Porsche Carrera GT History
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Porsche Carrera GT History

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Porsche has two midengine sports cars in its current production lineup, the open-top Boxster and the closed-roof Cayman S. But to many hard-core Porsche enthusiasts, a"real" Porsche will never have its engine any place but out beyond the rear wheels like a proper 356 or 911. And yet the very first Porsche was midengine, and most of the greatest Porsche race machines (907, 908, 917, 936, 956 and 962 to name six) were midengine. And every rational engineer knows that a sports car with its heaviest components centered within the wheelbase will naturally be better balanced and more responsive. There's even an argument to be made that while the rear-engine Porsches may be iconic, the best Porsches have had their engines mounted in a more logical place.

Ferdinand Porsche and his son Ferry were both brilliant engineers. They knew perfectly well that the best place for a sports car's engine was in the middle of the chassis, where its mass wouldn't adversely affect handling. So as they designed the 356, the Porsche sports car that launched their eponymous company, during the late 1940s, they did the rational thing and put its VW-based, air-cooled four-cylinder engine amidships where it belonged. But by the time the 356 went into production, its engine had migrated to the rear.

That first Porsche, the tube-framed 1948 356-001 or "Gmünd Roadster" after the Austrian town in which it was built, was something of a developmental dead end as far as the production 356 itself was concerned. Midengine cars have virtually always been in the forefront of Porsche history — in racing. Cars like the 904 Carrera GTS, the 906, 907, 917, 936, 956 and 962 built the Porsche racing legend around the world with their engines firmly planted within their wheelbases.

550 Spyder: 1953-1956

Porsche wasn't yet firmly established as a full-fledged automaker during the early 1950s but it was already a well-respected engineering firm with dozens of consulting and design contracts. So Porsche's project number 549 was a design for a new truck transmission for Fuller Manufacturing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and number 551 was a three-speed transmission for DKW. But right between them, project 550 was something Porsche was building for itself: a tiny midengine car calculated to win sports car races.

Back in that unregulated era, what ran on racetracks could easily run on the roads, so while most 550s wound up in some sort of competition, many were also legally driven on public highways.

While the production Type 550 Spyder is obviously an open roadster, the first two prototypes were actually coupes with a fastback roofline. Built during 1952 and 1953, the midengine chassis wasn't much more than a few tubes connecting the front and rear suspension from the 356 with the Volkswagen-derived 1.5-liter, air-cooled 356 engine in between. But despite having just 78 horsepower available to them, the two coupes were able to achieve 124 mph down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. The second prototype (chassis 550-02) finished first in the 1,500cc class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953 (15th overall) and its sister finished just behind it.

A new, more sophisticated chassis and the familiar all-aluminum 550 Spyder body was developed after Porsche's success at Le Mans in order to accept the new "Type 547" dual-overhead-cam engine developed by engineer Ernst Fuhrmann. Still a flat-four, air-cooled design displacing 1.5 liters, the 547 "Four Cam" was the first great Porsche engine — it could rev to 7,500 rpm and live there all day long in an era when many engines never saw more than 4,000 rpm — and made an amazing-for-its-displacement 110 hp. Later developments would increase the 547's output significantly.

While the 550 1500RS Spyder chassis still used many familiar Porsche (and VW-derived) suspension components, it was a tiny, lighter car with a more powerful engine than the 356. How tiny? The production 550 Spyder finally tested by Road & Track in its February 1957 issue had an 82.7-inch wheelbase and weighed in at only 1,770 pounds. Considering that the engine was now rated at 137 hp, that resulted in blistering (for the time) acceleration. In fact the 550 Spyder's 8.2-second 0-to-60-mph time for Road & Track was quicker than what the same magazine recorded for the first V8-powered 1955 Corvette.

>"Aside from the truly remarkable acceleration figures," wrote Road & Track in that test, "the most interesting feature of the 550 is, without a doubt, the engine.... Suffice it to say that the combination of a very short stroke, the Hirth roller-bearing crankshaft, and no less than four overhead camshafts (two for each cylinder bank) makes for a very free-running power plant [which] never seems to be approaching the bursting point, even if 7,500 rpm is exceeded occasionally." This engine speed was in fact used as the rev limit.

