- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

CLARKSTON, Mich. — A V-10 engine with 605 horsepower rumbles behind the shoulder blades. A light rain sprinkles the race track.

Walter Mitty, meet Mr. Milquetoast.

No way are we going to try anything stupid here at the Waterford Hills road racing course, an ancient but still engaging venue, where we have spent the day driving an array of drop-top Porsche sports cars, ranging from the $44,600 Porsche Boxster all the way to the machinery at hand — the $440,000 Carrera GT.

Sports cars are a special breed. Nobody actually needs one. They exist purely for driving pleasure, and therefore operate mainly in the realm of discretionary spending.

For this reason, vehicle manufacturers tend to have only one model, a few, or none at all. The Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac XLR are among the few at General Motors, though the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky are on the way.

At Chrysler, it’s the Dodge Viper and Chrysler Crossfire, Ford has the GT, and over at Mazda, it is the indefatigable MX-5 Miata and the RX-8. BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and Audi also have roadsters.

Germany’s Porsche, on the other hand, sells a nearly full line of sports cars (there’s no low-priced spread), and arguably is the only manufacturer to do so. That excludes Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Acura and Aston Martin, which adhere strictly to the exotic end of the spectrum.

To hammer home the point of its variegated lineup, Porsche brought all five of its open-air sports models to the twisty 1.6-mile track here. The array included the Boxster, Boxster S, Carrera, Carrera S and the awesome Carrera GT.

Automotive journalists rotated through all of the models, accompanied by mentors who were professional race drivers. I started in the Boxster and worked my way up the scale to the Carrera GT.

But it was a Michigan spring day, cold with only occasional glimpses of sunshine, and by the time I got to the GT finale, the light rain had started to fall.

So my mentor became a stern parent, warning that anything done to excess could pop our nearly half-million-dollar chariot into the weeds. I didn’t need the admonition: with a zero-to-100 mph time of less than seven seconds, and a top speed of 205, it was clear that the GT was more guided missile than car, with me doing the guiding.

What started as a Walter Mitty dream ended with a feather-footed Mr. Milquetoast. Nevertheless, it was a rush. The GT is a point-and-shoot slingshot that simply hunkers down and obeys your thoughts, with power reserves that are off the charts.

In the end, my personal preference was the lowest-priced car, the Boxster. With its 240-horsepower flat-six engine, five-speed gearbox and supple suspension, it has more than enough stuff on the track and road to create a Walter Mitty fantasy in any tyro.

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