By on September 1, 2011

The publication of Frank Greves’ article in American Journalism Review served as a rude reminder to me how time really does fly. Mr. Greves describes the fallout from my less-than-fawning review of Porsche’s Panamera and Panamera Turbo. What follows is the story he didn’t tell: how Porsche tried to keep me out of the car, how they tried to “correct” my review after the fact, and the fractious relationship I’ve had with Stuttgart’s PR people since then. I’ll also provide links to the original review and video review of the car, so you can decide for yourself how wrong, or right, I was.

A serious warning before you click the jump: Sex, violence, skullduggery, harsh words, and excessive alcohol consumption are described in semi-graphic detail below. This is not for the faint of heart, the excessively moral, or the uncritically Porschephilic. It’s also not a short story. You’ve been warned.

It’s five hundred and six miles from my front door to the paddock entrance at Road America in Wisconsin. In October of 2009, I packed up my Audi S5 to make the trip. The mercurial owner of LeftLaneNews, Canadian entrepreneur Nick Aziz, had asked me to meet him there for the Porsche Panamera preview and had agreed to pay my fuel bill there and back as compensation for reviewing the car. Needless to say, I was excited.

Let’s get this out of the way: I was, and am, a Porsche fanatic. I own three Porkers — a white 993 Carrera 2, a Boxster 550 Anniversary I bought in 2005 for the purpose of competing in SCCA’s National Solo, and a white 944 2.5. I’ve visited Stuttgart and toured the factory. I own approximately two dozen 1/24-scale Porsches and perhaps eighty books about Porsche. I’ve read Excellence Was Expected in its entirety. Twice. I’m a PCA member of eight years’ standing and have attended dozens of Porsche-centric events. Do you get the idea?

Yes, I knew that loving Porsche was often a lot like loving Ike Turner. The company too-frequently pushed junk out the door and expected its customers to serve as field testers. Replacement parts cost too much. The pricing of the cars themselves is beyond ridiculous. Warranties are voided for the slightest of purposes; Porsche simultaneously deluges its customers with images of Porsches on-track and rebukes them for daring to put their own Porsches there. Doesn’t matter. I was a fan.

The night before the Panamera event, I met Nick and Matt, our videographer, at a Motel 6 near Elkhart Lake. They had an entire bottle of Smirnoff Lime and insisted that we finish the thing. Although I’m about fifteen years older than they are, I did my part and then some. At four AM, I woke up to find an email on my phone from an old college girlfriend whom I’d recently started seeing a bit when her schedule would allow. It was fairly racy, to put it mildly. Still buzzed from my share of Nick’s vodka, I sent back a five-paragraph response, typed with my thumbs, which shamed Tropic Of Cancer in its explicit details of my intentions for our future couplings. I praised her voluptuous body and her utterly amoral approach to sexuality and boasted of the expected after-effects of our next meeting. I hit “Send” and went back to sleep.

The arrival of the mail caused her iPhone to buzz. Although she was sound asleep, her husband, who was a firefighter, was getting dressed for his shift and decided to check her mail in case it was urgent. Needless to say, my phone rang at 4:10AM. And again at 4:12AM, by which time I had found the phone. My buzz was now a raging headache, and my eyes were too fuzzy to see the caller ID.

“Hell. Hell. Ow. Hell. Oh.” I slurred.

“CAUGHT YOU, YOU DIRTY MOTHERFUCKER!” the voice at the other end of the phone screamed. “I’M GONNA KICK THE SHIT OUT OF YOU. YOU THINK YOU CAN FUCK MY WIFE AND GET AWAY WITH IT?”

“Who. Is. This?” I replied. I didn’t recognize the voice, and honestly, dear readers, there were a few people who could have made that call.

“You don’t know who this is?” the firefighter asked.

“I’m so. So. Sorry. My head hurts,” I explained.

“Well then… uh. Um. Well. Fuck off anyway, Jack!” And the phone went dead. I fell back asleep with the phone in my hand. Three hours later, when Nick banged on my door, I thought I’d dreamed the whole thing. A quick check of my phone showed I hadn’t and filled in the blanks. Oh well. The firefighter in question was certainly capable of kicking the aforementioned ass of mine, but my experience has been that this never happens. Most people do the easiest thing in life, given the choice. Last time I heard, they’d made up and everything was fine.

When Nick, Matt, and I arrived at the Panamera event, we found out that Porsche wasn’t expecting us. There had been a communication snafu, the details of which would take a novella to relate, and we weren’t actually invited. After some conversation between Nick and the Porsche PR people, it was agreed that we could stay and do some videotaping. Color me furious; this was going to a be a thousand-mile roundtrip to look at an ugly car.

In the hours that followed, we attended the inevitable self-congratulatory speeches and technical presentations. I was permitted to catch a ride around Road America with Patrick Long. There were two other journalists in the car and I noticed that Long was deliberately “thrill-riding” us, hitting curbs and using too much throttle on the exit. Needless to say, my colleagues were impressed beyond words. although in my experience a print journo can always figure out a way to describe how impressed he was by Each. Awesome. Car. Out. There.

Next up was the press drive itself. Each journalist was to be allowed three supervised laps around Road America. Some of them didn’t bother to take their turn. Nick asked about getting me into one of the idle cars, but was told “No, you’re not on the list.” This list was very important, apparently. After some back-and-forth, it was agreed that we could take a Panamera Turbo, along with our Rainier truck avec Steadicam, onto the track at lunch for “low-speed filming.” Score.

To earn our low-speed filming, we were forced to sit through a lunch presentation and watch some videos. For the lunch itself, I was seated next to David Donohue. He was regaling the table with tales of derring-do. “I’m racing a Camaro at VIR in thirty days,” he said. “It’s professional, Grand-Am, very interesting stuff.”

