years since the birth of the ground-breaking 959, Porsche hasn’t
any supercars. You may argue that the ’97 and ‘98 911 GT1 were
but they were actually road-legal race cars designed to satisfy FIA’s
requirements, hence never the successors to 959. Being a fan of 959, I
was upset. While Ferrari kept rolling out the successors to 288GTO -
F50 and then Enzo, Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking ignored the supercar
segment completely and even withdrew from sports car racing. Instead,
poured money into the Cayenne SUV. I was puzzled. Yes, Mr. Wiedeking is
undoubtedly a great businessman and a saviour to Porsche, but his
mind doesn’t understand the core value of Porsche. I am sure Ferry
would not have agreed with him if he were still alive.
today we can
have the Carrera GT not because Mr. Wiederking woke up, but because of
the past effort by the now-defunct sports car racing team. In the late
90s, the last year before Porsche withdrew from sports car racing, it
a contender for Le Mans. This car had carbon-fiber chassis and was
by a normally aspirated 5.5-litre V10. Unfortunately, the change of Le
Mans regulations and the lack of support from Mr. Wiederking finally
the project to grave. However, Mr. Businessman didn’t want to waste the
money spent into the project, thus he asked his engineers to develop
Le Mans car into a road car and showed it in the 2000 Paris motor show.
No promise for production was made until Jan 2002, when Porsche
more than 1000 advanced orders and by then it was sure to make money.
all, Carrera GT is just another business decision by Mr. Wiederking.
Carrera GT is priced at £330,000 - 15% dearer than Pagani Zonda
25% cheaper than Ferrari Enzo. Considering the Ferrari supercar has a
production run of 349 cars while Zonda is even rarer, the Carrera GT
not represent very good value for money - Porsche is likely to build
cars in 3 years, which is a massive number for supercars. And funny, it
is built in neither Weissach nor Zuffenhausen, but the newer Leipzig
where the Cayenne SUV is produced !
Carrera GT is
not another road-legal race car like 911 GT1. Despite of its racing
Porsche re-engineered it extensively to suit everyday use. One of the
is the chassis: the original Le Mans car had its engine bolted directly
onto the carbon fiber tub (F50's drivers should know how bad the
is). The Carrera GT mounts its engine and rear suspensions via
mount to a cage-like carbon-fiber subframe in order to isolate noise
vibration from the cockpit. This is the world's first carbon-fiber
lighter than rival's alloy subframe.
Porsche's new supercar employs a V10 engine. It is not only shorter
a V12 (thus benefit weight distribution) but also lighter - 214kg
with Ferrari Enzo's 225kg. However, the most significant advantage to
GT is that its V10 is mounted very low in the chassis, thanks to a new
ceramic clutch (PCCC, or Porsche Carbon Ceramic Clutch). The toughness
of ceramic material allows the clutch to be made much smaller in
yet can handle tremendous of torque. With a small diameter clutch, the
engine crankshaft can be positioned very close to the floor. This lower
the center of gravity considerably.
V10 engine is a development from the racing unit. Main modifications
stroking out from 5.5 to 5.7 litres to improve torque output and extra
strengthening to achieve higher reliability. Strangely, the V10 has an
incline angle of 68° instead of the supposedly smoothest 72°.
firing is uneven, alternating between 68 and 76°, but this is
perceivable. Porsche chose 68° because a decade ago a research by
racing department found this is the best compromise between breathing
is made of
aluminum alloy. Nikasil cylinder liners ensure minimum friction
between bores and pistons. The pistons themselves are made of aluminum
while connecting rods are titanium. This allow the engine to rev freely
to 8400rpm. As for breathing, the cylinder heads have conventional 4
per cylinder. Intake valve timing is continuously variable, but exhaust
timing is fixed and there is no such things like variable intake
or exhaust, unlike Ferrari Enzo's V12.
at a super-high 12.0:1 compression ratio. Moreover, their oversquare
with 98mm bore and 76mm stroke, favours rev and power. At 8,000rpm, the
Porsche V10 delivers 612 horsepower (DIN), which translate to an
106.8 hp / litre. In contrast, maximum torque of 435 pound-foot is
the lowest figure among supercars, partly due to the small capacity,
due to the oversquare combustion chambers.
