Let us start by confessing that this is not so much a Giant Test, more a Titanic Contrast, for it would be hard indeed to find a pair of cars more dissimilar in character within a given category of price and purpose. Photoaraphy by Kim Sayer.
On the other hand there is no merit, especially at this level, in duplication, and assuming that there are still one or two enlightened souls with £7000-odd about them who may be in genuine doubt about the relative merits of the vehicles concerned, not to mention the unnumbered hordes whose motivation may be variously described as intelligent interest, idle curiosity or gleeful malice, then who are we to reject the opportunity of saving space and drumming up a bit of vicarious controversy by lumping together two such rarae avii as Porsche's Carrera and Lamborghini’s Urraco?
Taking the Porsche first, it is the product of a firm which, although no longer a family concern, is unique among German motor manufacturers in retaining a personal stamp about its system of management. This has persisted despite a dependence on the American market which many rivals would regard as terrifying, and as a result Porsche can still be relied upon to build cars which have about them a degree of individual inspiration — in a word, which have character. On the other hand Porsche is these days a large industrial undertaking, with thousands of employees. Just as it could never take the risk of producing a model which had not been most rigorously proven in one of the most advanced test facilities in the world, so it could not think of trying to commercialise a car which was too radical in design, thus requiring large- scale tooling, or for which there was not a potential market consistent, in terms of volume, with the company's financial structure.
Lamborghini, on the other hand, although a surprisingly large and streamlined enterprise to those who remember the bad old days of Italian supercars being cobbled up in a gloomy, tin shed at the rear of every back-street Modenese filling station, is still only a very small firm, with no more than 300 people working for it and a very rudimentary sales and service setup. Nobody there has ever heard of market research. Everything is conceived by instinct, with consequent heavy reliance on the talents of the engineering and development staff, all of whom live in a world in which fast cars are an art form, driving is a branch of poetry, accidents are the result of foolhardiness, breakdowns of crass ignorance, and in which the so-called safety and pollution regulations are nothing but an impertinent and occasionally inconvenient attempt by jealous legislators to stop honest citizens from enjoying their bit of fun. With a maximum output of 600 vehicles a year, as opposed to Porsche's 14,000, Lamborghini do not have to worry too much about selling their cars or their design philosophy.
From the foregoing you will perhaps see why the Carrera, for Porsche, represents rather an adventurous step, taking the company closer than usual to the no-man’s-land where market researchers dare not tread, while the Urraco, for Lamborghini, is a daring departure in the opposite direction, bringing them for the first time into commercial conflict with manufacturers many times their size, and into contact with a band of customers whose expectations are perhaps rather different from those of the millionaire playboys who have in the past somehow enjoyed the idea of trundling halfway across Europe and spending a couple of nights at the Canalgrande while their Espada was in for its 3000-mile check.
The Carrera is a logical development from the familiar 911-series touring Porsches, and as such represents yet another stage in the company's historic transformation of that archetypal sow's ear, the ugly and dangerous VW-based coupe of the immediate postwar years, into a safe and satisfying silk purse despite the formidable handicap of an engine placed, illogically as well as unfashionably. in the extreme tail. It is in fact most closely related to the 911R, a competition version of the production 911S coupe which was built in very small numbers during the late '60s and early '70s for the factory rally team, for various works-supported racing stables and, largely for homologation reasons, for a handful of private owners with well substantiated competition ambitions. The principal technical difference between the 911R and the RS Carrera is that the latter has the latest, big-bore 2.7-litre version of the familiar air-cooled, fuel-injected, ohc flat six, albeit in a considerably reduced state of tune, together with the revised five- speed gearbox with its Alfa-type shift pattern which is also standard on other models, but there are countless detail changes consistent partly with development and partly with the ‘productionisation' of a design which was originally built almost completely by hand, in the competitions department, from selected individually tested and often, one suspects, specially developed components. (Certain Carreras are still put together in this way. but they are the kind with three-litre engines, glassfibre bodies and wheels two feet wide that win the Daytona and the Targa Florio and are not to be confused with the vaguely similar-looking article in your friendly dealer's window.) We need hardly add that there is no genealogical connection between the current car and the original Carrera of the 1950s, a four-cam, four-cylinder, roller crank device notable principally for the fact that, as in a present day Rolls-Royce, it was necessary to remove two of its wheels in order to change the sparking plugs, although it is probably no coincidence that the designer of the original engine, Savile Row-suited Dr Fuehrmann. was the very man chosen to take over the managing directorship of the company after the sudden departure, en bloc, of the Porsche family last year; the new Carrera is the first model to be launched under his reign, and it would be a natural as well as, commercially and politically speaking, a shrewd move on his part to name it after a well remembered prestige model dating from the years before his long voluntary exile elsewhere in the German industry.