“Ooh!” I squealed. “I will be racing there too.”

“It’s a Grand-Am race,” he said.

“I know! I’m running ST! You must be running GS! Should be a lot of fun!” He literally turned away from me and stopped talking, making a listen-to-this-crazy-guy face at the other journos. They nodded in sympathy at poor David Donohue and the mentally-ill fan pretending to be a fellow racer. I left the table in shame and grabbed my helmet for the low-speed laps.

My suspicions about the “low-speed laps” turned out to be correct. The track was empty and the corner stations were empty, too. As long as we kept it slow by the Porsche tent on the front straight, we could do whatever we wanted. After doing some genuine low-speed photo laps, I sent the Rainier ahead, waited a while, and lapped at my own pace. Uh-oh. This car was fast, yeah, but it wasn’t exempt from the laws of physics. They’d promised a “911 driving experience”. That was a lie, and I knew that to be true because I owned a 911. They’d also promised that the Panamera would be the premier luxury sedan. That, too, was a lie. At the time, I was still driving my pair of Phaetons in addition to my S5, and I’d had an A8 and CL55 as company cars in the previous year. I knew what top-notch luxury cars were like to drive, and the Panamera didn’t meet the standard. It didn’t ride well, it was overly complicated to operate, and the Bluetooth was as half-assed as the rest of the telematics. Against the 1999 S-Class, this would have been mildly impressive, but the Panamera hit the market with an interior and features package that was already past its sell-by date.

At this point, I had a couple of options. I could fawn over the car and repeat the talking points provided to us in the briefing. (For an example of just how hard somebody can suck the collective Porsche PR staff off, read the Edmunds Panamera review.) Alternately, I could speak my mind and face the consequences.

After returning to the press tent, Nick schmoozed us forty-five minutes on the local roads in another Panamera Turbo for filming. We ended up creating this video from the footage. (The outtakes from this video are used for Matt’s “Wikileaks” video at the top of the page.) The video wasn’t super-complimentary, but neither was it a Farago-style blast: I called it “the most fun-to-drive full-size sedan money can buy,” while admitting that “If you’re a 911 intender… this is not going to replace any of those.” After some discussion with Nick, I even agreed to call the interior “sufficiently competitive”.

I then drove the five hundred miles home and wrote this review for Speed:Sport:Life. These paragraphs sum it up for the click-averse:

The Porsche Panamera Turbo is the fastest mass-produced sedan in history, by virtually any measuring stick one would care to use. Only the AMG biturbo V12 cars come close in a straight line, and on a racetrack they wouldn’t see which way the beetle-backed Por-sha went. Our passenger laps with Flying Lizard driver Patrick Long only served to confirm what we learned driving the Panamera Turbo around Road America ourselves: this is the Corvette of luxury sedans.

And therein lies the problem. The Panamera is supposed to be the Porsche of luxury sedans: characterful, beautiful, desirable, perfectly conceived to suit the needs of its owners. That was the goal. Unfortunately, the “Porsche of luxury sedans” was, and continues to be, the Audi A8. By contrast, the Panamera is fast but flawed, dramatic but disappointing. It produces the numbers but fails to hit all the targets for true satisfaction. After years of reminding auto enthusiasts that pure power and performance numbers don’t make for a perfect car, Porsche has gone ahead and proved the point themselves.

And that was it… until Gary Fong read the review in S:S:L and contacted my editor, Zerin Dube. I don’t believe I have permission to publish the e-mails, and I know it would be hearsay to repeat what I was told concerning Zerin’s contacts with Mr. Fong, but I believe it’s reasonable to convey at least the gist of the initial conversations. Gary’s primary mission was to “correct the inaccuracies” in the article. His first correction was pricing: I wasn’t given any information so I guessed high by about five grand. That was fine, and I appreciated his input. Next up for “correction”: my driving impressions. He expressed his concerns that I hadn’t driven the car enough; ironic, since I’d begged for time in the car. He suggested that I had missed out on some critical information which had been given out at the combo presentation/party the night before — but how is that relevant to the way the car steers, rides, and handles?

In the world of automotive “journalism”, very few people are ever willing to go on the record. In the months that followed, I was told the following, always by people who refused to let me quote them or even refer to them when trying to get someone else to go on the record:

  • “You’re blacklisted, and Fong is asking other companies to blacklist you, too.”
  • “We always give Porsche first review on our articles before we publish.”
  • “If you give a Porsche a bad review, or if it doesn’t win a comparison test, you will have to explain why to PR before you get another chance at a car.”
  • “It’s too much trouble to criticize Porsche. They cut the cars off, and hey, I like driving them.”
  • “So what if the Panamera’s an ugly piece of shit? Do you want to work in this business or not? You want to take a 911 Turbo to your high school reunion, or do you want to be on the outside looking in?”

In the year afterwards, I repeatedly watched small-town newspapers, freelancers with no expectation of publication, and jobless ex-print-journos take free trips to Europe on Porsche’s dime while the company refused any and all requests we placed for test automobiles. One rather infamous journo reportedly took his girlfriend/escort on a private jet to Sicily courtesy of Porsche’s bottomless press budget. All you had to do get on the gravy train was to sing the praises of the cars, apparently, and who cares if those praises are warranted?

Well, I care. Speaking as someone who paid his own hard-earned money to purchase a water-cooled Porsche before becoming an auto writer, I don’t appreciate the fact that things like the M96 engine failures have been consistently ignored and/or soft-pedaled by the overly compliant print rags. Had I known everything about Porsche then that I know now, I would not have purchased a Boxster. That money in Porsche’s bank account was placed there by writers who knowingly looked the other way at substandard products so they could fly to the Black Forest and drive the ‘Ring for free. Those writers are scum, bought and paid for by people who look at them as “pawns, or maybe knights”.

