By on August 7, 2015

Marta

Rather than begin in media res, let’s recap:

I sold my first Porsche 911 (a “993” as they call it, which means it was built sometime from 1995 to 1998 and was the last version of the 911 to feature air-cooling; mine was a 1996) to a nice guy in Minnesota.

The very next day, my second Porsche 911 (a “997,” which means it was built between 2005 and 2012 and was intended to fix the ugly looks and perceived dubious build quality of its immediate forebear — the “996” 911, which was the all-new car that succeeded the above-mentioned 993; my 997 was a 2007 example of the hardcore GT3 variant) met its end after a teenaged driver failed to yield immediately in front of me, resulting in a collision.

With no means of transportation beyond the shared mobility lifestyle or MARTA, it was time to start shopping for another car. I didn’t really have a defined budget, so I considered cars across a fairly wide price range.

I consulted friends, acquaintances, enemies, frenemies, etc.; I even got input from Classic Car Club Manhattan and several “professional” journalists — whose acquaintance I credit to Mr. Kreindler — who’d driven many of the cars I was considering. Of course, I apologize for the stock photography below.

Alfa Romeo 4C:

Alfa 4C

I’ve long had a keen interest in Alfa Romeo’s 4C, but I hadn’t seen one in the flesh until this year’s Atlanta International Auto Show; if Atlanta’s Auto Show isn’t on your radar, it’s for good reason. Alfa Romeo didn’t have a booth or any scantily clad “babes” to populate said booth. Instead they had a middle-aged guy who would fervently and doggedly defend the 4C against any other vehicle, a handful of brochures with coffee stains on them, and … that was it. I asked him how I might go about test driving one — he’d take down my email and get back to me. I asked him about sitting in the car, or at least viewing the interior. Impossible, as he didn’t have the keys. Apparently Alfa has zero organization or support for the vehicle; I still haven’t seen one on the road yet. Not the best omen, although the new Giulia looks fantastic to my eyes.

So, no 4C for me.

Audi R8 V10:

Audi R8 V10

As I began to survey the landscape in front of me, the soon-to-be-replaced Audi R8 looked like a good value proposition, especially the V10 version equipped with a manual transmission, as the forthcoming generation of the R8 will not feature an optional manual. There was an attractively priced car (under $100k) at one of the questionable used car dealers that string along an industrial highway in Northwest Atlanta, just outside the Perimeter, so I called them and asked about the R8.

The salesman fit the typical stereotype one would associate with a “high-end used car sales professional;” he made an immediate attempt to ingratiate himself with me on the flimsiest shared commonality, he was extremely aggressive and pushy with respect to the potential sale, and he became enraged when I declined to pursue a purchase of the vehicle. Here are a few choice quotes:

“Hey bro, I know you got this cash; why don’t you go ahead and put 50% down before we do a test drive?”

“Bro this is what we call a ‘Justin Bieber’ car; when you’re driving it, most people think you’re probably Justin Bieber!”

“Bro this car drives so well, don’t it? Man, when you buy it, why don’t we go out to the strip club together to show it off?”

Despite the illuminating repartee I enjoyed with my chaperone, I was primarily concerned with how the car drove. It was quick, of course, and produced much more torque than I was accustomed to. The exhaust was quite loud outside the car, but fairly quiet inside the cabin. As for the vaunted manual transmission, I was unimpressed; the clutch was too soft, although the gated shifter was easier to manipulate than the similar setup in a Ferrari. Meanwhile, the steering was very heavy, but by no means feelsome. In short, the control efforts were very poorly matched. I only drove for a few miles on flat surface streets so I couldn’t provide any assessment beyond that.

Once back at the dealer I expressed my concerns: The car had no clear bra on the front and had dozens of small paint chips, there was a sizable chip on the rear wing, the tires were cheap non-OEM tires that were dangerously worn, and the “OEM Carbon Fiber Side Blades” were in fact cheap “Carbon Fiber” 3M wrap.

But there was another issue: A car dealer friend of mine ran an Autocheck on the car for me and discovered that it had been stolen and salvaged in the past. When confronted about this “minor” issue the salesman assured me it was just a paperwork screwup, not to worry!

I had all but forgotten about the R8 and my lamentable experience test driving one until the next weekend. After having departed a wrap party for a charity event, I went to a nearby bar to meet some friends of mine. Once inside, I turned around to encounter the (very) drunken countenance of the erstwhile R8 salesman, who immediately began berating me about the established etiquette in the high-end car sales industry; apparently test driving a vehicle binds you to purchasing the vehicle, regardless of whether or not you enjoyed the test drive or whether or not the car was represented accurately beforehand.

So, no R8 V10 for me.

