25/03/2008 00:00 | By By Nick Hall, contributor

First Drive: Porsche 9ff GT9 review (2008 model)



Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

What: 9ff GT9Where: Dortmund, GermanyPrice: £350,000Available: NowKey rivals: Bugatti Veyron, SSC Aero, TGV

Summary

Radical evoloution of the Porsche 911 promises to knock the Veyron from its perch.

Likes: Pure, face blistering speed. Light power steering. Surprising comfort.Dislikes: Eye-gouging interior. Bleeding ears. You still need another car.

GALLERY: Porsche 9ff
Read more Porsche car reviews

First impressions

It's difficult to give a first impression when you've hit the deck and hidden beneath your hands, but that's the instinctive reaction when 987bhp, officially at least, explodes into life with all the subtlety of a nail bomb. But when the mind gets used to the kind of noise that frightens kids in the next county, the 9ff GT9 is a sight to behold. This should be the fastest car in the world and will eclipse the SSC Aero's record of 256mph as soon as Jan Fatthauer can find a dry day at the right circuit - he's already hit 250mph late at night on the Autobahn after all.

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

And despite the company's protests, it's clear to see this is a missile of a car built for low downforce and psychotic speeds. The back is open to help the airflow, which explains the rather unfinished look, and the whole car has the appearance of a 911 flattened out with a steak mallet. Covered in hastily added vents to help cool the four-litre, twin-turbo powerplant, a heavily modded version of Porsche's 3.6-litre original, there's a certain roughness to the prototype.

There are chunks of carbon-fibre ripped from the body, possibly by insects that suddenly and forcibly attained the density of steel in a 200mph impact. Even the engine bay is an almighty sight, with the clear plastic window revealing an air intake coated in 24-carat gold. It's for heat insulation, apparently, but it doesn't hurt that it looks the part when 20 willing punters will be asked to part with £350,000 for the privilege of owning the fastest car on this Earth.

Performance

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

Frightening, plain and simple. Fatthauer has a long established reputation tuning Porsche 911s up to 1000bhp, but this is the first purpose-built car and weighs a lot less at 1385kg. So 2.5s to 60mph is a legacy of the tyres' grip, not the potential of the car, and the fact that a rear-wheel drive machine hits 300kph (186.41mph) in 17.6s, 0.6s faster than the Bugatti Veyron, is a closer indication of its sledgehammer performance. And strapped into the bucket seat the forward motion is beyond explosive with the violent shove in the back forcing air from lungs and the uninsulated engine creating a riot of titanium pistons and the kind of wastegates that belong on a flood defence rather than a turbo.

A racing clutch sends the car off the line with a jolt and it's easy to stall this prototype as it needs 3000rpm running through the engine to get off the line. But hammer it hard on the getaway and the sheer brutality and forward thrust just never lets up, the scenery turns into impressionist streaks past and the noise gets so intense that I swear, just for a second, that my ears are bleeding. The only break is for changing gears, with a traditional six-speed 'box that allows the involvement of the slowest part of the car - the driver.

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

And as the digital speedo strapped to the dash streaks through 300kph the car just gets faster, surging towards the 8000rpm redline and skipping, rather than bouncing off the ruts in the road with the real wood floor, yes really, touching down oh so rarely. The top speed is as yet unconfirmed, but it will be a bleak day in the Dortmund HQ if the car 9ff has invested more than €1 million in creating doesn't crack the magic 256mph mark. Having driven it, I have a feeling it will.

Ride and handling

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

Well I wasn't expecting Bentley levels of comfort, but here the GT9 springs a big surprise. Despite just 10cm of suspension travel before the wheels jump off the ground this machine soaks up the road with serious skill. Suspension magnates H&R created the kit for serious speeds and so despite the car's board stiff attitude and noise that could drown out thunder, it won't hurt the spine any more than the modified Porsches that 9ff churns out all day long. Grandma wouldn't appreciate a long journey, in fact she couldn't contort herself round the rollcage in the first place.

And this is a fun car for the filthy rich so it's not designed with boot space in mind, but every single person that has rode shotgun in the GT9 has walked away impressed with its composure considering its racing seats and bullet-train capabilities. Handling, too, is surgical, thanks to perfectly weighted power steering, a chassis loosely based on Porsche's GT1 nascent GT1 racer and the burning desire to produce a car that will work as well on the Nurburgring as a runway. Fatthauer insists this is no straightline superhero and is a real street car that will provide the supremely well heeled with all the fun they can handle and a "little fight" on their Sunday afternoons off.

The pin-sharp nose dances into the bend and the back end can swing a little if pushed hard, but then that's the whole point of the car - the antithesis to the near automatic Veyron. If you want an easy drive then look elsewhere, although at sane speeds it shouldn't bite too hard and the finished production cars will have traction control, which was sorely missed on this machine on a damp day outside Dortmund with wheelspin coursing through the rear tyres all the way up to, and including, fifth gear.

Interior

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

Stranded somewhere between a racing car and everyday transport, the interior of the GT9 is, it has to be said, eye cancer material. Fatthauer's genial wife decided on the race suit-style dash and door trimmings and it makes you wonder what their house is like. Luckily it's a bespoke car, so the owners will get their choice of interior and it's hard to imagine anyone demanding this one. Still, it comes with a real stereo, passenger airbag and more, transplanted deftly from the interior of a 911, and Porsche owners will recognise most of the components on display - from the ignition slot right through to the handbrake and indicator stalks.

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

In fact the entire car is largely drawn from the last three generations of 911, but considering the Stuttgart marque's reputation for fit, finish and bulletproof reliability that is no bad thing. And while the interior might seem rough and ready here this mule has covered thousands of miles of development testing and was about to embark on a trip to Southern Spain when we left the workshop. So to judge the rough edges would be churlish and Fatthauer assures us the cars that head to customers will be trimmed to manufacturer standards. At that price, they'll need to be.

Economy and safety

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

Anybody who seriously asks about the fuel economy of a leviathan like this is in no position to buy one, but don't expect it to breach the 8mpg mark too often. Before the environmentalists chime in, though, this car will cover so few miles every year that a cow will probably cause a bigger hole in the Ozone layer. And it's safe, really safe, thanks to the crash structure borrowed from the front end of the 911 GT3, which is more or less built with crash happy track drivers in mind.

The optional traction control should also help keep a good few owners out of the obituary column and when you look at the super rigid spine of the car then it's hard to see how all the airbags in the world could make it safer. That said, go off at 250mph and the last thing that will go through your head is your brain. That is simple physics and despite their best efforts when it comes to sheer speed, there's very little 9ff can do to bend those laws.

The MSN Cars verdict: 3/5

Porsche 9ff GT9 (© images by Nick Hall © Microsoft)

A modern manufacturer spends billions developing a new car so the fact that Jan Fatthauer's tiny group of engineers in Dortmund has produced a car that could overturn VW and SSC is a mighty achievement indeed. The car itself will remain the preserve of the super rich who will take it out to play on Sunday afternoons and revert to their other machines during the week, so it doesn't matter if it's practical. It is another display of excellence with the internal combustion engine we should celebrate before that becomes a criminal offence. If it doesn't make the record however, it runs the risk of becoming just another wishful thought. With that certificate from Guinness, the GT9 will become a legend.

Need to knowPetrol engine4.0-litre, flat-six, twin-turboPower (bhp)987Torque (lb/ft)7110-62mph (secs)2.5Top speed (mph)256Combined MPG8CO2 emissions (g/km)/tax (%)n/a 

More 9ff images from Live Search
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