"In addition to the engine's phenomenal ability to rev smoothly and safely at over 7,500 rpm, it should be mentioned that the unit is remarkably tractable for use off the race circuit. True, the tachometer is plainly marked as to indicate the engine should be operated between 4,000 and 7,500 rpm — no more, no less. Actually the unit idles at 1,200 rpm and pulls steadily in any gear from this point. However, when accelerating, the engine feels rather tame until 3,500 rpm is reached at which point the [revs] advance rapidly to a much higher reading."

As ferocious as this little car could be, it wasn't so temperamental that it wasn't manageable. "Driving the 550 is very little different from handling a stock production Porsche [356] Speedster or coupe. The steering is the same [2.3 turns lock-to-lock], and the control of the clutch, brakes and gear lever are familiar to any Porsche owner. Furthermore, the seats are very similar to those supplied with the Speedsters and quite comfortable except for the obvious fact that the passenger is rather exposed to the elements. Of course, the performance literally forces you back in the seat, but surprisingly the thrill wears off rather quickly, especially on a lonely road with little or no traffic."

Porsche built somewhere around 100 550 Spyders between 1954 and 1956 and there were slight differences between all of them. A change in space-frame design that resulted in cars built after that revision becoming 550A models was the most significant update. Then again, since they were mostly used for their intended purpose as racecars, most 550s were changed by owners looking for some advantage in competition.

As racecars, the 550 Spyders were staggeringly successful. Four 550s were entered at Le Mans in 1954 and they took wins in both the 1.5- and 1.1-liter classes with the chief engineer for the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov acting as one of the drivers for the 1.1-liter car (not a bad way to spend your vacation time away from GM). But Le Mans was just the start, as the 550 would dominate both open road races and closed-circuit events throughout the '50s. It was the first of Porsche's purpose-built racecars and that's even more important than the styling cues and engine layout it would lend to the Boxster more than four decades later.

However, it's almost impossible to mention the 550 Spyder without noting that it was while driving one on his way to a race in Salinas, California, that 24-year-old actor James Dean died in a car crash on September 30, 1955. The glory of the 550 Spyder will always be tempered by the knowledge of that legendary tragedy.

914: 1970-1976

If there's no more legendary Porsche than the 550 Spyder, there's no model more derided than the 914. Almost a decade and a half after the relatively exotic 550 Spyder left production, the 914 was introduced as a more accessible and affordable Porsche.

The 914 emerged from a partnership between Porsche and VW with Porsche handling the design and development work, Karmann coachworks supplying the bodies and Volkswagen doing the final assembly in its Wolfsburg plant (the few 914/6s produced were finished at Porsche's Zuffenhausen facility). The idea was to use many of the components then being developed for VW's new (and now long forgotten) 411 and 412 models to build the sports car, including the engines. In fact the 914 was sold as a "Volkswagen-Porsche" in much of the world even though it was sold as a regular Porsche in the United States.

Whether the 914 was good-looking or not is open to argument, but it sure didn't look like any previous (or subsequent) Porsche. Every surface on the 914's body was flat: the doors, the hood lid, the deck lid and the roof. The car kind of looked like a pizza box with four wheels underneath it and a shoebox plopped atop it.

The 914's structure was a basic steel unibody with an A-arm and MacPherson strut front suspension and a set of trailing arms in the rear. The engine sat just behind the two-seat cockpit with a small trunk at the aft end and another small trunk in the front. All 914s were "Targas" in that they featured a removable roof panel that allowed sunshine in, similar to that used on the 911 Targa. The general design of the suspension was similar to the 911's, but the 914 used coil springs in the rear as opposed to the torsion bars in the contemporary 911.

