2008 Artega GT

Matt Howell

The minimalistic layout features control arms, antiroll bars, and coil springs over dampers all-around. The four disc brakes are made of cast iron, not composite materials. APP supplies the forged wheels shod with 235/35YR-19 (front) and 285/30YR-19 (rear) Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. There is electric power assistance for the rack-and-pinion steering. For that extra takeoff bite and for sharper responses in gear, the Artega combines the six-speed dual-clutch transmission from the front-wheel-drive Audi TT with the shorter final-drive ratio of the Quattro version. The engine is a more powerful version of the 280-hp, 3.6-liter direct-injection VR6 that VW uses in the new CC. Kalbfell claims that it propels the compact coupe from 0 to 62 mph "in well under five seconds" and on to a maximum speed of more than 165 mph. At this point, there are no factory fuel consumption figures available.

The body of the Artega GT consists of three key modules. The aluminum spaceframe forms the backbone of the car. It incorporates the floorpan, the tall sills, both firewalls, and the front and rear subframes. Mounted on top of the spaceframe assembly is a spiderlike steel structure that supports the roof, the windshield, and the rear window. Body panels are made of painted, carbon-fiber-reinforced moldings.

"At this point," says Kalbfell, "the production capacity is restricted to 500 units per year in single-shift operation, but it is logistically quite easy to double this number, since we own enough land to build an extension next to the assembly plant."

What price exclusivity? In Germany, the Artega starts at just less than €75,000 (about $110,000), some €15,000 more than a Cayman S. But this gap narrows when you consider the GT's standard specification, which includes bixenon headlamps, a dual-clutch transmission, nineteen-inch wheels, navigation, and a sport suspension. The only available factory options are lightweight wheels, metallic paint, and partial or full leather trim. Comparatively equipped, the newcomer is about ten percent more expensive than the segment leader, a premium some may justify by emotional values like rarity and style. The crucial question, of course, is whether the Artega can challenge the Cayman in terms of sheer grunt, handling prowess, ride comfort, and overall driving pleasure.

Instead of an ignition key, the Artega GT starts with a device much like Aston Martin's Emotion Control Unit. It looks like a piece of black crystal, lives in a slot next to the steering column, and starts the engine when you push it. You can tell that electronics are Paragon's speciality by the way the throttle, the engine, and the gearbox work together. The accelerator feels almost weightless, and pedal travel is quite short. The engine picks up revs like a turbocharged vacuum cleaner, the clutch drops like a steam hammer, and the fat Michelins shriek with frustration as they scramble for grip. Oops, sorry, forgot that traction and stability control are taking the day off. Second gear is only a flick of the right index finger away. Two or three seconds later, at 7000 rpm sharp, it's wham-bang-wallop into third, and we're still gaining momentum like a jet on steroids. "About 4.5 seconds from 0 to 62 mph?" I venture. Kalbfell, in the passenger seat, doesn't respond, but once more, his broad grin says it all.

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