Ancient Mesoamerican cultures that thrived in the West before European exploration didn't share our linear view of time. They saw a more organic cycle with past, present and future all flowing through each other and intertwined in a fluid composite of existence. As I blast through blazing golden fields and vast mesas in three very different Porsches, my mind is sucked into a similar sort of vortex entwining German heritage, cutting-edge technology and visions of Stuttgart's future.
Sharkwerks Tuning out of California's Bay Area has arrived in this mystical place with three cars that together represent the timeless soul of Porsche. A GT3 RS is perhaps the best modern example, delivering a visceral driving experience close to a 1970s air-cooled road racer. A Cayman S transcends the future of Porsche sports cars and mid-engine prototypes of the past. And the most advanced car, a brand-new 997 Carrera S PDK, connects both these current cars with the high technology all Porsches will share in the near future.
The first key to hit my hand goes to the GT3 RS. It's rather appropriate to drive it first considering this car could only draw more attention if it was on fire. The bright Viper Green paint draws an instant emotional response from onlookers. If you've never lusted after a '73 Carrera RS in this very color you may as well turn in your enthusiast card now. The big bi-plane rear wing, overtly aggressive front bumper and RS graphics would look silly on any other car. On the GT3 RS, however, it all adds up to animalistic brilliance. The guys at Sharkwerks refer to this car as ZKermit, a friendly singing frog it is not. I think ZGodzilla may be more appropriate.
This car in stock form is a monster; the one we have here is a radioactive city-crusher. Not satisfied with mere bolt-on modifications, Sharkwerks decided to build a car that goes to eleven. In typical mad scientist form, they tore into an engine with only 2,000 miles on it in search of more power. Stuttgart engineers feel that 3.6 liters is plenty of displacement. Sharkwerks felt a car of this magnitude deserves a bump to 3.8. Developed in conjunction with partner Evolution Motorsports (EVOMS), the package includes pistons, cylinder liners and all other required hardware. The heads are reattached with legendary ARP hardware. A Sharkwerks exhaust completes the hard parts while a custom software flash controls the combustion process.
The engine roars with a deeper tone than you'd expect form a relatively small engine. The revs come fast and effortless and belie the crushing 12:1 compression ratio. Throttle blips result in a snap that radiates throughout the entire car like flashes of jolting energy. The clutch is heavy and reminiscent of sport clutches in air-cooled cars of the '80s, but uptake is smooth once you're is accustomed to the heft. The RS digs in off the line, the 305s in back throwing the car forward with ballistic ferocity. The 3.8 pulls well in the low end, but really opens up on the far side of the tach. There are no sudden jerks anywhere in the band and it just keeps building until 7000 rpm, where the power curve is nearly flat until the 8700-rpm redline. Power has been measured at 407 hp at the wheels compared to 375 for the factory car. It isn't a huge bump, but it's more power everywhere in the curve. This isn't like adding a more aggressive cam where you are pushing the power around. Torque has been gained everywhere.
Sharkwerks decided that Porsche did a magnificent job of suspension tuning right out of the box on the RS so the only real change to the chassis was in running stock. The factory wheels were replaced with a set of HRE C-21s measuring 8.5 inches wide in front and a full foot wide out back. The amount of grip is breathtaking, quite literally at times. Luckily, the interior is equipped with 996 GT2 seats, which live a tough life holding the driver in place during hard cornering. Supplementing seat support during braking is a set of Schroth six-point belts. They are mounted on a BK harness bar, behind the seats, resembling an artist's sculpture more than a structural piece. We're sure the piece is exceptionally strong, but we're never completely comfortable with anything resembling a futuristic, weight-optimized guillotine perched right behind our necks.
The RS is as close to an air-cooled Porsche you'll find in the current showroom. Fans of the old cars will likely be won over after a few minutes in one of these. This one from Sharkwerks gets even closer with its raucous sound, pure handling and explosive power. The RS takes us back to simpler, more focused Porsches of the past.
In the current lineup, a stock Cayman S, while an incredible car, is not something that rear-engine air-cooled aficionados usually lust after. Lack of a real edge, dulled reflexes and relative lack or power are just a few of the complaints. The real reason they don't like them however may be less obvious. With performance demands for the 911 becoming ever greater, there may come a time where the rear-engine design may become too great a physics challenge, and eventually Porsche may have to adopt the mid-engine layout for its flagship model. Porschephiles cringe at the very thought, but the Cayman my foreshadow future 911s. It wouldn't be unheard of; the GT1 was perhaps the ultimate incarnation 911 and it used its mid-engine layout for maximum efficiency in weight distribution and aerodynamics.