The Urraco’s design history is very different. When Cav Ferruccio Lamborghini first opened his doors for business nearly 10 years ago he announced that, although his first model was to be a luxury V12 two-seater, it was his eventual aim to supplement it with a less expensive and smaller two-plus-two to be built in much larger volume. When the Lamborghini Miura appeared in prototype form two years later there were rumours that this was to be the oasis of the new car, and indeed a two-litre version, with one bank of cylinders removed to make it a twin cam six, did reach the prototype stage.
But it was a false start. Chief engineer Dallara and his colleague and eventual successor Ing Paolo Stanzani had already decided that a much simpler, lighter and more modern layout was required if the new car was really to be produced in the kind of numbers (2000 units a year) that Lamborghini envisaged, with an engine specially designed to meet the pollution legislation which was already looming, and a body/chassis structure capable of withstanding the statutory impact test. The greatly increased labour costs which were bound to result from the agitation then beginning throughout the Italian industry were neatly sidestepped by designing the engine for automated construction (like the new four-valve Lotus) by tape-controlled tooling, and the whole car was conceived with a Tiinimum of unnecessary complexity in order to cut out the kind of teething troubles that could so easily wreck the programme in its early stages.
The design that emerged was basically that of the current Urraco. Although some of the more ingenious simplicities of the original concept have -ad to be abandoned during development, and despite the fact that Lamborghini has now dropped any idea of building it in volume, the new car remains refreshingly straightforward both in appearance and in execution, resembling in this respect the Porsche rather than its more traditional Italian rival the Dino Ferrari. Like the German car, it is a unit structure built up from sheet steel (though without the strategic light alloy and even glassfibre panels which are unique to the Carrera RS), with MacPherson strut suspension at both front and rear rack and pinion steering and ventilated disc brakes all round. The engine/transmission unit is flexibly mounted to the structure and can be removed in a couple of hours, consisting as it does of a very compact, 2.5litre light alloy single ohc per bank water-cooled V8 of modified Heron-head design offset and mounted transversely just ahead of the rear wheels, driving directly across to an in-line all-synchro five speed gearbox and then rearwards, Fiat 128 fashion, to a straight cut differential. Although Stanzani experimented for a time with fuel injection, production cars are fitted with four twin-choke downdraught carburettors — Solex in earlier examples such as the left hand drive demonstrator we tested in England, Weber in the later models.
Light alloy wheels are standard on both the Carrera and the Urraco. As tested, the former was fitted with German Dunlop SP radials of 215/60 VR 15 size, the latter with Italian Michelin 205 VR 14s. Twin rather than quadruple headlamps of 7in diameter (still, in our view, the best solution for fast night driving) suffice for both vehicles, with halogen bulbs of course, the Porsche's fixed behind slightly inclined lenses, the Lamborghini's retracting with the aid of an electric motor and supplemented, for daytime flashing, by a couple of driving lamps under the front bumper.
In keeping with their essentially practical nature, both cars have adequate fuel capacity, the Carrera's 13.6gallons being housed in a front-mounted tank with access via a remotely operated flap in the side of the scuttle, the Urraco's 18 gallons to one side of the engine compartment, with access via the characteristic slatted cover which provides virtually unobstructed rearward visibility together with an escape route for hot engine air. The Porsche's front compartment also contains a shallow well for luggage, but this is more conveniently stowed on the flat, carpeted platform which replaces the occasional seats of lesser models inside the cockpit, and in the two rather flimsily constructed lockers underneath. The Lambo's front end space is completely taken up by the spare wheel, and fully ducted cooling system, together with the brake servo, hydraulic reservoirs and heating matrix (which includes built-in provision for air conditioning, an extra), but there is a trimmed baggage compartment of adequate size and convenient dimensions in the extreme tail, behind the engine, with access via a separate lockable lid.