Chevrolet Corvette ZO6:

Corvette ZO6

The Bowtie has made an obvious and concerted effort to capture customers from Porsche and other high-end, traditionally European marques with the latest generation of the Corvette, the “C7”. This is particularly the case with the new ZO6, which promises to outperform pretty much any other car on the road, save for the hybrid hypercar trio of LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder. Chevy knows that the type of customer who will gravitate towards Porsche is concerned with things beyond performance value for money; they’re concerned with detailing, ergonomics, paint quality, panel gaps, fuel economy, the sound quality of the optional four-figure stereo system, and so on. Accordingly, the Corvette engineers have worked to make the car more refined and luxurious, while still representing a comparative value proposition that should make the typical 911 or M3 intender swing by the Chevy dealer for a test drive.

And that’s where the problem started. I called a few dealers and politely expressed my interest in sampling a new ZO6, preferably with the aggressive ZO7 package fitted; I behaved in the same fashion when scheduling test drives of high performance offerings from other, more “exclusive” brands. Apparently, however, Chevy dealers in metro Atlanta don’t want my business. I contacted several and, invariably, the salesman treated me with a level of contempt similar to that which a State Trooper might display toward a rapscallion perpetrator:

“*LAUGHTER*”

“Do you realize that the ZEE-OHH-SIXXX has SIXXX-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY HORSE POWAH?!?!? We don’t let ANYONE test drive these cars!”

“Son ain’t no bank gonna finance a kid on a Corvette.”

Etc.

So, no Corvette for me.

Ferrari, Generally:

Ferrari 550 Maranello

This one is not so simple.

The early Sunday morning performances each fortnight of the Scarlet Stallions at the hands of Michael Schumacher and his hand-picked lackey were a formative part of my childhood and adolescence. At one point in the past, I probably knew more about Ferraris than I do about Porsches at present, and while I’ve made pilgrimage to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, I haven’t even bothered to go the new Porsche HQ just a few miles away from me in Atlanta. As I grew older, I realized that Enzo was all too right when he clarified that he was in the business of selling dreams, not cars; sadly, Noel Gallagher’s observations on the dreamscape are equally true: while we’re living, the dreams we have as children fade away.

I never had a moment’s pause about buying either of my former Porsches, but I haven’t yet been able to justify Ferrari ownership. The 911’s evergreen aesthetic and the age of my cars allowed me to laugh off comments about their expense (at least to the uninitiated; the initiated were usually more sympathetic to my consumption choices), but nearly any Ferrari would elicit uncomfortable conversations at every turn. Despite finally being able to afford several well-used Ferraris that intrigue me — 355, 430, 550 Maranello, to name a few — I could not use any of them as I’d like to and not get fired.

So, no Ferrari for me (this time around).

Porsche 911 GT3 (991 Vintage):

Porsche GT3 (991)

After all the strikeouts above, one of the local organizers who had arranged the GT3 Smoky Mountains trip that I narrowly missed in May offered me the opportunity to have a go in his car, which was a 991 GT3 (the “991” is the latest, greatest version of the Porsche 911, introduced roundabout 2012; it is widely anticipated that the facelift version — “991.2,” logically — will be seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show).

The car was very impressive, despite my skepticism regarding departures from the established GT3 recipe and incorporation of new-fangled technology. Although I wasn’t interested in purchasing his car — which he knew, as I was interested in some very specific options — I started shopping right away for a 2015 GT3. Shortly thereafter, I bought one in Maryland and had it shipped to me.

In the future, I’ll provide some more detailed ownership thoughts, following the format of my (surprisingly) well-received review of my last GT3 in order to convey what’s it’s like to own and use it as a sole vehicle/daily driver. And stay tuned for some news about my first track day in the car, along with the enigmatic, mercurial Bark M.

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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58 Comments on “Ownership Update: Time To Buy a New (To Me) Car...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Never considered the Viper?

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Congrats! Looking forward to hearing what it’s like owning one. Also, I think you made the right call avoiding Ferrari at this point in your life.

    And you’re a brave man letting someone else drive your baby – let alone Bark M!

  • avatar
    olddavid

    You’re a young man with money, presumably making well into six figures, and were unable to impress your bonafides on a Chevrolet salesman? Or any other of your collective targets? I would posit your pre-conceived notions merely came true.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Amazing how ridiculous some dealers can be. GM dealers won’t let a potential customer test drive a car? When I worked at GM, the Corvettes did what they do best by the majority who buy them: Sit, and never move.

    To be fair to the dealer, they probably would take you a lot more seriously if you were there in person, as I remember fielding a phone call or two about the ZL1 when it first came out and people asking about if it came with X option or Y option, how much, etc. If you were to show up, I guarantee based on your maturity (seem to be very mature based on your writing style), you would get a test drive. Would it be a shitty “right turn here, right here, right here, and right here” probably, but you could at least figure out if you like the gearbox.

