Wheels - Porsche Carrera GT

Roar Power



Somewhere around 5,000 rpm in the Porsche Carrera GT — everything moves so fast that it’s hard to be precise — the hairs on the back of your neck stand up so straight they feel like they will never go down. At 8,000 rpm, when you have to snatch another gear before the engine runs into the rev limiter, you know you are going to have to increase your shirt-collar size to compensate for the permanent extra foliage.

Looking for metaphors to describe the sensation of driving the GT, you are drawn to the gun rack rather than the garage. To stay in full control of this road weapon, you squeeze the throttle pedal like a well-oiled trigger, aim the nose with light, steady touches — as if you are zeroing in on a target — and brace yourself for the recoil each time you ask the engine to say, “Ahhh,” or brush the brake pedal. The experience is explosive.

But you’d expect nothing less of a car originally designed to live on the track, not the highway. Porsche engineers were putting the finishing touches on their next all-conquering Le Mans racer when, at the last minute, management decided to make it a road car. Rather than scrap the project, the people in the immaculately pressed overalls turned their surefire race winner into a subtly domesticated wildcat of a road car.

It looks like they have done a fabulous job. The swooping gunmetal carbon- fiber bodywork is meticulously finished, with all running gear — such as lights and door handles — fitting to a standard that’s rare even on  aircraft. The cockpit features exquisite alloy and leather everywhere and a wooden shift knob, perhaps to make it feel a little more civilized.

Flip open the rear mesh lid to the engine bay, or look beyond the alloy dash, and you’ll see plenty of race car left — the 607 horsepower, 68-degree V10 engine mounted tight up to the rear bulkhead in among the swathes of handcrafted carbon-fiber bodywork. Then your eye falls on the race car-only suspension pushrods and red-springed dampers.

It’s the same story in the cockpit. Beyond the pedals is the trademark carbon fiber pattern among extruded aluminum struts and another host of small, but hugely impressive, features.

Getting into the GT, particularly with the two roof panels — carbon fiber, naturally — removed, isn’t as difficult as it is with some other super cars. Just as well: It saves your embarrassment for when you first try to pull away without stalling. Despite instructions to not touch the throttle while lifting the clutch — the engine automatically raises the idle speed to allow the car to get away cleanly — it’s human nature to want to gas the car.

With little mass to keep the engine spinning and a clutch action that is effectively in or out, once you have overridden the idle-raising mechanism by planting your size 10 on the throttle, nothing other than perfect judgment will let you launch without stalling or ripping off half the rear tires’ tread pattern and perhaps frying that madly costly ($8,000) clutch. Listen and learn.

Once underway, the superbly tuned race howl from the two rocket-launcher-styled tailpipes is almost enough to justify a speeding ticket. The sound is better for onlookers, but the racing shriek is clearly discernible in the cockpit, even with roof panels in place.

Passengers in the leather-covered carbon- fiber and Kevlar seats experience one of the genuine thrill rides available to normal people. Coming out of a junction — even with the traction control on — if you squeeze the throttle a little too hard, the car will over-steer for as long as no one’s looking. Straighten it up and whip into the next gear with the pedal to the carbon-fiber hull, and the revs build so quickly you have scarcely got your hand back on the steering wheel before you have to stretch your wrist out again. Add 150,000 roaring fans and a Nomex suit and helmet, and you could almost imagine you were on the Mulsanne Straight.

As quickly as the revs rise, so do they plummet the moment you release the pressure on the gas pedal. You have to be on top of your game to get the most from this car. Unlike the Ford GT, which you can pretty much leave in second and third, then surf along on its enormously flexible wave of torque, the Carrera GT demands constant attention and correction. It’s fabulous if you are going out purely to drive the car, but it’s hard to imagine it being your first-choice motor for a run to the store — unless the store was at the end of a favorite stretch of blacktop.

However impractical, the Porsche’s reflexes and that sound are so madly addictive that you should never pass up the opportunity to have another hit of its performance .

Price: $440,000.

Palm Springs Life

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