The 1970 edition of the 914 came with a fuel-injected 1.7-liter version of VW's air-cooled overhead valve flat four rated at a modest 85 hp. It was backed by a five-speed manual transmission whose ratios could be hunted down and found…eventually. Still, in a year that also saw the introduction of the Datsun 240Z the 914 was impressive enough that Motor Trend named it as the magazine's first Import Car of the Year. "Sure it was one of the best-handling machines any of us had ever driven," wrote Motor Trend, "and no one faulted steering response or legroom, but the car underscores better than anything else the shift of automotive design influence out of America."

Underscoring design shifts or not, the first 914 wasn't too speedy. According to Motor Trend it took 12.4 seconds for the 914 to reach 60 mph and it completed the quarter-mile in 18.3 seconds at 75.3 mph. That's just bleak. But there was a solution on the way.

About three months after the four-cylinder 914 was introduced, Porsche introduced the 914/6 powered by the 911's 2.0-liter flat six making 125 hp and supported by a five-speed manual transmission. This was an entirely different beast: quick, agile and more able to exploit the midengine layout. Motor Trend measured a 914/6 accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and completing the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 85.5 mph. That's roughly equivalent to the old 550 Spyder.

With the 914 still fresh on the market, revisions for the 1971 model year were slight at best. However, Porsche did develop a new model based on the 914 called the 916 that used the 914's body stuffed full of the 911S model's 2.4-liter, 190-hp flat six and five-speed transmission.

Apparently designed to replace the 914/6, the 916 had distinctive fender blisters to accommodate wider tires on 15-inch wheels and a fixed steel roof for extra structural heft. Only 11 916s were ever produced and all of them were considered preproduction machines. And only one of those actually made it to the United States. It's all a pity because had the 916 made it into production it would have been the quickest Porsche built up to that time.

The 914/6 was excised from Porsche's 1972 line, leaving the 914 to soldier forward as the sole midengine offering. Changes were again minimal (the front end was slightly restyled) and sales were a healthy 27,660 units worldwide. In a brief update Road & Track concluded that the '72 914 was "a car for the real enthusiastic driver." But the publication also concluded that the car was overpriced relative to the competition, particularly Datsun's much faster 240Z.

A 2.0-liter version of the VW four became part of the 914 story for 1973 and its 91-hp output left performance neatly between the 1.7-liter four and out-of-production 2.0-liter six versions. Road & Track measured the 2.0-liter 914 running to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds and the magazine concluded that "the 914/2 [the magazine's informal shorthand to indicate the 2.0-liter version] is pretty much like a 914 of any sort. The styling is plain, the cockpit has plenty of room for two people, the seats feel spartan at first but surprisingly comfortable during a long trip, and the lift-off roof panel makes the 914 more of a pre-fab sunroof than a truly open car…. The price will keep the 914/2 from being a sports car for the masses but with the extra torque, the improved gearshift, the handling and the extra quality of the exhaust note, the 914/2 is one of the better sports cars around."

The 914's base 1.7-liter engine grew to 1.8 liters for 1974 but emissions regulations actually dropped output to just 72.5 hp. The 2.0-liter's output managed to stay pegged at 91 hp. But other changes were minor in nature except for the noticeably more robust bumpers installed to meet new federal 5-mph-impact bumper mandates.

With Volkswagen losing interest in the project and Porsche developing a new family of front-engine, water-cooled sports cars, the 914 made it through 1975 virtually unchanged mostly through neglect. Only the 2.0-liter 914 made it into the 1976 model year and when that year was over, so was the 914.

There are still some 914 lovers out there, but for the most part the 914 is forgotten today — a relic with little collector interest. But it was hardly the end of midengine cars at Porsche.

First-generation Boxster: 1997-2004

With the demise of the 914 Porsche began a 20-year experiment with front-engine, water-cooled sports cars. The various normally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the 924 (1977-'82 with a brief return in 1987) and its evolutionary successors the 944 (1983-'91) and 968 (1992-'95) more or less took up the position of the 914 in Porsche's lineup but ultimately they were only a hiccup in the company's history — a dead-end diversion. Porsche got back on track with the Boxster.

