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Carrera GT: The Ferrari of Porsches

December 3, 2012 by Matt

Porsche Carrera GT Silver

Jeremy Clarkson called it “a supercar unplugged.” No AWD, no semiautomatic gearbox, no turbos—no roof, even.

3,000 lbs. A mid-mounted, 5.7l, dry-sump V10 producing 612 hp, propelling the car from 0-60 mph in a recorded time of 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of over 200 mph. A traditional 6-speed, single-clutch, three-pedal manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels alone. Taut, seductive bodywork. And…that’s about it.

List those attributes and it’s likely the first company that pops into a typical car enthusiast’s mind is Ferrari. The Italian automaker has created dozens of supercars over the years that fit that template, most notably in the 1980s with their legendary, elemental F40. Described as little more than a go-kart powered by a beastly twin-turbo, 471-hp V8, the F40 was fitted with only the barest amenities, but delivered a thrill ride like no other. It mesmerized the imagination of supercar purists, including Clarkson, who proclaimed it the one to have.

Porsche Carrera GT Silver

And that, of course, is the supreme irony of the 2004-2007 Porsche Carrera GT, the car actually featured in this post. The F40’s archrival during the supercar wars of the ’80s was the über-sophisticated Porsche 959, a 444-hp missile that combined breathtaking speed with civility and practicality, bandwidth made possible by the unprecedented amount of technology crammed under the 959’s sheetmetal. The F40 was the purist’s rocket sled; the 959 was the supercar for the techno-geeks, folks (like me) who derived as much enjoyment from poring over the car’s spec sheet as fantasizing about actually being behind the wheel.

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and while the performance philosophies of Ferrari and Porsche hadn’t been completely reversed, Ferrari had, by that point, embraced the potential of electronic aids like semiautomatic gearboxes and multiple driving modes to augment the driving experience. For its part, Porsche stayed the course and built on the foundation laid by the 959, continually refining their mastery of the driver-computer-car connection… But then, out popped the Carrera GT.

Porsche Carrera GT Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

It wasn’t a total ripoff of the F40 stripped-down supercar philosophy; after all, being a German car, it was polished to “basic” (read: still high) standards of tractability and utility, but compared to every other Porsche offering since the 959, the Carrera GT seemed utterly…analog. And yet—it exuded a grace, a presence, an almost un-German passion, and above all, it radiated a kind of supreme focus completely absent lesser supercars like the BMW Z8. The Carrera GT knew exactly what it was: A lightning-fast, beautifully styled, relatively basic thrill ride, full stop. Unlike its German peers, it didn’t seem obsessed with posting a record-beating Nürburgring lap time. It wasn’t “the supercar for all seasons.” It wasn’t even some kind technological testbed. No—it burst onto the supercar scene quite suddenly, and seemed for all the world like a spontaneous expression of carmaking joy on the part of the designers and engineers who developed it. Italian passion + German know-how = The ultimate, essential supercar?

Filed under: Porsche

4 Comments

  1. Looks like Walter Röhrl in that first photo? Nice.

    Also watched this recently. Wow.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96YM5_Zhy2Q

    • Matt says:

      Perhaps. Here’s the link that photo was gleaned from.

      That’s a neat clip! She’s not quite Chris Harris On Cars, but she does a good job considering it’s the sort of car that really requires your full attention, haha.

  2. John D says:

    This is an amazing car and I was lucky enough to watch one roll off the delivery truck at our local dealership years back. The new owner was taking possession and we got to watch the whole process. What a treat.

    I don’t know why, but this car has never really done it for me. I think it’s the looks. It is a very handsome car…but seems a bit too clinical for my taste. (This is coming from someone who’s favorite car is either of the late model Vipers…or an Aston Martin…or the newest batman styled Lambo…) I do like beautiful lines, but, for me, a supercar should look threatening or curvaceous (or both!). This one just…doesn’t.

    Now would I mind driving one? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t mind owning one, even. But if I could have one (or five) of any car…this wouldn’t make the list on looks alone. Nothing wrong with it, per say, but it’s not my cup of tea. Plus it was a bit pricey even for a supercar, wasn’t it?

    • Matt says:

      No I know what you mean. In writing the post, I was describing the “passion” the car was infused with, but I didn’t really feel it, you know? It’s like…a really good cover of a song you love. In this case, it’s Porsche “covering” Ferrari. You may love the cover, but there’s still no substitute for the original (to riff on Porsche’s slogan).

      Here’s hoping the next supercar to pop out of Stuttgart is full-on “Porsche-y.”

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