Ardent sports-car fans with a half-million dollars to spend on their next ride might want to get their checkbooks ready. For the 2004 model year, Porsche started selling a modest-sized batch of race-bred, mid-engine Carrera GT roadsters. Each one that trickles into a U.S. dealership holds a 5.7-liter V-10 that whips up 605 horsepower. Only 1,500 will be produced.
Porsche claims the Carrera GT will yield "a full-blown racetrack experience on the road." Lightweight construction is paramount. The monocoque structure and subframe of the Carrera GT are made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. The car has a flat bottom and a rear diffuser.
According to Porsche, the Carrera GT can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and reach 124 mph in 9.9 seconds. Specially forged, extremely lightweight magnesium wheels hold 19-inch tires in front, while 20-inch tires are fitted at the rear. The roadster's roof consists of two individual carbon-fiber shells that can be stowed in the front compartment.
Porsche builds the Carrera GT in Leipzig, Germany. For 2005, a glass screen is placed between the supplementary safety bars, seat-height adjustment is added, extra seat cushioning goes into the thigh area, and a battery trickle-charger is included.
Looking the part of a supercar, the Carrera GT is easy to spot with its deeply scalloped bodysides that run from the trailing edge of each front fender, through the doors and just into the rear quarter panels. A roll bar and projector-style headlights are installed. A gaping air intake sits low on the front end, and long nacelles are positioned to the rear of each seat.
Measuring 181.6 inches long overall and built on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the Carrera GT is 75.6 inches wide and 45.9 inches tall. The underbody is fully cased in carbon fiber, which provides an additional suction effect thanks to the rear diffuser and flow channels. Ceramic composite brakes and a ceramic composite clutch are used. The Carrera GT weighs 3,043 pounds.
Two passengers can fit inside the Carrera GT's cockpit. Manually adjustable seats are finished in smooth leather on composite carbon shells. The console is made of composite materials and covered in galvanized magnesium. Fitted with a ball-shaped wood knob, the gearshift lever is positioned next to the steering wheel.
Air conditioning is standard, and the Carrera GT can have a navigation system and Bose audio. Porsche includes a five-piece set of leather luggage that matches the car's interior color.
Under the Hood
The 5.7-liter V-10 in the Carrera GT is equipped with dry-sump lubrication and produces 605 hp at 8,000 rpm and 435 pounds-feet of torque at 5,750 rpm. Based on the 5.5-liter V-10 that Porsche developed strictly for racing, the engine works with a six-speed-manual gearbox. Porsche claims the Carrera GT can reach a track speed of 205 mph.
Traction control and side-impact airbags are standard. Porsche ceramic composite brakes are equipped with an antilock feature. The seats can be fitted with six-point racing seat belts in place of the three-point belts.
A session behind the wheel of a Carrera GT ranks as one of the most invigorating automotive experiences around. That's especially true if the Carrera GT is driven on a racetrack rather than on ordinary roads.
Getting inside is quite a task, even if the roof panels have been removed. Once inside, the driver feels snugly cocooned yet reasonably comfortable. Starting off demands considerable care because the clutch must be eased into engagement until you're rolling steadily. After that, a mere nudge on the gas pedal produces a wallop of power to get fully under way.
The high-mounted gearshift lever operates with surprising ease. Coming out of a curve in third gear and pushing the gas pedal even part way toward the floor yields a startling rush of power. In second gear, the reaction after a comparable curve is nothing short of breathtaking.
Few sports cars handle with such minute precision and sheer certainty, but you're always aware that it would be all too easy to push the Carrera GT past its adhesion limits — especially if wet spots suddenly turned up on the pavement. Not many drivers possess the skills to get the most out of such a vehicle, but even a comparative novice can appreciate its level of perfection. Of course, few are likely to use a Carrera GT for their morning commute, even though Porsche says it could meet that need.