The most striking feature of the Carrera's styling is the huge, surrealist spoiler which rears upwards and outwards from the glassfibre engine lid just aft of the air intake grille. Although this may look like a gimmick, it is there for a serious purpose, contributing materially, together with the glassfibre air dam which forms part of the front bumper, to high speed aerodynamic stability. Less functional are the boy- racer splashes of colour and the nine-inch Carrera lettering which contrast with the standard German Racing White paintwork of this model, although racers of more advanced years and different patriotic leanings will be relieved to learn that these can be deleted and the background colour varied on request. Neither is one forced to put up with the extremely stark and flimsy black plastic competition-style interior trim of the basic RS, with its leather straps by way of doorhandles and its simplified instrument panel layout, for a normal 911S interior 'package' is available at the cost of £572, we would have thought, a microscopic increase in weight and a rather less inconsiderable augmentation of the model’s already formidable price.
Not that we mind stark interiors. Our only real quarrels with that in the Porsche concerned the early-Mini style door handles, on which passengers were forever tugging and which could thus be dangerous, and the lightweight seats, which, however much one may have admired their body-hugging configuration and clever rake adjustment, were not only grotesquely uncomfortable for anybody not endowed with the standard Teutonic burgher bum but were also given to distorting with a sudden and alarming sprong! sound during violent cornering and / or acceleration.
Whereas this particular Porsche is in every respect an aggressively masculine-looking car, as befits its competition pedigree, the Lamborghini has a deer-like delicacy about its proportions which merits that now-rare and by no means uncomplimentary motoring adjective pretty'. Like the Porsche, it sits nicely on the road, suggesting action even while it is standing still, and as with all well-balanced designs it immediately engenders the feeling of wanting to pick it up like a Dinky toy and whizz it about a bit. It looks light — lighter than it is, in fact, for the scales reveal that it is 150lb heavier than the 911 Carrera — and aerodynamically efficient, with its raked screen and sharply tumbled side glass.
its modest exterior dimensions (it is 3.0in longer than the Porsche, 8.1 in lower and 5.8in wider) immediately engender confidence in those who might baulk at the thought of chucking around a 16ft, 30cwt V12.
The Urraco, like its rival, comes in two distinct trim styles, the standard one rather plain for a car in this price class, though nowadays with properly trimmed seats in clingy pile fabric, the latter somewhat better though by no means luxurious. While panel fit and paintwork in the Berton'e body are beyond reproach, we looked suspiciously at some of the inside detailing and were not surprised to find one of the map lights (sensibly placed in the doors) and the passenger's side door lock working erratically; these things are typical of the once-proud Italian coachbuilding industry, and will eventually send them into well deserved bankruptcy together with a large number of British component suppliers whose standards are similarly lax. In compensation, the roomy interior seemed to us admirably laid out, with sensibly planned emergency accommodation for one adult, or all-day seating for two quite big children, plus a couple of very comfortable and easily adjusted if rather thinly padded seats for two adults in front.
The Porsche is intended 100 percent as a driver’s car, with few sacrifices to comfort or appearance. Nonetheless, as we hinted at the beginning, it is by no means the sort of vehicle that one should approach cautiously for fear that it might fly apart on the M4, or the ignition drown itself one dark night, or the engine ignominiously fail to start outside the Connaught with the doorman still holding one's 10p tip in his palm. For 2.7litres, it is by no means highly stressed in this state of tune (the works Martini racers are undoubtedly churning out between 50 and 75percent more power, depending on the occasion, from even more capacity and the same fundamental components), and we experienced no trouble with starting or slow running apart from a faint tendency for the plugs to fluff up after prolonged driving in thick, city traffic. There is an abundance of torque from about 3500rpm, and after 4500 the engine is so responsive that the makers have had to fit an ignition cut-out to prevent eager drivers from unconsciously trespassing over the red line.
