The Truth About Cars » Porsche The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Porsche VW Group, Led By Porsche, Aiming For 10 Million In Sales By Year’s End Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:37:26 +0000 Porsche-911-991-Targa-01

Volkswagen Group’s goal of selling 10 million units annually may come as soon as the end of 2014, with Porsche leading the way in operating profitability.

Automotive News reports the target, originally set for 2018, is on-track to come this year, according to CEO Martin Winterkorn. The group sold 9.72 million units last year, beating General Motors to become the world’s second-largest automaker.

Fueling the growth are rising volumes in Europe and China, and introductions of over 100 models between now and the end of 2015, including new and updated SUVs for Volkswagen and Porsche.

Speaking of Porsche, the premium sports car brand’s profit earnings tripled to 2.58 billion euro last year, while those of VW and Audi fell to 2.89 billion and 5.03 billion, respectively. Overall revenue for Porsche totaled 14.3 billion euro on sales of 155,000 units worldwide.

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Porsche’s Bernhard Maier: China Could Become No. 1 in 2014 Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:00:50 +0000 Porsche 911 GT3-R Hybrid in China

In a sign that the 21st Century could belong to China after all, Porsche’s head of sales and marketing Bernhard Maier predicts that the United States will finish second on the podium to China as far as 911s and Macans are concerned by the end of 2014 at the earliest.

Though Maier’s ultimate goal is for Porsche to have “qualitative, sustainable and profitable growth” — defined as an ROI over 15 percent with a return on equity of over 21 percent, thus allowing Porsche to remain the most profitable automaker in the world while financing their investments through net cash flow — in opposition to volume, he believes that China could become the automaker’s No. 1 single market as soon as 2014, if not sometime in 2015, knocking the United States from the top.

In China, the Cayenne and Panamera are Porsche’s two best-sellers, with more growth potential in 2014 due to a product changeover with the second-generation Panamera creating a shortage in the market. Overall, their current balance of global sales is divided evenly between the Americas, Europe and Asia, with the Macan leading the way toward growth in mature and emerging markets.

Speaking of the Macan, Maier has high hopes for the compact SUV, which will debut in European showrooms in April, with the United States following soon after before China gets theirs in August. Serving as one of two entry points into Porsche’s paradise — the other being the Boxster — Maier expects 50,000 units to head out on the highway by the close of 2014, with overall sales fast approaching Porsche’s 2018 goal of 200,000 units/annually by next year.

Why so soon? Maier says that when Porsche outlined their strategy back in 2011, the automaker sought to go all in with both guns blazing the global marketplace. With market forces expecting an increase in the luxury segment by over 4.5 percent, and annual global sales demand climbing to 100 million, 200,000 yearly sales by 2015 appears to be possible.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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Capsule Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (996 Vintage) Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:00:04 +0000 IMG_1167

Over an uncharacteristically lazy Labor Day weekend, I found myself chatting with Derek Kreindler about subjects near and dear to the apex of TTAC’s masthead:  semiotics, the musical oeuvre of John Mayer, and – briefly – automobiles. Given my mild disappointment with Porsche’s newest mid-engined cars, he suggested a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, pronouncing it “certified badass.”  I protested that they were quite rare, and I’d never had the opportunity to drive one, but I’d check local listings to pacify him.  Lo and behold, there was a Speed Yellow example on a used car lot less than 10 miles away from me.  I called and confirmed that the car was still available; I could test drive it provided I arrived at the dealer within 30 minutes.  I was out the door before the receiver went dead.

When I arrived at the dealer at the tail end of a slow Saturday afternoon, one of the few remaining employees offered “you probably know more about these cars than I do.”  I was assured that this was the case when he pulled the car around and encouraged me to go for an open-ended test drive alone, a 24 year old given the keys to a searingly Speed Yellow, barely domesticated $60,000 race car with a weighty clutch and 380bhp unbridled by any electronic nannies to save me from tears and expensive bodywork.  I had also watched  this marketing clip just a few hours before; alas, I was unable to make it to Road Atlanta that day, but it was quite easy to imagine doing so in the future:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The 996 model years are roundly criticized by detractors for a variety of reasons:  the abandonment of air-cooling, the arrival of thoroughly modern chassis and interior designs that killed the charming anachronisms unique to the 911 genus, and those unfortunate headlights.  Fortunately, the GT3 version of the car is the most handsome of its contemporaries, with a subtle yet purposeful aerodynamic bodykit and a stance that is unmistakably motorsport-derived.


After taking in the car’s sheetmetal and brilliant paintwork, it was time to drive away lest the dealer representative change his mind.  A previous owner had chosen to retrofit the seats that many GT3s abroad enjoyed from birth; affectionately called “Dumbo seats,” they cost well over $5,000 including shipping, provided you can find a pair.  They are veritable hip-huggers and quite form-fitting for a Southerner who’s fond of fried chicken.  Nevermind, once ensconced within – you sit “in” them rather than “on” – they offered tremendous lateral support and transmitted every scintilla of feedback to my posterior.  Unfortunately the rest of the interior was a letdown, all amorphous plasticky curves, bereft of the never-obsolete quality that oozes from the earlier air-cooled cars.

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 4.45.32 AM

GT3s of all generations eschew the vestigial 911 rear seats in favor of a natty placard reminding you what type of car you’re driving, as well as an expanse of carpeting into which the finest of used car dealers will vacuum an attractive stripe pattern if you ask nicely.


Left foot firmly on the non-floor-mounted clutch pedal, I inserted the key – still on the left – and cranked the engine.  After a whirr from the starter, the engine barked before settling into a clattering, lumpy idle, in the fashion of the air-cooled engine introduced in the 964, from which the Mezger engine inherits much of its base architecture.  Among the 996 attributes I cataloged above, an additional criticism leveled against the car relates to the fragility of the all-new engines fitted to the standard, “cooking” Carreras, which were somewhat prone to unexpected, catastrophic failure.  Fortunately, the Mezger engine is the descendant of decades of motorsport glory, so it avoids those issues, although it has some minor issues of its own (chiefly, the weeping rear main seal that plagues garage queen cars).  Gingerly testing the clutch pedal, I pulled into traffic.  The GT3, with its low ride height, heavy clutch, and recalcitrant shifter was not exactly at home in the bump-and-grind traffic found in the land of strip malls, fly-by-night buy-here-pay-here used car lots, and Compramos Oro enterprises, so I made way for a nice office park nearby.

The first chance to test the car’s abilities came on a downhill cloverleaf ramp.  Predictable 911 traits surfaced as the front end washed wide before the rear end hooked up, giving the first opportunity to test the powertrain as I merged into traffic.  The flat-six’s lungs engulfed oxygen as the revs soared, the gruff induction noise giving way to the mechanical rattle and hum of symphony in the key of P-flat as redline neared, before I slotted third gear, then fourth… at which juncture I confirmed the stopping power of the binders; sufficient to leave welts where the seatbelt met flesh.  As thrilling as the powerplant was, it was let down a bit by the gearbox; Porsche chose to fit the “base” GT3 with a dual mass flywheel, reserving the racier single mass, lightweight flywheel for the GT3 RS, a car not offered on our shores in 996 guise.  After fitting the more aggressive clutch and flywheel assembly to my car, I’d argue that the minor refinement compromises – audible gear lash at idle and low revs – would suit the nature and character of the high-revving GT3.  Furthermore, the 996 GT3′s shifter features somewhat long throws and imprecise engagement, demerits rectified in the later 997 generation of the GT3.

Once at speed on a section of I-75 that I know quite well, the compromises of the GT3′s chassis revealed themselves.  Although the longer wheelbase of the 996 reduced the tendency of the 911 to porpoise over bumps, and the superior dampers provided body and wheel control that embarrassed my 993, the ride was extraordinarily firm, inducing a wince at every surface imperfection and expansion joint.  Fortunately I only had to travel a few miles before I reached the office park I had in mind – a loop of nearly a mile that rises and falls as it winds around a leafy complex full of anonymous office buildings along the Chattahoochee river.

After a cautious exploratory lap of the deserted office park, I pushed a bit harder on subsequent circuits.  Once apace, the characteristics that were vices on the highway became virtues; the chassis provided supreme mechanical grip at reasonable public road speeds, the steering was sublimely tactile, weighting up and – crucially – unweighting with remarkable clarity and fluidity, the helm positively shouting its feedback where my 993 whispers and modern Porsches are absolutely mute.

The GT3 was a physical, intense drive, snaffling over bumps and cambers with the rear end poised to step wide at the slightest provocation, perhaps attributable to its Pirelli tires of unknown age or provenance.  Once used as intended, the entire car resonated with unmistakable, pur sang race car heritage.  After a few more loops I returned the GT3, reflecting on Porsche Motorsport’s ministrations on the 996 as I re-traced the earlier route in my familiar 993.  A lengthier sojourn would have provided more opportunity to assess the car’s range of abilities in situations both mundane and special, but I was able to form a sufficient opinion of the car in a brief period of time.  Although the car shone brightly in a spirited environment, its optimization for that narrow usage rendered it torturous as a daily driver candidate, my intended use for any car I might purchase.

Screen shot 2013-11-23 at 11.45.30 PM

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.


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Los Angeles 2013: Porsche Cabrios Make LA Auto Show Debut Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:22 +0000 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio 02

Want to feel the wind rush through your hair as you turn the wheel in anger? Then Porsche has what you need in the form of the 911 Turbo and Turbo S cabriolets.

For $161,650 for the Turbo or $194,850 for the Turbo S, you’ll be able to feel the power of the 3.8-liter flat-six pushing anywhere from 520 to 560 twin-turbo horses from zero to 60 in 3.3 to 3.1 seconds, all through Porsche’s own PDK seven-speed transmission. Handling and active aero are available with a push of a button, while their aggressive looks should help others on the road get the hint, as it were.

Though the duo should arrive on our shores sometime early in 2014, Porsche has yet to specify the exact date.

2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio 01 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio 02 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio 03 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabrio 01 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabrio 02 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabrio 03 ]]> 4
Bark’s Bites: The Foolish Indiscretion of Youth, Plus One Porsche Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:30:05 +0000 mark944

There is much discussion on this site about Porsche ownership and the joys and perils therein. David Walton has opined about his very positive 993 purchase and experience. The EIC, owner ofa few Porsches himself, has lamented the recent decline of Porsche, both from a product and merchandising perspective. However, there is one TTAC contributor whose Porsche ownership experience predates even theirs. That’s right, it’s your dear friend, Bark M.

The year was 1999. The scene? The lush campus of The Ohio State University in the serene Midwestern metropolis of Columbus, Ohio. I had just turned in my 1996 Infiniti G20 at the end of a thirty-six month lease, and, much to the chagrin of my father (who had been paying for it), it had been a very painful experience. Three years in the streets, parking lots, and loading zones of the world’s largest college campus had not been kind to my rebadged Primera. There were several dings in each panel, and my band’s touring schedule throughout the Midwest meant that I was about fifteen thousand miles over my 36,000 mile limit. Yikes.

So after he wrote a five thousand dollar check to cover my mistakes, Dad made it explicit, in both senses of the word, that I would be paying for my next car. Uh-oh. My part-time job at Sam Ash Music, plus my weekend music gigs, didn’t add up to a whole lot of income. I figured that I could probably afford about $200 a month for a car payment, which was sounding dangerously like used Civic territory. So what was a college kid who was used to cruising campus in a relatively swanky ride to do?

Dad picked me up from my campus apartment early on a Saturday morning and took me used car shopping. My incredibly spoiled self could barely contain my disgust and disdain as we looked at one early Nineties sedan after another in various states of disrepair. The blue velour interiors in Accords. The female-repelling exterior designs of Stanzas. Escorts and Cavaliers sneering at me. I just couldn’t take it.

But wait. As we were driving from one dealership to the next, there it was, a golden savior sitting on the lawn in front of an apartment complex. A beautiful, masculine, exotic, tantalizing Porsche 944. And the “For Sale” sign indicated a cost of only $10,000! My eyes brightened immediately as I turned to look at my father from the passenger seat of his Infiniti QX4.

“Don’t get any stupid ideas. This is Ohio. What the f—k are you going to drive in the winter?” I shrank back down in my seat, defeated and deflated. I was going to end up with a Ford Taurus. I was never going to get a date again. I sulked through the rest of the day. Finally, Dad pulled into a small independent lot near his subdivision. This dealer was of the upscale import variety, stocking a host of BMW, Audis, Mercedes, and even some Italian cars. I honestly had no idea why he had decided to stop by this lot — there was clearly nothing here for me at $200 or less a month.

Apparently, the old man had another idea. Sitting in the corner of the lot, almost as an embarrassment among the other high-line imports, was…no, wait…really…another Porsche 944, resplendent in red! Okay, so this one looked a little bit rougher than the gold example from earlier in the day, but it was still a PORSCHE! And the sticker on this one was only eight grand.

“How are these things in the snow?” Dad asked the gruff salesman, who clearly had bigger and more important cars to sell than the poor little four-banger.

“Terrible.” He flicked aside the remains of his cigar. “If you want a car that’s good in the snow, go buy a Honda or a Nissan.” Dad glared at me.

“Yeah, we tried that.”

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the keys. The salesman reluctantly went out on a test drive with me. We took a jaunt through the country roads of Delaware County, and I tried to remain cool as I drove a rear-wheel drive car for only the second time in my life (see a future volume of Bark’s Bites for “How I blew up somebody else’s FD”). It was a 1988 model with a 2.7 liter engine. It had leather seats, a CD changer that the previous owner had installed, and even a car phone in the passenger seat footwell! Oh, man. So what if it had 144,000 miles on the clock? It had a manila folder full of service records in the back seat, AND it had been traded in by the hottest female news anchor in the city-she only sold the car because her super-wealthy husband had bought her an identical convertible version.

I knew it was just going to be perfect.

My dad was waiting for us upon my return. “Dad,” I said breathlessly, “I’ll take it.” He looked at me, knowing full well what type of decision I was making, and said, “Fine. You can buy it.” We negotiated the price down to $7000 and just like that, I was a proud future PCA member.

First stop after delivery? My friend-of-a-friend who was a master Porsche mechanic (yes, I said AFTER delivery). He pulled out the service records from the backseat. Everything had been done at Blagoi’s, an extremely reputable import repair shop at the time in Columbus. Further reading of the service records indicated that the timing belt had been recently replaced, which was apparently a real bugbear with the 944. He gave the car his seal of approval. After I told him who had owned the car previously, he looked me in the eye in the creepiest way possible and said, “Mmmmm. Sniff those seats.”

I named the Porsche Hermann and I loved it like a brother. I drove that car EVERYWHERE. I experienced firsthand how women who didn’t know anything about cars sure as hell knew that I had a Porsche; and they didn’t even know it was an eleven-year old example of the “entry-level” Porsche, either! I landed a girlfriend who was six years older. She had a real job and a real apartment in the city, and people thought that I was her wealthy boyfriend. I bought a set of Blizzaks for it to run in the winter, and it plowed through the snow problem-free all season long. Somebody smashed a beer bottle against the windshield at a bar one night, and the windshield won! In short, it was perfect, just like I had known it would be. Sure, it head a head gasket issue that cost me $99 one time, and yes, it leaked oil on my dad’s previously pristine driveway once, (I was there for that, it nearly resulted in Bark’s premature death —- JB) but other than that, it was perfect.

All was right with the world on the February day I drove it up State Route 315 from campus toward my brother’s house for dinner. I zipped through traffic, ignoring the speed rating on the Blizzaks and pushing the car up near triple digits. The Porsche had worked its remarkable magic yet again that day, this time on the Korean waitress at Damon’s who was really only a waitress one day a week so that she could hide her income from stripping at night. I looked down at her number written on a napkin on my passenger seat, and said, “Thanks, Hermann. We’re not a bad team, you and I.”

In that instant, everything changed. As I swerved over to exit on Bethel Road, a construction vehicle that had been working on the overpass backed in front of me on the off ramp. I was faced with an instant decision: plow into the side of it or go off the road. I chose to go off. The Blizzaks didn’t much care for hitting the dirt at ninety-plus miles per hour and instantly threw me into a spin. I countersteered as hard as possible to no avail, only slowing the car enough to make the inevitable much less painful.

The inevitable was a breakaway light post, situated right next to the ramp. Hermann smacked it with his front left fender, creating a remarkable thud, slicing it at the base and sending it tumbling down the ramp where it came to a rest across two lanes of the freeway. Unfortunately, it landed on the trunk of a passerby first.

I sat frozen in the black leather Recaro, horrified at what had just happened. I looked out of my window to see other drivers stopping and getting out of their cars. Thank God, I thought. They’re coming to help me. Turned out they were just stopping to move the light post out of the way of traffic, and then they got back into their cars and drove away. The worker who had been driving the construction vehicle quickly decided that he wanted no part of this story and hightailed it out of there, and so did the rest of the crew.

Luckily, this was 1999, and I had just purchased My First Cell Phone from Sprint a few weeks before. I stopped shaking just enough to dial my insurance company. I told them what happened and then dialed my brother and told him what happened. I couldn’t dial the number stored under “Dad.” Not just yet. I couldn’t face that wrath just yet.
Fifteen minutes later, my brother showed up, driving his Land Rover Discovery the wrong way down the off ramp. He photographed everything, including the tire tracks showing where the construction vehicle had backed out in front of me. A cop showed up, took one look at a college punk driving a Porsche, and immediately cited me for failure to control (A month later, The City of Columbus would send me a $756 invoice for “Breakaway Light Post, one”).

Heartbroken and terrified, I watched as the tow truck came to take Hermann away to Achbach Auto Industries, where I already knew they would declare him to be a total loss. My brother was kind enough to lend me his Plymouth Colt until my insurance company was able to cut me a check for my car, but strangely my new Korean friend wasn’t as impressed by me sitting behind the wheel of it.