Eight months ago, I was contacted by Mr. Greves regarding his AJR article. I told him the unexpurgated story, including names and dates for the allegations which have been anonymized above. It is any surprise that nobody wanted to be quoted in his article? People in this business are afraid of Porsche, they are afraid of Gary Fong and his co-workers, and they are willing to deceive their readers so they can impress their neighbors with loaner cars they are too lazy and unsuccessful to purchase themselves.

Here at TTAC, we are always willing to give someone a chance to prove their ethics, so we will be making a formal request to Porsche Cars North America to be added to their press-fleet list. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out, but I will tell you now: don’t hold your breath. When you’re used to reviewing and “correcting” stories before they’re even published, the prospect of being reviewed in TTAC must be too horrifying to consider. That’s funny, because it’s exactly how this Porsche owner and fan feels about the prospect of ever buying another one.

EPILOGUE: Walking out of the driver’s meeting for the Koni Challenge race a few weeks later, I bumped into David Donohue.

“DAVID!” I yelled. The look on his face was worth every penny I ended up paying for the engine I blew that weekend. My co-driver, 2008 Grand-Am champion Jamie Holtom, blew a second engine in the race itself. The results are here. I call your attention to positions 40 and 43 in said results: for those of you counting along at home, that’s Baruth 1, Donohue 0. Wink.

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108 Comments on “Dr. Strangehatch, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Hate The Panamera...”


  • avatar
    441Zuke

    scathing would be understatement , its your job to be honest and direct and I appreciate it as a consumer(not that I can afford a porsche). you should review the genesis coupe you take on it would be interesting.

  • avatar
    SevenIM

    This article more than exemplifies why I come here daily. You can only go so long before you get tired of Motor Trend and Edmund’s taking it in the rear from automaker PR.

    • 0 avatar
      CriticalMass

      The most egregious piece I’ve seen, maybe ever, was the recent one in “Automobile” where there was, for lack of a better term, an editorial advertisement right in line with Porsche’s recent campaign about how “practical” their cars are (schoolbus anyone?). I wonder if Jean has her fav Porker to drive all year long for that one? It was such a damn blatant sellout I wasn’t even mad, I just laughed out loud at their embarrassment.

    • 0 avatar
      Southerner

      Yep. I am new here and am growing ever more fond, BUT: what’s with all the 99this and 96that when discussing Porsches? 911this and that I’m moderately familiar with. I wish y’all would give newbie a break. What are those others of which you speak? They sure don’t appear on the official Porsche site.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        901/911: 1963-1988
        964: is the 911 from 1989 to 1994
        994: is the 911 from 1995 to 1998. Last air-cooled car.
        996: is the 911 from 1999 to 2004. Carrera models had the M96 engine. Avoid or plan on rebuilding.
        997: is the 911 from 2005 to 2011. Early cars had a revised engine which has still failed in owner hands. In 2009 a new engine was introduced. This is supposedly better.

  • avatar

    I need to go over to Mr. Lang’s most recent post and add Porsche PR’s behavior to the list of things that piss me off.

    I can afford a Porsche, but I do not and have not yet owned one. Add this debacle to the not-properly-dealt-with M96 disaster and I don’t see why I should.

  • avatar
    evan

    GREAT article. I’m right there with you regarding Porsche Love – It’s a complicated thing, not made any easier by their corporate hypocrisy (cars being flogged around a track when it suits their marketing department, but do it yourself, and be preparred for the scolding finger wave, voided warranty, etc.)

    The issue you raise, regarding these thinly disguised payoffs for accpetable reviews, is huge. Everytime I read about the consequences of a less-than-fawning review, I’m again amazed at just how ‘managed’ the press is…

    EVO awhile back made it clear that Ferrari does the same thing – the magazine had the audacity to rate their car runner-up in a car of the year comparison – and thus the relationship with Ferrari’s PR department was horribly strained.

    In such cases, the free press looks like a gorup of timid fools, and the manufacturers like coddled babies. I’m reminded of how Enron recieved a glowing Business Week cover story just before the ‘real’ news broke. You might notice that these days Business Week is regarded as something of a joke. I’m afraid a similar fate is awaiting more than a few supposedly independent car magazines.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Jack, you continue to outdo yourself.

    I read the linked article and watched the linked video for the full context. I didn’t think you were harsh – only expressing your expert opinion as a fan, owner, and racer.

    The problem isn’t the car (I like it myself); the problem is Porsche’s arrogant control of the media. This is what today’s dictators try to do in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. But the truth about cars always comes out thanks to so many other channels.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

      I will say that I drove the Panamera V6 and came away very impressed; if they would build this for the price of a 5-series, I’d probably put one in my driveway in spite of Porsche. Jack – your candor, and derring-do are an inspiration to all.

  • avatar
    onthercks07

    The tactics used by Porsche are disgusting, but unsurprising. Perhaps there are still a few gestapo-descendants in Stuttgart? And it seems they have recruited a mini-me version of Mao Tsetung aka Mr Fong as well!

    Anyway, I applaud you Mr Baruth for fighting the good fight. While it may seem like you’re tilting at windmills, just know that to people like me, your journalism ethos is priceless. For my part, when I have a free moment, I make sure to take the time to read any of your work whenever my Google reader RSS feed pops out your name, just ask all of my ex-girlfriends who’ve had to wait…

    Few questions for you:
    1. Has anyone ever approached you to do a “Car show” like thing? I have to say, I think you are about as close to our version of Jeremy Clarkson as we have in the U.S. I apologize if that’s an insult to you, I definitely think you’re not a blowhard but both of you fulfill a great and endlessly entertaining niche in Car journalism. While your technical expertise is obviously better and you do take more time to actually review your cars (which JC quit more than a few yrs ago)…both of you do like to thumb your nose in the face of auto corporations and just speak your minds, which is quite frankly refreshing!