    …And in the high end car business they expect you to buy the car if you drive it? Wow.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      To be fair, I was without a similar car when I test drove the R8, and I would’ve been in the same boat if I’d gone to a Chevy store. I was driving a rental Buick Enclave.

      • 0 avatar
        SomeGuy

        David, sounds like you just had some bad dealers. A shame, looks like GM lost a sale of a halo car and Porsche got it instead. I’ve never driven either car, but I’m assuming the 911 probably is the “better built” vehicle that won’t overheat after 3 laps.

        • 0 avatar
          David Walton

          I’m not going to jump on the “cooling issues” of the new ZO6 without having experienced anything firsthand.

          That said, Bark M and I ran 5 20 minute sessions in 100+ degree ambient heat in my new GT3 on Tuesday; who knows what the track temp was. The car was rock solid and temps never exceeded 220. Brakes and tires were fine, too. We did let the car cool down some, but never more than about 30-40 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I had issues trying to get a test drive in a C6 Z06. I was in my mid-20s at the time and no dealer wanted to toss me the keys. Well except for the Corvette King in the Detroit area. I also had issues trying to get a test drive in the current Golf R. Gotta put down the cash to drive a Golf.

      • 0 avatar
        SomeGuy

        Put cash down to drive a Golf R??? Good lord. What if you didn’t like the drive?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I was told by two dealerships around here that I would have to place an order to be able to test drive the Golf R. A refundable deposit of $500 would have apparently done the trick. For a Golf…

          I’m interested to see what the Ford dealerships will do when I want to drive a Focus RS.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …your account pretty well mirrors my own experience with GM dealers, which cemented the marque’s reputation in my mind as a shady purveyor of shoddy vehicles which i’ll never consider owning: despite the corvette’s great improvements, they can’t get the malaise stink out, and with that stench goes my trust…

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      The new C7 Corvette is – probably – a great car.

      It’s just a shame that I’ll have to find a sympathetic owner to get a chance to drive one.

      Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my new GT3.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Realistically, if you drive up in the GT3 I suspect they will fall all over themselves to get you to try the Corvette.

        When my roommate was car shopping to replace his battered old Volvo a couple years ago, I lent him my 2yo BMW after he was snubbed a few times at various dealerships. The difference in approach at that point was sad but illuminating.

        Especially in Maine, where looking like a guy just off his lobster boat while having a few million in the bank is an art form.

        • 0 avatar
          David Walton

          Too late for ’em; I’m happy with my purchase and I don’t want to go burn up a Saturday afternoon of my time – or a salesman’s time – to drive a car I’m not gonna buy.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I know that exact intersection! Walked through it many times as a college student. The BP Station in the background used to be a gathering place for local bike “gangs”. Not sure if that still happens.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      The intersection in question is actually farther south on Peachtree.

      Peachtree and Shadowlawn.

      EDIT: The above intersection is where my accident took place in Buckhead.

      You are right on the money, and the bikers still do hang out there.

      • 0 avatar
        a5ehren

        The pic is definitely North Ave and Spring St. The buildings in the background are GT dorms (formerly Olympic Village/Ga State).

        Crappy place to get in a wreck, always hated that intersection. Morons thinking they can make a left out of that BP onto North Ave at 5pm…

        • 0 avatar
          David Walton

          I really made that unclear.

          I chose the picture because it was a high-res shot of a Marta bus, that’s all.

          The wreck – which I described in a previous article – took place on Peachtree in Buckhead.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I have a friend in the same position who also was hot for a used Viper until he realized resale sucks on everything but the MY92. He goes back and forth on what he wants, but in our last conversation he was thinking of finding an R-title Ferrari, Lambo and rebuilding it OR and early 00s Maserati. Personally I don’t like the idea of R-title, but Maserati is intriguing because they are rare AND cheap.

    MY04 Maserati Coupe GT

    07/29/15 ST LOUIS Lease $10,400 35,693 Avg BLACK 8G No

    MY04 Maserati Spyder GT CONV

    07/30/14 NJ Regular $18,400 54,237 Avg BLUE 8G 6 No
    09/23/14 DALLAS Regular $30,500 14,560 Avg Yellow 8CY M No
    11/20/14 RIVRSIDE Regular $15,500 37,501 Avg SILVER 8G A No
    03/10/15 HOUSTON Regular $11,400 92,069 Avg RED 8G 6 No

    MY06 Maserati Coupe GT

    12/18/13 SF BAY Regular $35,000 17,080 Avg SILVER 8G 6 No
    11/12/14 SF BAY Regular $26,750 27,524 Avg BLACK 8G 6 No
    08/15/13 PALM BCH Regular $28,000 20,325 Avg SILVER 8G A No
    10/24/13 TX HOBBY Regular $21,250 50,795 Avg BLACK 8G A No
    01/29/14 RIVRSIDE Regular $26,250 29,192 Avg SILVER 8G 6 No
    11/11/14 HOUSTON Regular $22,000 51,009 Avg BLACK 8G No

  • avatar
    ccd1

    I can identify with this article on a number of levels

    1). Was accused by a salesman of just test driving car when he went on test drives with me two times in 4 or 5 years.