In a week or so, I had a check for $1500 in my pocket and a decision to make: Find another 944 or make a more sensible choice? Well, it turns out I didn’t have much of a choice at all. When I finally did make that call to Dad, he wasn’t too keen on co-signing for another Porsche for me. I took my check to the closest Hyundai dealer and bought a 2000 Hyundai Tiburon in black. The ladies sure didn’t love it as much. It wasn’t rear-wheel drive. It sure as hell wasn’t a Porsche. And after my brush with a light post, that was just fine with me.

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New or Used? : The Unwelcomed Gift Edition Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:00:26 +0000 mbeans
I’ve written before for “New or Used?” regarding my ’04 Scion xB 5MT that I (mistakenly) ended up trading in towards my family’s 2013 Outback 3.6R last year. Since then I’ve been driving my wife’s ’06 Accord EX-L V6, now at 105k. It’s a nice enough car to drive, but was never “my” car, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you do).

Due to my recently starting a new job, the wife has given the go-ahead to look for something new that’s modestly priced. I became smitten with a 2013 VW GTI 6MT and was mere seconds away from signing the lease agreement. I had completed the credit application, indicated the radio stations I like, and then started examining the P&S contract, but got that funny feeling you can get and pulled the plug. I don’t know what it was. Dealer shenanigans. Fee overload. Slight indecision perhaps, as I’m only driving a grand total of 8 miles per day for my new commute. (Do I really need to change cars??) Or perhaps it was the X factor.

The X factor is my father-in-law. Due to age and health he is no longer driving. My mother-in-law recently traded his minty 1986 928S4 to their contractor for some money owed. She is offering to give me his 2006 Cayenne S with 75k miles. I’m feeling pressure from the wife to accept it. I’ve offered to take it and sell it for them, but my wife feels that there is a sentimental thing going on, and they want to see us drive it. I really would have preferred that 928.

Sure the Cayenne a nice car, but again it’s not really “me.” Although I’m 6′ 3″ I like small cars with stick shifts that I can throw around, not heavy pseudo-SUVs that get 12 MPG city/. However, am I crazy to turn down a free Cayenne?? I have concerns because (A) it’s not my kind of car, (B) the Carfax has 3 accidents on it, (C) maintenance costs are going to be crazy. Supposedly the frame is fine, but I know he had more than 3 fender-benders (he should have stopped driving years ago), and we have two small children so I would want to verify that. Also the car has been immaculately maintained. He did pretty much whatever the dealer’s service department told him to do.

Part of me thinks I should drive it for 1-2 years and then trade it towards something I want, while the other part of me would be worried about being stuck with a 10 year old SUV with a bad Carfax. And of course the third part of me (if that’s possible) is sick of driving an automatic.

I’m getting some serious pressure to act on this soon. Any advice from you, along with the best and brightest, would be greatly appreciated.

All best,

Steve Says:

Any gift that comes with strings attached is not a gift. Ever. When family members give you something that you must absolutely positively keep under the penalty of (insert snubbing method here), then what you end up with is a family tie that will bind and gag you and your family. 

I’ll give you a personal example. My MIL is a truly generous person and, one day, she decided to give me and my wife a doghouse. The only problem was that we didn’t have a dog. So about a year later, we have a garage sale. The kid down the street just got a puppy and it just so happened that they were the same folks who Freecycled a trampoline to us the year before.

So what did I do? Well of course! I gave them the doghouse!

My wife goes outside about an hour later, and invariably asks where the doghouse is. I tell her what happened and she tells me in no uncertain terms that my MIL is going to be ticked off to the nth degree.

My response was, “And??? This is our house! Just tell her we exchanged it for the trampoline. If she complains then we know it wasn’t a gift ”

Is your wife an only child? Then take the car if, and only if, it is truly a gift with no strings attached. Thank your in-laws profusely for their generosity either way it turns out, and consider yourself a lucky man. Don’t complain. Not even if it isn’t ‘your’ type of car. Just be a mensch, and when this isn’t such a hot button issue, you can sell it and set up a fund to handle any health issues for your in-law’s. By that time you will also have a better perspective on the security of your new job.

If your wife has siblings, then you can’t keep this car. Don’t even try. Let them know that you hope your father-in-law will live for a long, long time. Then you can do the right thing for everyone.

Research the true market value of the vehicle. Post the vehicle for sale online.  Handle the transaction for your in-law’s. and then finally, thank them for thinking of you and your wife.

As for your desire to buy a stickshift, I’ll let the folks here sort that part of your life out.

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There’s Nothing New Under The Sun – Test Drive Reviews of Porsche’s Entry-Level Sports Cars Sun, 18 Aug 2013 14:37:56 +0000 Fortune Cookie Depending on the type of mood in which I find myself after waking, as well as the type of mood in which I find my car after its waking, I vacillate between being buried in the masterpiece or selling the lemon in short order.  Recently my relationship with my Porsche 911 has been somewhat strained.  A relatively minor issue prompted my most recent trip to the dealer, yet I was set to depart with another four-figure bill.  In a moment of weakness I strolled over to the other side of the dealer and perused their new offerings, in particular the updated 981 Boxster and Cayman twins.  Perhaps relatively predictable depreciation losses would be preferable to the Russian roulette of ongoing high-dollar maintenance.

A particular brand of Porsche enthusiast, usually those who own either of the junior siblings, will claim that those are the “real” sports cars now, considering ownership of the elder 911 an indefensible signifier of a poseur as the icon ascends to the lofty grand touring segment.  I’ll concede that they might have a point, as the entry-level sports cars are smaller and lighter, more in keeping with the original ethos of the giant-killing momentum cars that made the badge famous in the first place.  Plus, they feature a mid-engined architecture that is dynamically optimal, at least on paper, whereas the 911 is a curious outlier with the bulk of its mass situated over the rear axle.The significant price differential in favor of the 981s is, of course, purely coincidental.

Despite being on the youthful side – I’m 24 and look younger – I had my own Porsche in tow, and I was wearing a suit, so booking a test drive of both a Boxster S and a Cayman S proved easy.  Plus, I had recently received a serendipitous fortune cookie, so I had to do some (window) shopping. Despite being an avid Porschephile, I have enjoyed minimal exposure to the more modern product offerings.  It is a common tenet among many serious Porsche owners to maintain without irony that whatever car they happen to own at the time is the absolute pinnacle of the company’s capabilities, with the ensuing model years representing a fundamental sea change in Porsche’s values, fueled by cynical profit pursuit and the triumph of marketing and accounting over engineering, culminating in inexorable decline.  Porsche themselves have even poked fun at this attitude.

Porsche Cynical Poster

NB: Had I been able to locate a digital copy of the above poster with sufficient resolution, you would be able to read the following in the text pane to the right – “255,000 people have an older one in their garage and could talk to you for hours about why theirs is the best year and although we are deeply proud of our heritage we maintain no loyalties to any particular vintage and recommend a brief yet thorough test drive of the newest model available. (Which, incidentally, now has a top speed of 168 miles per hour.)”

The now-deposed 997 owners express reservations over the electrically assisted steering on the latest and greatest 991, whereas the 993 owners bemoan the loss of the air-cooled engine and the ur-911’s original footprint and cabin layout, the 964 owners mourn the upright front fenders that allowed the driver to see how much the car understeered (which was worst just before the car snapped to oversteer!), the G-series owners insist that something was lost with the end of the torsion bar era … all the way back to the 356 owners who are still unconvinced by this whole “911” fad.  Meanwhile they were all sneering at those who were stuck pushing around a front-engined 924,944, 968, or 928, as well as all Boxster and Cayman variants.  When viewed objectively and dispassionately, it’s a facile contention, and it reminds me of similar remarks made at my college graduation; a relatively obscure and stubbornly conservative liberal arts school situated in rural Virginia, my alma mater invariably produces graduates who express a tinge of pity for anyone who attended the school after they did, confident that the experience is diluted evermore each year, and the essence of the place is endangered.

And what about the essence of Porsche?  Is it endangered?  Do they still build true sports cars, and is the 981 stable the rightful inheritor of the air-cooled cars’ legacy?  Most importantly, could it replace my 993?  Of course I had to see for myself, but I received plenty of unsolicited advice from family friends and coworkers. One family friend volunteered that the new Boxster was actually a surprisingly handsome car, representing an improvement over the 986 and 987 cars’ “bar of soap silhouette that [he] would be embarrassed to be seen in.”  A coworker who allegedly maintains a businesslike relationship with rapper Rick Ross, the “Hottest MC in the Game” and a confirmed 911 enthusiast, promised to leverage his professional network and urge the Teflon Don to talk me down from the precipitous proverbial ledge of trading my 911 for a “chick car.”  Concurrently, another colleague warned me that the primary determinant of vehicular desirability was the presence of “sick fuckin’ technology,” helpfully suggesting the purchase of an Acura ILX instead.  Ironically, the latter colleague also professes a meaningful personal connection with RO$$, so I’m anticipating a phone call from a blocked number any day now.  Failing that, I’ll look for Ricky Rozay at the next Porsche Club of America ice cream social.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Boxster S I drove was resplendent in white.  While the new car undoubtedly looks more muscular, a bit like the last decade’s Carrera GT supercar if you squint a little, I don’t think the refrigerator hue will do the soft top car many favors as it ages. Ellis Boxster 1 Sure it looks good now but so did the new pair of tennis shoes I received each school year as a kid, only to look tired and worn before the first snowfall.  Or perhaps the new Boxsters will age as gracefully as a bathtub 356, who knows? I do know that I prefer the external aesthetics of the new Cayman over the Boxster.  The Cayman S tester was also white, but the more aggressive front fascia treatment and “Platinum Satin” wheels manifest a remarkable improvement in the car’s overall look.  True, the cheaper to manufacture coupe will cost you a few grand more, and painting the wheels will tack on $845, but the krauts know how to extract the most from their patrons.  Seriously, in Guards Red the Cayman S could wear a Pininfarina badge. Ellis Cayman 1 The interior of both cars is also a marked improvement over the previous generation, featuring superior materials – but certainly not standard full leather – and a rising central console that salespeople will tell you invokes the aforesaid Carrera GT.  Personally, I think it more readily elicits comparisons with the Cayenne and Panamera breadwinners. The Boxster S was equipped with the good ol’ G50 6-speed manual… Ellis Boxster Interior … while the Cayman S featured the optional 7-speed PDK transmission and Sport Chrono Package, which total just over $5,000 combined. Ellis Cayman Interior I drove the Boxster S first.  After releasing the strange emergency brake – an oversized button mounted down and to the left of the steering wheel – the controls struck me as typical Porsche, although all inputs felt a bit less substantial, requiring less heft than my tractor of a car.  The sweet manual transmission featured a relatively light clutch with very gradual takeup – the polar opposite of my car – but it was familiar enough that I could heel-and-toe with ease after a few exploratory shifts.  The 3.4 liter engine in the S-variant Boxster produces 315 hp, before running out of steam at 7800 rpm, with peak torque coming in at 266 lb-ft.  Although the test drive was conducted two-up, the Boxster is considerably lighter than my 993, which left the factory with 282 hp and has doubtless sacrificed some of those stallions to the angels’ share – just like the finest Scottish exports – during the interim.  Consequently, the Boxster felt considerably more rapid than my immediate frame of reference.

The Cayman S came next.  I self-identify as a luddite who prefers the interaction of three pedals and a lever over the new-fangled dual clutch setup, but I did find the PDK quite beguiling.  Apart from the humdrum efficiency gains afforded by the extra ratio, the PDK transmission – when coupled with Sport Chrono -  makes a case for itself through enhanced straight line performance, far in excess of the 10 hp and 7 lb-ft incremental gains given to the Cayman S over the lump in the Boxster S.  The PDK + Sport Chrono equation allows the driver to indulge in Launch Control, in which the computer optimizes all parameters and slingshots you forward from a dead stop.  It’s great fun, and impossible not to inscribe a shit-eating-grin on the driver’s face, but it strikes me as a party trick you’d use to dazzle your friends.  It’s an expensive gimmick, that’s all.  As for a holistic assessment of PDK, it’s difficult for me to say whether it would still keep my attention on, say, my 247th day commuting to work without a clutch pedal.

Neither car I drove had the optional Porsche Sports Exhaust, but both provided a sufficient, if somewhat subdued soundtrack.  Even the base setup emits little flourishes of overrun on downshifts, but they come across as synthetic, like Porsche by Pro Tools. Neither car I drove had the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management either, instead riding on the standard, passive dampers.  That was fine, because the all-new chassis underpinning both 981s is a gem.  The combination of enhanced stiffness – heightened more so by a modest yet perceptible margin in the hard top car – and wider tracks versus the precedent 987 cars gives the new cars tremendous composure when pressing on, and the mid-engined orientation endows the car with remarkable agility, particularly through sudden transitions.  The Boxster and Cayman provided sufficient confidence to push the cars into gentle four-wheel drifts when space permitted, something I would not  (intentionally) do in my car.  In my 911 the script reads like this: pronounced, seemingly terminal understeer that rapidly gives way to exuberant oversteer, requiring four attentive limbs to control the car.  It’s akin to the sensation you experience while being towed behind a speed boat that has changed course ahead of you – a spell in the predictable, placid doldrums before being fired across the wake.  Conversely, the modern mid-engined cars slow everything down like Bullet Time in The Matrix, so even a ham-fisted hack feels like a virtuoso, selecting a slip angle from a continuous menu of options.  It is deeply impressive, but perhaps a little less thrilling overall.

Braking has historically been a strong suit for Porsche, and the junior twins performed as expected in this regard, with reassuring retardation bolstered by well-judged sensitivity to modulation.  Both cars had the standard steel brakes, identified by their red calipers, which more than sufficed in all situations encountered; the additional outlay for the bling yellow PCCB calipers is probably overkill, especially as both cars stickered well north of $70,000 already. So what about the steering?

The transition away from hydraulically-assisted steering toward electrically-assisted steering has incensed owners and fanbois alike.  The new steering setup – which included the optional Power Steering Plus in both cars I drove – still allows the driver to position the car with both precision and accuracy, and it becomes weightier once at speed, just like the preceding cars. It performs all of the essential functions that a sports car’s helm should, but part of that Porsche essence is gone; there’s no more tugging, or writhing, or superfluous tactility.  It’s all very efficient, and not in a good way. So what’s there to conclude?  Keen readers already know that the 981 is a very good car, that it shades the primitive, old, air-cooled 911s in every objective measure.

Is there a banal, hackneyed platitude about “soul” to tie these observations and experiences together?  No, the denouement is this:  If you believe that Porsche is evolving through Sisyphean endeavor, gradually pushing the boulder up the mountain a bit more with every passing model year – a bit more power, a bit more economy, a bit more space – then you’ll find no surprises with the newest junior sports cars.  Conversely, if you fear that Porsche is caught  in entropic freefall, you won’t be surprised either, for there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to Porsche, they stick to the script.

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Review: 2014 Cayman S vs. 1998 911 Carrera S Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:10:51 +0000 IMG_2937
My friend Rob Z. is the quintessential nice guy: even-tempered, affable, a firm handshake and a decent sense of humour. We meet up on a sunny Saturday morning in East Vancouver and he rolls open his garage door.


Clearly I’m going to have to murder him.

Captain Obvious
Me too, but you can’t. Like Jerry Seinfeld recently said of his ’73 911 2.7RS, Rob’s 1998 911 Carrera S is a “dead-guy car”. The next owner is upstairs eating cheerios and watching cartoons, but as far as anyone buying this last-of-breed, insanely low-mileage air-cooled 911, it’d have to be over Rob’s cold, dead body. WHICH CAN BE ARRANG- sorry, sorry.

(Entirely justifiable) homicide aside, finding and purchasing a car like this is much more difficult than simply popping your head ’round the door of your local Porsche dealership and plonking down the order for the car I’ve parked next to it, a second-generation Cayman S. The lithe two-seater can be leased, if you so desire, and can be painted any colour you’d like – Rob would slightly prefer if his 911 were white, but there’s no used-Porsche factory. Well, apart from Singer.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk recently about how the Cayman (along with the Boxster) is Porsche’s new proper sportscar. I posted a pretty good early-morning shot of the car’s sleek new lines set against the Vancouver city skyline on facebook and a TTAC contributor opined, “Cayman is the new 911.” That’s as may be, but is it the old 911?

For starters, just look at it.

To my eye, this is an exceptionally good-looking car, balanced, well-proportioned, and frankly beautiful. In a world where manufacturers are continually telling us how “aggressive” the styling on their new minivan is, the Cayman manages to project purpose without looking like a Tapout t-shirt. It’s a miniature supercar.


Park it next to the 993 and the Cayman’s modernity comes apart a little. Rob’s 993 came lowered on Bilsteins, properly done, but bound to cause consternation and condemnation amongst some purists – but it wouldn’t be a 911 if someone wasn’t turning up their nose at it. As such, the friendly-faced little 911 is lower in the nose and sleeker than the low-slung Cayman, despite a high greenhouse that makes it actually taller.

Even so, I parked the Cayman S across from an Aventador convertible at the local Cars and Coffee and it garnered only slightly less attention than the Lambo. Those wagon-sized 20” wheels are ridiculous on-paper, but strike me dead with dysentery if they don’t look fantastic. Everywhere I went, people were excited to see the car: “Is this the new one?” they’d ask with big smiles. That has never happened to me with a 991.


The other thing I was asked, repeatedly, was, “How’s the steering?” Usually, this query was delivered with the concerned tone of voice of someone asking about the progress of your irritable bowel syndrome. My answer? Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Driving the Cayman back-to back with the 993 does the newer car a great disservice, as you don’t really notice what you’re missing until you do so. The 993′s steering is extremely light, but fizzes and pops with every small road imperfection, sending frissons from your hands up your arms to the pleasure-centres of your brain. It’s phenomenal, a vinyl recording of a live concert.


