Top Gear - Porsche Carrera GT

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 24, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    Road test
    [November 01 2003]

    With two TV programmes in the final stages of post production, three columns a week to write for the newspapers, three children and a new series of Top Gear just days away, my diary is a complete mess at the moment. But with a bit of jiggery here and a spot of pokery there, I did manage to ease a trip to Berlin into the schedule. I'd catch the 6.50 from Heathrow and be back for 9.00pm. Good. That'd give me seven hours with what's possibly the most exciting, and certainly the best looking road going Porsche of all time - the Carrera GT.

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    As planned, I rushed, panting heavily on to the old Russian air base, where the launch event was being held, bang on time. This place has the largest area of tarmac anywhere in Europe and, frankly, I was itching to see what 612bhp would feel like out there. But the man from Porsche whisked me past the car itself and into a hangar. "Look at that," he squeaked, pointing at an engine on a plinth. "Have you ever seen anything like it? The crank is only 98.5 millimetres from the floor of the car. Can you believe it?"

    Obviously, I had to ask some sort of question but since I don't know what a crank is and would have believed it if he'd told me it was 98.5 yards from the floor of the car, all I could manage was, "Er, how fast is it". "It accelerates from 0-124mph in 9.9 seconds. That is 0.3 of a second slower than the Ferrari Enzo but we did our test on proper tyres." This was a new one on me. Talking about how fast a car accelerates from 0-124mph seemed a bit anal somehow. But then this was Germany, and they are.

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    Also, I had never really thought of the Carrera as a rival for Ferrari's Enzo, but when you look at the power, and the construction and the price, I suppose it is. Feeling that we'd covered all the bases, I was heading back outside for a drive but the man had other ideas. "Look at this clutch," he said, pointing to what could have been a clutch on a table. "The two plates, made from carbon fibre and silicone carbide have an exterior diameter of only 169 millimetres. This is the first ceramic clutch in the world and it's because of this we can have the crankshaft so low down." Oh, good.

    Next, I was shown the tyres, which I could see were jolly wide. But there was more to it than that. The outer edge is hard and grippy while the rest of the tread and the inner edge is designed for longevity and wet weather handling. This was interesting, precisely because it wasn't in the slightest.

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    In America, just a few days earlier, the Ford engineers had lobbed me a set of keys for the GT and said, 'Off you go'. When you fly to Italy to drive a new Ferrari, the car is never there so you have lunch and talk to the designers about the waitresses' breasts. But at Porsche, you will be made to understand every last detail before you get anywhere near the ignition keys.

    At Porsche, detail is God. Detail is everything. Good enough is never good enough. Others do things right. Porsche does things better, and then they spend two hours telling you how. It's why Porsches are so very, very good. And so unbelievably dull.
    Eventually, when I had been personally introduced to every nut, bolt and molecule of oil on the car, I was allowed out for a drive. But not on the track because the day before another journalist had gone from fifth to second and blown the V10 into the middle of Poland. "You vill go on ze road," said a blond man in a black shirt.

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    So I went to the road, and turned left and, holy mother of Christ... Have you ever seen a forest go backwards? Has your peripheral vision ever met up at the back? Well put your foot down in a Carrera GT, then. I thought the Ford GT was fast. I thought the McLaren F1 was fast. I thought the F15 jet fighter was fast. But none of them even gets close to the fearful savagery of this Porsche. It is utterly mind blowing.

    And what makes it an even more astonishing event is the noise. Because on full power, the 5.7-litre V10 sounds exactly - and I don't mean similar to, I mean exactly - like the engine in a Formula One car.
    It revs like an F1 car too. Unburdened by a big heavy clutch, it spools up to the 8,500rpm limit in the twitch of an eyelash and then, when you dip the clutch, back down to zero again just as quickly. You need to work fast in there just to keep up with the machinery.

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    So what the hell is this engine then, and where on Earth did it come from? Well, it was first developed by Porsche's racing team for Le Mans, but a rule change favouring the use of turbos rendered it useless. So the road-car people got hold of it and set to work, in their anal, detailed way. While the Ford bods were worrying about the second fuel filler cap on their GT, the Germans were thinking about how to make a race engine road legal. They did it by adding a third piston ring, for emissions. Sure, that meant a piston that was taller by 7mm and an increase in capacity from 5.5 to 5.7 litres but it also meant the essence of the engine remained unchanged. And I must say, I have never driven better.

    Let me say that again. This is the best, most amazing, most stupendous engine that I've ever come across. I mean 612bhp. That is the full fruit of the forest ice cream, with nuts and sauce.

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    It doesn't exactly have much to cart around, either. Apart from a bit of steel in the crash structure at the front, the entire car is made from carbon fibre, even the engine support stuff and the monocoque. Inside, you get magnesium to match the wheels and there's some titanium kicking around as well. In essence, it's got virtually everything from the periodic table, except lead. And that adds up to an all in weight of 1.3 tonnes. Or to put it another way, bugger all.

    The only strange thing is that the gearknob is made from laminated birchwood. Why? The old Porsche 917 which won Le Mans in 1970 had a gearknob made out of balsa wood. They could have saved another gramme or two there. Someone may have to be shot.

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    It's the only sop to luxury in the cabin, however. You sit on thinly trimmed, deep bucket seats, flanked by carbon-fibre door panels and a magnesium centre tunnel. Yes, there is air- conditioning and, yes, there is a stereo and, yes, there is space. But that's it. Nonetheless, it's an extremely good place to be. Especially when your right foot is mashed into the carpet. Just 3.9 seconds after setting off, you're doing 60, then with a tug on the heavy gearknob, you're into second and third, and then you're doing 125 and there's just no let up.