    2. Any more left lane work on youtube coming up? I’ve noticed that seems to have been just a one-year fling.

    3. What is your opinion of DSG’s? Are they just grenades in the guise of transmissions? Is Ford mass-producing grenades??

    4. Can any of us ever trust Porsche with our money in the future ever again?? Especially in light of the recent engine debacle?

    Thanks and keep it up!

  • avatar

    Well I’m glad to have seen some apparently decent justification of why the Paner isn’t so great.

    Perhaps it’s set a new class for itself and is not of the same as the CL55. If The Paner can get better times than any A8 and any S-Class I think it is a success.

    Ray W should post the link to that thing on Ferrari by Chris Harris.

    PS: Can’t wait for your opinion on the 991. Also unblock me.

  • avatar
    imag

    I give props to both you and Chris Harris for calling out P and F on this kind of BS. The journos don’t realize that if they all were honest, the car companies wouldn’t have any choice in the matter.

    I keep wanting to like Porsche. The fact that they have kept the Cayman/Boxster the last of the reasonably light sports cars is almost reason enough. But their continual insult of their customers (and the way those customers lap up the offal) turns me off buying one.

    And nice work on clocking the Camaro GS.R with the Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      +1 on the Chris Harris reference. And we’re sitting here right now talking about how two of the most relevant reviewers for these respective brands are basically banned from testing them out of the PR fleet (Mr. Harris is the only reviewer I search by name on youtube, usually I sift by publication). That is a HUGE FAIL in PR terms, and if we keep having this discussion online, it will be seen as such within the respective companies. I have to wonder whether this kind of bullying tactic is driven by inertia (it’s always been this way), straight up ego-centrism, or a panicky need to tell the boss you’ve done something, anything, to fix that bad review they happened to stumble across.

      Do us all a favor and make this a running series of articles, maybe if Mr. Harris agrees you could link in his Ferrari piece once in a while. Let us know even if nothing happens to change the situation at least once a month. Also,are there any other gems of this nature out there in the published world? Let’s see them. TTAC has officially picked a(nother) fight, I want to see a win.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    The media (including auto journalists) have a responsability to the public to report truthfully and not act as corporate hacks, paroting the talking points given to them by the manufacturers. Keep this in mind, a car is the second largest purchase almost every American will make in their life time. In some cases we are talking years of income spent on a single vehicle. Auto journalists owe it to those people to not act as accomplices to an automobile manufacturer who bullies and attempts to silence anyone who tries to report truthfully to the consumer. The real story in all this mess isn’t that the Panamera isn’t a great vehicle, it’s the fact that Porsche is attempting to destroy any auto journalist with integrity who would dare report truthfully. Bravo to TTAC for having the courage and insight to post the only story that really matters regarding a product sold by Porsche.

    If other media outlets and car sites were being honest, each review of a Porsche product would include the following disclaimer:

    Disclaimer: Porsche provided all travel expenses, meals and track time and threatened to black list us unless we printed this glowing review you just read.

  • avatar
    Trauto

    Interesting article. The Porsche might be very much as stated.

    Yet I feel the author might have too much emotional involvement with the brand.

    I know, I know….”Too much? Porsche? Impossible!”

  • avatar

    There is nothing unusual about this kind of journalism and car journalists are no different from any other journalists. Here’s a link:
    http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/11/30

    Note that Gerstman’s journalism ended in the company in question pulling a few hundreds of thousand worth of ads from the site. What was the monetary punishment that Jack’s rag received from Porshe? Kind of harder to quantify, it looks like.

  • avatar

    It seems to me the Panamera is not crappy, your experience was instead, and that neither were what you expected.

    But if it serves to highlight GF’s practices then hating it has served a purpose.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Doesn’t Consumer Reports tend to give P cars high marks? I’m assuming they have slightly higher standards of ethics.

    Regardless, even the 6 cylinder Pan is so much more invigorating a drive than the A8 it’s not even a comparison. In manual trim, that thing may even deserve the title “the Porsche of luxury cars”. At least until someone figures out that “the Porsche of luxury cars” needs it’s engine out back, lest it be just another Bimmer derivative.

    Anyway, one of the most obviously off putting phenomena of life in the geek age, is people’s (particularly those still commanding some disposable income) desperate need to justify every dollar spent by reference to some supposed “expert.” Just a late stage side effect of a century of almost universal progressive indoctrination, I suppose; and nothing a return to more widespread street/canyon racing for pink slips couldn’t fix; but still annoying.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “Regardless, even the 6 cylinder Pan is so much more invigorating a drive than the A8 it’s not even a comparison.”

      You know what’s more invigorating to drive than a 6-zylinder Pano? A BMW 328i. Does that make the 328i a better luxury car than an A8? :)

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      CR numbers for Porsche are a joke. “What car is the best if you want to keep it for 200k? The Boxster!”

      Yeah right. Even if that was true from a mechanical standpoint, how can they possibly extrapolate out that far when as far as I can tell (based on 4 years of prowling craigslist, cars.com, and autotrader), no one has ever driven one over 115k and most have less than 50k.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    One of my career goals 10 year ago was to get out of finance and get into a writing career, such as automotive journalism. I knew it would be a pay cut, but after seeing all the junkets I’d get to take and the exotic cars I would drive on someone else’s dime, it was definitely appealing.

    After all, why worry about having your teenage kid driving the Porsche into the garage door when you can write about it and have it twittered, driving word of mouth and advertising your way?

    I’m glad I get to see the dirt from an insider. Thanks.

  • avatar

    hrm,…


    I believe one of our national treasures said it best in his nearly-Oscar-Award-Nominated role in a film classic dealing with the struggle between existence and technology:

    “Whoa.”