The Cayman’s steering is an MP3 of the same event. Compressed and filtered for modern consumption, the brain simply fills in the gaps and you get on with the business of enjoying the exceptional chassis, excellent transmission (auto or stick) and delightful engine. But after driving something like the 993, you can’t help but ask, “why have they done this? It’s slightly worse!”

However, you only need drive a Cayman S a few feet to know that this is going to be a wonderful little car. There’s a litheness to it that’s missing from the 911, a nimble athleticism that doesn’t give a good God-damn about chromed projections of affluence. Hit the button for “Sport+”, slot the PDK transmission into full manual and walk on it – this thing goes like Hell.

The 911, on the other hand, drives like Heaven. The seats are more comfortable than the Cayman’s, the brightly-lit cabin is less a jet-fighter cockpit than an aerobatic aircraft’s plexiglass canopy, and there’s all sorts of other interesting quirks like the slightly offset pedals and metallic delicacy of the door locks. When new, this 993 had 282hp, a full forty less than the 325hp Cayman S.

Even though the PDK-equipped Cayman is heavier, by about a hundred pounds or so, the 993 is no slouch. I wind it up through the gears respectfully and Rob says, “don’t be afraid to drive it.” All righty then.


What a machine. The thrumming whirr from that big flat-six, the precision of the steering – it’s all just as good as everyone says. And, in a 993, there’s no real heavy lifting, no difficulty in driving it quickly with confidence. “I do sort of feel like I’m wrecking it by driving it,” Rob says, which given the just-over eleven thousand miles on the odometer, is not an entirely unreasonable thing to say. “Who cares?” I reply, “This is your car, then his.” Behind the passenger, there’s a booster seat – the boy that one day inherits this masterwork will doubtless have fond memories.

No one will really “inherit” the Cayman. It’s not that sort of car – it’s brilliant, and much, much faster than the 993, even moreso than paper-racing the two might show. It’s absolutely the best car Porsche currently builds, engaging, exhilarating… expendable. If you’d like to know why I think that, just read Jack’s piece on his Boxster.


However, this Aqua Blue two-seater will make a decent three-year lease for somebody who will put five thousand miles a year on it, and then a great CPO deal for the second owner who will drive it into the ground, and by “ground” I mean Porsche service centre. Or possibly some joke about electrical grounding faults.

Call it a decade or so of useful service, a machine that never fails to grab you by the lapels – as long as you have the throttle mapping set correctly. It’s far too expensive, of course, and for the money you could easily have a new ‘Vette Stingray or a CPO 997 (and isn’t that the biggest argument against the Cayman?).

Yet it’s an excellent sportscar – when I drove the 991 Carrera S last July, I concluded with something like: “It is probably the best car I will drive all year. And I don’t want one.” Well, the Cayman is probably going to be the best new car I drive this year, and I do want one.



Especially if you’re considering a weekend toy, you could instead have a genuine air-cooled 911. It’s slower, it’s noisier, it’s not as safe, and it’s much less efficient. It’s also cheaper – this one is about two-thirds the cost of the Cayman plus-or-minus a medium-length jail term – and they don’t depreciate.


A nice safe conclusion then: the usable classic is better than synthesized modernity. Not quite. If you had just one parking spot, no pair of diesel cargo-haulers to handle day-to-day duties – Rob has an ML and a Golf Wagon – you’d be far better off with the Cayman as a weekday warrior and not worrying about preserving a 993. It’s not a car for forever, but it is a car for right now, wherever and whenever right now might be.

Porsche Canada provided the Cayman reviewed and insurance
Rob Z. is just on a long vacation, I swear, don’t ask me any more questions.

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Review: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:18:55 +0000 IMG_0079
Heresy can be fun. Certainly it is so for an Irishman, what with Behan’s, “wonderful lack of respect for everything and everyone.”

And so, it has to be said, I’ve developed a certain fondness for Porsche’s big fat trucks and sedans precisely because they get up the nose of the purists – folks who think that Stuttgart’s time would be better spent trying to figure out how to build a durable, engaging sports-car experience rather than some donk-wheeled gin-palace with an expiry date like a lit fuse. I mean, they’re not wrong, it’s just a wee bit amusing to see how mad they get. Look – that one’s just bitten a policeman.

This two-tonne blasphemy is even better than usual, it’s a diesel. A truck-engined Porsche! Well, we’ve been here before: 924 fans eat your heart out.
Of course, you don’t buy a spendy Teutonic crossover just to annoy air-cooled aficionados, so the Cayenne must be judged on its own merits, should it have any. This one does, but almost all of them were optional extras. Nominally speaking, the base diesel-powered version has an MSRP of $56,600, for which you apparently get the equipment level of a front-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue.

Glancing over the hilarious add-ons for my tester vehicle (Canadian MSRP $64,500), highlights such as an adjustable air-suspension ($4550), Bi-Xenon headlights ($2130), satellite radio ($1280) and full leather interior ($4170) are all satisfyingly costly and faintly ridiculous.

However, when it comes to P-car options, I tend to take the view that baseline MSRP is almost irrelevant – almost no other company will let you add as many minor tweaks until you get exactly the machine you want, which they expect you to do. While this nugget of purest umber stickered at a laughable CDN$97,385, expect most mid-level US cars to price out around $65K, and be decently equipped at that level.
The styling – um. Yes. I mean, it’s brown, right? That’s supposed to be in. (Actually, I have to say the new-style Cayenne has a much better schnozz than the old one – overall still a bit bulbous from some angles.)
If the exterior’s a bit iffy, at least the same can’t be said for the gorgeous, leather-lined guts of Porsche’s heretical heffalump. Like the Panamera, this buttony cockpit has the air of a private jet and depending what seats you option, the comfort of same. I particularly enjoyed the ambient lighting and it hardly bothered me at all that the trunk seems not quite big enough for such a large vehicle.
Prodding the Audi-sourced (again, shades of 924) diesel six-cylinder to life, the immediate impression is of how far ye olde oil-burner has come. Were it not for the gauche “diesel” script adorning either flank of the Cayenne, you wouldn’t really know this thing ran on tractor juice. Under throttle, however, there’s a bit of a castanet effect – apparently it’s possible to option added sound-deadening material to assist with the problem. Or, and I know this is a bit of a stretch, turn on the stereo.

There is a bit of understeer. Seems ridiculous to bring it up really – understeer is one of those automotive journalism tropes that’s as well-worn as a Civil War era outhouse seat (i.e. every ass has used it). However, I think I can safely say, with all asterisks clearly marked as to my very average driving skills, that plunking a cast-iron boat anchor in the nose of a sport-crossover-activity-thingumy is going to induce a little front-end push.
Easily cured by a dab of oppo. No wait, don’t do that – you’ll crash. Instead, the slight bit of nose-heaviness is my single dynamic critique of the Cayenne. In all other respects it’s much better than it has any right to be.

Torque! With my home province’s draconian excessive-speed laws – 40km/h (25mph) over and they impound your car – one always has to keep a careful eye on the speedometer in anything with a pulse. Luckily, where the Cayenne is concerned, there’s 406lb/ft of instant-gratification surge that turns into a slightly-weedy 240hp so you’re not tempted into any v-max-related flat-decking. The brown bomber simply blasts out of the corners, heeling over a bit on its air-ride suspension, but thrusting forward with the unstoppable force of a steam-ram.
And yes, you can get the same power out of a Touareg. The Cayenne is much costlier but slightly better. Steering and the suspension provide, as in the Panamera, a sense of fun. Add in the burly nature of the diesel and it’s not just a nerdy way to save fuel but a bit of a freight-train GTi.
There are those who will point out that the fuel-savings over a V6 would take a lifetime to make up, coupled with the annoyance of trying to find a fuel station that actually sells diesel and the added cost of filling the urea tank. It should also be noted that one feels a bit of a dude ranch city slicker in a line behind four jacked-up Ford SuperDuties waiting for the pump to come free. Kid-glove types aren’t going to love how perpetually grubby diesel fillers seem to be – you probably can’t tell from the poor-quality iPhone photo, but this one was coated in a sheen of oil.

But taking the strong resale of diesel luxury SUVs into account, and listing the on-road behaviour of the Cayenne Diesel very much in the Pro column, it’s probably the most compelling offering in the Cayenne range. And, for the record, the fuel economy is excellent – equal or better to its mid-20s EPA rating.
Of course, you do run the risk of looking like a cheapskate: status-seekers will probably run their fingers down the selector and pick something that says “Turbo” or possibly “Hybrid”. Never mind that – spec the diesel and chisel the badges off. The Porsche crest? That’ll depend where you stand on screams of outrage.

Porsche Canada provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

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Capsule Review: 1976 Porsche 911S 2.7 Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:12:10 +0000

The 2.7-liter 911S was so problematic that I named it as one of Porsche’s Deadly Sins a couple years ago. Its engine failed with monotonous regularity, often between the expiration of the 12,000-mile warranty and the 50,000-mile mark on the odometer. The 1974 models usually lived a bit longer because they didn’t have thermal reactors, and the 1977 models had improved Dilavar head studs, but none of the “S” cars were reliable in any modern, or even contemporaneous, sense of the world. In the thirty-five years since the model was replaced with the “Super Carrera” three-liter, however, the aftermarket has managed to address the core issues and build reliable replacement engines for these otherwise charming classic coupes.

As the snow started to fall in Central Ohio this past weekend, I fired up my own aircooled 911 and took it downtown to meet a restored example of its ancestors.

Picture courtesy the author.

The “Coke-bottle” shape often associated with the aircooled 911 has become so pervasive in the popular imagination that it’s both a shock and a pleasure when I pull up to meet the owner of this car in downtown Columbus, Ohio and see that it not only has smooth flanks, it doesn’t even have a passenger-side mirror! This is the shape of the body as Butzi Himself imagined it. Even if you don’t like the impact bumpers which adorned Nine Elevens from 1974 to 1989, you have to admit that they’ve become as much a part of the classic shape as the original chrome bolt-ons were. Although the car’s previous owner made the decision to “update” the car from its original chrome trim when he restored it, this is still very much the street-going, no-pretenses Porsche. Narrow fenders cover narrow tires mounted on narrow Fuchs alloys. No ducktail, no sneering front airdam, no Turbo-Look. None of that. There’s simply no aggression to the car. It looks like what it is: a faster, more sophisticated descendant of the Type 1.

A modern Porsche, jam-packed from stem to stern with self-conscious tributes to the Almighty Racing Brand DNA Of Our Brand, looks ridiculous next to this simple, elegant statement of civilized sporting intent. Even my 993 looks cartoonish and distended in its presence, playing the role of the buffed-out, tatted-up, bald-by-choice Jason Bonham while its ancestor channels the powerful but artless Bonzo who hammered out “When The Levee Breaks” at the bottom of an English mansion’s stairs. There was an era, apparently, when the men of Stuttgart didn’t have to slather Heritage and Prestige and Upscaleness all over the cars with a fifty-five-gallon drum.

It’s soon apparent why that was so. The driver’s door latch clicks open with the precision of a Sig P210′s hammer mechanism and I take my seat. Immediately I’m surrounded by the noise, the insistent Beetle-blat waterless thrum, resonating in the space between my lungs and vibrating the upright windscreen, tingling the control surfaces. The clutch is featherlight but all three pedals feel wrong somehow. My feet don’t quite fit under the dashboard. I realize that Porsche must have worked a little bit of magic between 1976 and 1995 to fix the ergonomics a bit. Most likely they just shortened the radius of the pedal arms.

The old “915″ gearbox has a reputation somewhere between legendary and infamous among PCA types but in fact it’s quite easy to use. The throws are long compared to any modern car but never did I slot the wrong gear. Once I rather lazily tried to toss it from fourth to sixth, as I do in my 993, and was rewarded with a brief bite of synchromesh. There’s no lockout for reverse, unless you count the lockout that the car’s designers expected you to maintain in your disciplined mind. I’m fairly positive that most people could easily commute in this; sure, there’s no power steering but you don’t really miss it.

Picture courtesy the author.

From the light I roll away in first to spare the clutch but then full-throttle to the top of third, watching my own 911 recede in the mirror as this car’s owner shakes his head at my behavior. Of course the sound is lovely, although it never manages to equal the big-bore snarl of the later cars. There’s about 170 horsepower to push slightly under 2,500 pounds. I imagine it would run fairly evenly with a Scion FR-S at least through the eighth-mile. Not surprisingly, the old Porsche corkscrews a bit down the road under full power, sniffing out the crown in the downtown six-lane with unerring precision and requiring a touch of correction across the steering’s dead spot at center.

It’s a time-honored tradition at car magazines to announce that THIS YEAR’S 911 IS VERY EASY TO DRIVE BUT LAST YEAR’S WAS DEATH ON THE HOOF. It’s even being done with the 991, which we are assured has none of the quirks of the 997, which had none of the quirks of the 996, and so on unto the seventh generation. Well, this car has the quirks. The torsion-bar suspension reacts to the road in all the ways that the 993′s fiendishly complicated Weissach axle doesn’t. Of course there’s no stability control. There’s no ABS. In a quick 90-degree turn I’m easily able to get the tail to step out at the blinding speed of about 30mph. The one concession to safety was done seven years prior in 1969 when the wheelbase was extended two inches to prevent the worst sorts of mayhem. It probably caused the original car’s engineers actual physical pain in their hearts to make a concession like that to the no-talent-drivin’ Iguanadon-esque proto-yuppies who paid between fourteen and seventeen thousand dollars for 1976 Porsches. Remember, that kind of money would get you literally twice the car in those days from the domestic dealers. For half the money, you could have gotten a Corvette with almost fifty more horsepower and more rubber on the road. The more things change, and so on.

Picture courtesy the author.

Let’s review the salient features of the interior. There are five gauges. Three of them convey vital information about the pressure, temperature, and level of the oil supply. Don’t forget to look at them. This isn’t a Camry. Something could go wrong. To the driver’s right, we have the shift lever, which goes right into a rubber boot on the floor. Want a console? Get a Cutlass Salon. A pair of levers where the stereo probably should have been placed controls a random array of flaps throughout the car to create a new and completely undesired change in cabin temperature with every fresh manipulation. Or they might be connected to nothing at all. It’s hard to tell. In later cars, this worthless arrangement was replaced by an automatic climate control which didn’t work any better but which offered a higher possibility of failure. I don’t know if the climate control in my 993 works as intended and I’ve never been able to find anyone who knows how it’s supposed to work anyway. A series of circular indentations on the passenger side of the dash indicates to that passenger that you couldn’t afford all the options. This was so effective at humiliating buyers into spending more money that it continued all the way to the very last 993 Turbo S Weissach Sonderwunsch Otto von Bismarck Sturmvogel Fighter-Bomber Edition, which still had one empty spot for an option yet to be conceived.

It’s best to just ignore that stuff and drive the car. Here, at last, is the cure for texting while driving. The millions of deaths which occur every year due to the iPhone’s ability to stream the Kim K/Ray-J video in 4G could all be avoided, every last one of them, if the government issued everyone a Seventies 911 and made sure they always left the house five minutes later than they’d wanted to. It would help if it could be made to rain as well. Full attention on the road. Guaranteed. Nothing could go wrong, because in the era before texting and driving the highways of the American continent were a virtual paradise where children could chase errant soccer balls right onto the Chicago freeways at rush hour knowing that alert, aware drivers were standing ready to execute precise avoidance maneuvers with no advance warning whatsoever.

We can’t have those salad days of safe motoring back. But you could take delivery of this freshly resto-modded 1976 911S tomorrow. It’s for sale. I give it my official Seal Of Approval. (WARNING: Seal of Approval in no way indicates that the car will start, run, appreciate in value, help you pull tail on the street, or even fail to explode at the least convenient moment possible. Attempting to print out the Seal of Approval and apply it to a vehicle may result in injury.) I’d buy it myself, except for one little thing: my 911. You see, my 911 does everything this 911 does. Plus it has working A/C (kinda). Plus it has an Alpine Bio-Lite sound system. Plus it has 255-width rear tires and the power to break ‘em loose. Plus the spoiler goes up and down with the press of a button. It’s cool like that. If you want something else that’s not totally something else, however, this 911 is cool, too, and it’s… um… uh… hate to say it in 2012…


Yeah. That’s it. No, it’s not an “authentic” restoration. But it’s the real deal: an air-cooled Porsche blowing a symphony of frenzied joy through the vented decklid. It’s no longer a Deadly Sin: it’s a holy terror.

IMG_1327 (Medium) Picture courtesy the author. Picture courtesy the author. IMG_1348 (Medium) IMG_1351 (Medium) IMG_1355 (Medium) Picture courtesy the author. IMG_1367 (Medium) Picture courtesy the author. IMG_1372 (Medium) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS Fri, 26 Oct 2012 14:52:45 +0000

Twenty years ago, the first Porsche limousine rolled off the assembly line at Stuttgart; four doors, 8 cylinders, wide fenders, big brakes and a period correct Alpine stereo system. It was built in small quantities, by hand. To those who knew, it was distinguishable at a distance, but to the man on the street, it was invisible. Truly a car for the one percent – in terms of both means and taste.

You won’t find it in any of the Porsche catalogs of the era. It was called the Mercedes-Benz 500E. And it wasn’t an AMG anything. Back then, AMG was an independently-owned speed shop, a Roush Performance with a stern accent.

Today, AMG has ceased to be a speed shop. It’s not even really the zenith of Mercedes-Benz performance cars; it is now another trim level of SUV for affluent mothers. You’ll find more C63s parked outside beauty salons than at Mosport. They are bought not for their performance characteristics, but simply because it is the most expensive trim level of a given model line, and the AMG badge lets everyone know that. The badge matters now.