The Type 986 Boxster first showed up in concept car form at the Detroit auto show in January 1993. "One glance at this car," wrote Car and Driver on seeing the concept for the first time, "is all it takes to convince the doubters that the tiny automaker in Stuttgart and Zuffenhausen is not about to fade away.

"The Boxster is the embodiment of a new concept," Car and Driver went on, "which returns to Porsche's spiritual sports-car roots and to financial reality. With its topless design, midmounted engine, seating strictly for two and relatively affordable price (promised to be no more than $40,000), it recalls the 914 that Porsche created almost a quarter-century ago.

"Better yet, the Boxster's voluptuous shape conjures up images of Porsches far more revered than the boxy 914. There's a pronounced resemblance to the mid-1950s 550 Spyder, particularly in the flowing, creased fender line that even incorporates the 550's kickup in the rear. Not surprisingly, the proportions are also quite similar to the likewise midengined 550's, though the Boxster has less rear overhang.

"Porsche traditionalists will also take comfort in the Boxster hoodline, which plunges between the front fenders in a manner shared with all the air-cooled models, the cars many aficionados consider the true Porsches."

By the time it found its way into production nearly four years later the Boxster would of course differ significantly from the show car in both detail (the production car's taillights are much simpler, for instance) and substance (the production version is larger than the show car and, unlike the show car, actually has an engine). But the distinctive shape displayed by the concept carried into production amazingly intact. The Boxster looked nothing less than sensational.

Porsche is a small company and it has to be particularly creative in how it develops its production cars. So it developed the Boxster (type 986) alongside the all-new 911 (type 996) during the mid-'90s. The result is that the Boxster and 911 shared much (some would say too much) of their engineering, including their front suspensions, the basic design of their water-cooled, DOHC, 24-valve flat-six engines and many elements of their interiors including the basic dashboard design.

"Going from show car to production car," wrote Road & Track in its first drive of the Boxster, "the Boxster grew a bit, mainly to meet safety regulations. With safety bumpers and door protection beams came greater size. The production Boxster's overall length, at 169.8 inches, is up from the show car's 162.0. Wheelbase increases from 94.5 inches to 95.1, width from 68.5 to 70.1 and height from 48.8 to 50.8 inches.

"Curb weight of the Boxster, which has a galvanized steel body with plastic end caps over the bumpers, is 2,755 pounds with the five-speed manual gearbox, 2,865 pounds with the five-speed Tiptronic (shiftable automatic).

"All this on a new chassis that has MacPherson struts in front and a multilink setup in the rear. Brakes are discs with ABS, while both 16- and 17-inch wheel/tire combinations are offered."

The DOHC flat-six engine was an all-aluminum design incorporating familiar Porsche technology like the "Varioram" variable intake system, but it was an all-new water-cooled design and featured four valves per cylinder. Displacing just 2.5 liters (a 3.4-liter version would power the all-new 911), it was rated at 201 hp at 6,000 rpm and 181 pound-feet of peak torque at 4,500 rpm.

To say the Boxster was instantly beloved would be to understate its welcome in the automotive press. Car and Driver compared the new Boxster to the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z3 2.8 and was instantly smitten, ranking the Porsche first in the group.

"We give it top marks in this group because it drives superbly and plies us with creature comforts to boot," wrote Car and Driver. "It's a bold rethink of how a sports car might be configured — the long nose makes room for two radiators, one ahead of each front wheel. The rethink is incautious, too. All engine work — hell, all peeking into the engine room — must be done from the bottom. The trunk opens to reveal a corner devoted to service: dipstick, oil and coolant fillers. That's the rear trunk. The front trunk gives access to brake fluid and washer juice. The engine itself? Well, they say it's in that box behind the seats."