    -Keanu Reeves.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    I owned a 986 and was lucky not to have an IMS failure – but the soft peddling by the press was ridiculous. I felt relieved to sell it off and have it off my hands, I didn’t need a ticking time bomb for a car.

    Shame on me, I even thought about buying a Panamera at one point, but fortunately sanity returned and I remembered that Porsche treats its customers like they deserve, fawning sycophants that they are. Maybe a Jaguar XJ will be in my future if they get rid of the frog’s eyes on the interior.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If Mr. Baruth ever needs an intern, prodigy, or apprentice, I am far over qualified and would endure any amount of TTAC frosh hazing to do it ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      More than apprentices, we need contributors! Write something up and send it Ed’s way. Everybody you read on TTAC started off by reading someone else’s writing.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        I’ve sent in a sample. The local car dealers haven’t seen me much yet, so I can get test drives without drawing the “get this test pilot off my lot” short straw.

    • 0 avatar
      SKUSA_boy

      Excellent Article! Donohue is a loser and was acting like one as well. Especially considering that professional sports car racing is only composed of two groups of people, open-wheel rejects, and rich guys who didn’t start racing until after they made their money. Donohue falls into the reject camp, and considering he was the son of a famous driver and had all the advantages, it shows exactly how much of a loser he is.

      I have only one real argument with Jack Baruth, and that is when he said something like national level auto-crossers were the most skilled drivers on the planet. He must have been shrooming. The best drivers on the planet are pro level kart racers. In North America they usually race shifter karts, and in Europe and the rest of the world they usually race FA/ICA/KF1 (direct drive). Kart racing has produced the best drivers in the world, from Senna to Schumi, from Zanardi to Alonso, from Prost to Raikkonnen, they have all come from the world of karting.

      Karting is the purest form of motorsport. Its draw is so much that at big kart races current f1 drivers will occassionally show up and race. At the SKUSA supernationals in 2009 they had several current f1 drivers racing. Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Buemi, and Jaime Alguersuari were all there racing in the top shifter class.

      Videos of Schumi, Vettel, and other current f1 pilots racing practicing in karts to stay sharp while away from their f1 cars are all over youtube by the way. I haven’t heard of any f1 pilots running autocross (cone dodging) to stay sharp.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        National-level autocrossers are the most *precise* drivers on the planet. I’ll stand by that. Karting is absolutely the ladder towards open-wheel racing. Anybody who wins any kart series anywhere has my respect. For the record, I would love to race karts, but at my height. weight, and accumulated injury level, I can’t cut the mustard.

        Go to an SCCA National Tour event and watch what the best drivers do. It’s not bravery, it’s not strategy, it’s not tactics, it’s not what they teach you in racing school, but it is precision above all else.

      • 0 avatar
        SKUSA_boy

        I think you could be competitive in karting by racing in the masters classes where the minimum weights are much higher.

        Anyway, even if you don’t actually race, karting is a blast. A shifterkart will rip from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and corner at 3g’s and only cost about 10 grand!

        Anyway, I can understand the thing about injuries. Since a kart has no suspension and is 1 inch off the ground it can be hard on the body.

        Anyway, once again excellent article!

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    So I watched that video and read the full review to see what Porsche was so upset about – amazing.

    Your comments were entirely fair, even if they were somewhat shaped by being a current owner of a 911 and other sports cars. Hard to believe they would get that upset about reviews like that, when they had to know some sports car aficionados would react that way to them producing something like the Panamera, never mind the execrable Cayenne.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    The title reference, by the way, is one of my favorite movies of all time. “You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”

  • avatar
    SP

    Interesting story. Good information about the corrupt relationship between Porsche and the mainstream car media.

    I don’t particularly care for yet another smear in the face of a rival journalist. Snubbed at the table, so you gloat over being 39th loser instead of 42nd? I mean, I’m starting to suspect a little paranoia on your part, old sport. (Then again, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Donohue’s not a journalist, he’s the racing driver son of a racing driver. And if you read the results, you will see the humor: the reason I beat him was because our car blew up three laps after his. It’s meant to be amusing.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Okay, I had assumed he was a journalist. My mistake.

        I did check the results. I sort of gathered that neither one of you had a particularly great day out! I guess I didn’t catch the humorous inflection that you intended. Hard, sometimes, when all you have is words on a screen to convey what you mean, and no body language to supplement it.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Thanks Jack for giving us the straight dope.

  • avatar
    brandeselitch

    Jack,
    So far this year, your obit on David E. Davis is the best piece of automotive journalism in the English language for 2011. This article qualifies for second place. What is really surprising is not the content of the article, but just why it took so long for this subject to be addressed in print, or, well, pixels. What tangled webs we weave! Now that you have evidenced your courage to take on the pimps, perhaps you will look at the “collector car” auction circuit next!

  • avatar

    Great story!

  • avatar
    Ringer

    Thanks for taking one for the team. I appreciate your candor, and enjoy the looks into the auto journalism backstage. Are you still instructing with Trackdaze, btw?

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    wow, great source of great reviews. ironically only here at ttac did i learn that there may be a 4-cyl porsche. maybe you can review it against, say, Jetta GLI or the GTI?

  • avatar
    daviel

    Thanks, Jack. You’re the very best!

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Jack, this is another great article as usual.
    Keep up the good work!

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Jack,

    When you come to NYC I will buy you a steak.

    Great article.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Seconded. If you aren’t afraid to be seen with a relatively (and probably, unfortunately, even in the absolute) boring dude, contact me. I’d be happy to invite you to a decent meal next time you are in Switzerland, S. Germany, or W. Austria…

    • 0 avatar
      wallstreet

      When you are in lone star state, I ‘ll buy you beer in addition to steak. Your voluptuous old college girlfriend is cordially invited too.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    PAG is probably not alone in some aspects of behaviour (maybe all alone, however, in combining all of these at one time.)