If 7200rpm sounds like a fairly low maximum engine speed for a stark 'homologation special’, then chalk it up as one of the few penalties of a dramatic increase in capacity from this engine’s designed 2000cc. All it means in practice is that one must adopt a rather un-Porsche-like driving style, using the gears, if anything, even more freely than usual, with just a quick squirt in each on the way up, but in most cornering situations hanging onto the next higher ratio until one's speed has dropped well below the instinctive change-down point. The only time this system fails is in mountain driving, when one really needs first to get the best out of the car and first turns out to be a shade too low — a real traffic light ratio — so that one is left with the alternatives of running right up into the ragged edge of the cut-out band or wallowing in a hole with the engine struggling just below the peak of its torque curve. The ultimate answer, as with any engine the power band of which is restricted either at this point or higher up the scale, is probably a six-speed box.
The Lamborghini V8 is an altogether 'softer' unit, extremely smooth, without any of the exhaust cross-beat one associates with this layout in bigger engines, very willing to rev (there is no cut-out and one can easily run it up beyond 8000rpm), but without the Porsche's hard edge of cat-like responsiveness either. It, too, has a useful spread of torque and can boast unexpected flexibility, so that in most situations one finds oneself with a choice of ratios which one can select according to mood, relying on either power or torque to pull one through.
One of this company's long held beliefs is that every ratio in a gearbox should be for use on the move (this is why they still fit synchromesh even on reverse!), but for the first 50 Urracos they probably overdid it, with the result that the first car we tested had an absolutely delightful set of ratios for hard driving, perfectly chosen all the way down to first so as to extract the ultimate from the engine, whereas when it came to steep hill starts one was apt to get just a nasty smell. We had already been warned at the factory of this peculiarity, and we noted that in our second car first was considerably lower, though still a useful cornering gear for mountain and back-street work.
As for the Urraco's performance against the watch, it is as obvious from the moment one slips behind the wheel as it is from a glance at the figures that this is an engine which has been deliberately detuned in the interests of longevity and trouble-free service. It must have hurt like hell, the decision to build it like that, but there is no doubt that it will pay off if the company can build up a reasonable volume of sales to serve as a platform for a really comprehensive service network in the future. When they have achieved that, as Ferrari have already shown with the Dino, then they can indeed go on to more daring things, and we know for a fact that all the obvious kinds of excitement are in the pipeline. Meanwhile the Urraco remains the kind of car that some earlier Porsches were and the Dino still is — a car for the man to whom acceleration is not everything, and who has the skill to make use of the other benefits which exist, as we shall see, in some abundance.
Approaching the whole subject of performance honestly, it is probably fair to say that both of these cars are disappointing, but in different ways. The Lamborghini is not as fast as it might be, and is therefore frustrating because one knows by instinct that the chassis will stand a lot more power without significant modification. The Porsche is quicker, but not as quick as its stark specification and extrovert appearance would suggest (ours was from the works test fleet and not, like a certain weekly's a specially prepared racer!), and at the same time there is the feeling of being restricted in not being able to let out the engine quite as far as it obviously wants to go. But do bear in mind that we are speaking soberly and relatively, trying to place these two in context against the even more expensive supercar generation as well as against such bargain basement flyers as the de Tomaso Pantera. By most people’s standards they are both bloody fast, the Porsche in particular being responsive enough to give many a tyro boy-racer the fright of his life. And their other dynamic qualities are in a class that is beyond most enthusiasts' comprehension.
At this level, one is way beyond the stage of being able to trundle along to Whizztune or Superdupe and ask for an extra carb or two. The Carrera doesn't have carburettors at all, for one thing, and the Urraco already has as many as will fit. In addition there is the valid point that both engines have been developed with some attention to performance, so if they don't go quicker than they do (a) there is bound to be a good reason and (b) it will take a brighter than average mechanic to find out what it is without bursting the whole plot in the process. On the other hand, if one has serious intentions and a sufficiently deep pocket, there is no harm in having a serious talk with the Porsche people about ordering a Carrera in something more nearly approaching competition tune. Lamborghini, too, have been known to produce one-off specifications to individual order, although we suspect that at this stage they will be too busy developing hotter versions of what is, after all, a brand new design, to be very interested in passing on any secrets in advance. If real mind-blowing oomph is all you're after, better put the bread towards a hot Pantera or a used Miura.