of the V10, the full carbon-fiber chassis, the ceramic clutch, the
double wishbone suspensions, the ceramic brakes and magnesium wheels,
GT is not at all lightweight. Porsche claims a kerb weight of 1380kg,
15kg above the more powerful Ferrari Enzo. More unfortunately, when
tested the car earlier this year, it tipped the scale at 1472kg. As a
the magazine took 3.7 seconds to launch the car from zero to 60mph and
7.4 seconds to 100mph, both are identical to Pagani Zonda thus some way
behind Ferrari Enzo (which took 3.3 sec and 6.6 sec respectively
to Road & Track).
GT is by no means a challenger to McLaren's record. Its
drag coefficient of 0.396 won't enable it to run much beyond the
205mph top speed - with a tailwind, Porsche's test driver once recorded
208mph. So, this is neither the fastest car on earth nor the strongest
the best handling supercar currently available. No one will doubt the
technique of Porsche's engineers and test drivers (especially Walter
Even given a fundamentally flawed design like 911, they could work
let alone the beautifully engineered Carrera GT. This car is very wide,
low and has a long wheelbase to enable remarkable stability. Further
by a compact and low-mounted engine and a transverse gearbox, it
low center of gravity and low polar moment of inertia like no others.
technical specifications point to a first class handling. The only
is: does it deliver that on road?
On the Road
point of view
the Carrera GT is rather disappointing - it looks too ordinary, lack of
an exotic appearance that defined supercars. The lines are too soft and
the details are no more aggressive than a 911 GT3. Beside a Pagani it
no chance of winning car lover's heart.
targa-top cockpit is tight fit but ergonomics is excellent, especially
the high-mounted gear knob. The carbon fiber tub is exposed to remind
its price tag but the rest of the cabin is not very classy - although
are better quality than 911 and Boxster, the design is unadventurous.
it feels plain compare with Pagani Zonda.
the clutch and you will probably stall the engine. The ceramic clutch
be strong, but it is difficult to engage smoothly, like an ON-OFF
requiring practice and skill. Once you overcome this obstacle and start
rolling the car, you will fall in love with the V10. Not only makes
noise, the engine is so free revving and so smooth that it feels more
a racing engine, even more so than Lamborghini's V10. The power
is linear, without the explosiveness of some rivals thus performance is
employs a conventional
6-speed manual gearbox. You shift gears through the oddball wooden gear
knob mounted high on the center console, Civic Type R-style. As the
from steering wheel to gear knob is greatly shortened, shift becomes
and easier. Moreover, the shift mechanism is short and slick thus is a
pleasure to use.
the engine and transmission are obedient, you will love exploiting the
potential of the chassis, which is remarkably stable and well balanced.
This car is better tied down to ground than Ferrari Enzo - more stable
and more neutral. It also contains its power better - in the Ferrari
always feel the engine overwhelm the chassis so that the ASR traction
intervene frequently; in the Porsche you feel a right balance between
and handling. It is therefore capable to corner faster than the
Walter Rohrl even claims the car can beat Enzo in Nurburgring despite
its poorer power to weight ratio. So far the best he did is 7min 36sec.
is not free of flaws however: it hates low speed. The first problem is
the steering, which feels numb and slow at low speed, refusing to self
center as well. As speed rises, steering feel and response improves
and eventually communicates with the driver in a way Ferrari Enzo can
dream of. The second problem is low-speed ride, which is fidgety on
Clearly, the chassis setup is optimized for higher speed. This
is on the contrary to Pagani Zonda, which feels more lovely in regular
driving than on racing tracks.
GT is the most driver-oriented supercar currently available. It is not
the fastest, but it encourages you to drive it quicker and then reward
you with better feel and higher precision. What it lacks is an exotic
- it looks like a big Boxster rather than an edge-cutting supercar; its
cabin feels ordinary; to many people its V10 is a psychological
against its V12 rivals; to performance seekers it can’t match Ferrari
to car collectors it is too mass producing; to the fans of 959 it is
ground-breaking enough. A fine supercar it definitely is, I doubt what
status it will get in automotive history books. Time will tell.