The Truth About Cars » Porsche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/porsche/ Corvette Stingray Bests Viper, 911 In Sales Through First-Half Of 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867178 2014-chevrolet-corvette-stingray-convertible-red-front-end-in-motion-05

The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911.

GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, over three times what was sold during the first six months of 2013. Meanwhile, only 354 Vipers managed to do the same — thanks to its high price and the velvet rope surrounding the one or two models available in most showrooms — as well as 5,169 of Stuttgart’s finest during those months. Nissan’s 370Z, priced much lower than the Stingray, also fared poorly against the Kentucky-built thoroughbred, 4,114 sold this year thus far.

Within the Chevy dealership, 2,723 convertibles and coupes left the lot in June, down from 3,328 in May. National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts the Corvette Stingray is on pace to hit 35,000 sold by the end of 2014, aided by the improved 2015 model and the introduction of the Z06.

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Porsche Developing Ferrari-Hunter With 600HP Flat-Eight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/porsche-developing-ferrari-hunter-with-600hp-flat-eight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/porsche-developing-ferrari-hunter-with-600hp-flat-eight/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 10:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862113 Porsche-988-rumors

Feeling outgunned by the Ferrari V8 family, Porsche is working on a suitable hunter that will be armed not with its long-standing flat-six, but with a new flat-eight.

Autocar reports the new vehicle — dubbed the 988 within Stuttgart — is part of a new quartet of Porsches in development, including a turbo-four version of the Boxster and Cayman, and an all-new 911. The 988 is expected to arrive in 2017, and may likely take after the 918 in looks with a long rear deck covering the mid-mounted flat-eight; all four new models will be in place by 2019.

Powering the quartet is a new family of boxers, ranging from the aforementioned 2-liter turbo-four — capable of 280 horsepower — to the 988′s 4-liter quad-turbo-eight, delivering 600 horses and ~400 lb-ft of 458 Italia-killing torque in testing.

Underpinning the quartets will be an all-new architecture that will use different backsides depending on the position of the boxer, shared front structures, and three front axles with optional hybrid/electric AWD such as the system powering the 918.

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BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855833 BMW M235i HR 04

BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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Volkswagen To Triple SUV Lineup In Fight Against Toyota For Total Global Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/volkswagen-to-triple-suv-lineup-in-fight-against-toyota-for-total-global-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/volkswagen-to-triple-suv-lineup-in-fight-against-toyota-for-total-global-sales/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836730 Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

With Toyota still in its sights, Volkswagen plans to triple the number of SUVs in its lineup in its fight for the top sales podium among the Global Three.

Bloomberg reports the current offerings — the midsize Touareg and compact Tiguan — will soon be joined by the upcoming seven-passenger CrossBlue-based SUV that will either be assembled in Mexico or Tennessee, coupe and long-wheelbase versions of the Tiguan, the Touareg and a subcompact based on either the Taigun or T-ROC concepts. The strategy would provide VW with the opportunity to meet Toyota across the latter’s range on its way to beat the Japanese automaker in global deliveries by 2018, and would build brand strength in the United States and emerging markets such as China.

Meanwhile, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche are also moving further into the SUV market, ranging from the Cayenne and new Macan — both of which are expected to account for 64 percent of all Porsche sales by next year, according to IHS Automotive — to the Q1 in 2016 and Urus in 2017. The overall game would net Volkswagen an operating profit boost over 6 percent of sales over the current rate of 2.9 percent, as SUVs are considered to be more profitable than other vehicles.

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Capsule Review: Lone Star Region Porsche Club’s Every-Man’s Autocross With A 911 Carrera 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-lone-star-region-porsche-clubs-every-mans-autocross-with-a-911-carrera-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-lone-star-region-porsche-clubs-every-mans-autocross-with-a-911-carrera-2/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 16:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=812682 10150795_10152172248628579_2002862088973711476_n

Porsches and drugs are similar vices. They’re expensive, rather addictive and always fun to try — at least once. But there’s always a “gateway” drug, a low-risk and easily accessible drug to just get a sniff of what the air smells like outside of the box. To the Porsche Club of America, whose events mostly comprise of High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) and track days, they needed a gateway race to warm Porsche owners up to the idea of exploring their car’s potential. What was needed was an autocross, a low-risk and affordable taste of motorsport.

Full Disclosure: Lone Star Region Porsche Club of America provided the 1990 911 Carrera 2 and entry fee for this event.

Enter the Lone Star Region Porsche Club of America’s (LSRPCA) refreshed autocross program. After a mild hiatus, the region restarted the autocross program to draw in new members; and partly to have another reason to autocross, these events can be as fun for the instructors as it can be for the entrants. The morning started at about 7:30 am, I arrived a bit early to talk to a few friends and meet the crew running the event. The staff was compromised of PCA members of all skill levels, from local autocrosses to seasoned factory Porsche racers.  As participants rolled in, the shape of the field began to take shape. There was a gaggle of Miatas, of course. I followed a white first-generation Boxster into the event. A pair of 1LE Camaros made an interesting appearance. A yellow 946 Turbo even made it in, and a venerable array of air-cooled and late model 911′s made up the last half of the field. As a truly open event; even one of the regular rallycross AE86 Carollas nearly made it to the event, but when the alternator quit alternating while driving to Houston, they had to give up on the trip.