MAINTENANCE AND SPARES
Although there are grounds for suggesting that Porsche have outgrown their sales and service organisation in this country, we have never heard anybody complain that parts couldn’t be got or problems fixed, given patience, politeness and reasonable proximity to the capital. The design has, in any case, been well proven and adequate workshop manuals and special tools exist, so that if one lives too far from one of the very few service points one can always try to find a reasonably skilled and keen mechanic, preferably with some racing experience and definitely with a good grounding in high-performance work, to do the job.
The Lamborghini picture is not quite so clear. The marque suffered in its early days in Britain through being represented by an organisation which, although not lacking in enthusiasm, was both under-capitalised and inexperienced. The new concessionaires appear to be making good the deficiency, and have been selling cars to such effect that Britain is now one of Lambo’s bigger export markets. They are making a genuine effort to cope with the spares situation, with a TIR van calling at the factory every fortnight or three weeks, and a supplementary system whereby urgent bits can be air-mailed or else collected by the delivery drivers who fly out to Dick up new cars for customers. On the other hand we have heard complaints of very high prices for certain items, and one or two of the cars which readers own and have owned have seemed to us less skilfully tuned than they would be if they had been serviced at the works. As in all such matters, it takes time. We have every confidence in the present importers' ability to make the grade — and not just, as you ought to know by now. because they happen to be convinced of the pulling power of our back cover.
HANDLING, STEERING, BRAKES
This is the area in which cars like the Carrera and the Urraco set such completely new standards that one barely knows where to begin. The best way is perhaps to ask you to imagine a good average, open, main road roundabout. We are in a Spitfire or a souped-up Mini or even an RS1600 or something and you are in one of the two cars under discussion. We see you coming and lead you on spoiling for a fight. We leave our braking to the last minute and hurtle into the roundabout, relying on sideways motion to scrabble off some of our momentum and scrambling round with the aid of great gobs of throttle and armfuls of opposite lock. What do you do? How do you justify to yourself having spent maybe £5000 more than we did on something that we are hell bent on humiliating right out of sight?
Simple. You, too, apply the brakes, noting that in your Porsche or Lambo there is barely any nose dive or wander, no sign of wheel locking, no drama or smoke, and that you have plenty in hand in case we lose out in front of you. You simultaneously slip down two or maybe three ratios, enjoying their perfect spacing and smooth, lightweight action as you blip the throttle politely across the gate. Then you merely apply lock, savouring the gentle tug of initial understeer against the feather-light rack and pinion mechanism, noting with satisfaction the almost complete absence of roll, and open the throttle sufficiently to dart nimbly round the outside or the inside of our squealing heap, according to circumstances, before glancing calmly across from your well-located driving seat and accelerating cleanly away so as to put maybe 50 or 100yards between yourself and us before you even reach the clipping point on the opposite side...
This is not exaggeration. Ask anybody who knows, and you will learn that it is the sole really important pay-off in an investment of this order. Project it over a long business trip or holiday run, extend it to include the even more dramatic benefit that will accrue from bad weather or heavy traffic, and you have not only a vast improvement in your point to point running average but also a consistently higher level of safety and consequent reduction in stress and fatigue at the end of it all, coupled, of course, with pride of possession, prestige if you must, and the satisfaction that comes of doing anything well, even spending money.
Never mind if we postulate a BMW or an Alfa, even a V12 Jaguar E-type or (be it whispered) a Lotus Elan, the result is still the same. These two cars corner and stop and manoeuvre the way they do because they are developed with far less concern for the kind of compromise that must preoccupy the designer of something less expensive and less specialised. And because they corner and stop and manoeuvre like that they are a sheer joy to drive, at least most of the time.
