Porsche Uber Alles

Don Vorderman
by Don Vorderman
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porsche uber alles

Every month the pages of car magazines sport autoerotic photographs of the greatest thing to hit the roads since, well, the last time. In their celebration of unbridled speed and handling, reliability simply isn’t a major factor. It should be. A high performance car may be fast, furious and fun, but if bits keep falling off, if it spends more time in dry dock than cruising the highways and byways, it's nothing but a pretentious, expensive fraud. And yet automakers continue to build "supercars" that can't even run hard for an entire day without some kind of extremely expensive tinkering afterward.

There's a long, sad history of big name cars that show up for a magazine road test, only to go weak in the knees when the stop watches come out. Once at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio I watched a bewinged, bellowing, NACA-ducted Lamborghini Countach fail to crest 140 mph. Then there was a cross-country comparo featuring a Lamborghini Diablo and some Ferrari-of-the-month. The article neglected to elaborate on the fact that a van containing mechanics and assorted parts followed the cars at a discreet distance.

Back in 2002, the redoubtable Brock Yates, late of Car and Driver, challenged Ferrari/Lamborghini (for the purposes of this article they are interchangable) to place in the top three in his annual One Lap Of America. He put five G’s on the barrel to back up his claim that they couldn’t measure up. "All the swooning about Italian iron fades away when the party gets rough,” Brock said. “When it comes to a hard-core street fight, they're as soft as mozzarella in the Tuscan sun." Perhaps that’s also why a Ferrari PR man once admitted that his customers are “an integral part of the development process.”

Nor should we overlook that latest of nonsense cars: the $1.3m rolling sucker bait known as the Bugatti Veyron. Here we have a 1001hp car with a “troubled gestation,” with more cooling than the Sears Tower, that requires a troop of people to acompany it whenever it's tested. Let's overlook the fact that it's as ugly as a mud fence. How do you say garage queen in French? Or is it German? Even the $455k Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren has been criticized for its snatchy brakes and the persistent smell of unburned fuel in the cabin under hard deceleration.

And then there’s Porsche.

There's an old racing expression: "To finish first, first you must finish." Porsche doesn’t just pay homage to it, they live it. The German company has dominated nearly every race series in which they’ve competed. More to the point, Porsche’s won the grueling 24-hour race at Le Mans sixteen times. That’s more than Ferrari and Ford put together. This phenomenal stamina is now built into every Porsche road car.

A while back, I was invited to speak to a local chapter of Porsche owners. I tried to explain the over-engineering that makes Porsche’s road cars so tough. For example, their engines and transmissions are built absurdly strong for their size. You will find more bearing area, big-ends and mains, for each liter of displacement in a 911 engine than in any other engine in production today. It’s an obscure technical point, but a telling one. You simply cannot buy a more robust high performance automobile. It’s a difference a skilled driver can feel.

There are plenty of surveys that document Porsche's reliability. Porsche’s Finnish subcontractors, Valmet Automotive, recently received the Bronze Plant Quality Award from J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study 2006. The Cayman S was ranked best overall (together with Toyota Lexus LS 430) for having the fewest quality problems in the entire industry. The Cayman S was best in its category "Compact Premium Sporty Cars,” with the Porsche Boxster ranked third. And Porsche was awarded the highest initial quality of all automobile brands.

OK, it is true that the Carrera GT’s carbon fiber clutch is a disaster that transforms a perfectly serviceable (if low slung) daily driver into a San Francisco supercar owner’s worst nightmare. But it’s the exception that proves the rule. The Porsche Turbo is still the single most effective exemplar of the “everyday” supercar. It’s the only ultra-high performance automobile I’d jump into at a moment’s notice and confidently head for the other end of the country, or take to the supermarket to pickup a weekend’s supplies.

Is reliability the ultimate measure of a high performance car? Of course not. Otherwise, the Porsche Turbo would be in a class of one. In my opinion, in fact, it is. But reliability is an important safety consideration too for anyone who intends on using their exotic as God intended. And it jibes with the age old question: what’s the world’s best car? Simple: The one that lives up to its promises.

[For more of Don Vorderman's work, please visit www.carcritic.com.]

Don Vorderman
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  • Biturbo Biturbo on Nov 30, 2006

    SpawnyWhippet your link points to a base C6 and a convertible no less. Also we cannot talk used cars prices because C6 Z06 is hard to find even here. But you can import a new C6 Z06 if you want and it will be cheaper than a new 997 Turbo any day. Both are import cars and a Holden dealer can import Chevrolet Corvette.

  • SpawnyWhippet SpawnyWhippet on Nov 30, 2006

    Thing is that the stupid Oz government is very protective of local markets and impose massive trade tariffs, fees and duties on imports. If I bought a Z06 privately in the US and imported it, I'd probably end up paying $100 - $150k in taxes and fees. I spoke to a Holden dealer and he just laughed at me when I wanted to arrange a test drive. The 997 Turbo is officially imported and available new for about $300k, or $250k used.

  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and the air was barely breathable. Thanks to the mandating of pollution controls and the work of the Air Quality Management District, it's 100% better today. When the first pollution targets were set in the 70's, Detroit moaned that it would be impossible to achieve, meanwhile the Japanese sat down and figured out how to do it. As a result of the constant strengthening of the anti pollution laws, our air is much less dangerous for our children. Furthermore, engineering has now created very clean, powerful and efficient engines. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.
  • Random1 So several of the interboro crossings are cheap: Brooklyn bridge, Manhattan bridge, Madison Ave, Willis/3rd Ave. One or two others I think.$18 is weirdly cheap, but "early bird" all-day parking is easily under $25 at many, if not most, places. That garage is actually on 62nd St, so I might be able to still drive in post-congestion, but I can't imagine they won't jack up that rate when the time comes, they're gonna be over run.
  • FreedMike Right, the fact that Jeep sales are down this year has nothing to do with it...nope. See FlyersFan's post above for the figures. They're ugly. Now, you'd think that a fact like this might be in this story, but a headline like "Jeep announces layoffs because its' sales are down" just doesn't have enought red meat to toss out. But toss "California" into the mix and voila! Political food fight. And given the political proclivities of a large bloc of Stellantis' U.S. customers, why not blame the big bad gubmint? And by the way, if Jeep has a beef with California, what's with this ad?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VegskIOcU7Y
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Renegade in Florida. Tigershark engine vibrated like crazy at stoplights. Someone had bumped the plastic cladding and parts were ready to fly off at speed. If you could pick one up on the cheap, you would give to your kid for college or trade school. Once they were earning a steady paycheck, it would be traded in a flash!!🚗🚗🚗
  • SCE to AUX I don't understand how BMW keeps this brand in business.