One advantage of the true clean-sheet approach is that the Carrera GT is more focused and less compromised as a road car when it’s compared to the 911 GT1. It’s also the only one of the three to offer removable roof panels, making it two cars in one in the best Porsche Targa tradition.
One area where the Carrera GT scores heavily — not just against its two brethren but also against almost every other contemporary supercar barring the Pagani Zonda — is in the perfect execution of its detailing and build quality. Stunning attention to detail and peerless build quality are just two of the delights of Carrera GT ownership. It makes the older Porsche supercars feel basic and workmanlike by comparison. That said, the 959 also had no peers in this department in its era. Its chief rivals were cars from Lamborghini and Ferrari with build quality that shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as “959.”
Open the driver’s door and you’ll see that the carbon-fiber weaves match up from panel to panel. When I attended the pre-drive Carrera GT tech preview at Weissach in May of 2003, I thought many of the suspension and lightweight magnesium castings would make fabulous conversation pieces in home or office. The Carrera GT’s carbon-fiber chassis is so spectacularly detailed and finished that you really need two C-GTs to fully appreciate the depth of the chassis’ perfection — one with bodywork for driving and another without bodywork so you can marvel at the details.
If the GT has one foible, it is the small-diameter, lightweight ceramic-composite PCCC clutch, which hasn’t endeared itself to owners who aren’t always highly skilled, dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts living near open roads. That said, none of those on the staff of Excellence find the clutch to be too much of an issue. If you can master the clutch in a normal Porsche, you can learn to drive a GT with patience and new muscle memory. In the meantime, just remember to let the car roll before you ease into the throttle. Once you’re moving, there are no issues whatsoever.
The driver’s seat of a Carrera GT, with the open road beckoning, is pure heaven. The seat and steering wheel have enough adjustment. Since six-foot-five Walter Röhrl can find a comfortable driving position, anyone else should be hard pressed not to. Looking around, there are no pretentious “Start” buttons or aircraft-style flick switches to light up the ignition. Just twist the key and the 5.7-liter V10 fires up instantaneously, with a yelp that portends a completely different driving experience from any previous road-going Porsche.
With 612 bhp at 8000 rpm and 435.5 lb-ft of torque peaking at 5750 rpm, the 3,146-pound Carrera GT blasts from zero to 62 mph in just 3.9 seconds and reaches 100 exactly three seconds later. Keep the throttle pinned for three more seconds and the needle will sweep past 125 mph on its way to a top speed of 205+mph.
The Carrera GT carves a big hole in the air. Like all supercars that see the far side of 200 mph, the big intakes that feed the radiators, brakes, and aerodynamic aids to keep the Carrera GT from flying also prevent it from being blessed with an ultra slippery drag factor. A Cd of 0.39 is the number Porsche quotes, but unerring stability over 200 mph is a serious issue. Back in 2003, when we first wrung out the Carrera GT on a two-mile main runway at a former Russian airbase in East Berlin, our test car rocketed from rest to a data logger-indicated 198.75 mph. The car was still accelerating perceptibly when we passed the marker peg indicating the safe braking distance to prevent us from shooting off the end of the runway. Riding shotgun to Röhrl the next day, editor Pete Stout would see 208.94 mph flash briefly on the same Motec data box…
Braking is something the Carrera GT does exceptionally well, too. The ten runs we did in each direction involved braking hard from nearly 200 mph back to around 60 mph at the other end of the runway, proving the massive PCCB ceramic brakes are up to the task. It was a virtuoso braking performance that few, if any, supercars would have been able to match.
In one respect, the GT reminds us of a modern jet fighter. Inherently, it has to be slightly unstable to be as sharp-witted as it is, and it uses electronics to reign in its excesses at the absolute limits. When Walter Röhrl gave us an on-limit handling display — one lap of a test course with the traction-control system on and one with it off — Röhrl had to muster every ounce of his considerable driving skill to keep things together without the electronic aids. You could tell he was really working. Porsche calibrated the C-GT’s slightly PSM-like traction-control system to allow a fair bit of slip at the driven wheels before the electronics jump in to save you. It was obvious that the car was much faster and smoother through the course with TC on.
Röhrl is quick to praise the system and confirms that the Carrera GT is faster with its traction-control system armed. He says he always uses it on the Nürburgring — where the Carrera GT’s sheer speed leaves no margin for error. His seven-minute, 32-second banzai lap there, done in an early Carrera GT on its standard Michelin street tires, is indicative of the car’s speed and handling prowess on the most demanding race track in the world.