Having said this, let us go on to examine the differences between them. The Porsche, developed as it is from a more modest touring sports car, achieves its very high standards of adhesion and handling by a general tightening up of spring and damper rates, alteration of geometry and ride heights, jiggling with aerodynamic aids, uprating of anti-roll bars and widening of wheels and tyres — much the sort of process one would look to “to render” raceworthy, say, a V6 Capri, but with the difference that the Porsche started off being very much closer to raceworthy standards in the first place. On the other hand, because it is a rear-engined car with all that that implies in terms of weight distribution and, more important, polar moment of inertia, the Carrera remains a less than perfectly balanced design which has been made to function impeccably by rather sophisticated means. This is apparent in several ways, most notably in its inflexibility, by which we mean that so long as conditions are close to the ideal — smooth dry roads, not too much wind — it is pretty nearly the most manoeuvrable thing on four wheels, whereas any deviation will produce an abnormal reduction in its standards of behaviour. For example, in very fast cornering, the prevailing handling characteristic is strong understeer, induced, obviously, in compensation for the weight in the tail. In the dry this will prevail beyond the limits of adhesion and the car will slide nose first until one lifts off. In the wet, or on ice, or on a very bumpy surface with which the car’s tightly strapped-down suspension cannot adequately cope, the results may well be different, and once oversteer is induced, by whatever means, the Carrera becomes in effect a different car, requiring a fairly high level of skill to avoid loss of control. For a really experienced driver this only adds to the entertainment, but for anybody else it can introduce just a faint element of doubt which serves as a disincentive to explore beyond, say, eight-tenths of the vehicle's total performance in any but the most perfect conditions.
It is the same at high speed on the motorway, and under very heavy braking. The spoilers which are built into the bodywork, whilst guaranteeing aerodynamic stability in still air, do not succeed in entirely overcoming the traditional sensitivity of the rear-engined car to gusty side winds, so that when it is blowing hard one has to be prepared for some deviation from one’s chosen path when emerging, for example, from behind the shelter of a container lorry. This need never constitute a danger, but when combined, as in the case of our test car, with a marked tendency to tramline' on white lines and on the tarred ridges between the lanes of concrete roads (due in part, we suspect, to the tyres fitted in this case), plus maybe a heavy shower or a touch of frost in the air, then it can be yet another cause for caution.
The Lamborghini, with its much softer suspension, may feel at first like a less chuckable car than its rival, but this is a false impression. Its inboard engine and inherent aerodynamic stability, coupled with an uncanny absence of roll which is all the more of an achievement when combined with flexible springing, engender confidence from the outset, and it is soon apparent that the Urraco will not only keep up with the Carrera in any kind of dry corner, it can also be relied upon to behave more consistently in a wet or bumpy one. The same goes for its high-speed behaviour. No amount of wind will cause it to deviate significantly, and even if a wet or loose patch of road should cause a wheel to lock momentarily, for example, under heavy high-speed braking the car will react in a predictable, controllable, forgiving fashion. On ice too, of which we had some experience during one of our spells with the car, it behaves strictly according to the text book, responding instantly to the ritual aids provided they are applied quickly and knowledgably.
In other respects, there is not much to choose between these two when it comes to their dynamic qualities. Their steering is well nigh perfect — light, ultra-precise, with strong self-centring action, the Urraco's slightly lower geared but none the worse for that, the Carrera's with slightly more sensitivity to bumps unless they be very big ones, by which the Lambo can occasionally be induced to set up, during hard cornering, a momentary sawing action. Braking is in both cases extremely powerful, sensitive, with no call for excessive pressures at the pedal, no hint of fade in any circumstances that we could induce and a refreshing absence of nose dive. The Porsche has the more powerful handbrake.
As for gearchanging, we were surprised to find that, despite their switch to a more conventional gate pattern, Porsche have not succeeded with this model in recapturing the matchless smoothness and precision of their original four-speed box; the Carrera s synchromesh is, of course, unbeatable, and one is never in any real doubt as to which ratio one is selecting, but there remains just the faintest chance of a mistake, and one does miss the extreme crispness of feel that one used to associate with the marque. First and reverse occasionally call for unseemly effort in engagement.
