The VR6 and the dual-clutch transmission live in perfect harmony. The drivetrain is the undisputed dynamic hero of the Artega's talent pool. Mind you, in the dry, even 300 hp isn't quite enough to provoke more than the occasional second-gear sidestep, but weight distribution, suspension tuning, and aero-dynamic stability all add up to a promising big picture. The compliance takes the sting out of rough terrain where firmer setups would struggle for poise and grip. Like a Porsche 911, the Artega doesn't call for constant corrections. Instead, it can sort itself out, as long as you're willing to let it run on a slightly longer than usual leash.
The steering is very quick and yet relatively light. Turn-in is perfectly positive, although lane changes need to be timed well for optimum smoothness and flow. When in doubt, dive a little deeper into the torque well, and the line will straighten itself out almost automatically. Unlike so many steering setups, this one doesn't lose interest as the driver winds on more lock. The final verdict on the car's behavior at the limit of adhesion will have to wait until we drive it on a track, and we can't tell you much about the brakes, either, because last-minute electronic reprogramming not only neutralized ABS, it also compelled Bosch to reduce the maximum rear brake pressure to twenty percent so that the car is less likely to spin when pushed. Unfortunately, the pedal now feels dead and heavy. Deceleration is OK, but modulation is not.
The Artega factory was scheduled to open in November. By the end of the year, the batch of limited-edition "Intro 2008" models should be completed, plus perhaps fifty built-to-order customer cars. Over the next three years, annual output will gradually be increased to 500 units. After establishing itself in Germany (with seven dealers), the brand will begin exporting to Italy, France, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. In mid-2009, the first right-hand-drive specimens are scheduled for completion. This will enable Artega to tap the U.K., Australia, and Japan. Spain, Portugal, and the Benelux countries also are expected to join the fray.
What about North America? "Midterm, it's a must," concedes Kalbfell. "But since we need to prepare ourselves well for this important move, late 2010 looks like the earliest possible date. As it happens, that's when the softtop model should get the nod. After all, roadsters have traditionally always done very well in the United States."
2008 Artega GT
Base Price $110,000 (est., in Germany)
engine DOHC 24-valve V-6
displacement 3.6 liters (219 cu in)
horsepower 300 hp @ 6600 rpm
torque 258 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
transmission type 6-speed automatic
steering Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
suspension, front and rear Control arms, coil springs
brakes Vented discs, ABS
tires Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
tire size f, r 235/35YR-19, 285/30YR-19
L x W x H 157.9 x 74.0 x 46.5 in
wheelbase 96.9 in
track f/r 60.4/61.8 in
weight 2425 lb (per manufacturer)
mileage 24 mpg (est., European combined)