    GM a few years ago pulled all it’s advertising in the L.A.Times after a bad review of some car now forgotten to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      GM a few years ago pulled all its advertising in the L.A.Times after a bad review of some car now forgotten to me.

      That was Dan Neil’s review of the Pontiac G6. A certain Robert Farago commented about it at the time: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2005/04/general-motors-death-watch-2-dan-neil-takes-a-bullet/

  • avatar
    TomHend

    and to you f*ckers reading this at Porsche:

    “The jig is up, AND GONE.”

  • avatar

    Nice job. Now I’m going to have to look up the David Davis obit.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If it wasn’t for corporate black-listing TTAC literally would not exist.

  • avatar
    frontline

    My favorites guys that I haven’t met: Jay Leno, Larry David , and now I will add Jack Baruth

  • avatar
    JonKessler

    To paraphrase Col. Mandrake (one of Sellers’ brilliant characters in DSOHILTSWALTB)

    Strange thing is they make such bloody good sports cars.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I couldn’t make it very long into the video. I watch a lot of youtube clips, and that’s one of the most annoying ones I’ve seen in a long long time.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Excellent article.

    It didn’t take me long to realize what a sham “journalism” really is. It was when I was at university, one degree already down in Automotive technology actually. Had a teacher suggest I write for the school paper. He told the chief editor he’d be seeing me around.

    So I go check it out, the editor is some little punky-nerd who was younger then myself. Whatever, I take a seat in the weekly meeting later that evening. Half way through I realized I was surrounded by idiots who knew nothing. He assigned me to a story of the upcoming school car show with this other kid. Well, the kid whined about a party he had to attended later that day, and he never showed, so I wrote it myself. The editor butchered it up, put my name on it, and printed the disaster.

    I think I sent him an e-mail saying he turned the article into crap, or confronted him on the campus grounds. I forget the details, it’s been awhile, but I ended my days in student journalism. Actually, later on I verbally ass-whooped my head dean and my days were numbered at that university anyways (I even cut a deal with an English teacher to give me a C so she would never hear from me again that same semester).

    When you get into something for the fun of it, it’s easy to walk out.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I’m glad that TTAC and writers like Mr Baruth exist. They give the outsiders view, which although sometimes isn’t very pretty, it is usually the most honest.
    It’s a wonderful thing being an outsider and a ‘malcontent’. You can say what you like and piss off whoever you like without really having to worry about the consequences. I used to do exactly that – then I got married.

  • avatar

    As long as AvtoVAZ doesn’t blacklist you, you’re good. Don’t want to miss out on the ’12 Oka GT launch!

  • avatar
    Alacrity

    This is The Truth About CARS – realized. But the Motorcycle Journalistic Universe would benefit from an injection of this kind of integrity. Though not as replete with junkets, freebies and shenanigans as the auto PR environment – the hacks are more cheaply bought. Perhaps some slight creep from guitar straps to something beyond cages…?

    That said, why do I sense a lack of dénoument here?

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    It seems to me that it’s Porsche’s marketing folks that’s overreaching in pitching the Panamera as a genuine alternative to the likes of Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-series and its ilk, while the engineer seem to have built basically a 4-door porsche instead. Basically like a really large, 4-door Porsche, preserving as much ‘Porscheness’ as possible while big enough to carry 4 comfortably. As this I think the Panamera has succeeded, based on the reviews I read. As a 7-series or S-class competitors, however, perhaps it came out sort, but I wonder if that’s what the engineer set out to built anyway.

    BTW I just saw on TV a ‘boss-type’ character with nice suits and all reading newspaper in the back of a Panamera! What a dolt. How could he be successful in whatever he’s doing if he’s that dumb. A much cheaper Cadillac deVille or that ol’ TTAC favorite, the Town Car, would be much better vehicle for him if that’s how he’s going to use it. Lucky for his chauffeur, I suppose. But with this kind of ‘product placement’, real people’s going to use their Panamera in this fashion, then they’ll be terribly dissapointed.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Jack, you effectively pointed out the emperor has no clothes!

  • avatar
    JKC

    Nicely done, Jack. I watched the video you did for Left Lane News: it’s not like you said the Panamera was a rolling piece of crap. Kind of hard to believe that Fong got his panties in a twist because you pointed out that the car was not a four passenger 911.

    As far as the state of automotive journalism goes, I guess in hindsight it was pretty obvious that writers were getting what’s essentially a bribe to fluff manufacturers. A lot of people (and I include myself in this) really wanted to believe that Davis, Lamm et al. were really bon vivants living the good life. Auto journalism may have been a scam, but we all played along with it. Good on you and TTAC for breaking the mold and giving us all a much-needed dose of reality.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As someone who has been reading the “buff books” for probably 40 years, this doesn’t surprise me. What surprised me was MT’s recent pan of the Ecoboost Explorer. MT, of all people! Back in the day (when all there was was MT, Car & Driver and Road & Track), most people considered MT the midget among pygmies.

    In many ways, the Internet has been a disruptive force. Just ask any newspaper publisher . . .

    So, the question is: will the Internet become a disruptive force in the way the cars are marketed and sold (including reviews)? If, as some of the sources in the AJR piece say, “independent” reviews have been found to be a far more effective marketing tool, what’s gonna’ happen when the word gets out that these reviews aren’t so independent? Consumer Reports’ reviewing model is great, in that they buy the cars they review off dealers’ lots, anonymously. But given the off-the-lot depreciation of luxury cars, the costs of doing that get pretty high when you move into purchasing 60-70-100 thousand dollar cars for a review.

    One would hope that Mr. Fong, his bosses and others of his ilk will start being grown up about this . . . and make a distinction between reviews that are not necessarily fawning and ones that are over-the-top harsh (in which category I would put some of Mr. Farago’s reviews on this site).