The Urraco's box has a different feel from that of any other car we can think of. With its separate pressurised oil supply (an old Porsche racing trick), stubby alloy lever and large-diameter selector rods it succeeds in combining the two attributes of solidity and lightness to an unprecedented degree, so that, particularly with such a wide gate and such short, sharp movements into the gears themselves, there is no chance of error and, at the same time, nothing to hamper the most energetic, even vicious snatch movements at the knob. The only improvement we can suggest is a slight increase in the pressure of the self-centring spring towards the middle (two-three) plane. Reverse, Porsche-synchronised like the other ratios as we have already noted, is protected by a neat collar arrangement against accidental engagement.
RIDE AND COMFORT
The Carrera, at least in the starker of its two forms, falls down badly here. Its suspension is set up very much on the hard side, so that even quite small imperfections in the road surface are transmitted direct to the occupants (bigger bumps, oddly enough, it takes manfully, indicating that the deficiency is less a matter of wheel travel than of spring and damper settings in relation to the model's reduced weight). Add to this the fact that its seats are anything but generously padded, and take into account the almost complete absence of sound insulation in the body (exhaust noise is not the problem: it is a combination of road-induced harshness and fan roar, coupled with the odd tumultuous backfire in the best Targa Florio tradition), and you end up with a vehicle that is very much a before-breakfast affair rather than an enjoyable long-distance express, unless your thresholds of sensitivity to pain in the ears and ass are considerably higher than ours.
The Urraco’s ride is much softer and more absorbent, with virtually no pitch, roll or squat, though we were disappointed to discover that the one we drove in England suffered considerably more from bump-thump and, on certain surfaces, high-frequency road-induced vibration than the various earlier examples we had tried in Italy. Nonetheless it has just got to be the most comfortable vehicle in its class, and the closest to the standards of the average quality saloon in all aspects of refinement, while eschewing even the faintest suggestion of compromise in the things that really matter. Its level of engine noise is considerably lower than that of the Porsche, and of for example, a Ferrari Dino, with, again, no hint of aggression in the exhaust note. What remains is the kind of ultra-refined, but sometimes quite intrusive, medium-pitch hum that one has learned to associate for some reason exclusively with a V12 plus, at low speeds, the usual subdued whirring sounds from accessory and camshaft drives (by toothed belt, incidentally) with just the faintest accompaniment of gear whine. Heavy loads, presumably because they are centralised in and around the cockpit, have surprisingly little effect on the ride or handling. As we said earlier, we would have appreciated a shade more padding in the seats, though we could not fault them for contour.
Wind noise is not a problem with either of these cars.
Under heating and ventilation, it may surprise some intending owners to note that the Carrera lacks any kind of fresh air system in the modern sense, and gets extremely hot inside in consequence, while even the Lamborghini, which does have face-level ventilation, could do with a greater volume of cold air in compensation for its extensive glass area on warm days. Having only a relatively small interior volume to cope with, both heaters perform adequately although neither is of particularly advanced design.
CONTROLS AND INSTRUMENTS
Bear in mind that the Porsche can be had in more luxurious form. The way we tested it, rubber floors and all, it boasted just the essential instruments — a prominent tachometer, slightly less obtrusive speedometer to the right of it, oil pressure and oil temperature gauges, fuel gauge and, sharing its dial, a separate scale which would register the contents of the sump while the engine was either stopped or turning slowly. To the right of the binnacle in which all these were located was a blanking plate which might otherwise have housed a clock — presumably either too heavy or too frivolous an accessory for the dedicated Carrera owner.
The Lamborghini's instrument panel vas even more comprehensive and of a novel but very effective shape, with the large-diameter speedo and tachometer at the extreme edges and the minor gauges and brightly coloured battery of warning lights more deeply recessed in the centre. All three of the cars we drove had left hand drive, but we have since had the opportunity of examining a right-hand drive example at the factory and can support Bob Wallace's contention that it is, if anything, an improvement.
The Porsche driving position is upright, due to the fact that the competition seats with their very precise but rather fiddly rake adjustment will not recline quite as far as many drivers, including ourselves, would like. Otherwise, however, it is hard to fault, with everything very much to hand even when fully belted up and excellent visibility all round. Legroom is generous, with the pedals only slightly offset and their angles carefully considered, and the smallish wheel has a rim of unfashionably thin but comfortable section. Most of the minor controls are arranged, as is the mode, on stout stalks protruding from the column. There is no choke, this being an injection unit firing — first time, usually, from cold — after a stroke on the pedal.