    All cars have a moment when you feel the power start to lose its war with the aerodynamics. But this one just keeps on going. 150. 170. 200. And still there's no need to slow down. No really. After I drove for 20 or so miles, I turned around, (doing the traditional supercar nose scrape on some pebbles in the process) and headed in the other direction. And it was the same story, mile after mile of dead straight firebreak through a huge forest. Porsche had, for some reason, brought me to the only place in the world with no corners.

    Why? Is there something wrong with the Carrera's handling?
    It should be fine. The low crank means a low centre of gravity. And it's not exactly offset by the fiddly, two-part, removable roof panels which weigh just 3lb apiece. It's mid engined, the 335/30 rear tyres are good and Porsche says it's been round the Nurburgring with Walter Ruhrl at the helm in 7.32. That's blisteringly fast. Or rather it would be if it were true. In a moment of candour, Walter admitted he'd never actually done it, he just guessed at how long it may have taken.

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    So that brings me back to the original question. Is there something wrong with the handling? Why tell fibs about the Nurburgring lap? Why shut the track to journalists. Why put us on roads with no corners? I'd love to say I found out, but in the light of recent events concerning accuracy in BBC journalism, I'm not going to talk about a whiff of oversteer and chirping front tyres or I'll end up in a bowl of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. Instead, therefore, I shall say simply that I don't know. I tried to sneak on to the track, down a C-road and through a back entrance. But I was caught and there was much shouting.

    Maybe he was cross because this was the day after Blair had been to Berlin to talk about Iraq. I tried apologising for my country's conduct in the war, but it was no avail and I was escorted back to the 900-mile straight. What I do know is that if the handling eventually turns out to be as good as the engine, this will go down in the history books as one of the all-time-great cars. An object lesson in engineering to rival the Brooklyn Bridge. A really fabulous achievement.

    It's not styled with the verve of a Ferrari, but with those mesh covers over the engine bay, and the big air intakes slicing into the doors, it looks even more purposeful. "Beautiful isn't it", I said to one of the engineers. But this didn't compute. He knew how much it weighed, and he knew each of the 435lb ft of torque by name. But something subjective like beauty; it was beyond him.

    The price sadly, is beyond me, despite the ludicrous workload at the moment. They were talking about £250,000 last time I looked, but now it seems to be £310,000. And this is not a car that will be easy or cheap to run either. The clutch, for instance, costs 10 times more than you'd pay for a clutch on a 911 Turbo.

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    Still, having the Carrera out of my reach is not the end of the world. Because the Ford GT is not. And while one is a fantastic engineering achievement, the other is just a great car.
    Look at it this way. The Porsche is like a dentist's drill. Precise, fast and silver. The Ford is like the latest hammer action 'Wall Basher' from Black & Decker. I admire one hugely. But I love the one with stripes on it.

    Jeremy Clarkson

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  2. BIGBALLS

    BIGBALLS Guest

  3. Abraxis

    Abraxis Denny Crane.

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    When they finally got away from the 911 size/design again, they sure did it right. That is one fine car.
    Are they still planning a new 928?
     
  4. coronet

    coronet Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?

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    I didn't read it... but hey! Very cool pictures.
     
  5. CRXican

    CRXican God Loves Ugly

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    go America
     
  6. o.negative

    o.negative OT Supporter

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    thats fucking hot
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  8. Bloke

    Bloke Banned

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    i dont really like his pretending to be ignorant when he writes
     
  9. Fearan

    Fearan Guest

  10. VicenteFox

    VicenteFox Does your mother still hang out at dockside bars?

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    hmmm he likes the ford gt more overall for the price.
     
  11. Jackie Treehorn

    Jackie Treehorn Active Member

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    That car is incredible. I wonder what a new clutch runs? :)
     
  12. jack black

    jack black Guest


    :wackit:
     
  13. DMClark

    DMClark Active Member

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  14. MerkurMan

    MerkurMan Gimme Nuts, Bolts and 12 Volts

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    :eek2:

    I want. I want. I want.

    In every way possible, I want.
     
  15. TheProwler

    TheProwler Active Member

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    :wackit:

    "When you fly to Italy to drive a new Ferrari, the car is never there so you have lunch and talk to the designers about the waitresses' breasts."

    :rofl: Sounds like something I'd do. :embd:
     
  16. jinushaun

    jinushaun New Member

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    :werd:
     
  17. 1BadZ

    1BadZ Uber :Aug2000: GM Nazi

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    I actually saw a black one driving around here, I took a double take on it. Hopefully I'll see it around again this summer, and add it to my list of high priced kills. :)
     
  18. Chris87

    Chris87 flatoutperformance.com

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    I'd let that car impregnate me.
     
  19. DK

    DK New Member

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    carrera GT > *.car

    as for the article: 124 mph = 200 kph. jeremy should know that. 0-200 is a common measurement of supercar performance in europe.

    i dont know why they wouldnt let him tracktest the car, however, there are vids around of a carrera GT on a track, so i doubt that there are any issues with the handling. furthermore, i sincerely doubt that he actually found a 20 mile strip of straight roads in germany. there have to have been some corners.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2004
  20. Penguin Man

    Penguin Man Protect Your Digital Liberties

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    I think that his point was that most people consider 200 to be 120 (good approximation) and would test cars from 0 to 120 instead of exactly 124.
     

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