A car like the original W124 500E would be dead on arrival today. In an era of conspicious consumption, a $160,000 Porsche-engineered sedan that’s barely distinguishable from an E550 has a slightly worse chance of success than an anti-global warming film does at the Oscars. Enter the Panamera. It is a Porsche, not a Mercedes. If we’re being diplomatic, it is distinct looking, and is designed expressly to inform everyone that you have arrived. One look at the old 500E and the new Panamera is strong evidence that vehicular vulgarity has risen in proportion to income inequality.

Once you’re inside the Panamera, the ungainly looks become less of a concern. The interior is a cavalcade of buttons that overwhelms at first, but their functionality and ease of use beats the knob-and-touchscreen systems that Mercedes et al now employ. Nobody would ever accuse to Panamera’s interior of being simple, but like that of the W124, it is elegant. The view out of the hood is decidedly old school as well; you can actually see over the hood, so that the corners of the fenders are visible. Most modern cars seem to have a hood that disappears off the metaphorical cliff. This little touch makes the 16 foot long Panamera markedly easier to maneuver in urban traffic, a small benefit that isn’t readily apparent but goes a long way with its intended client base of upper class working stiffs who need to weave their way in and out of construction zones and clogged lanes.

The blogger brigade that breathlessly reported on this car’s debut last year was perhaps over-eager to use Porsche’s own PR copy describing this car as some sort of track ready Panamera. Let’s get serious. It’s got 30 horsepower more than the standard Panamera 4S, as well as suspension and brake bits from the Turbo, but the only time that one of these will see track time is at a Porsche-sponsored lapping day for owners. The lawyers, accountants and finance executives mentioned above don’t usually have the time or inclination for an HPDE day. That doesn’t mean they can’t get their kicks elsewhere.

Porsche probably knows this, and I’d bet that’s why the  GTS excels at the Stop Light Grand Prix.  Between the all-wheel drive system and the 7-Speed PDK gearbox, there is no way you will lose any sort of unsanctioned speed contest to anything short of a Nissan GT-R. The GTS posts an identical 0-30 time (1.4 seconds) to the Panamera Turbo S, despite a 120 horsepower deficit. As the speeds increase, a gap develops, but when will you find an open quarter-mile in the financial district? Rest assured that the view below is what every other driver will be seeing of you.

I’m not philosophically opposed to this car like certain brand purists are, but one has to wonder: what’s the point of the Panamera? The argument is this: Car companies exist to make a profit, and Porsche needs to diversify beyond impractical sports cars to ensure its survival in the future. A sedan is a natural extension of the brand after the Cayenne, and a good way to use up capacity at the Leipzig plant.

But I don’t want my Porsches to be practical, nor do I want my luxury sedans to feel like a Porsche. A hard ride and a noisy exhaust in a 911 are undeniable facts of life. In this car, they are a simulacrum, a consolation prize given to you by Porsche because your wife wouldn’t let you by a 911.

And that’s ultimately what’s wrong with this car; it is neither fish nor fowl. It is dynamically brilliant but forever a mutt, stuck somewhere between supercar and sedan, with the worst attributes of both. If you want to make a statement, you can buy the Jaguar XJ, which can be had with a stupendously powerful V8 engine, in your choice of two wheelbases and multiple equipment configurations. It makes the same kind of statement as the Panamera, but it’s infinitely more elegant. If you want something more German, than the Audi A8 is peerless and has yet to suffer from the same kind of terminal prole drift as the S-Class or the 7-Series.

But if you really must have the Porsche — if you really must have a Porsche sedan — you can buy a 500E and have enough left over for something air-cooled. Both of those choices have more claim to Stuttgart than the Panamera, and they won’t make you look like a hen-pecked corporate servant either.

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Review: 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S – Track and Field Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:00:17 +0000

Imagine it’s 1998 and you’re the successful CEO of a company that makes, oh I don’t know, jewel cases for CDs. Business is booming and your four-year-old 911 Carrera coupe isn’t quite the paradigm you want to project. You’re moving with the times, and there’s a new, modern 911 coming.

Keys in hand, you walk into your local Por-shuh dealership and… what the hell is that thing?

Flash forward to 2012 and your company now makes an app of some variety: iPaintswatch or some such nonsense. You’re minting money at $0.99-per-download, and your ’08 silver-on-black C2S is due for replacement – your business partner just bought himself an R8, and you simply must have LED running lights to keep up appearances.

You head back to that same dealership – which is now equipped with a cappuccino machine – squeeze past four Cayennes and three Panameras and feast your eyes on the newest 911…

Well first off, my eyes! The goggles do nothing! This (terrible) colour is called Lime Gold, and puts me in mind of the bilious shade you used to be able to get the E46 M3 in. Look, the 911 is a businessman’s coupe, not one of Ali G’s track-suits: after the tenth person said “nice car, too bad about the colour,” I figured the market research portion of the review was over.

Looking past the paint-job, the new 911 is long and languid, smeared out across those big blingy wheels. And, for some reason, someone’s hot-glued a chromed ingredient list on the back bumper. Again, enough with the booyakasha.

Still, looking at the smoothed, stretched and polished form of the Panamera Coupe, I’m sure you can make an educated guess as to how it’s going to drive.

You guessed right.

Jack Baruth informs that I was impressed by the new 911 at a Porsche-run press event. Not an entirely accurate representation: firstly, I was tagging along at a private driver-instruction day which was individually paid for by participants and Porsche Canada – bless their little Nomex socks – covered the tab for a few journalists to have track instruction time in two of their cars.

Secondly, the 991 didn’t so much impress as meet expectations. A lengthened wheelbase has the big flat-six slouching towards mid-enginehood to be born as the world’s biggest Cayman; no rough beast this, it’s a 3.8L direct-injection mill that surges against the reins once the revs crest four thousand, every one of its 400 horses a thoroughbred.

Not that you’ll ever see the thing: pop the bonnet and all you glimpse is what appears to be the cooling fans out of a desktop PC. Achtung! Fiddling vis ze motor is verboten!

With front-track widened to improve bite and enough aluminum in the bodywork to qualify as a tinfoil hat, the 991 is such an easy car to drive fast: brake later, turn in more aggressively, power-on sooner. The electric steering is perhaps a touch less communicative than the 997′s, but the difference has been over-reported – it’s still good enough to have Audi engineers flinging themselves from Ingolstadt parapets.

The 991 flows through the corners in a liquid manner, as velvety as the Scotch burr of my driving instructor. Later in the afternoon, his son will be having me sturming the curbs in the Panzerkreig Panamera GTS. Here we flick through the chicanes like a steelhead through a riverbend. Smooth, smooth, smooth, fast. Even on this soggy, debris-laden track, I am relaxed and confident: any idiot could drive this thing fast. Any idiot, in fact, is.

Wonderful stuff, but $60K better than a Cayman R? I don’t think so. Then again, take the 911 to the streets – where I found little brother’s bookend seat-bolsters and twitchy wet-weather behaviour to be liabilities; here, through the week, the 911 begins justifying its price tag.

The new interior is as button-festooned as the cockpit of a business jet and thus, feels like a business jet. 911s have always been expensive, here’s one that won’t have you terrifying your passengers at extra-legal speeds by way of explaining the cost.

Road noise is halved from the 997. I burble home on a busy evening freeway, heavily pregnant wife at my side. Both of us are somewhat tired out from a hot afternoon at a summer wedding, and the 991 is taut, yet forgiving. A supremely relaxing place to be. She dozes. I feel rested.

Hang on, is that a tunnel up ahead?

Windows down. Sunroof open. Sport Plus. Sport Exhaust. Manual PDK. Bang bang bang on the downshift – a stab at the go-pedal and the tiles echo to the wailing honk of a flat-six. Brake, stab. Brake, stab. Brake, stab.

She rolls her eyes. I chuckle. And yet…

You want track performance? The 991 has a button for that. You want a smooth and cosseting street drive? There’s a button for that. You want to act like a loon or have a start-stop system that’s so quick you can be sitting at a light with your engine off and still blow the doors off 95% of whatever rolls up next to you? Buttons for both.

You want a visceral, emotional connection? Where the hell’s that button?

Everyone likes to talk about the 911′s evolution; an engineer’s gradual progression, each year a slight improvement. Really though, there’s a disconnect.

If you think the 911 should be a small-volume, hand-built car that’s engaging and ruthlessly mechanical, then good news. The toughness that Porsche built into the air-cooled Luftwaffe means that even a moderately-preserved example can make for a good daily-driver.

There are squadrons of specialists to care for these cars, warehouses packed with spare parts, and while the air-cooled cars may have their dynamic and ergonomic quirks, they’re easy to drive in modern traffic, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Buy one and you’ll also enjoy a depreciation curve that’s as horizontal as the Bonneville Salt flats.

But after 1998, the 911 was something different. No longer the car that burst forth from the Beetle’s chrysalis, it’s become the everyday sportscar, an instrument of speed that’s as capable on the track as it is at everyday life. Each successive generation has been faster, more flexible, more capable.

The difference between an air-cooled 911 and the current 991 is the difference between a finely-crafted mechanical watch and an iPad. The watch does one thing, and does it well. The iPad does everything and does it all better than the watch.

But the watch is not just a watch, whereas the iPad is just a very fancy tool. The craftsmanship that went into making the watch no longer exists and it is therefore irreplaceable. The iPad is only as good as the latest update, and like Apple, only a few months in and Porsche has already released a version that is very slightly improved.

It is the best Porsche yet. The best 911 ever. A technical marvel and an engineering masterpiece and one of the finest pieces of machinery ever made. It is probably the best car I will drive all year.

And I don’t want one.

Porsche Canada provided the car tested and insurance as well as comping the aforementioned on-track driver instruction day. Photos by Kieran McAleer where noted.

991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 36
Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Boxster Mon, 04 Jun 2012 13:00:22 +0000

And my reviews is unbelivable like flying saucers

/no more iron horses cuz I’m drivin Porsches

With apologies to Lamont “Big L” Coleman, but I’ve been waiting to use the hackneyed version of his famous punchline for some time. The only problem is that TTAC and Porsche are frenemies at best, adversaries at worst, ever since one of our resident Porsche owners said unkind things about the Panamera.

But so much of life is not what you know, but who you know and while Brendan manages to get Porsche press cars due to his ruddy good looks (or being an AJAC member), I managed to weasel an invite to the customer launch of the 2013 Boxster, thanks to my old friend Robert Burgess of Downtown Porsche in Toronto. In 2003, Robert was with an uptown BMW dealership, and sold my Dad one of the last E39 5-Series cars to come to Canada, and moved on to Downtown Porsche not long after that. Both Robert and I have failed to convince the elder Kreindler to make the leap into a P-Car, but we’ve kept in touch throughout the years.

Attending a customer event wasn’t much different from attending one of the journo-circuit shindigs. One could argue that it was better. My drive partner on this event was a gentleman who spends half the year in Toronto and half the year working as an innkeeper in Provence. You won’t find someone so interesting when PR types invite every Twitter user with more than 500 followers. Rather than be put up at a fancy hotel, I got to go home to my Beanie Baby collection and Wiz Khalifa posters. Of course, there was somebody wearing Piloti driving shoes. There always is.

Within two minutes of our introductory briefing, the Porsche pro drivers were giving us a tutorial on proper seating position. Anyone who has read Jack’s Avoidable Contact series will be familiar with these instructions. Since you don’t need to hear “hands at 9 and 3″ again, we can go over the big changes.

Our testers only came one way; Boxster S mit PDK. Weighing in at 2970 pounds, the 981 S is down slightly compared to the 987, but keep in mind, the wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer, while front and rear tracks are up and rigidity is increased by 40 percent. Porsche reps touted the elevated center console, which they claim was inspired by the Carrera GT and 917. Personally, I think it looks more Cayenne or Panamera inspired, and it shares something in common with the Ford Taurus; it leaves the cabin feeling a bit cramped due to a lack of space for the driver’s right leg. Everything inside is beautifully finished, and memories of the barely acceptable cabins of early water-cooled P-cars are a distant memory. Until you try to use any of them.

Before we depart, one of the drivers comes over, and asks us to “turn off Sport Plus, keep stop-start on, don’t hit the suspension button just yet – oh, you don’t have sport plus. Nevermind”. Wait, what? Stop-start? Evidently, I zoned out during the marketing speech about Porsche’s “commitment to efficient performance”. Credit is due to Porsche for designing the cabin in such a way that all the buttons and switches are elegantly laid out in a way that won’t make your head hurt. I kind of wish they weren’t there in the first place.

The 981, like the 991, and the GT-R and a lot of other cars coming out today, are designed to minimize the once inherent compromises that came as an integral part of owning a fast car. Don’t think the throttle is quite responsive enough? Hit the “sport” button. Want to make a claim on our dental plan? Hit the button below “Sport” to stiffen up the shocks. Want to save a minute amount of fuel and C02 emissions over the course of the year? Turn on the auto-start-stop. Automated dual clutch gearboxes and fast-folding soft tops are soo last model-changeover.

When it comes to outright pace, it’s impossible for this hack to mock the 981. This is a seriously fast car. Our upcoming Hyundai Genesis Coupe video review will show that Jack’s 2004 Boxster S is roughly as quick as a brand new Gen Coupe 3.8 Track. The list of cars that a 981 S would leave for dead is longer than Manute Bol. I’d even wager that a Boxster S would hand a CTS-V or an E92 M3 its own ass in a straight line. It might even be a match for a pre-2011 Shelby GT500 – while the Shelby ‘Stang gyrates under hard acceleration, the  981 simply sets course for straight ahead, and lets the flesh around your eyes peel back, Clockwork Orange-style, as the 3.4L boxer emits an utterly belligerent growl.

Before we forget about the armchair auto critics, let’s discuss the much-feared electric steering system in the new P-Cars. Let me put it this way; if nobody told you that the 981 had EPAS, you wouldn’t know it. Maybe it does sacrifice some outright feel, but with a chassis this communicative, you either have to be a real racer or a hopeless pedant (or both) to really notice or care.

Our street drive was good for sussing out just how the Boxster behaves on public roads, but this car is ultimately wasted on anything that doesn’t have Armco barriers. Porsche was kind enough to set up a handling course in a giant parking lot for us, and while I aced the slalom, I totally screwed the pooch on the “emergency braking avoidance” exercise where we accelerate full throttle, and then brake and steer at the last moment in a direction of our passenger/instructor’s choosing. The first time, I did a daring right/left transition when the instruction said “Brake right”. The second time, I knocked clipped two cones. Blame target fixation and my lack of spatial awareness. I am confident that the Boxster has what it takes to avoid killing small animals that run into the road. As long as someone else is behind the wheel.

Downtown Porsche provided a Boxster S and enough fuel to rip around the back roads of Toronto for 90 minutes. Robert Burgess at Downtown Porsche extended the invitation to myself and TTAC. He can be reached at 416-603-9988

]]> 34 Vellum Venom: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Mon, 05 Mar 2012 06:13:19 +0000
Vellum is a material at the heart of Automotive and Industrial Design.  Venom is something this website has in spades: so a few positive comments from a recent Piston Slap column brought the two concepts together.  Before we start; some ground rules:   I analyze what’s seen from my camera phone, no press cars and therefore no time to second guess my thoughts.

And a few shout outs:

  • Jeff Sanders: it was 5 years ago this week when you left us. I will never forget you.
  • Jack Telnack: for forming a team that made the cars of my childhood so remarkable.  Meeting you in 2007 was an honor.
  • Robert Cumberford:  for not being offended that I’m copying your idea.
  • My Parents: for paying the Industrial Design tuition to the Center (now College) for Creative Studies.

On to our first subject, the new 991 iteration of the 911: slightly longer, wider and with a ton more wheelbase in the proud Harley Earl Tradition, but you’d be forgiven if you see little difference between this and the outgoing model.  That said, the evolutionary changes are noteworthy, beautiful and maybe a little laughable.


The first thing most notice are the new taillights. Mercifully, the 991 is part of a new crop of vehicles ushering back the era of normal sized lighting pods: back when the non-functional portions of plastic lens were not a significant part of a vehicle’s real estate.


Even better, the new lighting pods and extra dimensions translate into an even more voluptuous side profile.  It’s not obscene like a Ferrari Testarossa, the more prodigious fenders give the feeling of even more tumblehome…which is sorely needed in today’s age of boxy silhouettes.

While I wanted a direct shot of the side, I intentionally steer clear of the press car lifestyle. So this 991 merely sits in a dealership’s inventory.  But even from here, the extra wheelbase  pushes the rear wheels further behind the greenhouse, giving the 911 less of a Pure-Porsche feel…even if it still is purely evolutionary in scope.


Aye, there’s the rub.  While I’ve read that moving the side mirrors to the door removes a boatload of aerodynamic nightmares, they aren’t nearly as elegant as having them on the A-pillar like the older models.  More to the point, imagine if that plastic triangle on the A-pillar was the footprint for the mirror instead?  Not to mention the flat black plastic trim on the mirror’s base is just asking to turn chalky after a few visits with an orbital buffer operated by an unprofessional.


The 991’s extra length and width translates into a sleeker, less stubby nose. If you squint just a touch or remove your corrective lenses, the new schnoz turns into something distinctly Ferrari 430-like. I am sure the Purists hate it, but this is a significant improvement for most everyone else.


Yes!  What’s not to like about a bit more nose?


The only big problem? The wannabe Lambo lower valence.  I know everyone steals everyone’s ideas in this business, but the 911 is supposed to be a little voluptuous, not wedgy and boxy.  I’d love to take a heat gun to the lower bumper and bring a little sexy back.  And what’s up with the flat black plug in the center?  That’s a little cheap and chintzy for a big dollar Porker.  If you need that for cooling in an upcoming model, just make a new bumper cover and add another grand to the asking price!  Your clientele will neither know, nor care!