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I met up with my friend, Seth, to meet the this 911 I’d be attempting to not ruin. A  beautiful red 1990 Carrera 2 sat in the middle of the lot, basking in the golden-hour light. The car is a clever compromise; the wife’s daily driver, and his weekend toy. With an agreed amount of mechanical sympathy, he shared the keys with me for a day. The ’90 911 Carrera 2 is a time machine. Not knocking on a modern Porsche, but the air cooled ones smell and feel like they’ve just rolled away from a craftman’s hands. Thoroughly brilliant driving dynamics wrapped up in a classic suit. Occasionally the mood is interrupted with a few gimmicks of the era, like a popup cassette tape holder, but you still can’t help wanting to don a smoking jacket and cigar after stepping away from the experience.

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Just look at it. Post-80′s bumper covers really did bring the styling of the then-new 964 up to spec of the modernized chassis. And that RS wing? A little gratuitous, but so perfect. The event is structured like an average SCCA Autocross. Registration and tech inspection are quick and painless, and there’s ample time for course walking at your own pace. Seth and I were walking the course, and talking about how to approach the course with the 911′s quirks in mind. We spotted a rookie pretty quick, a tall fellow in a salmon shirt and white Dockers, and went along to go introduce ourselves. Seth did a course walk around with him, one-on-one, to give a quick run through on course memorization and how to approach each section. We eventually caught up with the main group of instructors, who were leading a group course walk for all interested drivers.  While not a habit for SCCA Autocross, LSRPCA found it beneficial to set time aside to run the groups through and give an introductory lesson.

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The event is ran like a typical autocross. Entrants were given work assignments, a required job using the body count of entrants to help staff the event, mostly as corner workers. Autocrosssing regulars of the region make up the more critical elements the event; like handling lap timing, organizing drivers in grid, and timing the starting gap between drivers, as the course crosses itself in one section. Corner working is simple enough: keep an eye out for cars that have hit penalty cones, radio in the offenders, reset any dislodged cones, and generally be the eyes-and-ears of the event. My morning started running timing, experienced from helping run our local rallycross events. We started on time, and the run group was even keeping to schedule, something that can be difficult with new drivers figuring out the pace and rhythm of the time between runs. Things like drivers being unready when it’s time to queue up, slow driver changes with a shared car, little things.

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The diversity is refreshing. A healthy level of competitiveness is brought out of some drivers when a purple MX5 starts knocking down faster laps than a newly-bought 911. Most of the newer drivers were quick to adapt to the autocross format, and quickly found more and more time. Instructors were available two ways: They can drive you (in your own car, or one of their’s), or they can ride along and provide instruction. I wrangled Steve Bukowski, Performance Driving School Chair for LSRPCA, to help me adjust a bit quicker to the 911′s quirks. With in two laps, I had dropped around 3 seconds off my consistent, but slower early runs. My issue is a common one is a common one of mine. I regularly compete in rallycross. While it teaches a lot about weight transfer, corner entry is a different record in the juke box. My natural habit is to enter hot, upset the chassis, and rotate the car into corner with the nose facing the exit before I even reach the apex. This isn’t how you play autocross, and the Porsche would revolt with sobering understeer.

The 911 is a an interesting car to drive. They behave like nothing else, and if under-driven, will fight you in every direction. With poor weight transfer at lower speeds, it’ll understeer at turn in; and with poor throttle commitment will step out the rear like a rudder if you pull back. I knew that going in; never-lift was the contingency plan. If you trust it, and shift weight forward for just a second, the rear tires build a little slip angle, just enough so that you dial the steering wheel back to center. This is how the edge of a master chef’s knife feels — smooth, sharp. If exploited correctly, you can make a 911 truly dance wherever you want. But it takes work, it’s a state of mind. A break in concentration, or a lack of commitment, and it fights you.

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But it was easy to build confidence with the LSRPCA instructors, including Seth, my loaner 911′s owner. With an approachable, while still technical approach to instruction, his strength is in getting drivers past the mental barrier of entering performance driving. Raceday jitters can paralyze a person, and such was the case of a particular Boxster owner.

After my runs, my work assignment was to help operate the timing system. The system uses a two pairs of light sensors that start and end a unique timer for each car as they break through each pair of sensors. The times are automatically recorded by AX Aware, timing software ran on a tiny netbook. Raw times and raw penalties are separately recorded on paper, as backup.

