By blowing itself up to unreasonable proportions, the puffer fish warns potential predators of the fate that could befall them. Should they persist and try to eat the spiky, blown-up ball floating in front of them, most end up stone dead, thanks to a venom so utterly toxic there's still no cure. Meet the automotive puffer fish: TechArt's Cayman S-based Widebody.
The Leonberg firm has done Widebody models before, with the Boxster selling 50 of them, but nowhere does it look so utterly violent than here. It has taken the lithe, almost limp-wristed lines of the Cayman S with its apologetic rear and created a visual impact that's as subtle as the fish's poison.
Toxic ShockA deep, fanged front splitter claims 15 percent more downforce and transforms a smooth, understated front end into a snarling statement of intent. At the sides, the bolt-on sections give the muscular, blown-out stance that easily compares to the most aggressive of its siblings. That monolithic carbon fiber rear wing that sits on those newly flexed haunches is fully adjustable and looks at least inspired by racing heritage. A new rear apron with integral diffuser houses the new twin-exhaust layout and butches up the rear. Love it or hate it, the Widebody sure makes an impression.
The bored-out, 3.8-liter powerplant buried amid the flares, wings and flashes punches out 385 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, which is more than a match for the base Carrera, in a body that weighs less than 3000 pounds. New forged pistons, a lightweight titanium crankshaft, sport camshafts, a modified intake manifold with a new filter, an aluminum header and reprogrammed ECU all add to the noxious brew.
From the moment you're strapped into the lightweight, figure-hugging sport seat (that helps to transmit every nuance) and turned the key, you can feel it with a guttural, fault-line vibration running through the whole chassis. A violent, pent-up thrum runs through the drivetrain. The gearstick, even the yellow dials, vibrate ominously. The growing thunder sends birds scattering from nearby trees as we fire it up at the DaimlerChrysler-owned test facility near Malmsheim.
There is barely time to acclimatize to the spectacular interior, which includes color-coded, high-gloss center console, dials and stitching. The Alcantara-dressed dash is cool, though, as is the new steering wheel and full leather trim. This is the firm that reworked the interior of Michael Schumacher's private plane, and the interior finish is every bit as good as a car rolling off the production line at Zuffenhausen-just brighter.
When the clutch hits the bite point, the car takes off with a fantastic soundtrack of chirruping tires, a hollow Ferrari-style bark overlaying the flat-six tune and rapidly rising wind noise. The Widebody hacks half a second from the standard car's 5.4-second zero-to-60 mph time. It would be more, as TechArt's mildly-tuned Cayman S manages the same numbers, but beyond a certain point, it is the available traction from the stiff-walled Conti SportContact 3s, rather than power, that limits the ability to jump off the line.
There was only one thing we were ever going to end up doing: a day hammering round the circuit, trying to push the car to its natural limits-drifting through bends and occasionally playing to its strength and aiming like an arrow at the apex. Drifting takes real provocation, which comes from the advantage of endless space on the old airfield. But once out of line, the Cayman is a like a kart.
TechArt also has a subtler yet similarly equipped Cayman GT. VarioPlus suspension works in harmony with PASM and drops the car 25mm. Arches make room for 8.5x20 wheels at the front and 12x20 rears. Grip is ridiculous, especially in the high-speed bends when that imposing rear wing helps reap 20 per cent more downforce. You can push harder through each and every bend, safe in the knowledge that is always more grip than power. On the right road, this car would take almost any 911 to pieces. It's a near-foolproof sports car: mid-engined, rear drive, stuck fast by a raft of downforce, mechanical grip from oversized tires and natural chassis composure.
Beyond second gear, where it's possible to provoke the Widebody out of line and into an artful drift that can be held on the throttle more or less at will, this car will just stick like a Lotus Elise, carving a line through the bend with slip-free precision. Held deep within the near-race seat, it's a unique driving experience. Working just with the fingertips and throttle, you barely need to think about braking-stock steel rotors show that you don't need the expensive ceramics to rein in such a light car.
At 125,000 euros, it's just as pricey as a GT3. You've got to already have a stable of cars to be the type who invests in one of these. But for the driver with a sense of fun and the cash to indulge it, TechArt has evolved Porsche's predatory inclinations and packed its Cayman S with venom.
TechArt GT StreetA streetcar named DesireWe could describe TechArt's GT Street quite simply: it produces 630 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, hits 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and tops out at 214 mph. It's the world's fastest tomato, a brute in a flaming orange suit.