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Review: 2012 Porsche Cayman R PDK Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:43:10 +0000
The Cayman R: lowered, lightened, loudened. A track-day special with carbon-fibre race buckets, featherweight alloy wheels and red seatbelts.

All right you hosers, here’s how we review a car like that in Canada.

Now, some of you may be somewhat alarmed that the increasing whiff o’ maple sizzurp around the TTAC offices these days might lead to changes on the site. The Truth Aboot Cars, in which you can expect to find articles like, “Horns: is there a politer solution?” and “How to keep beavers from eating your Morgan Plus-8.”

Tell those concerns to take off, eh? Besides our enormous reserves of lumber, fresh water, oil, uranium and floppy-haired teen idols, Canada has much to offer. In this particular case, it’s the perfect environment for some proper cold weather testing.

But why go through the sheer lunacy of putting a because-race-car like the Cayman R on ice? What does it matter what Usain Bolt runs in the 100m if he’s shod in snowshoes?

Simple. Porsche wants us to.

There’s spin here, at least up North. Porsche is marketing its sports cars as all-weather sleds; as adroit at arctic conditions as they are at apex-clipping.

What better PR pic than a Peridot green Cayman R surrounded by winter wonderland; a bright-green jewel popping out of a snowy backdrop. Better yet, how better to show that all your models are ultra-capable than by slapping Blizzaks on your latest hardcoreish offering and handing the keys over to some ham-fisted bozo?

Speaking as said ham-fisted bozo, I’m not bothered at all by the why. At some point, we’re sure to see a proper on-track dynamic assessment of the Cayman R, hopefully by our not-by-any-stretch-of-the-imagination-tame racing driver but for now, it’s an opportunity to test an interesting car in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

First, what does this snot-rocket’s R designation do, other than appeal to the highly specific Buccaneer track-day enthusiast niche? Porsche might have you thinking it’s a ‘geers-gone-wild special in the vein of the BMW M-Coupe, but the R is a comparatively moderate collection of tweaks.

The suspension has been lowered 20mm. Aluminum doors and other minor dieting mean the fully stripped out version has been lightened by 120lbs (my tester’s PDK and optional A/C adds back on 55lbs and 33lbs respectively). The 3.4L flat-six gets a moderate 10hp bump, mostly from a freer-flowing exhaust and mild tuning. This is a Cayman turned up to 10.5, not 11.

The pushmi-pullyu styling of the Cayman has always been a bit of a head-scratcher for me. With its swollen haunches, the 911 is a fertility idol; in contrast, a Cayman resembles an ergonomic cordless mouse. But the R….

Fixed wing, big wheels, dropped stance, retro-lettered flanks – the Cayman R is a licence to kill your licence. Might I also suggest that Peridot be changed to Yes Officer Green, as in, “Yes officer? Sideways you say? I’m sure I would have remembered that…”

Further appealing lack of subtlety extends into the interior of the Cayman R. Here we find non-reclining carbon-fibre buckets that make ingress tricky and egress spastic, even if you’re a yoga instructor. Forget about giving a lift to someone in a skirt, or a traditionally-dressed Scottish person.

The aforementioned red seatbelts add a frisson of Sentra SE-R Spec-V to the cabin, and then there’re those indescribably stupid door pulls.

Yes, they’re the same ones you get on a GT2 RS. No, it isn’t going to impress anyone when you point out that they’re for weight savings. Fabric door-pulls on a car that’s got cupholders and a CD-storage area is just plain silly. Also, after 6000 miles of use, these ones were getting a bit ratty-looking.

The Cayman R might be flashily attractive, but it’s not going to woo the ladies (or laddies). Unless, that is, you hand over the keys.

Oh, what a fantastic car! What a machine! What a Porsche!

Go ahead, Stuttgart. Build nine versions of the Panamera, and turn 80% of factory production over to pumping out Cayennes for the Chinese market and cancel the sub-Boxster in favour of yet another damn cute-ute, I don’t care. Just keep building this car right here, and all sins are forgiven by the blessed intercession of Our Lady Of Acceleration.

They called it R, they might have called it CS or GTS, or just plain S+, but the nomenclature and the interior contradictions and the eye-searing paint are instantly forgotten as you guide this Cayman out onto the twisting tarmac. The steering is perfect. The soundtrack is flat-6 by John Williams. Flick it into Sport and everything feels fizzy and alive and electric and wonderful.

I don’t even mind the PDK. Granted, to my stone-age way of thinking, a manual-transmission is still preferable for that last crumb of full involvement, but it’s no longer the difference between, say, vinyl and MP3. The difference in experiencing the Cayman R in manual or PDK is equivalent to seeing the band live, or sitting in on their studio recording session. Charming flaws or exquisite perfection: you choose.

Words fail me. I cannot describe to you how truly excellent the Cayman R is short of ten paragraphs of holding down the “!”-key. It is soooo good….

In the dry.

And here we come to the fly in the ointment. Yes, (finally) Porsche is letting its mid-engined wunderkind off ze chain, unleashing its true tarmac potential. Unfortunately, the R’s personality is Dr. Stig-yll and Mr. Slide.

I had the car for an entire week, and got one dry day. The rest of the time it was the usual torrential Vancouver downpour that crushes the spirit and has you wondering if you oughtn’t start gathering the animals two-by-two. In these conditions, the Cayman R surprised me.

It’s not a handful by any means: the chassis is so composed and predictable that any slippage can easily be caught. There just isn’t any grip at the rear.

Maybe it’s the Blizzaks, maybe its the fact that, as we all know, I’m not our resident race-car driver. But under perfectly neutral throttle, curving on-ramps cause the Cayman R’s back end to step out at surprisingly low speed. Having the sport button engaged makes it nearly impossible to get away from a stop without crabbing sideways and engaging traction control. Same thing for low-speed right-angle turns.

Is all this sideways-action fun? Yes, sort of. But it’s not very fast and, based on personal experience, accidentally dorifto’ing past your elderly neighbours in a bright green sports car with “2 CAYMAN” vanity plates makes you feel like a complete Delta Bravo.

Taking the R up the looping road to a local ski hill to try it in the snow was a good core workout, but only because of all the clenching. If you have never been passed by a flume-throwing full-size Range Rover at seventy-five miles-per-hour, in a corner, inches from a concrete barrier, may I perhaps not recommend it to you?

And then, to compound things, the passenger-side windshield wiper stopped functioning. No biggie, as it turned out, just a loose nut, but not really the sort of thing a newish car does if it’s all-weather capable.

So how did it do in the snow? Irrelevant, excepting I didn’t get stuck. Yes, you can drive a Cayman R in the snow, but as Chris Rock pointed out, you can also fly an airplane with your feet: that don’t make it a good idea. Buy a TT-RS, buy an EVO, buy an STi and take it to COBB.

Or, buy a Cayman R, and treat it like a proper sportscar. Don’t bother with the A/C and sound packages, just option the Sport Chrono and the cornering lights. Forget the snows, buy some proper R-Comps and get yourself some good driver instruction.

On the very last day with the R, I came out to find that the morning’s light showers had stopped, and that there would be dry tarmac for the short drive into downtown to drop it off. The fifteen-minute trip from the North Shore through Vancouver proper isn’t a winding country road or a race-track. The way is clogged with harried rush-hour traffic, and local drivers aren’t going to be nice to a green Porsche with Ontario plates.

But when the flat-six thrummed to life, I knew I would be taking the longest route I could figure out, and that half-hour drive was, without question, the highlight of my day.

In summation: it’s fast, it’s flawed, I loved it, so will you. Just, y’know, move someplace sunny.

Porsche provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

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Review: 2012 Porsche Carrera 4 PDK Mon, 14 Nov 2011 18:24:04 +0000

I know what you’re thinking.

I’m thinking it too.

Why me? How, with a host of competent hot-shoes, seriously-journalistic scribes and industry insiders here at TTAC, do the keys to a presser Porsche 911 get handed to the guy who publicly admitted to being not a very good driver and who has an unfortunate tendency to use four long words where one short one would do nicely? Would not the readership be better served by someone who could give you an in-depth, accurate 10/10ths dynamic assessment, or a brief, sober buyer’s summary?

Oh, probably. But there are two very good reasons I’ve got this thing.

First, I asked Porsche nicely. And repeatedly. Being that I’m in Canada, politeness works here like a Jedi mind-trick.

Secondly, this 911 is no adrenal-gland-prodding trackday GT3, nor supercar-blitzing Turbo S. Neither is it the new 991 nor the 997 that every other publication has already told you “is the one you want” – the GTS. Scope the specs on this particular slice of Stuttgart spizzarkle: four-wheel-drive, automatic transmission, “base” 3.6L engine – it might as well have training wheels attached.

Quite simply, what we have here is a 911 for Mr. Average, and if you ignore the fact that I’m a ginger, that’s me. I shall put on a hat and go drive it.

A stylistic critique of the 997, 2012 model or not, would be futile. Porsche has been honing the 911′s silhouette since 1963, and this particular variant has been kicking around since the ’05 model year.

Assuming that you don’t live on the moon, you’ve doubtless seen some trim level of the current 911 sitting curbside and drawn your own conclusions about the slippery reversed teardrop with the cello haunches. Corporate grilles be damned, every nuance of a 911′s shape is burned into the collective’s zeitgeist. This is the Porsche, the stallion-crest flag-bearer, and I suppose the only cosmetic things I can point to here are the slightly nicer optional Turbo wheels my tester is fitted with, and the fact that the last few years of 997s have been fitted with larger air intakes and the ubiquitous LED running lights.

But here’s the thing, the thrill I feel as I slide into the near-perfect seats and spend a few clumsy seconds trying to start the car with the key in my right hand (oh right, ignition’s on the left) is short-lived. Despite the flawless autumnal splendour of a rare sunny day in the Pacific Northwest, it takes all of ten city blocks for an invisible hand to twist the dimmer on the neon sign that’s blinking, “OH EMM GEE – I’m driving a 911!” in my head.

In quick succession I am passed by a V10 Audi R8, a white 458 Italia and a bright orange Lamborghini LP-550-2 Valentino Balboni. Hmmm.

Here in the City of Glass with its many narcissism-inducing reflective surfaces – the place that invented the butt-sculpting yoga pant (not that I had anything to do with it, but You’re Welcome) – a 911 Carrera is insufficient for posing; I might as well be driving a 2012 GTi for all the attention I’m garnering. The 911 might be the Porsche, but here it’s also just a Porsche.

The muted grey of this car’s Platinum Silver Metallic paintwork may have something do do with it, but the cheery fact is that the 911 has, over the years, gradually shed the Gordon Gekko ostentation of a crimson, whale-tailed 964 convertible. In an age where hot Bimmers are slathered in M badging and skittle-shaded entry-level coupes like the Hyundai Veloster boast big, blingy, colour-matched rims, mid-line variants of the 911 seem restrained, discreet, reserved. To my mind, that’s a good thing.

A Carrera4 is not – supposedly – meant to be coddled, so through the week a 911 becomes my commuter car. This is not as much fun as it sounds: I have a short drive to work, but at this time of year it’s a tangled mess, clotted with lumps of slow-moving SUVs, snarled by construction and confounded by sheer volume. Each day, I walk out to be greeted by the permeating dampness of a West Coast winter and learn a little more about the idea of a 911 as a daily driver.

Most of it is good. The PDK is somewhat clunky from cold, but soon warms up and begins shuffling through the gears imperceptibly and rapidly; sixth and sometimes seventh gear is achieved at not much more than side-street speeds of 30mph. Smooth yes, sporty no.

The sport seats, as previously mentioned, are fantastic: grippy yet cosseting. The steering-wheel is blissfully free of buttons and gently nudges your hands towards the correct 3-and-9 position. The rest of the interior is fairly spartan, and little different from that of a base-equipped Boxster. Satellite navigation is straightforward to use, the iPod interface is fiddly.

Visibility is excellent. Ride is firm, but acceptable. Tire roar stops just short of Nissan 370Z levels. Parallel parking at first brings beads of sweat to the brow in fear of curbing those low-offset rims, but becomes a doddle with a few days practice.

Whatever visceral tug that iconic shape gave me on Monday morning has been eroded by Saturday evening. The Carrera4 has been competent, welcoming, even reasonable on fuel, but in the day-to-day of city driving it has yet to shine. At this point, it might be tempting to scan the option list and begin grumping about the outrageous cost of extras that should be standard on a $100K car – $400 for auto-dimming mirrors? Really?

Instead, it’s time to head East.

As the sun slips down behind us and the scenery changes from skyscraper-and-supercar to pickup trucks n’ Holsteins, I can feel a little knot of anticipation growing in the pit of my stomach. I’m heading home.

Here, high in the hills above the fertile Fraser Valley, I awake early on Sunday morning to find the 911 coated with crystalline ice, its badge encrusted in hoarfrost. Day is breaking, diamond-bright and brittle-blue, brilliant with all the promise of a cloudless wintry sky. I fire up the big flat-six and a low-pitched thrum backs the percussive tappeting of valves as clouds of vapour issue from twin exhausts to hang in the cold, clear air.

While the frost clears from the windshield, I retreat to the warmth of the kitchen to chat over coffee with my father. About what I can’t remember: it’s not important.

“You want to go for a ride, Dad?”

The Porsche’s summer tires – I am the last to drive this car so shod – are frozen hard as hockey pucks and scrabble at the cracked and heaved pavement at the foot of the driveway. I have the car in Sport Mode with Porsche’s Active Stability Management engaged. This car is fitted with Sport Chrono – a must-have for PDK-equipped cars – and while engaging Sport+ on a public road is the province of sociopaths, kicking the 911 into sport transforms it.

We go haring up the first of several hills, the pleasant whuffling of the Carrera’s exhaust crescendoing into a sonorous turbine-tenor, hard first-to-second, second-to-third shifts hammering us back in the seats with a thump. Finally, Porsche has seen fit to add proper paddle-shifters, though they’re steering-wheel mounted, rather than on the steering column. We climb.

These are the roads I grew up on, intestinal loops of off-camber, often slippery asphalt, patchworked with hasty repairs, rumpled, rutted, rippled, dimpled and undulating. I have ridden the school bus on them, have sat shotgun in my Dad’s ’85 535i as we flew along through tree-dappled sunlight, have nursed a recalcitrant Land Rover along at imprudent speeds during my rash teenage years, have driven them home in the first car I paid for with my own money.

Dad taught me to drive here in that stick-shift E28, and here I am taking him for a ride in one of the finest pieces of machinery ever engineered. We blast along winding, sunny country roads with snow-capped mountains and frost-coated fields as the backdrop, whipping up red-and-yellow vortices of fallen leaves to swirl in our wake. If this is all beginning to sound a bit like a Porsche commercial, that’s pretty much how it felt.

With a dual-clutch gearbox, all-wheel-drive and a hefty price tag, this 911 invites direct comparison to the Nissan GT-R. In fact, picking Godzilla over this car (as optioned) would leave about $10K remaining in your jeans. As a kid, I would have said it was a no-brainer: the car that boasts the better numbers is the better car.

However, I’ve had a reasonable amount of seat-time in Nissan’s scalp-taker, and it’s a very angry, impatient, heavy thing. Where the GT-R stomps, crushing curving tarmac like a steamroller with R-compounds, the 911 fairly dances along the roads.

The Porsche has a taut, sinewy feel as you feed it into a corner and then squeeze the throttle out, feeling a slight hip-pivot caused by the mild pendulum effect of that rear-mounted engine. We’re not hurrying, simply flowing through well-known and well-worn twists and turns, watching for slippery patches and keeping an eye out for neighbours out on horseback. The roads remain abandoned.

I slow as we come to a corner where I remember a past winter’s ice, and sure enough, some badly dug ditchwork has allowed twin rivulets to flow across the steeply pitched road and freeze into thin and splintered sheets. Just for a lark, I lightly goose the throttle from low speed as the 911 picks its way across the ice-patch gingerly, shifting the power around like a cat lifting and shaking its paws as it walks across a wet floor. The result is undramatic: this car is equipped with the new electrically-controlled all-wheel-drive system out of the 997 Turbo, capable of putting 100% of the power to either axle. As the front wheels grip dry tarmac, I’m temporarily piloting a front-wheel-drive 911. Blasphemy.

It’s also capable of an incredible standing start with launch control activated. After stopping to take a quick picture I test it out: Sport+ button engaged. Stand on the brake pedal, bury the throttle in the carpet. 6500rpm. Release the brake.

The result? 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and some seriously impressed Herefords. Or they could be bored. Or hungry. Cattle are a pretty inscrutable lot.

I could drive this car here forever, endlessly looping these empty roads, but this is a fleeting moment and it’s time to return to reality and hand the keys back. But not before handing out one more free ride.

On our way back to the city, we stop in to see a very good friend who is completely useless about cars. His son is just turning five, and is somehow developing into a full-fledged gearhead despite his dad’s neglected Honda Civic and practical minivan. The house is littered with Hot Wheels and Pixar characters. Does he want to go for a ride?

Seconds later, we’re all strapped in, windows down with the heat on full. Bang-bang-bang through the gears and then hard on the brakes as we all dissolve into helpless, joyous laughter. “Uncle Brendan, this car is more fun than I thought it was going to be,” I’m informed with all the irony-free seriousness that the only the very young can manage. Amen to that.

You can buy a 911 in eighteen different flavours, and while this car skews slightly from the way I’d pick mine (skip the PDK, spec an “S”, hold off on the all-wheel-drive and sat-nav and spend the money on driving lessons instead), it’s still a very special car. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

The new 991 is already here, and I can’t wait to drive it and compare it to the low-mile 993 I drove a few weeks ago, and to this, last hurrah of the 997. The truth of this car? If you save up and manage to swing the lease payments, or pick a used one up with 30K on the clock for the same price as a new STi, then you will discover the same thing I have. Just occasionally, there is meat behind the legend. Just occasionally, the reputation is earned.

