Porsche’s secret coupé has emerged from the murky shadows of the company’s Weissach test track in Germany, revealing one of the most eagerly awaited cars of 2005 up close for the first time. This new model will, we understand from inside sources, be pitched as an out-and-out driver’s car, more focused than both the 911 and Boxster.
Not only does it carry a new name, but the C7S (seen here in our computer-generated image, below) also gets a unique 300bhp engine and a chassis honed at the Nürburgring circuit by ex-rally ace Walter Rohrl. We also understand that this coupé will lap the legendary German circuit faster than the new 911.
Although it might be regarded as heresy by hardcore Porsche enthusiasts, the C7S combines the best of the 911 and Boxster: the rigidity (and all that means for handling) of the 911 coupé and the weight distribution of the soft-top Boxster’s mid-mounted engine and transmission.
Autocar is so confident that the C7S will be one of the greatest Porsches of all time, we hope to get our hands on one of the first examples off the production line. Our letter of intent to buy has already been submitted to a leading UK Porsche dealer, which says it can deliver a car before the end of 2005.
These exclusive scoop photographs, taken as the C7S hit public roads for the first time, expose the curvaceous appearance the new two-seater will carry into production, following a planned public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in mid-September.
The first production version of the Porsche C7S will cost £50,000 – £8,000 less than the entry-level 911 Carrera – and will be powered by a new 3.4-litre 300bhp version of the classic flat-six engine. This pitches it exactly between the Boxster’s 276bhp 3.2-litre and the 321bhp 3.6-litre 911 unit.
Autocar has learnt from a senior Porsche official that the company is already working on a lightweight Club Sport version of the C7S. However, a turbocharged model is being firmly ruled out at this point. The fact that this car is called a C7S suggests that a slightly cheaper model is probably at the planning stage already. Eventually, a cheaper, lower-power 3.2-litre C7 could be launched. It makes sense, though, to launch the most agile and capable version of the new coupé family first, especially as this car has to establish itself as the purest driver’s car in the four-model line-up.
Although the C7S shares its mid-engined understructure with the Boxster, Porsche engineers have made significant changes to allow the adoption of a fixed roof and liftback-style rear screen. Porsche designers have provided the C7S with a voluptuous shape and uniquely styled rear wings, but also included a number of classic styling cues from the 911, not least its tightly curved roof. Cost concerns ruled out a complete re-skin of the Boxster for the C7S, so the two cars share bonnet, front wings and doors. Subtle styling changes, such as uniquely shaped bumpers and chunkier side sills, ensure some differentiation between the two, but the major difference is the roof structure and small rear windows behind the doors – taped over in these spy pictures.There’s no news yet on whether the car will share its dashboard with either the cheaper Boxster or the more expensively finished 911.
As well as the standard manual transmissions, Porsche engineers are putting the final touches to a dual-clutch semi-auto unit similar to Volkswagen’s much-praised DSG gearbox.
All models will be rear-wheel drive; the mid-engined layout with its rear-mounted longitudinal transmission virtually rules out a four-wheel-drive system. The C7S uses the same basic MacPherson strut suspension as the Boxster, although there are myriad detailed changes to the geometry that promise to improve its dynamics even further. The prototype captured here, for example, is running greater negative camber at the rear than the soft-top, suggesting Porsche’s engineers are keen to improve upon the roadster’s already exemplary high-speed stability. Other changes such as unique springs, dampers and bushes are all designed to take advantage of the improved levels of rigidity inherent in the new car’s bodyshell.
The steering incorporates the recent developments brought to the Boxster with variable-rate assistance, offering a ratio that alters between 17.1:1 and 13.7:1 depending on the amount of lock applied.
As with the Boxster, this S version of the C7 will also come with the option of Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). It uses adaptive dampers that vary the damping through two settings – normal and sport. In sport mode, the engine management system also gives the throttle a sharper response.
The appearance of yellow brake callipers on the prototype pictured here suggests Porsche will fit the C7S with the 350mm diameter PCCB (Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes) discs and 19-inch wheels.
The C7S should be a scintillating drive in the very best of Porsche traditions. Tests at the Nürburgring circuit have seen early prototypes already matching the 911 Carrera’s lap time of 8min 15sec in the hands of the company’s expert test driver, Walter Rohrl.This can be attributed to the coupé’s lower centre of gravity, more compact dimensions and the huge benefit of not having the engine slung out behind the rear wheels.
With the fixed roof reducing the typical wind buffeting and engine noise experienced in the roadster at high speeds, the C7S also promises to be an exceptional proposition for long-distance touring. And owners won’t have to worry too much about skimping on their luggage, either. Together with a 150-litre compartment up front and 130-litre boot in the back, the new two-seater also receives a parcel shelf at the rear of the cabin that’s accessed via the liftback. This screen also opens remotely via a button on the key fob.
With demand for the new 911 keeping its traditional Zuffenhausen plant working at full capacity, and its new Leipzig factory running at full tilt with the highly successful Cayenne (which now accounts for half of the company’s sales), Porsche is expected to engage coach-builder Valmet to assemble the C7S alongside the second-generation Boxster in Uusikaupunki, Finland. Production of the new hard-top is expected to peak at around 15,000 units annually.