parking the Porsche eighteen feet shorter from 70 mph than its closest competitor, the SLR. Everything about the Carrera GT is intense, including how much fun it is to drive.

To be honest, your coolness can be compromised by the extremely touchy clutch. The recommended procedure is to let it out without touching the accelerator pedal, easing neatly away from a stop. But if you get a little nervous (say, at an uphill stop with maybe a Ford GT waiting close behind you), you might be tempted to give the accelerator a little goose. You will surely stall. Lorio suffers a worse lapse of cool when, upon stalling, he finds the just-delivered Carrera GT to have a dead battery and has to ask some locals for a push. He recovers because he is still in the Porsche, now bombing down the road, wondering "what the poor people were driving" that day, as dear departed Aunt Red used to say.

So this is the end of the story. Living large with an SLR would work if your backyard were the Virginia International Raceway. Otherwise, you'd do well to change into more sensible shoes to make this a daily driver. If you like the flashy looks and intend only to potter, you'll be happy.

Without the others around for comparison, the Murcilago looks exotic and sounds as if it could start mid-pack at Indy. It's a breeze to drive but a bitch to see out of around town. Still, it's a steal at $279,800.

Steal this. A Ford GT at $141,245 is an unbelievable opportunity to own, drive, and enjoy the hell out of a faithful rendition of the '60s Le Mans winners. As fast and strong as it is, the GT is also easy to drive and predictable at the limit. The drawbacks? Limited forward visibility and the need for a minivan chase vehicle to haul your cell phone, your hankie, and your briefcase.

The clear, unthreatened winner at any price is the Porsche Carrera GT, your own personal prototype, street-legal racer. Its striking presence will suck the air out of any parking lot. You will grow addicted to its monstrous power and revel in its everyday livability. You will surely endanger your driving privileges.

We are devastated to part with the Porsche at the close of day, but Sherman weaves us a rosy tale at bedtime:

"When very good boys and girls who love cars finally clear the Pearly Gates, one of these machines is waiting for them to enjoy. No cops, Virginia roads, engine warmed, fuel needle stuck on full."

Forever and ever.

Can we get an amen?

4 of 4

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