Porsche provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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Review: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Fri, 21 Oct 2011 19:19:17 +0000

Strongly feel that Porsche should stick to sports cars? Personally, I’m willing to cut Zuffenhausen a little slack. Sports car sales, with their boom-and-bust cycles, don’t provide a sound foundation for corporate financial health. A more reasonable test: does Porsche’s entry look and drive unlike any other, in a manner consistent with the marque? Though not pretty, the Panamera passed this test. And the Cayenne SUV?

The initial outlook isn’t good. While the Cayenne’s front end strongly resembles those of other Porsche models, the rest of the exterior can easily be mistaken for an Audi or even a Volkswagen. In fact, the first time I saw the redesigned-for-2011 second-generation Cayenne I thought it was an Audi Q5. One reason: while the Panamera is closely related to no other car, the Cayenne retains close ties with the Volkswagen Touareg, which it also resembles. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Like the second-generation VW, the 2011 Cayenne is sleeker, better-proportioned, and altogether more attractive than its predecessor.

The Cayenne’s interior is more distinctive than its exterior. Whether by actual dimensional differences or by visual trickery, the instrument panel seems significantly lower and more compact in the Cayenne than in the Touareg. As in the Panamera, the IP rests directly atop an upward-sloping center console (its many buttons closer at hand than they would be in a vertical center stack) to form a subtly tapered “T.” The center console’s upward-angled grab handles (why would the driver need one?) are now mirrored by the door pulls (though the latter are mounted farther forward). Put it all together, and the Cayenne seems sportier from the driver seat than any other SUV. Yet, unlike in the Panamera, there’s no sense that you’re actually in a sports car. The seats (and entire vehicle) would have to be much closer to the ground for that.

Porsche’s interiors have come a long way over the past decade, but the new Cayenne’s still includes too much hard plastic that cannot be mistaken for anything else—even when fitted with the tested car’s upholstered instrument panel and center console. One surprising oversight that provides a poor early impression: the artful door pulls flex and creak when put to their intended use. Form clearly took precedence over function.

The Cayenne’s base front buckets are cushier than the German norm. Though they provide some lateral support, anyone planning to drive this Porsche like a Porsche should pony up another $1,815 for the 18-way power-adjustable sport seats. As in the Touareg, the comfortably high rear seat slides and reclines. In its rearmost position there’s plenty of legroom for all but the tallest adults—but the same can be said of many smaller, lighter compact crossovers. Cargo volume is similarly beyond sufficient but well short of outstanding.

As in the Panamera, engine choices include a 300-horsepower V6, 333-horsepower supercharged hybrid V6, 400-horsepower V8 “S”, and 500-horsepower turbocharged V8 “Turbo.” In the Panamera, the V8 takes the car to an entirely different level. With the Cayenne I sampled only the V8, but drove a Touareg with the V6 in 280-horsepoweer tune immediately beforehand. While the V8 is quicker and more sonorous than the V6, it doesn’t transform the Cayenne like it does the Panamera. Blame two factors. First, while the 4,553-pound 2011 Cayenne S is, commendably, 400 pounds lighter than the 2010 and 740 pounds lighter than the similarly-dimensioned BMW X5 xDrive50i, it remains ten percent heavier than the Panamera. About 70 pounds went with the no-longer-offered two-speed transfer case—Porsche figured out that few owners ventured far off the tarmac. Second, while the V8 is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual in the big hatchback, it’s hooked up to a conventional eight-speed automatic in the SUV. Though the Aisin box is perhaps the best of its kind, with quick, nearly imperceptible shifts, the PDK shifts even more quickly and provides a manual-like direct, mechanical connection. Bottom line: in the SUV, the turbo is needed to kick the tail out at will and quicken one’s pulse. The reduced curb weight and additional transmission ratios do significantly improve fuel economy, bumping the V8’s EPA ratings from a dismal 13/19 to a respectable 16/22.

The Cayenne is too large (though not too heavy) to feel as chuckable as compact SUVs like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 (the upcoming Cajun will target these), but too small to have the road presence of a Cadillac Escalade or Infiniti Q56. The boxes not checked affect its braking and handling. Options include ceramic brakes ($8,150), adaptive dampers ($1,990), air springs (another $1,990), active stabilizer bars ($3,510), torque vectoring ($1,490), and ultra-low-profile ultra-high-performance tires ($1,560-$4,875). The tested Cayenne S had none of these. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that it didn’t steer or handle dramatically better than the Touareg. Yes, the steering was quicker and more communicative, there was less lean in hard turns, and body motions were more tightly controlled, but the difference was a matter of degree, not of kind. As in the VW, you don’t forget you’re driving a tall, heavy vehicle. And so nothing like the difference between the Panamera and its competitors. By the same token, though, the standard suspension Cayenne S only rides a little more firmly than the Touareg, so it’s more day-to-day livable than the hatchback.

You’re not getting an entirely bespoke vehicle with the Cayenne, and its price does reflect this. Outfit a 2011 Cayenne S with Convenience Package (nav, xenons, Bose audio, heated seats, auto-dimming mirrors), obstacle detection, and full-leather interior, and it lists for $71,780. A similarly-equipped Panamera S lists for nearly $95,000. But even relatively inexpensive Porsches are far from cheap. A BMW xDrive50i with the same bits lists for $65,125, and adjusting for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool adds another grand to the heftier, truckier BMW’s price advantage, for a total over $7,500.

In the end, the tested 2011 Porsche Cayenne S doesn’t quite pass my test. From most angles it’s too easily mistaken for an Audi or even a VW. It handles better than competing SUVs, but not dramatically so. The turbocharged V8 and chassis options might well make a big difference. But if one or more of these are needed to render the Cayenne worthy of the Porsche crest, then why offer the SUV without them?

Scott Vollink of Suburban Porsche in Farmington Hills, MI, provided the car. He can be reached at 248-741-7980.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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Review: 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S PDK Sun, 25 Sep 2011 05:11:56 +0000

Good news, everybody! All that drama with the nice people at Porsche is totally over! Here’s how the phone conversation went:


Jack: STOP CALLING ME! It isn’t mine! I had a vasectomy! I told you beforehand! YOU SAW THE SCARS!

Unknown Caller: Jack, this is Gary Fong, from Porsche Cars North America.

Jack: What can I do for you, Mr. Fong?

Gary Fong: Jack, we want to put this all behind us. All us guys at the office put our heads together and decided that a guy who owns three of our cars, has put hundreds of racetrack laps on Porsches, has served as a driving instructor for dozens of Porsche owners, and has over a million readers every single month of the year deserves at least as much press access as, say, raw-dog random blogs with one comment per article. We’re going to start you off with one of the crown jewels in our lineup: the 2011 911 Turbo S. In Macadamia Brown, of course, and with a sticker of $186,985.

Jack: Gary, I feel this marks a new era of trust and cooperation between our companies, and the real winner of this will be our valued readers.

Gary: Jack, I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t about fluffing moronic racetrack oilers or providing free business-class air travel to people who couldn’t hold up the ass end of a pre-school bicycle rodeo. It’s about making sure Porsche fans, and customers, everywhere, learn the truth about our cars.

I was humbled by Porsche’s decision. And as I stepped out of my white 993 and prepared to experience the 911 Turbo S for the first time, I realized something:

The above scenario will never fucking happen in zillion years. Thank God for Dr. Sanjay Mehta and Larry Woo of RH Motorcars, the buyer and seller, respectively, of this extremely expensive and precious turbocharged Porsche; they were willing to let me take it out and run it up to triple digits. TTAC readers know Dr. Sanjay pretty well, of course, but Mr. Woo will be new to almost all of you. RH has an utterly fascinating inventory, ranging from delivery-mileage Testarossas to brand-new 458 Italias to the original street-spec slant-nose Porsche DP935. If you want to see more tests of RH’s inventory here in TTAC, take a moment to let Mr. Woo know. It’s only a 265-mile roundtrip for me to visit their main showroom and I’m willing to make that trip as often as required. Alright, enough thanking the sponsors, let’s drive the car.

What is a 911 Turbo S? Along with the infamous GT3 RS 4.0, the Turbo S represents about the last possible extension of the 997-generation Porsche. It’s a very, very rapid car. The color rags are obtaining quarter-mile times of 10.7 and 10.8 seconds, with trap speeds of 128-130mph. Even in a the current era of hyper-fast production cars, that should make you sit up and take notice. Thanks to the PDK transmission and four-wheel-drive, you’ll reach the quarter-mile mark ahead of the Carrera GT, McLaren F1, and Ferrari Enzo, although all of them will sail by some time afterwards thanks to superior aerodynamics.

Nominally speaking, the Turbo S isn’t the fastest 911 I’ve driven; that would be the Switzer GT2 P800, an 815-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive monster that once memorably bopped the ’170′ mark on the speedometer as I was entering the mild kink on BeaveRun’s back straight. Unfortunately, nontrivial turbo lag and traction issues hamper the monstrous Switzer until third gear, and even then it’s a good idea to save checking your GChat convos until you’ve grabbed fifth and cleared one-fifty or so. I had the car step out on me once when we were already doing double the Ohio freeway speed limit.

The 997 Turbo S has no such issues. This is what I did: from a nice 5mph roll, I selected first gear in the PDK. After lo these many years, Porsche has finally fitted proper paddle shifters to the 911. No more thumbing your way through the gears. Larry gave me the go-ahead, and I engaged full throttle. The response was instantaneous and head-snapping. The road we’d selected was a narrow industrial-park blind alley which was made by laying thirty-foot concrete slabs end to end. The Turbo reached sixty in what seemed like four of them, bouncing madly around as the wheels lost and gained traction over each uneven gap. Time to shift.

Behold the magic of PDK: it works just as well behind a 530-horsepower Porsche as it does behind a 200-horse GTI. (And probably breaks just as often, but that’s a story for another time.) There was no discernible loss of thrust as the next gear clicked in. My mind had reset into FAST CAR MODE by then after two hours spent driving up in my relatively poky (13.8s quarter-mile) 993, so I had plenty of time to think about grabbing third. By the time I needed fourth, there was a rather large tractor-trailer swelling in the windshield, so I said to Larry, “I’m going to stop the car,” and I stopped it.

I’d never want to pay the replacement tab for Porsche’s carbon-ceramic brakes, but the current ones have a pedal feel best described as “stepping on a steel block mounted on hydraulic rams.” In a few squeaks of the ABS we were motionless once again. Hell of a car.

Make no mistake; you would get used to the power eventually, the same way riders of Kawasaki’s ZX-12 all eventually decide to put nitrous bottles on the thing. My experience driving a few 800-plus-horsepower cars around sunny Powell, Ohio has taught me that there are actually plenty of places to rip out a quick 0-150 everywhere you look, even in suburbia. Your mileage, and ability to survive hitting a tree at warp speed, may vary.

The rest of the 911 Turbo S, excepting the very swank OZ center-lock wheels fitted to our test car, is standard Porsche. That means you’re paying $186,985 for a car that isn’t all that distinguishable inside from a $45,000 Boxster. This particular Turbo S had twenty-six grand worth of options. I uploaded the below picture at full-res so you can read them all.

Some of the highlights:

  • Leather bezel for navigation system: $2,225.
  • Changing the color of the stitiching on the seats: $1,100.
  • Special Cocoa leather: $430. I just want to point out that the “special Cocoa leather” was standard equipment on my Boxster S 550, which was modestly priced at $61,310. Nice of Porsche to charge extra for the stuff on a Turbo that bases at $160K.
  • Clear turn signals on the taillamps:$610. This is because clear plastic costs hundreds of dollars per square inch. Or at least it does in Willy Wonka’s Porsche Factory.

Good stuff, and Dr. Mehta will no doubt find that having a leather bezel on his nav system totally eases the kind of stress you feel after spending a whole day killing tumors with laser beams. You have no idea how often it’s pissed me off that my 993 has plastic surrounding the nav system. Actually, it’s plastic surrounding the area where the nav system would be if such a thing had been available. On my car, that area is reserved for… um, nothing. Just a totally empty space. Once upon a time, Porsches didn’t have “full consoles”. Example photo:

This above interior was considered quite the candy-ass thing by people who had this interior in their Seventies 911s:

I think they used the same shifter in the Chevy LUV.

Back to our Turbo S. What else can I tell you about it? It’s remarkably quiet, even given the Tubi aftermarket exhaust fitted to this model. The leaned-back windscreen in the current 997 really kills the wind noise compared to the old cars. The 997 interior, all jokes aside, is a tremendous improvement over the dismal 996 cabin. At the very limit, the Turbo S defaults to understeer. (Wink.) There isn’t much trunk space, because the front differential eats it all. Get a 911 GT2 if you need to carry large objects.

Naturally, I was charmed by the twin-blown S and was pleased that Dr. Mehta decided to make it a 40th birthday present to himself. (For my 40th birthday, which comes up any day now, I’m going to super-size lunch at McDonald’s and luxuriate in the additional volume of french fries.) There are really only two things about which I would like to quibble.

First, the price. It’s ridiculous for a car that shares most of its architecture with the Boxster to cost this much. Either the 911 Turbo is a ripoff, or the Boxster is subsidized heavily by Turbo profits. I bet you it isn’t the latter. The used market isn’t supporting Turbo prices the way it used to, and the used Porsche market is a very savvy market. Once upon a time, the Turbo cost way more because the engine cost way more, but that’s no longer the case…

…which brings me to Quibble #2. Until the “997.2″, all watercooled 911 Turbos had the old split-case GT1 engine that Switzer and others have regularly pushed past the 1000-horsepower mark on stock internals. It’s one of the great engines of this or any other time, and I’ve put a micrometer on disassembled ones myself and marveled at the craftsmanship. The 997.2, however, has a direct-injected 3.8-liter variant of the standard Carrera engine. No more thousand-horsepower tunes, no more ten thousand racetrack miles between oil changes, no more season after season of vicious abuse without so much as a whimper. In the standard Carrera, which had been afflicted for over a decade with suicidal garbage engines possessing the deranged delicacy of Natalie Portman’s character in “The Black Swan”, the new mill is a blessing; in the Turbo, it ain’t. More worryingly, it raises the possibility that somebody with access to Craiglist and TPC’s phone number can spend $45,000 and blow your brand-new 997 Turbo S away using an ’03 996 Turbo and a mid-range tune kit — and you won’t be able to “tune up” to match. True, PDK will keep you ahead of pretty much everything up to the quarter-mile mark, but after that you could be in real trouble.

All quibbles aside, however, this is a very satisfying car, and we didn’t need a free plane trip or quality time with Porsche’s PR pimps to find that out. It only took ten seconds and a not-quite-open space of road. The company itself may be occasionally loathsome, but the Nine Eleven itself can still shine.

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Review: Porsche Panamera (4 vs 4S) Mon, 16 May 2011 20:10:07 +0000

The Porsche Panamera: should it exist? Eight years after the introduction of the Cayenne SUV, many enthusiasts remain steadfast in their conviction that Porsche should stick to sports cars with aft-mounted powerplants. While a two-ton four-door is certainly a lesser evil, has Porsche managed to offer one for which there is no available substitute? A $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V performs extremely well, in both objective and subjective terms. Why, then, spend tens of thousands more for a Panamera?

With a disproportionately long midsection and a humped up rear roofline, the Panamera makes a poor first impression. No doubt the designers faced a tough challenge, to take hard points driven by engineering criteria and make the car instantly recognizable as a Porsche. Still, it’s hard to believe that some subtle tweaks wouldn’t vastly improve the design. The Boxster and especially the Cayenne were oddly shaped in their initial iterations, then improved when redesigned. Will the same be the case with the Panamera? As is, the car’s exterior styling isn’t going to compensate for any other weaknesses. Rather, the rest of the car must be even better to compensate for the styling. One success: the Panamera is instantly recognizable as a Porsche.

The Panamera’s interior is more successful, though here again form is driven by function. There are no artfully exaggerated curves. The instrument panel and center console form a simple, subtly tapered T. For the secondary controls Porsche opted to take the road less traveled, and employ a vast array of oversized buttons and switches rather than burying all but the most basic functions in an on-screen menu. Placing these buttons on the center console makes them easy to hit on the fly. Want to adjust the settings for the transmission or the suspension? They’re right there at your fingertips, no need to even lift your elbow off the armrest. Aggressively raking the high center console to provide a large amount of easily viewable and reachable real estate just happens to look suitably sporty in addition to working well. Some hard plastic is evident, most notably on the steering wheel spokes. But everything looks and feels solid. The instrument and door panels are soft to the touch in the standard car and can be covered in stitched leather. Porsche has come a long way since the interiors of the late 1990s 986 Boxster and 996 911. The glossy, light-colored wood in the tested 4S doesn’t suit the character of the car, but there are many other interior trim options.

As soon as you drop into the driver’s seat it’s evident that the Panamera is much different than the CTS and just about every other four-door luxury car. The aforementioned center console is just the start. In sharp contrast to current trends, the instrument panel isn’t much higher than the center console. A Honda Civic might need a huge, visually imposing, two-tiered instrument panel to convey information to the driver, but a Porsche does not. So while the seating position is low, forward visibility is very good. The low, straight lines of the instrument panel and unusually slender front seatbacks only further emphasize the unexpected width of the cabin. The seats are far from cushy, but provide support in the right places, with modestly sized bolsters that nevertheless get the job done. The Cadillac (and every other conventionally packaged four door) feels tall and narrow in comparison. The difference in height between the two cars is actually only three inches, but feels like at least six.

