Porsche plans mid-engined car to rival Ferrari 458 Italia

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 26, 2011

Porsche is planning a new mid-engined supercar that may directly rival models from Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini if it does get the go signal from parent firm Volkswagen. The new two-seater is meant to be a regular model instead of as a high-priced, limited-edition production special. It is meant to be slotted above the 911 but under the 918 Spyder.

Porsche is considering roadster and coupé versions for this model. It’s expected to enter the same price category as the Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. In a recent interview, Porsche boss Mathias Muller said that Porsche aims to extend the range. He also talked about a plan to develop another mid-engined model that will be positioned above the 911 but below the 918 Spyder.

Muller hinted that development of this new supercar has gone past the initial drawing board stage, says Autocar. He said that in the coming months, the company will continue to develop its styling and design ideas and will also assess the “economic side” before deciding whether to proceed.

Unitary steel construction is what’s used on the Boxster, Cayman and 911 but in order to reduce the weight, Porsche is thinking of extensively using carbonfibre-reinforced plastic.

The firm has used lightweight construction in recent low-volume models such as the Carrera GT and 911 GT2 RS. It’s believed that the business case for this supercar is focused on annual global sales of between 2500 and 3000, about half that of the 911 Turbo and several of its derivatives, including the GT2.

By definition, every model that has the Prancing Horse on it is considered as innovative. However, one can also argue that throughout the history of Ferrari, there have been some models that have managed to stray from the usual range. A good example of this is the Ferrari 458 Italia, which represents a strong leap forward when compared to the brand’s prior mid-rear engine sports cars. This new model is a combination of everything that nation of Italy is known for.

These include the use of cutting-edge technology, the passion, style, and the creative flair. As a matter of fact, this is the precise reason why the brand decided to include the name of its homeland on the figure that traditionally represented the displacement and even the number of cylinders. It can be said that the Ferrari 458 Italia is truly a new car no matter what the viewpoint is. Thus, it is a fresh take on the model, considering all these factors: design, engine, aerodynamics, ergonomics, instrumentation, and handling, among others.

As part of the brand’s product line, it follows the tradition of many of its road-going cars. The Ferrari 458 Italia therefore is a two-seater berlinetta that also gets the benefits of Ferrari’s already huge experience with Formula 1. This is evidenced by two things. The first is in the precision and the speed in which the vehicle can respond to the inputs made from the driver.

The second is on the focus being put on increasing both the power and displacement of the Ferrari 458 Italia but at the same time lowering the engine’s internal friction in order to ensure that fuel consumption is lower even when compared to the Ferrari F430.

That the brand does indeed have a wide experience when it comes to racing is not only felt in terms of the pure technological transfer, it is present even on a more emotional level. This is due to the emphasis on having a symbiotic relationship between the vehicle and the driver.

One of the new features in the Ferrari 458 Italia is the advanced driving environment which is the result of putting in a new type of dashboard and steering wheel, both inspired by the brand’s racing practice. Ferrari also obtained important input from Michael Schumacher, who was part of the Ferrari 458 Italia project from the beginning.

The Pininfarina design of the Ferrari 458 Italia is yet another proof that this new model does indeed offer a total departure from its past. With an aerodynamic and compact shape, the Ferrari 458 Italia highlights the different concepts of lightness, efficiency, and simplicity -- everything that served as an inspiration for this project. As expected from a Ferrari vehicle, the style is mainly influenced by the need to have aerodynamic efficiency.

A good example is the 140 kg of downforce that is created when running at 200 km/h. Although the front part only makes use of a single opening for its front grille and the side air intakes, the aerodynamic section and the profiles have both been designed in order to ensure that air is directed not just to the coolant radiators but to its new flat underbody as well.

Even the nose has small aeroelastic winglets that help create downforce and when the speed of the vehicle goes up, it deforms its shape so that the radiator inlets are able to reduce its section and therefore cut drag. Equipped inside the new model is the new 4499 cc V8 engine, the first ever direct injection engine from Ferrari to be mid-rear mounted.

Similar to standard racing engines, the piston compression height is very low, which also helps it attain a 12.5:1 compression ratio. Within its standard flat-plane crankshaft, the engine is able to provide power output at 127 CV/liter, with 570 CV at 9,000 rpm. These different figures make it the new standard not just for the entire Ferrari range and its whole history, but even for the entire market segment.

Maximum torque has been measured to be 540 Nm at 6,000 rpm, though more than 80% of it is available starting at 3,250 rpm. Specific torque is at 120 Nm/liter. This is not what makes it extraordinary but rather the fact that there is still enough torque available even as the vehicle continues to maintain high power levels at low revolutions.

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