The magazine may have never seen the Boxster's engine, but Car and Driver sure felt it as it propelled the car to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds and on to complete the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 93 mph. All the while making, said the publication, "organ-pipe resonances more beautiful than any since Bach when the intake and exhaust passages pass through their 5,200-to-5,500-rpm tuned frequencies as the flat six rushes toward 201 hp at 6,000 rpm."

Except for the addition of side airbags, the 1998 version of the Boxster differed little from its debut year. This was also Edmunds.com's first full test of the car. "The Boxster is an amalgam of simple roadster and adrenaline-pumping sports car," we wrote then. "Unlike pure roadsters like the Mazda Miata or the British MG, Triumph, or Lotus cars of yesteryear, the Boxster is very fast."

And the driving experience was exquisite. "Aside from the shrill whistle in the test car, there's not much to dislike about driving a Boxster. But lest we miss any, here's something to concern anyone who's afraid of another speeding ticket: At 75 mph, a spoiler automatically pops out of the Boxster's rump, and it doesn't retract until the car drops back under 50 mph. For the enthusiast who uses radar detectors and was born with a slightly lead foot, forget about avoiding attention from the highway patrol; the speed-sensitive spoiler is like mooning the cops. We can hear it now: 'I'm giving you a ticket for operating your spoiler in a 60-mph zone.' The spoiler serves to reduce lift and improve ride stability. We just wish it popped up a little earlier."

Our conclusion from that first test was straightforward: "As a macho automotive journalist, I hate to admit it, but the Porsche Boxster is a better driver than I am…. For the best roadster of the '90s, if there were such a contest, the Porsche Boxster makes an excellent nominee. It would also be in the running for the best new sports car. However your definition may vary, keep in mind that there is no substitute for fun."

There were no changes to the 1999 Boxster but for 2000 the engine displacement was bumped up to 2.7 liters and output to 217 hp. More impressive, however, was a new Boxster S model powered by a 3.2-liter version of the flat six making 250 hp.

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer was nothing less than giddy while writing our first Boxster S full test. "Let's get something straight right off the bat: I want one of these cars," he wrote. "Now, before you file this statement as standard moto-weenie hyperbole (like when the engineering nerds from 'Carriage and Rider' take the incredibly unique position of wanting a Ferrari F40) let me explain. I've chosen the color. I've gone through all 98 options and even written down which ones I want. I am now ready to place my order at my local Porsche dealer."

The S was externally distinguished from other Boxsters by its unique wheels, a third air inlet in the front bumper's center, some unique titanium-colored trim and a second exhaust pipe in the tail. But that wasn't the end of the modifications, explained Brauer: "The S model also gets a six-speed, short-throw manual transmission (as opposed to the Boxster's five-speed), a larger radiator, a revised suspension, 17-inch (up from 16-inch) wheels, remote keyless entry, a power trunk release, a security system, variable intermittent wipers with heated jets, a sun visor strip, a full cloth headliner and colored front windshield moldings."

But it was the additional power that was most intoxicating. "While the Boxster can feel lethargic in terms of power delivery and shift duty, the S model rockets away from stoplights and out of corners with authority and has a soothing engine tone that could make psychotherapy obsolete," Brauer gushed. "Echoing off the canyon walls that snake away from the Pacific Ocean just north of Los Angeles, the flat six's exhaust note is one of the most inspiring sounds you'll hear for under $100,000. Those 225 pound-feet of torque peak at a user-friendly 4,500 rpm and combine with the broad band of usable power. We found ourselves leaving the Boxster in 3rd gear for much of our twisty work while the throttle pedal acted like a mellifluous volume knob, gently caressing those six organ pipes located just aft of the passenger cabin."

For the record, our test of the Boxster S had the car ripping to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds and completing the quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds at 99.9 mph. That's quick in any era.

Meanwhile, the regular Boxster finished 3rd out of five in our roadster comparison test that year (behind the winning Honda S2000 and Mercedes SLK and ahead of the Audi TT and BMW Z3 M).