In truth, reducing a car to mere numbers and pithy analogies is a vulgar affair. Might as well ask Eric Clapton where he buys his guitar strings.
There's much more to the TechArt GT Street than brute force.
That said, we rely on our people to get behind the wheels of these machines and describe them in real terms. Occasionally, all we get is a profanity-laced diatribe (that usually means it was ridiculously fast). The point is, we make it a point to drive these cars, not simply repost arcane numbers.
Yep, we were all set to drive this cherry bomb. Ralph Niese from TechArt had opened all the right doors and gassed it up in anticipation of our visit. It was all good until a man with a briefcase full of money, a virtual mountain of green, showed up. Niese did what any rational person would do: gave him the keys, pink slip, and pointed him toward the autobahn. Oh, well. TechArt will build another-I guess we will drive that one. In its stead, we had our man Nick Hall spend some time in TechArt's new Cayman Widebody. Although the Cayman doesn't pack quite as much muscle, tuners the world over are developing its chassis, wringing more power from its engine, and more downforce from its aerodynamics. Will the Cayman ever supplant the 911 Turbo as king? Not yet, but there's a growing consortium of Cayman fans claiming it's got the right stuff to do just that.
We were itching to drive this latest offering from TechArt for several reasons, the most crucial of which was the 997 chassis itself. In stock form, the 911 Turbo is firmly planted in supercar territory-it'll exceed 190 mph and run a quarter-mile in the high 11s. And while its supercar brethren may chafe at the thought of daily-driven monotony, the 911 Turbo behaves like Mom's minivan in town. But you've heard all this before. The real question is where TechArt found room for improvement.
Pulling 150 more horses from the 3.6-liter flat six required larger Variable Turbo Geometry (VTG) turbochargers, a new airbox with a sport air filter, high-performance manifolds, intercoolers and a stainless steel exhaust system with performance catalysts. According to TechArt, the stock injectors are up to the task and its revised ECU software ensures the proper fuel and air get to where they need to go. Squeezing upwards of 1.2 bar from the VTGs, the GT Street has recorded the aforementioned 630 hp at 6800 rpm and 605 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm on a Dynojet chassis dyno. The stock clutch is replaced with a sport clutch featuring upgraded pads and pressure plate.
Aerodynamics for the GT Street were created in the Stuttgart University wind tunnel, capable of recreating speeds up to 200 mph. The front fascia features a retractable carbon-fiber splitter, producing downforce on the front axle while providing the radiator, oil coolers and brakes with more airflow. The fender flares on the front axle add 10mm to the width. The larger air ducts in the rear sidewalls provide the engine and intercoolers with a larger supply of cooling breeze. New rocker panels flank each side. The rear fascia includes an integrated carbon fiber diffuser, and the roof spoiler extends the roofline and optimizes airflow to an adjustable-and imposing-rear airfoil. All structural parts are made from high-grade materials, such as lightweight carbon and polyurethane-RIM.
The summation of TechArt's aerodynamic work provides an additional 150 pounds of downforce at 100 mph.
The GT Street also comes with a TechArt VarioPlus Club Sport coilover suspension, based on Porsche's existing electronically adjustable PASM damping system. It allows lowering by up to 25mm and push-button selection of two different damper settings: Normal or Sport.
Brakes are TechArt's latest high-performance binders, six-piston aluminum fixed calipers and 15.4-inch discs on the front axle. The rear is fitted with four-piston fixed calipers and 14.4-inch discs.
So did we bait and switch? Not really. We've got every intention of driving this monster and by the time this issue hits the stands, TechArt will have completed the second car. We're thinking 'Grabber Green' for the color. -Les Bidrawn
Techart Cayman S Widebody*LayoutLongitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
*Engine3.8-liter flat six, TechArt intake manifold, pistons, lightweight crankshaft, sport camshafts, modified intake manifold with new filter, aluminum header, stainless steel exhaust, software
*SuspensionTechArt VarioPlus system/PASMWheels and TiresTechArt Formula GTS, 8.5x20 (f)12x20 (r)Continental SportContact 3, 235/30 (f), 305/25 (r)
*ExteriorTechArt front spoiler, fender flares, side skirts, rear wing and apron with integral diffuser
*PerformancePeak Power: 385 hp @ 6250 rpmPeak torque: 330 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm0-60mph 4.8 sec.Top speed: 188 mph