    As certain Detroit brands have found out: in the end you can’t fool people. If you sell junk, eventually people will figure that out and stop buying. So, independent feedback (and not from a randomly assembled collection of idiots in a focus group) should be considered a valuable thing.

    BTW, I enjoyed your “4 VWs” series but I have to say the GLI takes the Q-ship concept to a new level of anonymity. There’s “plain” and then there’s the GLI . . . and this comment comes from a guy who owned a 92 SHO for 11 years!

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why TTAC needs to mouthify the wang of Porsche (and I’ve owned 5, I love them, let me put that out there . . . ) just to get into their kool-aid sipping events.

    The cars are available at dealerships – test drive unprepared cars instead of press ringers, and deliver the truth of the driving impression to us, the readers. That’s why we come to this site.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Great piece. Porsche is what it is.
    I’ll still take a used Cayman over a new RX-8…

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Thank you, Jack. It’s encouraging to see that Robert Farago’s original mission statement for TTAC is in safe hands.

    For anyone aspiring to Porsche ownership, please research M96 engine failure(IMS, RMS and D-chunking cylinder failures) and the methods employed by Porsche North America to address these issues.

    To quote Bugs Bunny,“watch out for that first step, Mac. It’s a lulu”.

  • avatar
    mad1

    Just registered to say – Great article, this is why I keep coming back. How about a Donate button for us adblock/noscript-ers?

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    OK, so I guess I’ll be the first to back Porsche on this one.

    Can you really blame Porsche (or any other company) for responding to sharply negative reviews? Their strategy seems to use journalism as a controlled marketing tool instead of…ahem…an unrestricted outlet for the truth. They likely gambled that ol’ Jack’s online review would quickly be forgotten (if even found) by a sufficiently large number of potential customers. A Google search for “2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo review” doesn’t even find your S:S:L review in the first 5 pages.

    I’d wager that for most of their non-racing customers, image is huge. The Porsche Panamera is an ego-machine with a battery larger than a Honda 4-cylinder and an optional sound system more expensive than many new cars. Naturally they would try their best to kill reviews that call their cars flawed, disappointing, silly, stubborn and problematic. I’m sure you struck the final raw nerve when you called the Audi A8 the “Porsche of luxury sedans” and then called them hypocrites.

    Did you think that maybe some of those journalists that shamelessly suck the Porsche teet, might be blacklisted by 10 other manufacturers because they’ve blasted their vehicles in the same way that you have the Panamera, which happens to be an incredibly important new vehicle launch for Porsche?

  • avatar
    pharmer

    I don’t blame Porsche for wanting to manage negative reviews. It’s interesting, though, that Hollywood movies (which cost the average person $10) get a more fair, journalistic review than do very expensive automobiles. This is another great addition to Jack’s body of work pulling the veil off of the bullsh*t suckfest that is “automotive journalism”. It’s one thing to be lied to, it’s another thing to know you’re being lied to.

    As for Porsche, I’ve had 3. I don’t have any right now, and I don’t see myself buying another one unless there is some kind of screaming deal to be had. I know people that have “great relationships with (their) Porsche dealer” and buy lots of new Porkers. I listened silently to one of them just a few days ago as he related his opinion that the Cayenne Hybrid is “a tremendous value, and also feels like doing the right thing.”

    What’s it all mean? Porsche is a luxury brand now….an aspiration for upper middle class people, and a trinket for the wealthy. There’s a beautiful sporting heritage there, but they are just like Prada bags or Rolex watches. It’s their brand, they can manage how they want to manage it.

  • avatar

    Good job Jack. That is why I prioritize TTAC above all other sites and ignore printed press completely and esp MT (one the most boring publications around). If I want the honest review I go to TTAC (or Autosavant) and normally find confirmation of my impressions after test drive while reading printed press or Edmunds for that matter I say to my self – what the heck what they are talking about? I cannot take car to track or to for week drive so TTAC’s opinion matters.

    I am not a Porsche fan and not going ever buy Porsche, but if Porsche thinks that they can ignore sites like TTAC they are utterly wrong because TTAC is the most visited and popular auto site and messing up with TTAC may have consequences Porche may regret eventually.

  • avatar

    I hope that Porsche is familiar with the term payola.

  • avatar
    mattfarah

    Jack, you continue to be the inspiration for my whole life, balls of steel man.

    And now, my Porsche story:
    In 2007, I was blacklisted from Porsche before getting even a single press car or launch event invite. In my first journo gig, I was doing a video walk around of the NY Auto Show, and talking about the (then) new GT2 on a rotating display. It was supposed to be Guards Red but actually looked hot pink under the lights. I believe my quote was something like this! “here we have the new Porsche GT2. 520 horsepower and the first car ever to make full boost in neutral! But man, that color is an abomination.

    Boom. Banned. I didn’t drive any Porsche press car until May 2010 when it took moving to broadcast TV and having Dan Neil book the car for me,

    The executor of the ban? Gary Fong.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      You should make him shine your shoes on national television.

      • 0 avatar
        dmf

        It was only appropriate that at the downtown Boston showcase of luxury, sport, and supercars (Bugatti, Bentley, Lexus LFA, etc.) the Panamera was functioning as a cupholder – the showroom staff were keeping their coffee mugs in the sides of the trunk of the nearby Panamera.

    • 0 avatar
      a cat named scruffy

      As long as we have sites like this one and yours car nuts can still find out the real facts despite corporate censorship.

      Keep up the good work making honest car reviews for people who really care about cars.

  • avatar
    LordDetroitofLondon

    I am going to start using the expression ” You’ve just been Gary Fong-d” (TM) more often in my conversations.