There’s a good reason you sit high in just about every current four-door car: this enables more legroom within a given wheelbase. Yet despite a low seating position and a wheelbase only 1.6 inches longer than that of the CTS, the Panamera’s rear seat is roomy and comfortable. Some credit is due the fairly long wheelbase and humped up rear roofline that make the exterior appear so odd, but these only contribute an inch or two to the equation. Mathematically, the Porsche’s rear seat room just doesn’t seem possible, since more has been taken out of the car’s height than has been added back by these tweaks. Very intelligent interior packaging and seat design deserve much of the credit. Thanks to the slender front seatbacks and expansive windows the view out from the rear seat is much more open than in the average luxury sedan. What you can’t get: a three-person bench. Since only rear buckets separated by a flow-through console are offered, it’s not clear why the Panamera is so wide. For handling?

The emphasis on function continues with the cargo area: entering a field dominated by sedans, the Panamera is a hatchback with split folding rear seatback. You’ll find as much cargo volume in the typical compact hatch, but the Porsche’s versatility is nevertheless a welcome break from the norm.

The Panamera is currently offered with three engines: a 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, a 400-horsepower 4.8-liter V8, and a 500-horsepower turbocharged 4.8-liter V8, with a 550-horsepower variant of the last on the way. In terms of power, the Turbo is the closest match for the 556-horsepower CTS-V, so the salesman asked if that’s the one I wanted to drive. This being Michigan, all of the available cars were all-wheel-drive, which is mandatory with the Turbo but optional with the lesser engines. But since the Turbo starts at $136,250 and ends up over twice the price of the CTS-V once typically optioned, I demurred. One of the non-turbocharged cars would be better. By which I meant the V8-powered S. Approaching the car, I noticed that it was actually the Base model, with the V6. I started to walk back in to request the keys to an S when my curiosity got the best of me. Could a V6 actually be a suitable powerplant for a two-ton $90,000 Porsche? So I drove both it and a nearly $120,000 S.

Though the same displacement as the undersquare, narrow-V Volkswagen engine that continues to power the base Cayenne SUV, the Panamera’s V6 is a new direct-injected, oversquare, 90-degree-V unit. It’s essentially Porsche’s V8 less a pair. With its wide V, shorter stroke, and dry sump lubrication system (i.e. no deep oil pan), the new engine should sit much lower than the VW engine would have, enabling both a lower hood and a lower center of gravity.
The base Panamera is quick judging from the rate at which the speedometer needle rotates, and Porsche’s first V6 sounds pleasantry energetic while going about its business, but the engine’s basic competency doesn’t stir the soul. The V6 might be too refined for its own good. The torque curve is so smooth and linear, there’s no point at which it comes alive and then surges to its redline. Which, given the oversquare cylinders, should be much higher than 6,500. Similarly, output should be much closer to 100 horsepower per liter—is Porsche sandbagging to leave room for future upgrades? Currently there’s also not enough torque to throw you back in your seat or to rotate the all-wheel-drive chassis; the rear-wheel-drive car could be more entertaining.

After driving the V6 I was about ready to ascribe the lack of visceral thrills to the car as a whole—but then I drove the V8-powered Panamera 4S. The subjective difference is night and day, even if the objective difference from rest to sixty is only about a second (4.8 vs. 5.8, according to Porsche). It only winds a couple hundred rpm higher, and does no better in power per liter, but the V8 sounds and feels far more energetic than the V6. And this is before tapping the button to open up the $2,950 “sport exhaust,” which releases a bunch more burble. Even hobbled with all-wheel-drive the larger engine rotates the rear end at will, shoves the seat into your back, and encourages bad behavior in ways the V6 doesn’t begin to. Would the Turbo make me feel the same about the normally-aspirated V8? I doubt it. Though down 156 horsepower, the regular V8 can go toe-to-toe with the CTS-V in the visceral thrills department. The Turbo is no doubt quicker still, but the difference is likely a matter of degree rather than of kind.

It helps that the Panamera is substantially lighter than the CTS-V wagon. Even in all-wheel-drive 4S form the large hatch weighs 4,101 pounds, compared to the Cadillac’s 4,398. Clearly some of the extra money spent on the Porsche goes towards some premium, lightweight materials.

In a sign of the times, a third pedal is not available. All of the Panamera’s engines pair with a “PDK” seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual. In casual driving this transmission behaves enough like a conventional automatic, with smooth shifts, that some owners will never realize that it isn’t one. The PDK’s most notable flaw: even in normal mode it sometimes holds a low gear far longer than it has to. This flaw is more than outweighed by the transmissions many strengths. Because, like a conventional manual, the PDK provides a direct mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels, responses to the throttle are stronger and more immediate than with a conventional, torque-converter-equipped automatic. Full-throttle shifts are nearly instantaneous, so minimal momentum and microseconds are lost in the process. Manual shifts can be summoned via buttons on the steering wheel. But this is rarely necessary. Instead, hit the “sport” or “sport plus” button on the console, depending on how aggressive you want the transmission’s gear selections to be. A third pedal might add some needed driver involvement with the V6. But with the V8 one wasn’t much missed.

Even the base Panamera is fitted with huge brakes, 14.2” discs clamped by six-piston calipers up front and 13.0” discs clamped by four-piston calipers in the rear. So strong, fade-free braking is a given. Less common: these strong brakes aren’t touchy in casual driving, provide clear feedback, and are very easy to modulate. Speed can be scrubbed as quickly and precisely as it can be gained.

More than anything else, I was curious about how the Panamera would steer and handle. The steering is light, but immediate, quick, and precise. Though not exactly chatty, there’s good feedback and the long, wide hatch can be intuitively placed exactly where you want it. The harder the Panamera is driven, the smaller and lighter it feels, though the nagging feeling that the car is a couple inches longer and wider than it needs to be never quite goes away. Something just seems wrong about driving a car with a full-sized back seat like a sports car. Yet I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. Balance and poise are superb. Hammer the car through a bumpy curve and it easily maintains it composure, varying not a touch from the chosen line. Even with all-wheel-driven the chassis feels dynamic—especially with the V8 to kick the tail out a notch. The adjustable shocks standard with the V8 and available for $1,990 on the V6 can be employed to further reduce roll and tighten up the chassis, though the difference isn’t large. Want even livelier handling and even flatter cornering? A system that pairs active stabilizer bars with a torque vectoring rear differential is available, but will set you back $5,000 plus another $1,990 for the required air suspension.

Given this handling, it should come as no surprise that the Panamera rides less smoothly than the CTS-V, much less the average luxury sedan. The ride is far from harsh, but it is very firm. Even small bumps and divots can be felt—and heard. The tires clomp loudly across all but the smoothest surfaces. The optional air suspension might help here, but probably cannot perform miracles. A reason not to buy the Panamera? Not for anyone who cares at all about driving. But those who are seeking luxury first and foremost will be happier elsewhere.

The Panamera being a Porsche, it will cost you dearly, especially if you’re not careful with the extensive options list. All-wheel-drive adds $4,000, about double what others charge. Want this or that bit of the interior covered in leather? Larger wheels? Or a special color? They’ll do that—as long as you’re willing to pay. Painted air vent slats? A mere $2,330. Checking all of the boxes will more than double the base price. The tested Panamera 4 was lightly optioned, and still listed for $90,360, well above the $79,925 base price. The moderately optioned 4S, with a base price of $95,725, listed for $119,525. Dimensionally, the new Audi A7 sport hatch is very close to the Panamera, but costs over $20,000 less. The Audi is initially offered only with a 310-horsepower supercharged V6, though, so it competes only with the Panamera V6. Compare the Panamera 4S to a BMW 550 xDrive using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the feature-adjusted premium for the Porsche approaches $30,000. To be fair, a Maserati Quattroporte is about $30,000 in the other direction, while not steering and handling nearly as well. And an Aston Martin Rapide, with its sharper styling but less usable back seat? If you have to ask…

Ultimately, semi-exotic price notwithstanding, the Panamera can be justified. Porsche didn’t simply copy what others have been doing then attach its marque to the result. Instead, its engineers thoroughly reworked the envelope to make a large four-door car feel as much like a sports car as possible—while still providing above-average levels of comfort and versatility. People have often claimed that BMW’s sedans and those that have tried to beat them at their own game (e.g. the CTS) drive like sports cars. They don’t. Even if a sedan achieves the same test track results as a sports car, if it has the driving position, center of gravity, and suspension geometry of a sedan it will feel like a sedan.

In sharp contrast, the Panamera sits like a sports car and drives like a sports car, albeit a very large one. The V6, though it posts respectable test track times and is far from the embarrassment it could have been, comes up a little short in visceral thrills, at least in its initial iteration. The specs for both the V6 and V8 suggest plenty of headroom for easy upgrades, but higher-winding, more powerful engines are only future possibilities. Though Porsche charges $12,690 for its additional pair of pistons, the V8-powered Panamera S is currently the way to go. Perhaps if someone else had combined sports car dynamics and an adult-friendly back seat in the same car, Porsche would not have had to. Until someone else does, there is no substitute.

Scott Vollink of Suburban Porsche in Farmington Hills, MI, provided the cars. He can be reached at 248-741-7980.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

Panamera 4 front quarter Panamera 4 cargo area Panamera 4 rear seats Panamera 4 rear Panamera 4 engine Panamera 4S instrument panel Panamera 4S rear Panamera 4S front quarter Panamera 4S side Panamera 4S front Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Panamera 4 side Panamera 4S engine Panamera 4 front Panamera 4 front seats The Porsche of no return? Panamera-4-rear-quarter-thumb Panamera 4S rear seat Panamera 4 instrument panel Panamera 4S rear quarter Panamera 4 view forward Panamera 4 rear quarter Panamera 4 instrument panel angle Panamera 4S instrument panel 2 The Porsche of no return?

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Review: 2010 Porsche Cayman S PDK Mon, 07 Jun 2010 19:40:57 +0000

300 plus horsepower, mid-engine sportscars are a rare breed. It stands to reason then, that they should be reviewed by someone who can put them into their rarefied context. The kind of reviewer who can tell you the subtle handling differences between each generation of the 911, and whose keyboard is stained with the oil of a hundred home-rebuilt crankcases. At the very least, they should be reviewed by the kind of people who get regular seat time in the unjustifiably potent mid-engined supercars that you’d have to purchase to one-up a mid-engine Porsche’s considerable capabilities. So what happens when a Porsche Cayman S ends up in the hands of someone who is used to getting their motoring kicks with a mass-market hatchback?

The obvious answer isn’t complicated [Ed: watch out for garage doors?]. Without a thorough knowledge of the Cayman’s competition, the only impression that lasts is a lingering soreness around the muscles that were forced to spend several days clenched into a shit-eating grin. If that’s good enough for you, then by all means, grab your checkbook and prepare to lighten it of the Cayman S’s $61,500 price of admission. After all, it’s just money.

Of course, that’s not how things work around here. Luckily, some of TTAC’s most experienced writers have already put the Cayman S through its paces, and can cogently compare the crocodilian coupe to its competition from within Zuffenhausen, and beyond. Their sage verdicts confirm what is fast becoming gospel for sportscar fans: the Cayman S is the Porsche for enthusiasts looking for more poise and less pose.

But here’s the catch: by gaining accolades from those in the know, the Cayman has developed its own brand of snob appeal. And luckily for Porsche, there are plenty of buyers who want to cash in on its enthusiast halo, whether they regularly drive past 7/10ths or not. Are these uninitiated post-posers in for the kind of nasty surprises that once made Porsche infamous for killing its clientele, and still keeps Lotus Elise ownership in the domain of hard-core anoraks?

Entering the low-slung coupe provides the first hint that Porsche’s junior coupe doesn’t ask as much from the driver as other “pure” enthusiast choices. Not only are entry and egress easily accomplished, but once seated, the Cayman is as intimidating as dachshund puppy. Sure, it’s low to the ground, but visibility is surprisingly unimpeded by its sloping fastback. The effect is a confidence-inspiring user-friendliness that makes the Cayman feel like it’s wrapped itself around before you even leave the lot.

Unfortunately, this intuitive, confidence-building impression is severely let down by the Cayman’s cockpit. Driving your first Porsche? You will instantly be aware of how little of your $60k+ went towards the interior materials. Of course, the Porsche is plush where it matters, namely in the seat and steering wheel departments. Otherwise, you’ll quickly start craving the aluminum simplicity of an Elise. Especially when you realize that your expensive navigation option is no more functional or appealing than the dour plastic that surrounds it.

Never mind the bollocks: you didn’t just snag the fastest mid-engine sportscar under $100k to be swathed in creature comforts. There are plenty of front-engine GT cars that can haul ass and keep you feeling wealthy without having to stare at the steering wheel’s Porsche badge (or, if you’re actually truly wealthy, paying Porsche to pimp your Cayman’s interior). What these cars won’t do, however, is inspire complete confidence from the moment you step into the heavily-weighted gas pedal, and trundle the thing out onto the road.

Around town, the Cayman’s compact stance and brilliant packaging make a surprisingly strong argument for the Cayman S as a daily driver. Not only does it hold more cargo than you’d ever guess (more, for example, than the Lexus IS250C we traded in for it), but it’s also handy in the tight car parks that fluster so many sexily-styled sportscars. In this era of high beltlines and ubiquitous back-up cameras, knowing where your corners are at all times is the ultimate luxury.

Of course, the Cayman S isn’t the perfect city car. The 320 horsies hanging out behind your back must be managed with a subtle right foot to keep the dual-clutch transmission from confusing your request for additional shove with the desire for a woofing visit to the 7200 RPM redline. The steering, though precise and ultimately well-weighted, will come off as a bit heavy and pointy to wannabe-enthusiasts raised on the overboosted helms of mass-market Americana.

The freeway onramp is the first chance to test the real reason you sprang for a Cayman S. With the transmission in drive, the first few gears clunk somewhat heavily into action, as 3.4 liters of flat-six grab the ground and throw it backwards, leaving the rapidly disappearing traffic to deal with the consequences. Entering a cloverleaf onramp faster than expected, the instincts tell you to ease up on the throttle as the suspension begins to load up.

Screw your instincts, you have more grip than you know what to do with. In fact, the scariest moment I ever experienced in my time with the Cayman S was on my first onramp, when adrenalin and self-preservation instincts quietly whispered that I should back off the throttle, which I did with all the grace of a newbie handling 300 horses. The PDK grabbed its accelerating gear, and lurched sickeningly. Lesson learned: never stop powering through that corner. I take a moment to thank my lucky stars that my first Porsche experience did not take place in the era of epic lift-off oversteer.

On the freeway, the Cayman S remains firmly planted and remarkably refined. Oh yes, and fast too. Speeds that I’d previously reached over long, straight distances in empty Eastern Oregon were suddenly possible in the short gaps between waves of Southern California traffic. And when another clot of Prii starts to fill the Cayman’s fishbowl windscreen, the brakes haul it back to legal speeds with equal nonchalance. If you’re a speed freak with a high tolerance, you might want to consider an extra several hundred horsepower. Or you could just read a good biography of James Dean.

After all, 320 hp is likely to be enough for most Cayman owners for the same reasons that keep most of them snorting their cocaine instead of cooking it into crack. The sad truth about cars like the Cayman S (and recreational drugs like cocaine) is that you typically find your limits long before you find the outer limits of their potent capabilities. And exploring those limits usually ends up more closely resembling work than any kind of actual recreation.

And that doesn’t just mean pushing the Cayman’s epic grip to the point where the ass-end slides so subtly that you’re not sure if you just imagined it. For one thing, try finding an empty, winding road in the Southern California area. After a few hours, you’ll be feeling the toothless desperation of a sidewalk spare-change hustler. And once you do find a tight ribbon of tarmac, you’ll be an invincible, king-of-the-road, canyon-carving hero… until you come up on another NSFWing Prius.

For those brief moments when the road is curving and empty, you’ll reach a level of connectedness to a machine that most people never feel. In fact, you’ll be so intoxicated by the experience, you won’t even realize how terrifying your pace was until you reluctantly let your passenger take the wheel. Suddenly disconnected from the telepathic steering, chortling oomph and effortless brakes, the experience couldn’t be more different. And terrifying. Like having someone clap their hands over your eyes while you’re driving a “normal” car. What more do you say about a car’s ability to communicate with the driver?

But then, I’d already read the paeans to the Cayman’s communication skills. I’d read about the crazed cornering speeds, the flattering flatness of the Cayman’s roadholding, the potent shove from its flat-six. And to be perfectly honest, it feels exactly how you’d imagine. Which is to say, lovely. More surprising: the fact that this car can turn a entertaining mountain blast into white-knuckle work without ever scaring you, and then trundle down the freeway in quiet comfort and park effortlessly in the tightest, tiniest structure.

In short, the Cayman S is a gateway drug. It seems like everything you’ll ever want and more than you’ll ever really need. But each time you go out driving, you’ll be pushed to push a little bit harder. It’s undiscovered limits will tease you that much. You’ll want more… and then, just a little bit more. Before you know it, you’ll end up like Dean. Or worse still, you’ll end buying an even more potent supercar.

Budget of Beverly Hills, an independently owned-and-operated franchise of Budget Rent-A-Car gave us a discounted rental rate on the vehicle for this review. And having endured a nightmare experience with other, non-independent Budget shops in the area, we feel obligated to note that, in addition to offering a wide variety of luxury and exotic cars as well as “regular” rentals, Budget of Beverly Hills also provides a very un-Budget-like level of customer service.

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Review: Porsche 997 Turbo By TPC Fri, 11 Dec 2009 16:52:16 +0000 IMG_2688The fastest car I have ever driven is, without a doubt, the Switzer P800 variant of Porsche’s 911 GT2, as reviewed here. The folks at TPC have a roughly similar tuning package that retains the Porsche variable-geometry turbochargers, claimed to produce 775 horsepower and rather amusingly called the “775 Blitzkrieg”. This past September, I had the opportunity to take a ride with TPC’s founder Mike Levitas in the prototype Blitzkrieg. It’s awfully quick, if perhaps not quite as violently impressive as Switzer’s car. However, since TPC was unwilling to let us drive the Blitzkrieg, and since TTAC is unwilling to follow the lead of EVO, Top Gear, and pretty much every other print rag in the free world by writing-up a ride-along as a road test, that’s where we have to let the matter rest. It seems like a good car and if you have money to burn, give TPC a call to find out for yourself.