"As a daily driver, the Porsche isn't well equipped to deal with the realities of ever changing weather conditions, multitasking behind the steering wheel and low-speed traffic situations," we concluded. "Rather, the Porsche Boxster shines as a weekend getaway vehicle, providing comfort and space for two adults and their belongings with driving characteristics improving at speed."

In our comparison test the regular Boxster cantered up to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 14.7 seconds at 96.8 mph. Spoiled brats that we can be, we wanted more power.

For 2001 both Boxsters got a new three-spoke steering wheel and stability control was added to their option sheets. But otherwise the cars maintained their status quo. There were only the slightest detail changes for 2002 as well.

The Boxster and Boxster S were both updated for 2003 with revised and more powerful engines, new front and rear fascias and new lightweight wheels. Edmunds.com's Ed Hellwig covered the changes in his First Drive of the regular Boxster. "The front and rear turn signal lenses have been changed from yellow to gray, while the front air dam features larger, more sculpted intakes," he reported. "The functional side air intakes are now body-colored and the rear spoiler has been altered ever so slightly. Unless you're a true Boxster enthusiast, you're not likely to notice the differences, but when viewed side by side against the old model, the enhancements are a noticeable upgrade.

"The interior changes are equally inconspicuous," Hellwig wrote. "There's now a proper glovebox in the dash, an improved cupholder and more easily accessible climate controls. A Bose digital audio system is a new option as well, finally giving the Boxster an audio system worth paying for. Numerous complaints from journalists and consumers alike also forced the change from a plastic rear window to a glass one."

And more power is never a bad thing either: "A revised version of Porsche's VarioCam valve-timing system results in a moderate horsepower increase over last year's numbers. This brings the standard model's horsepower total to 228 while the Boxster S gets bumped to a healthy 258 hp. The new system is also credited with spreading the available torque across a wider power band. Porsche claims that these changes shave two-tenths of a second off both models' 0-to-60-mph times."

The two Boxsters would carry through 2004 pretty much unchanged as Porsche readied significant revisions that would inaugurate the second generation of the car. A car that was now firmly entrenched as part of Porsche's continuing lineup.

Second-generation Boxster: 2005-present

John DiPietro wrote Edmunds.com's First Drive of the 2005 Boxster and reports that the changes are almost all worthwhile. "As is Porsche's fashion, the styling changes for the new Boxster are evolutionary, not revolutionary," he reported. "Subtle changes to the body yield a more muscular physique, notably in the front fascia and rear quarters. The new nose, especially the more traditional rounded headlights give the Boxster a close resemblance to its 911 big brother. The taillights are likewise more cohesive and, in profile, tie in with other Porsche models, including the ultraexotic Carrera GT. Filling out the wheelwells are bigger wheels, 17s on standard Boxsters and 18s on the S model. If those aren't enough, 19-inchers are optional on both models."

But the external modifications are just the tip of this tweaked iceberg. The redesigned cockpit offers a much better driving environment. "As expected, the gauges are large and the tach takes center stage," wrote DiPietro, "but unlike the previous Boxster, the switchgear has a higher-quality look and feel to it. Window switches have been relocated to the doors, and a new navigation system option features a relatively large (for a sports car) 5.8-inch screen. In place of a floating hood over the instruments, there is now a more conventionally shaped dash. And covering that dash, as well as the doors and console, is a material that does a good job mimicking the look and feel of leather. The shiny, hard plastic buttons that would've gotten our scorn in a Chevy Malibu are thankfully gone, with upgraded switches in their place."

By making the convertible top somewhat larger, Porsche reduced the claustrophobic feel of earlier Boxsters and the increase in side window area helped visibility. But the element that brings the most joy to enthusiasts is yet another bump in engine output. The 2.7-liter flat six in the standard Boxster now makes 240 hp while the S model's 3.2-liter version is rated at a full 280. Credit for the power gains goes to a comprehensive list of revisions including a new exhaust system.

A five-speed manual is still standard on the Boxster with the Boxster S model's six-speed manual as an option. The Tiptronic S five-speed shiftable automatic remains on both models' options lists.