The white Cayman S you see here makes great strides in convincing the non-believers that a mid-engine car may be able to take the place of the venerable rear-engine car. Sharkwerks has turned what can be considered the tame Porsche into something any club racer would happily drive. In conjunction with Evolution Motorsports and Road Sport Supply (RSS), an engine tuning program was put in place to bring it up to more respectable levels. For more power, an IPD plenum was used in conjunction with an EVO V-Flow intake and a factory GT3 throttle body to improve incoming velocity. RSS also supplied a full Cargraphic exhaust to improve things on the back end of the combustion process. An EVO software flash to tie up power and efficiency came next. A Sharkwerks lightweight flywheel and ESR pulley make sure the power gets to the road and give the drivetrain a little more snap.
That extra power fully utilizes the chassis modifications. Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, H&R sway bars get the car lower down and flattened out during cornering. Champion RG5 wheels, 18-inch, are wrapped in Toyo R-compound tires and sit on top of a Brembo F50 brake kit.
Driving the Cayman is a very different experience than driving the RS, yet the family genes are still apparent. The Cayman rotates fast and you hear and feel the engine winding out right behind your vertebrae. The cornering forces pull the back of your seat, completely different from a 911, which feels more like sitting in the forward half of a rocket. Even with the big differences in dynamics, the feedback and urgency of the controls are very similar. While the RS feels sharper and more intimate, the Cayman shares the precision and solidity you expect from a Porsche sports car. Rotating the steering wheel results in instantaneous bite. You don't feel the chassis load up and twist as you react. It is rigid and responsive, things future Porsches will hopefully never lose no matter what happens with chassis layouts in the future.
A few things we do know will happen can be found in the Carrera S PDK. The Sharkwerks guys brought this car down to show off a new exhaust for 2009. This car had the race version, which is loud. It sounds like it drove right off the track at Daytona, but it's hard to emphasize just how loud it is. They estimate a 20-hp gain at the wheels, but testing isn't complete just yet.
Porsche's dual clutch gearbox, PDK, will eventually make it into all its cars. Right now, Porsche says GT cars will retain a traditional manual, but with the rest of the world switching to semi-automatic gearboxes, it'll be interesting to see how long that holds out. The new Carrera S also utilizes direct injection for more power as well as better efficiency and cleaner emissions. We imagine every Porsche model will employ direct injection with next five years. Even hardcore enthusiasts can't argue the benefits. Allowing greater compression ratios and more accurate fuel metering, there really is no downside.
If you were able to combine these three cars, you'd likely have the ultimate Porsche. The raw driving experience of the GT3 RS, coupled with the dynamics of the Cayman and the technology of the Carrera S. We'll probably only have to wait a few years to see the results straight from Porsche, but on these roads, in this place, time has no meaning. It's all right there, all at once-the ultimate Porsche and the ultimate driving experience.
Sharkwerks 997 GT3 RS 460
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive
3.8-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve. Sharkwerks/EVO 3.8-liter big-bore kit including pistons, rings and liners, ARP head studs, Sharkwerks, exhaust system, EVO MS software
Factory MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Six-piston monoblock calipers, 350mm rotors (f), four-piston monoblock calipers (r)
* Wheels And Tires
HRE C-21, 8.5x19 (f), 12x19 (r)Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, 235/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
997 GT2 side skirts, painted rear intake scoops, Cargraphic lower front lip
BK Harness bar, 996 GT3 Seats, Schroth 6-point harnesses, Dension MP3 integration
Peak Power: 407 hp @ 7700 rpmPeak Torque: 305 lb-ft @ 5300 rpmSharkwerks data, measured at the wheels
Sharkwerks /RSS/EVO MS RS370 Cayman S
Longitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
3.4-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve. IPD Competition plenum, GT3 throttle body, EVO V-Flow intake, ESR lightweight accessory pulley, Cargraphic Exhaust(headers, cats, rear section and tips)
Six-speed manual, Sharkwerks lightweight flywheel
Bilstein PSS9 coilovers, H&R sway bars
Brembo F50 four-piston monoblock calipers, 355mm rotors (f)
*Wheels And Tires
Champion RG5, 8.5x18 (f), 10x18 (r)Toyo RA-888, 235/40 (f), 265/40 (r)
Carbon rear spoiler
996 GT3 Euro-spec race seats, Sharkwerks fire extinguisher mount, Schroth six-point harnesses
Peak Power: 335 hpPeak Torque: 281 lb-ftSharkwerks data, measured at the wheels
Road Sport Supply