If a run’s time exceeded 100 seconds, the timing system would begin to miscount the number of cars on course. This should never happen — but it started to happen during my work stint. We quickly identified the driver, and Seth approached him. He was making a common autocross-rookie mistake: Getting lost. Though Houston Police Academy has a nearly figure eight shaped road course, it connects to an open parking lot. Taking that parking lot full of cones, and visualizing a course in it is one of the toughest aspects to autocross. It can be infuriating when, despite the best attempts, the cones never translate into sense.

With the problem now identified, Seth worked with the driver over the next few runs. First thing was course navigation, second was keeping his eyes up, looking forward to the next turn — instead of looking down at the turn he was currently navigating. While the first run with Seth still timed out the system, his next run had dropped his time down into the mid-70′s; a remarkable 30 second improvement. Slowly, the driver began to enjoy himself. His fastest run came down to a clean 68 second run.

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This is who the LSRPCA wants to capture. The Porsche owner who has yet to truly explore their car correctly. It was later mentioned by another racer that our problem Boxster driver had been blasting through traffic that morning, perhaps a bit recklessly, on the way to the autocross. No doubt the autocross was a humbling, though productive experience for him. As drivers become more comfortable with high performance driving, they can easily step up to LSRPCA’s more regular track day events to further hone their skill. The autocross program, from its catered lunch to the friendly instruction, provides an attractive start for Porsche owners. If you’re around the Houston area, and have a Stuttgart speed machine in the garage, look into the Lone Star Region PCA’s website, here, to find out about future events.

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Stuttgart Prosecutors Call For Appeal In Wiedeking Market Manipulation Ruling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/stuttgart-prosecutors-call-for-appeal-in-wiedeking-market-manipulation-ruling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/stuttgart-prosecutors-call-for-appeal-in-wiedeking-market-manipulation-ruling/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816001 wendelin-wiedeking

Two weeks after the Stuttgart Regional Court threw-out charges of market manipulation levied at former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking in December of 2012, prosecutors have called for an appeal of said ruling.

Automotive News Europe reports the prosecutors filed a motion to gain more time to review the case prior to deciding whether to appeal the ruling made in favor of Wiedeking and former Porsche CFO Holger Haerter.

The charges in question came after an investigation of the October 2008 announcement that Porsche, under the former CEO and CFO, would use options to boost its ownership of Volkswagen from 74.1 percent to 75 percent, effectively taking control of the latter. The announcement briefly caused a run on VW stock among short sellers on the basis that the automaker would fail. The charges claim Porsche misled investors during the failed takeover.

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VW Group, Led By Porsche, Aiming For 10 Million In Sales By Year’s End http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/vw-group-led-by-porsche-aiming-for-10-million-in-sales-by-years-end/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/vw-group-led-by-porsche-aiming-for-10-million-in-sales-by-years-end/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 11:37:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771258 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/porsches-bernhard-maier-china-could-become-no-1-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/porsches-bernhard-maier-china-could-become-no-1-in-2014/#comments Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695753 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 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) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-porsche-911-gt3-996-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-porsche-911-gt3-996-vintage/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=506001 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-porsche-cabrios-make-la-auto-show-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-porsche-cabrios-make-la-auto-show-debut/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658314 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 ]]>
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Bark’s Bites: The Foolish Indiscretion of Youth, Plus One Porsche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/barks-bites-the-foolish-indiscretion-of-youth-plus-one-porsche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/barks-bites-the-foolish-indiscretion-of-youth-plus-one-porsche/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:30:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649258 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/new-or-used-the-unwelcomed-gift-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/new-or-used-the-unwelcomed-gift-edition/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632138 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-test-drive-reviews-of-porsches-entry-level-sports-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-test-drive-reviews-of-porsches-entry-level-sports-cars/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 14:37:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498901 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:10:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496771 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.

Well.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

But.

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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.

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-porsche-cayenne-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-porsche-cayenne-diesel/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:18:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493202 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.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-1976-porsche-911s-2-7/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-1976-porsche-911s-2-7/#comments Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:12:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467889

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…

Authentic.

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.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/465054/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/465054/#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 14:52:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465054

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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-porsche-911-carrera-s-track-and-field/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-porsche-911-carrera-s-track-and-field/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451010

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 ]]>
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Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Boxster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2013-porsche-boxster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2013-porsche-boxster/#comments Mon, 04 Jun 2012 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447381

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

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2013-porsche-boxster/feed/ 34 Vellum Venom: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/vellum-venom-2012-porsche-911-carrera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/vellum-venom-2012-porsche-911-carrera/#comments Mon, 05 Mar 2012 06:13:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433741
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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-porsche-cayman-r-pdk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-porsche-cayman-r-pdk/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:43:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429201
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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-porsche-carrera-4s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-porsche-carrera-4s/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2011 18:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418160

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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-2011-porsche-cayenne-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-2011-porsche-cayenne-s/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2011 19:19:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415446

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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