  • avatar

    I was never a Porsche fan, no matter what level of performance they have offered. Not because of potential driver attitudes or cost. I just do not EVER want to spend 6 figures on a brand new sports car and have someone ask me, “Is that new?”.

    It seems many reviewers of a plethora of products must mind their P’s and Q’s for fear of retribution. It makes good reading when you have had enough of the boob tube and its too hot outside to wash the car, but you are much better off conducting your own review if you can find a willing dealer with the inventory to actually provide a test drive before you buy. Sounds easier than it is. Once you get into the high end, you are in for a test of wills trying to locate, much less acquire, a test drive (are you reading this Audi?).

    Integrity is a dying art and I commend Baruth and TTaC for not succombing to the “powers that be”. Your willingness to publish this will hit these companies in the only place they understand; their wallets. So please vote accordingly!

  • avatar

    Jack, you have NY traffic ticket defense on me.

    A Panawhatever is not a sportscar. Jack taking one out and flogging it is really not relevant. Yes, Porsche does claim it is a sportscar, but …

    This car competes in the company parking lot for status and bling. The only time it will be pushed by 90 percent of drivers is when a few golf buds are in the car, and the owner floors it from an off ramp to 80, and back to a bit over the limit. Buddies will go ooohhh and the purpose of the car is fulfilled.

    Mr. Fong realizes that Mr. Porsche Guy really won’t push it much. (no not Jack, who actually combines the money and the enthusiasm). He is successful, so wants to show it off. Cool. Mr. Fong realizes that any buzzkill as to Reality might make our guy go for a M class, an AMG, or some other equally wasted car. The only times these get flogged is if the kid gets ahold of it. Porsche Guy needs to know that he can flog it, if he wanted to. Much of the car’s reality will be sitting on the West Side Highway, in NYC traffic, Aircon and stereo humming, rolling along just like a Panther at hundreds of times the price.

    Porsche is quite rare in Germany. I’ve actually seen more of them at my kids soccer games (Westchester NY) than in a day on the Autobahn. They need the US market badly, we still have a lot of money.

    It’s a Rolex, really, or equal status wristwatch. I’ve never met Mr. Fong, but I “get” his job. He understands it and clearly does it well. I’d send JB packing too. Sorry. The only difference is a million hit blog, not some second tier auto column in a small newspaper.

    Want to tour the BBS factory in the Black Forest and drive “the ring” ? Those tickets for the plane ride, and maybe one for your wife/sig other are available. Just write nice. Unlike a mass market car, you won’t get busted, and the guy who just spent 100k won’t admit he got taken. Porsche is porn for 99% of drivers-they won’t ever get to actually drive one.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Jack, curious on your take with respect to Top Gear. How do they get away with it? They trash cars, and called the Panamera hideous looking. When Bentley refused them a car, they substituted a Yugo and proceeded to review it as a Bentley. Is it just a case that Top Gear is simply too popular and the manufacturers can’t pull these stunts?

    C&D and R&T are both owned by Hearst. You would think that Hearst should have enough clout to stand up for their reviewers should they decide to rock the boat.

    • 0 avatar
      mattfarah

      Top Gear has a worldwide audience about 100 times the size of, say Car and Driver or any of the major rags. Automakers would have to be complete morons not to showcase their cars on Top Gear, even if Jeremy and the boys don’t exactly say kind things about them.

      And if TG really wanted to test a car that a manufacturer wouldn’t provide, they have a massive list of owners who would be happy to provide them a car.

      Worst case scenario (i.e. Muscle Cars in America episode), someone refuses to provide them a car at all and they have a big enough budget to just go buy one, and then they can say whatever the hell they want about it.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        Ahh yes, and they ended up liking the Challenger anyway. I’m just pointing out that Hearst could take the same approach. They’ve got the money, and if you look across the whole media empire, the manufacturers would be fools to take them on. They could take a legit journalist approach.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      Because Top Gear is entertainment and not consumer product review. The carmakers oblige, for the lulz.

    • 0 avatar
      a cat named scruffy

      TG is on the BBC and they are state funded.
      They don’t have to worry nearly as much about angering advertisers like our advertising funded programs do.

  • avatar
    CriticalMass

    One thing to bear in mind with newspapers, even large chains, is the amount of advertising money (otherwise known as revenue to the papers) from car dealers is massive, no, make that MASSIVE. I have seen this power used and it ain’t pretty. Now Porsche, Ferrari, et al are not the big hitters here (but they ARE often owned by larger dealership groups) but consider how much crap has been pushed from dealership lots and how many customers have been mistreated over the years with absolutely no reporting by the local papers. It’s a little like the legal system – the game is for the legal “community”; you and I are simply here to pay for it all.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Makes me want to buy a 914 with an engine swap, is what it does.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    Excellent article, stay independent !!!

  • avatar
    Nick

    Thanks for giving me another reason to hate Porsche. I don’t think there’s a German care company left that I don’t dislike.

    Anyway, I hope you pushed Donohue off on to the grass at least once.

  • avatar
    ArBee

    You know, if you slipped a set of wide whitewalls on a Panamera, damned if it wouldn’t look just like a ’48 Packard. Just sayin’…

  • avatar
    dwight

    The Panamera is like buying sunglasses with the Porsche insignia on them. You need sunglasses and get the Porsche prestige on the frame. Here, you need a car for practical purposes and at the same time you get the Porsche look and name. Enjoy but we’re all laughing at you.

  • avatar
    Bonso

    Hi Jack

    As you have over eighty books on Porsches you may be able to help me. I read a travel book published in the mid 1960s about a tour of Bryce Canyon, Zion national Park, Painted Desert, Grand Canyon etc made in a Porsche 911. The car and scenery were both the “stars” of the book, the passion for the car and scenery were complimentary. I would like to re-read the book but do not remember either the title or author! Can you help me? Or perhaps one of your readers knows of the book. Thanks.


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