Porsche Carrera GT

July 24, 2013
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Porsche Carrera GT Red

Porsche Carrera GT

Ferdinand Porsche would be proud of the Porsche Carrera GT. The company he founded in 1948 has produced an amazing string of sports cars that was only recently interrupted by–of all things–a truck. If the introduction of that Cayenne sport-ute had you wondering if the folks from Zuffenhausen had gone soft, think again. The exotic $448,400 605-hp Porsche Carrera GT revealed here is arguably the finest sports car the company has ever produced.

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Porsche Carrera GT Red rear view

The Porsche Carrera GT is an incredible car, with a plethora of juicy technical details and glorious thrust from a mid-mounted aluminum V-10 engine.

We learned about both during a day of testing and driving at Italy’s Adria International Raceway.

Remember the Acura NSX, the car that brought family-sedan drivability to the supercar ranks? Porsche has done much the same thing here, but with the performance bar raised to a dizzying height. Let’s check the numbers.

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Porsche Carrera GT engine view

The 60-mph run isn’t a sprint; it’s simply a first stride in this car. It’s gone in 3.5 seconds. A scant 3.3 seconds later, 100 mph arrives. By the time your brain has caught up with the ever-increasing velocity, the Porsche Carrera GT has passed 130 mph–in 10.8 seconds, and hey, was that the quarter-mile marker at 11.2 seconds and 132 mph? The comparison with the $659,430 650-hp Ferrari Enzo is inevitable, so here goes: The Enzo gets to 60 in 3.3 seconds, 100 in 6.6, and the quarter in 11.2 seconds at 136 mph.

So the Enzo is a few ticks quicker, but consider this: Unlike the Enzo, which has an automated manual transmission that automatically operates the clutch and shifter, the Porsche Carrera GT has a good ol’ six-speed manual and a traditional clutch. Although we tried our best, the Porsche Carrera GT is extremely hard to get off the line cleanly. The 5.7-liter V-10 engine has about zero inertia. Breathing on the gas pedal sends the revs soaring. Likewise, if you lift off, they plummet. And the engine is all too willing to overpower the rear tires.

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Porsche Carrera GT cowling

The clutch operates like an on/off switch and is tough to engage smoothly. Unlike a regular clutch that has only one friction disc, the Porsche Carrera GT has four and is about two-thirds the diameter (6.7 inches) of a standard 911 clutch.

It and the dry-sump oil system allowed engineers to mount the engine lower (the crankshaft is only 3.9 inches off the carbon-fiber underbody tray) and reap the handling benefits of a lower center of gravity.

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Porsche Carrera GT cowling

The clutch engages in maybe the last inch of the floor-mounted pedal’s travel. The best way we found to get the car rolling was by slowly releasing the pedal without giving it any gas. Every time we added some throttle, the car stalled or we smoked the tires. Pulling into dense traffic produces sweaty palms. The Porsche Carrera GT is, however, terrifically durable. We saw one car endure about 40 drop-clutch launches with no ill effect on its performance.

The rest of the car is a pure joy. Flat steel rods join the high-mounted shifter to the transmission and provide a satisfying mechanical feel that makes you glad you have to shift the old-fashioned way.

That free-revving engine is unlike anything else we’ve ever sampled. It’s loud, blowing 93 dBA on our sound meter during a full-throttle blast, but the shriek is the kind that prickles your body hair. The power peak is high (605 horsepower at 8000 rpm), as is the torque (435 pound-feet at 5750 rpm), but the engine is quite flexible.

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Porsche Carrera GT green exterior

The Porsche Carrera GT needed only 3.7 seconds to accelerate from 5 to 60 mph. And even in sixth gear with the engine burbling at 1200 rpm, it pulled from 30 to 50 in 4.3 seconds and from 50 to 70 in 4.8 seconds. (We didn’t perform those tests on the Enzo, but a $283,600 Lamborghini Murciélago took 6.1 and 5.8 seconds, respectively, and a Corvette Z06 needed 9.5 and 9.4 seconds.)

The engine, the gearbox, and the differential reside in a lightweight carbon-fiber subframe that bolts to a bulkhead behind the two seats. Since the subframe carries the structural load, Porsche used three flexible engine mounts–one in front and two at the rear–to isolate the chassis from engine vibrations.

There’s carbon fiber throughout the car. The carbon-fiber chassis is made by ATR, the same company that produces the Enzo chassis. It’s formed by placing about 1000 pieces of carbon-fiber cloth on molds that are first vacuum-bagged to prevent air bubbles and then cured under high temperature and pressure in an autoclave

Porsche Carrera GT orange exterior

Porsche Carrera GT

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