TECHTONICS | Eric Tingwall
These four sports cars embrace modern technology, but they also cling to traditions established in earlier eras. These principles are central to the unique character of each coupe, and their evolving execution continually raises the performance bar.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition
A small-block V-8 with 4.4-inch bore spacing and a pushrod-operated valvetrain.
Its origins trace back to 1955, but the LS7 uses materials and manufacturing techniques inspired by contemporary racing. The handbuilt engines use low-mass reciprocating parts like forged titanium connecting rods and titanium intake valves to allow for a 7000-rpm redline. Precision machining includes deck-plate boring, cylinder honing, and CNC-ported heads. A composite intake manifold and hydroformed steel exhaust headers keep weight down. At 7008 cubic centimeters, the LS7 boasts the largest displacement and highest power output of any normally aspirated small-block V-8 that Chevy has put into production. The thoroughly modern outcome is 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
Since the Skyline GT-R's 1989 revival, an all-wheel-drive system worthy of a race car.
To carry more weight over its hind quarters, the all-wheel-drive GT-R has a rear-mounted transaxle. When all four wheels have traction, the system sends 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. A computer continually analyzes tire slip, yaw rate, steering angle, and acceleration, among other signals, to manage when and how much torque is sent to the front wheels. A hydraulically controlled, multiplate clutch engages the second longitudinal driveshaft, allowing up to 50 percent of the torque to be directed to the front axle. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential sits between the rear wheels.
Porsche 911 Carrera S
A horizontally opposed six-cylinder mounted behind the rear axle.
In the early days, the hallmark 911 layout translated to nasty snap oversteer if provoked. Over the years, Porsche has dialed in a more balanced and stable chassis with more even weight distribution, vastly improved suspension systems, rear tires wider than the fronts, and the safety net of stability control. Today, the 3.8-liter flat six in the Carrera S delivers more than 100 hp per liter with direct injection and variable valve timing and lift on the intake side. For 2009, 13.2 pounds were shaved from the engine's weight and it was switched from open-deck to closed-deck construction, stiffening the block and reducing friction.
As founder Colin Chapman said, "simplicate and add lightness."
In the shadow of the one-ton Elise, a car like the Evora can never be simple enough or light enough. Yet at 3130 pounds, the Evora is the lightest car in this test. The core of the chassis is an extruded-aluminum spaceframe bolted to an aluminum front subframe. The rear subframe and rollover hoop are made from steel for a total chassis weight of 454 pounds. Composite body panels surrounding the passenger cell are bonded (rather than bolted) to the chassis with polyurethane adhesive for additional stiffening. The result is torsional rigidity claimed to be more than 2.6 times greater than that of the Elise.