IMG_2686Luckily for us, TPC customer Joseph Lakowicz was on hand and he positively insisted that I drive his Meteor Grey 997 TT Tiptronic, tuned by TPC to produce approximately six hundred horsepower. Faced with this opportunity to pedal yet another ten-second car on the public roads, I did what any of TTAC’s readers would have done: I took the TPC Tip TT (that’s a mouthful) to visit my childhood home in Columbia, Maryland. I expected that we might be challenged at stoplights by machinery as diverse as the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX350, and that we would smoke those mothers. This expectation was not entirely fulfilled, as you will see.

It’s been a while since I lived in the little house on Tower Top Court in Columbia’s Long Reach Village. In fact, it’s been more than twenty-six years. One might think that Porsche’s “PCM” navigation system would be capable of finding a three-decade-old home on the East Coast, but in the end Joe and I had to resort to using my BlackBerry’s Google Maps application. “I really don’t mess with the navigation… it doesn’t seem very good,” Joe opined, and he is correct. PCM is a mess and you could get better navigation in a twenty-grand Ford Fusion, or by selecting the very cheapest Garmin GPS at your local Best Buy.

Once the BlackBerry pointed us in the proper direction, however, we were able to head that way with nothing less than utter ferocity. This four-wheel-drive Turbo launches from a stoplight as if it were departing the USS Nimitz on the hook of a steam IMG_2683catapult. Like all pre-PDK 997 Turbos, this is a five-speed, torque-converter gearbox without launch control, so one merely steps on the brake and dials up about 2500 rpm. Releasing the brake will chirp all four corners, flash the traction light, and render the traffic on both sides invisible.

Given that the Tiptronic offers a dilatory, uncooperative sort of steering-wheel manual control, one might be tempted to make one’s own shifts during these stoplight blasts. My second attempt at doing so caused the grey Turbo to select neutral instead of second gear, forcing me to coast to the side of the road as the aforementioned Highlanders and RX350s cruised triumphantly by. Nothing short of restarting the car would permit it to select a forward gear again. It turns out that the 997Turbo is too smart to let you grenade the transmission with excessive force during a shift, surely a reassurance to anybody contemplating pumping-up their own Porsche with this kind of thrust. Best to leave it in “D” and enjoy a completely no-hassle trip into the ten-second zone.

After more than 24,000 satisfactory miles, Joe swears by the concept of the Tiptronic Turbo. I’m not so sure, but there is some massive satisfaction to be had from driving something so disturbingly quick and yet so completely tractable. In the stop-and-go traffic that characterizes Columbia’s main roads, the TPC tune is utterly unnoticeable. This Turbo is as friendly as a Camry while crawling at five miles per hour, and if the navigation is garbage, the hand-sewn cocoa leather dashboard is first-rate enough to soften the annoyance.

IMG_2675Let a hole in traffic appear, no matter how slight, and the big Porsche rips through it with a slurred downshift and a lag-free punch in the back. It is quiet, tractable, and faster than a 997 Cup Car in a straight line. This on-road supremacy is the fulfilled promise of the 1974 Turbo Carrera model, made reality after thirty-some years. Track junkies and back-road blasters will find more satisfaction in a GT3 or — whisper it — a Cayman S. The stock Turbo suffers from being a little slower than a GT-R or Z06, but TPC neatly rectifies this problem at a price considerably below what Porsche would charge.

I arrived at my childhood home to find it much smaller, and much humbler, than I remembered. A quick check of recent real estate sales, however, showed that it was worth more than four hundred grand. This Turbo is similarly deceptive. Subtle to a fault, easy to drive, it can still do the business like almost nothing else. The child in me likes it, as does the adult.
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Review: Porsche Cayman S Turbo By TPC Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:15:21 +0000 IMG_2662As a child, I owned something called the Lego “Expert Builder Car”. It was a fascinating product. From one box of a thousand or so Lego pieces, it was possible to build many different kinds of cars, up to and including a two-seat roadster with a working transmission. Top-notch fun, and if Lego eventually took it off the market in favor of less advanced kits focusing on Star Wars, Disneyworld, and (possibly) Twilight then we have only the abject failure of the American educational system to blame.

IMG_2680Porsche has a Lego set as well. The same basic set of components is used to create everything from a $45,000 Boxster to a $230,000 GT2. If you think it costs five times as much to make a GT2 as it does a Boxster, you’re probably an outstanding candidate for one of those $11,000 Hublot watches that uses an el-cheapo ETA mechanism to actually tell time. Nope, it’s mostly additional profit at the top of the pyramid. Porsche protects their oh-so-exclusive product ladder by refusing to assemble their Legos into toys like, say, a turbocharged Cayman.

If one listens to Porsche spokespeople, they have many reasons why a turbo Cayman wouldn’t be possible, feasible, or reasonable. These reasons are quite convincing, and they are repeated ad infinitum. Eventually the strong impression is created that a turbo Cayman would be a feat equal to, say, the Manhattan Project. Which makes it all the more interesting that there’s a guy in a shed who builds them for ten grand.

Well, TPC’s Mike Levitas isn’t exactly a guy in a shed. He’s a former Rolex-GT-at-Daytona winner with an extensive engineering background, and he’s devoted a lot of thought to his pressurized Caymans. For $9,995 plus installation, he will put nearly five hundred horsepower behind the seats of Porsche’s factory-crippled hardtop Boxster.IMG_2665

I recently had the opportunity to drive a rather well-sorted TPC Cayman S Turbo at the company’s headquarters outside Washington, DC. In the name of “balance” — something Levitas can wax rather poetic about, given the opportunity — this car was set up for approximately 380 horsepower at 5psi or so of boost and modified with a variety of JRZ and TPC suspension items.

Outside of a racetrack, it’s difficult to get even a standard Cayman 2.7 to its limits, but I was able to verify in a few short triple-digit blasts that TPC’s power numbers seem very legit. This car has pull to match a GT3 and shame a 997S, delivered across a very broad torque curve. If anything, it feels stronger than a GT3 until the very end of the rev range. Naturally, TPC will happily reprofile your boost curve if you want that top-end hit for road course work or midnight street racing.

The rest of the TPC mods also seem reasonably successful. It’s not difficult to imagine that this car would run in nearly a dead heat with a brand-new GT3 around most road courses. Ride quality is no worse than what you would find in said GT3 and pothole compliance appears to be excellent. The (anonymous by request) owner of this particular example uses it as a daily driver and a stealthy, confusion-causing trackday toy. You could do the same.

And you could do it cheaply, relatively speaking. Early 3.4-liter Caymans are now crossing auction blocks for forty grand. A $25,000 check to TPC would nearly duplicate our tester, so it is perfectly possible to obtain Z06-matching performance for the price of a lightly-used Z06. Or you could look it as GT3 lap times for half price. Porsche Cars North America would no doubt prefer you didn’t.

IMG_2668Which brings us to one tiny problem with this lovely mid-engined coupe. The watercooled Porsche engines produced from 1997 to 2008 are famously fragile, even without turbocharging. Porsche kept its split-case race-style engine for the Turbo, GT3, and GT2 until the recent arrival of its completely re-engineered waterboxer. There is no way that this particular Lego set will be as durable as, say, a 2001 996 Turbo. Perhaps this was the reason Porsche never turbocharged the car, although it doesn’t explain why there’s no new-generation Cayman Turbo. Oh well. TPC states that they have yet to experience a turbo Cayman or turbo Boxster failure, which may be reassuring enough for most buyers.

As the price of Porsche’s 911 Carrera sneaks ever closer to $100,000 in even mildly-equipped form, it might be time for the German fiscal adventurists to admit that their core product is becoming rather irrelevant. A factory Cayman Turbo would offer performance just shy of the Nissan GT-R and Z06 Corvette for similar money. That’s a formula that has worked for Porsche in the past (see: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo) and it could work again. Heck, it might just create a new generation of Porsche fans. If the men from Weissach want some help assembling their Legos, I suspect TPC would be happy to take their call.

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Review: Porsche GT3 Mon, 02 Nov 2009 15:45:16 +0000 (courtesy:wikimedia)

Quick: name a major multinational automotive motorsport series where a rear-wheel drive, naturally aspirated vehicle isn’t the dominant player in the field. Sure, there’s a turbo here and Quattro there, but the Porsche GT3’s template is the recipe for success from F1 to the 24 hours of LeMans. This simplistic design demands predictable power and handling poise, rewarding the driver with a loyal soldier who doesn’t lose steam from heat stroke, or fall to a snapped axle shaft or roasted clutch. Which is why the Porsche GT3 is an effortless street machine that’ll never miss a beat on the track.

porschegt3topSeeing is believing, and love at first sight is only the beginning. Compared to bloated muscle cars, Godzilla GT-Rs and overwrought Ferraris, the current 911 is tribute to Porsche’s finest forefathers. It’s a tradition of continuous improvement while remembering where you came from. More to the point, the GT3 is cut from the same cloth. Beetle-like front projectors, voluptuous fenders, tall greenhouse and low beltline are both classic and contemporary in execution. And the roof’s gentle teardrop curvature works nicely with acres of tumblehome: all harmonizing with the anti-riceboy sweeps of the GT3’s dual plane rear spoiler. Aside from the immature smile on the front bumper’s face, this car has all the right lines in the right places.

Inside is more of the same story, except there’s less. As in no vestigial back seat, a feature not missed given Porsche’s top drawer carpeting and seamless interior design. The standard buckets have suede inserts to do the body hugging thing right, yet accommodate a variety of Yankee-posteriors with ease. The other race ready touch points (steering wheel and shifter) ditch their slippery leather coverings for more suede: paired with racing gloves, the GT3 provides a Velcro-like surface to help drivers focus on—wait for it–driving. Wow.

But there’s still room for improvement. By name and price tag alone, the GT3 is a poseur magnet: but even wannabes know sunroofs have no place on a serious track machine. Yet the Navigation with Sport Chrono package gives a host of track and road trip worthy functions that are worth every penny. porschegt3rear

All of which disappears into nothingness when the business of driving ensues. The GT3’s rousing engine note demands silence from the cabin, with an angry, camshaft-dominating burble you can’t duplicate in a boosted 911. Let the clutch out, slowly build some revs and feel a car that’s as pure to drive as a Boxster, but pulls with all the veracity of a turbocharged boxer. Enjoy the perfectly weighted steering unmarred by power delivery duties, linear stoppers, a reasonably quiet ride and delightful engine bark at civilized speeds: even the race ready GT2 can’t match the smooth, consistent mannerisms of the GT3.

But this so isn’t a Boxster. Fast sweepers become tests of will and life insurance policies, as the GT3’s boundless grip and flat cornering create overconfident drivers like beer muscles on bad boy wannabe. It’ll happen to the best, considering the engine’s seamless thrust and baby powder smooth, quick ratio gearbox. Exit a corner, blip the throttle for a quick downshift, and power through the VarioCam’s 8000 rpm redline.

So let’s get serious. Drop the clutch and feel the GT3’s moderate low end torque, face-planting midrange and sternum-compressing top end. Goodness, this car just keeps revving and revving. Grab the suede shifter for another hit of Zuffenhausen’s hot sauce: keep the speed on, change it up with effortless straight line braking and then grab a lower gear, powering out the apex with ease.

Perhaps the GT3 makes performance driving too easy: the symphony of engine sounds, fragrant fabrics, Renaissance artist worthy controls and the ability to blur the scenery in a few seconds means there’s far too much gratification available from a single automobile. Yet, my time with the Porsche Gporschegt3trackT3 was all for not. Driving at 8/10ths is an insult to this car’s potential: unfortunately there wasn’t a racetrack in sight.

Pity that. If only there was a road course to pit the 3100lb GT3 against the other all-motor heavyweight, the 3200lb Corvette Z06. The GT3’s stunning Pirelli PZero rubber aside, the General’s long forgotten mega-horse monster is still a credible threat to Porsche’s finest: run both on race tires and things might get real ugly, real fast. Then again, the bargain basement Z06 is approachable for good reason: there isn’t a single serrated edge on the GT3. Once again, the Porsche justifies its premium.

But few Porkers come along with this much grunt, sans power robbing all-wheel drive and forced induction’s delayed gratification. The Porsche 911 GT3 is a sports car in the purist sense, providing confident understatement and manhandle-free performance in any driving condition. It’s the pure-ist Porsche, pure and simple.

[Motorwerks of Houston provided the vehicle reviewed]

Performance 5/5

You can never have enough power, but this one’s got enough.

Ride 4/5

Reasonably calm, quiet and collected on the street.

Handling 5/5

And it might be the best in the world.

Exterior 5/5

If a regular 911 is dull, this is good taste’s upper limit of good taste.

Interior 5/5

Porsche perfection with a kick of suede for extra comfort.

Fit and Finish 5/5

Insert a blanket statement on German Engineering here.

Toys 4/5

Navigation, Bluetooth, Sport Chrono and the make for Track and Street perfection.

Desirability 4/5

A little pricey, but rich people don’t exactly lust for a Z06.

Mileage: 14/21

Price as Tested: $115,170

Overall 5/5

Perfect on the track, perfect enough on the street. Which is perfect.

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Nearly New Germans Comparo: First Place: Porsche Cayman S Fri, 02 Oct 2009 13:51:35 +0000 Der kleine krokodil

It’s difficult to put a price on cynicism in this day and age, but allow me to make a suggestion: $13,900. Four years ago, the newly-introduced Porsche Cayman 3.4S retailed for $58,900. The mechanically similar Boxster 2.7 was $45K flat. That nearly fourteen-grand price difference would have purchased a well-equipped Hyundai Elantra, but at Porsche it got the Cayman buyer a hardtop, which costs less to manufacture than the Boxster’s soft top, and a bored-out engine, which costs exactly the same to make as the small-bore variant.

Although Porsche did condescend to sweeten the crocodile pot with a few extras, such as larger brakes and a more aggressive wheelset, it’s still difficult to not consider the Cayman as the most cynical marketing exercise in history. Of course, Porsche is a company that keeps resetting the bar for cynical exploitation of its overly devoted customers. This mid-engined two-seater is simply another profit-laden reassembly of Stuttgart’s depressingly low-quality watercooled LEGO set, sold for twice what a comparable Japanese or American car would cost.

_MG_5507These are the thoughts that fill my mind as I open the door to PRI’s mildly tuned Cayman S. I’ve just gotten out of their Z4M, a fabulous but flawed roadster that oozes style and enthusiasm from every pore. The Porsche, by contrast, is a boring grey pod with a clattery-sounding frameless door. The old aircooled 911s used to “ting” when the doors closed. It was a solid reminder of the way Porsches used to be built. No longer. The interior is bland, cost-cut, uninteresting. Cynical. Cheap. And then it’s time to drive.

While the Z4 driver sits over the rear axle, looking down the long bonnet in a seating position older than the MG TC, the Cayman’s pilot is cab-forward, with just a mild suggestion of headlamp tunnel visible through the chop-top windshield. It’s not an inspiring view, but it offers uncompromised vision for the driver. Stuff like that matters when you’re pedaling three hundred horsepower down fast roads.

Those ponies, incidentally, are delivered in rather begrudging fashion. There’s nothing even remotely special about the Cayman’s engine. If you want a sensual, exciting Porsche motor, write a check and buy a GT3. The “regular” cars are toneless at low revs and offer just a smidgen of aural excitement as the center-mounted tach passes the italicized “6”. It isn’t a droning Japanese four or hopelessly tacky V-6, but it’s very far from the characterful monster that used to live behind the rear axle of Nine Elevens.

At seventy miles per hour, the BMW has it all over the Porsche. Law-abiding citizens, or the seven-tenths trackday crowd, should feel no regret over purchasing a Z4 over a Cayman, particularly given the solid economic incentives for doing so. In a straight line, the Porsche inevitably slips backwards, and the balky cable shifter doesn’t help matters. It wouldn’t have cost a dime more to make this car a 405-horsepower 3.8, and I find myself repeatedly cursing the name of the now-disgraced Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking as we climb the mountainous roads around upstate New York.

Before I know it, though, the roads start becoming a bit… challenging. Wide sweepers tighten without warning as the short-scale speedometer hovers past the one-half mark. The Z4 is falling out of its element, but the Cayman just keeps getting better. It could use more front tire — every current production Porsche is shipped with a ridiculous amount of “stagger” between the front and rear tread — but the available grip can be accessed right up to the limit. In the midcorner, with the PSM babysitter disconnected, there is a reliable, predictable slide from the tail. I’m adding power at the apex while the BMW is still fidgeting and fussing for grip.Worth it after all?

As the miles stretch on, the Cayman maintains a firm brake pedal. Porsche may cut costs everywhere they can, but they have never cut costs when it comes to stopping the car. I’m braking later and later, trusting the car more, and now the Bimmer ahead of me is a fly to be swatted away at my convenience. I can’t do it under power, but at any racetrack I’d show the nose at the next corner and make it stick. The steering is preternaturally good despite power assistance, revealing every line in the pavement but absorbing the worst of the bumps and vibrations before they reach the steering wheel.

As fate would have it, a month after driving PRI’s car I had a chance to drive a nearly identical example at Summit Point’s Main course. In a group filled with M3s, STis, and Evolutions, the Cayman was a subtle superstar, gaining ground in every turn and in every braking zone, never falling too far back, eventually bringing us to the front of the session. A Z4M might have accomplished the same thing, but it would have been a struggle. Like it or not, the Cayman is a truly great car. It isn’t “worth the money” by any scale I can devise, but I’d write a check for one and never think twice.

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