"Porsche Stability Management" electronic stability control is now standard on both Boxsters, which is both good and disappointing since it implies that Porsche drivers are no longer capable of keeping their own cars stable.

In all, says Porsche, 80 percent of the parts and pieces bolted on to the second-generation Boxster weren't used on the first-generation machine.

Carrera GT: 2004-present

The latest midengine Porsche is — by far — the most exotic car the company has yet built: the 2004 Carrera GT. Porsche has always built fast cars, but the Carrera GT is the first car it has made that can be classified as an exotic. And at $440,000, it's certainly priced like an exotic.

Unrelated to any previous Porsche road car but drawing extensively on the firm's glorious racing heritage, the two-seat Carrera GT is a 605-hp wonder weapon built around a carbon-fiber monocoque structure with a racecar-style inboard suspension at all four corners. There's nothing about the Carrera GT that's conventional; everything about it is crafted from materials and concepts still on the leading edge of engineering development.

The engine itself is a 5.7-liter V10 that puts 68 degrees between its cylinder banks and is made of exotic alloys strong enough so that the block itself is part of the car's structure. Everything about the engine is gorgeous, from its titanium connecting rods to its stainless-steel exhaust system. It's supported by a six-speed manual transmission.

Car and Driver tested the Carrera GT and was simply flabbergasted by its performance. "The 60-mph run isn't a sprint; it's simply a first stride in this car," Larry Webster reported. "It's gone in 3.5 seconds. A scant 3.3 seconds later, 100 mph arrives. By the time your brain has caught up with the ever increasing velocity, the GT has passed 130 mph in 10.8 seconds, and hey, was that the quarter-mile marker at 11.2 seconds and 132 mph?

"The comparison with the $659,430, 650-hp Ferrari Enzo is inevitable, so here goes: The Enzo gets to 60 in 3.3 seconds, 100 in 6.6 and the quarter in 11.2 seconds at 136 mph." So at just $448,400, the Carrera GT was a bargain.

Despite such lofty performance, Porsche slightly updated the Carrera GT for 2005 by adding a glass wind-blocker screen between the supplemental safety bars, a seat height adjustment feature and the chassis number on a magnesium cover on the center console. The good folks at Porsche also threw in a free battery trickle charger!

Right now the Carrera GT stands as the ultimate expression of what a midengine Porsche can be while the two Boxsters have become mainstays of Porsche's product line. It's hard to imagine that Porsche will ever stop building the rear-engine 911 but we're sure there are a lot more great midengine Porsches yet to come.

Cayman: 2006-present

It would be easy to dismiss the Cayman as a hardtop version of a Boxster, but it's more than that. First to debut, in 2006 was the Cayman S, which sports a 295-hp version of the Boxster S's 3.4-liter flat six. A six-speed manual is standard, with a five-speed Tiptronic S as optional.

In Inside Line's test of the $60,000 Cayman S, the Porsche hit 60 mph in just 5 seconds and blazed through the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds. And it sounded good doing it: "An engine for the ages, the flat six storms toward its 7,200-rpm redline as quickly as the rev counter can count, growling more like a living beast than a man-made machine."

Not only is the Cayman fast in a straight line, but it showed itself to be one of the best choices for carving up a twisty road, as that road test indicated: "All the suspension hardware and geometry is shared with the Boxster, but the Cayman S uses firmer rear springs, stiffer dampers and a slightly smaller rear sway bar. The result is an astonishingly athletic machine that delivers exceptional ride comfort on 19-inch low-profile tires. Body roll is never an issue, turn is tight and midcorner bumps get soaked up without drama. Chassis balance is extraordinary. This is a car that can be driven cross-country in complete comfort or as fast as you dare on a mountain road with complete confidence."

For 2007, the $10,000 less expensive Cayman debuted. A 2.7-liter, 245-horse flat six powers the standard Cayman, providing enough thrust for the five-speed manual version to run to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (according to Porsche). For most people, that's more than enough performance. Unless they spoiled themselves by driving the S version first....

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