Lamborghini specify an even smaller, thicker wheel with a similar spoke layout but with a deeply recessed boss in place of the Porsche’s heavily padded, almost flush one. One sits closer to the floor but higher in relation to the waist line in this car, so that visibility is, if anything, even better when advantage is taken of the full extent of the rake adjustment (by some kind of earning hydraulic or compressed air strut system) to give a real Grand Prix driving position — if that is the word for are in which, as usual in Italian cars of every kind, there is still not quite enough room for Anglo Saxon legs. Again there are column stalks for most functions, are the pedals are slightly offset but properly spaced with, on the RHD model, adequate room for one’s left foot.
Just one word here, perhaps, about passive safety. One may have reservations in this connection about any car that doesn't wear its engine at Ire front. However, Porsche have for some time been among the leaders of the German industry’s very energetic crash research programme, and literally dozens of the current model have been written off in the interests of science.
The scale of Lamborghini’s researches can hardly be compared, but even they are far from blind to the more sensible aspects of the current campaign and the Urraco, we now learn, has succeeded in passing the stringent MIRA barrier test (thus allowing it to be released officially on the British market) as well as the more manipulable Italian equivalent. Both cars have intelligently designed collapsible steering columns, the Urraco's of perhaps record shortness as the rack is scuttle mounted, and adequate rollover and rear impact provision has been built in from the outset. In the Carrera there is a stout internal rollover bar.
Without reiterating what we have said all along about the obvious differences between them, these are two very expensive cars with the advantage, by comparison with larger and even costlier competitors in the supercar category, of lightness, compactness and consequent ease of handling together with a rather more controllable thirst for fuel. On the other hand neither is as fast as it might be — a shortcoming which is particularly evident in the Lamborghini, although it is the more noticeable in the Porsche because the latter’s provocative styling serves as a red rag to the drivers of most other sports cars.
Frankly, we would not entertain the Carrera at all in the form tested unless was wanted to use it as the basis of a carefully planned competition programme. On the other hand, with the more expensive but quieter and more comfortable ‘normal’ trim option, it is undoubtedly a highly desirable car subject only to the slight reservations we have detailed in the text, (n fact, for the man to whom overall quality and relative freedom from niggling faults are more important than the knowledge that no matter how fiendishly he drives, his finely developed 1 sensibilities will be preserved from assault by signs of stress or by untidy or unexpected behaviour, then it is probably a better answer than either the Urraco or a Dino Ferrari. Whether it is a better answer than a Porsche 911S, which as far as we can see provides very similar performance at a considerable saving in cost, only his bank manager can decide.
The Urraco is more of a car for the aesthete among drivers, the man to whom the absolute ultimate in cornering power, stability and finesse matter above all things. Despite its relative lack of acceleration, it is almost certainly the fastest, least tiring or conspicuous and safest way of getting about on British roads at the present time. But we would not recommend it to the kind of person for whom an occasional crop of minor faults and deficiencies, such as have always been inseparable from any product of a factory as small and as remote as Lamborghini, is going to spoil the pleasure of ownership. Such a relationship must be approached, as would be the purchase of, for example, a vintage or historic racing car, in a spirit of give and take, for at £7000 plus it is after all a quite outrageous and therefore all the more delightful indulgence.
||Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7
||4-Twin Choke Weber
||Bosch mechanical fuel injection system
|Power (gross/net bhp/rpm)
||220 bhp at 7800 rpm
||210 bhp at 6300 rpm
|Torque (gross/net /lb ft/rpm)
||185 at 7300 rpm
||188 at 6100 rpm
|Dimensions (in inches)
|Wheels & Tyres
||Magnesium 7 1/2L
||Michelin 205 VR14
||Dunlop SP 215/60 VR15
|1973 UK Price Structure
|Car tax +VAT 1973
|Price as tested 1973
|Fuel consumption tested
|Star rating on Jet
|Length and conditions