    2). Had a Chevy dealership tell me they sold the C7, but did not offer test drives

    3). I was trying to figure out where you go from a GT3 if you want the same kind of car. In retrospect, the answer seems obvious.

    4) I’ve wondered what my next car might be after the Audi TT RS. I would not get the newer model because I prefer a manual. I also value a certain level of practicality, at least to hold a set of golf clubs. The answer so far, without actual test drives would be a manual Porsche 911 GTS or the upcoming Lotus Evora 400

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …new 2014 evora Ses are *extremely* discounted right now, and remain a fantastic drive regardless of the forthcoming 400…

    • 0 avatar
      Delta9A1

      Have you considered a Cayman S or GTS? Two sets of golf clubs fit at a 45 degree angle in the back trunk/hatch. You can’t do that with a 911. Having driven both, I can attest that the Caymen GTS is more of a sports car than the 991. The 991 feels like more of a boulevard cruiser in the variants below “GT”.

      • 0 avatar
        ccd1

        I know the 987 will accommodate two golf bags, but my understanding is that the 981 will only accommodate one small bag (Porsche is kind enough to sell one that will fit). Standard cart bag need not apply.

        Have driven the 987 Cayman S and MUCH prefer my TT. My guess is that I’ll look at the 991 Carrera GTS or GTS 4 with a manual or the Evora 400 manual as well. There are new turbo charged Caymans coming when the model is revised. The rumored 370 hp turbo 4 Cayman GTS could also be interesting

        Time and test driving will tell the tale

        • 0 avatar
          David Walton

          As for the Evora, I drove one and really enjoyed the chassis and steering.

          Everything else … ugh. I hated the shifter: balky, slow, inaccurate.

          • 0 avatar
            ccd1

            This is the thing with the Evora. Everyone knows the car’s faults: difficult ingress/egress, balky shifter, piss poor radio, less than stellar ergonomics. The question with the 400 is whether Lotus has addressed all of these issues to the degree that Lotus can price its car and reasonably compete with the 911. At $90,000 to start, I’m far less willing to overlook faults

          • 0 avatar
            ...m...

            …i doubt that they have: i love the marque, but must concede that no mid-engined lotus has ever managed better than an adequate-but-sloppy gearbox…i think that’s inherent to making do with front-wheel-drivetrains flipped around backward, unfortunately…

            …still, for the real-world asking price of a brand-new MY 2014 S, it’s relegated to an endearing character trait in my mind…

      • 0 avatar
        David Walton

        I concur 100% with the above assessment.

        I have driven – briefly – a 991 C4S, and I came away unimpressed.

        To this day that is the sole water-cooled (996,997,991) Porsche 911 I’ve driven or ridden in that was not a GT3.

        I really like the Cayman S/GTS, and I’m sure the GT4 is excellent.

        That said – and take a look at Bark M’s article today, in which my new GT3 is featured – GT3 for me, given my preferences.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    I do not doubt the discounts on the current Evora, but I tried getting into that car at the Washington auto show a few years ago and it was ridiculously hard for me to get into.

    One of the many questions I have about the new car is how much better ingress/egress is as well as whether Lotus’ claims that the trunk will fit a golf bag are actually true. One of the really nice things about the TT RS is that, with the useless back seats folded down, my bag and push cart easily fit.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Had you considered the M3/M4 twins at any point? I had a 997 Carrera S that I thoroughly enjoyed but was looking for a more DD friendly vehicle with a warranty. RWD and a manual transmission were a must have which quickly narrows down the list. I am in my late 20’s but being in LA they never seem to think twice about a test drive since so many young people drive nice cars, with that being said after a test drive I put an order in for the M3 and have greatly enjoyed it the past 2.5 months!

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      I talked with enough people I trust who had seat time in the new M3/4 and they thought it would be a big downgrade for what I wanted – an emotive, involving, special sports car.

      It’s certainly a better DD, but I don’t really have much of a commute.

      If I had a need for 4 seats/doors and/or a more modest budget I would probably be in a nice E90 M3 sedan at the moment.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    You know, Dave;

    I don’t disagree with you, but it’s just too bad that many great cars were out of the running before they even started due to lousy sales.

    The Alfa has many questions about reliability and service, the Vette has the rumors of the engine downrating it’s self, there are good salesmen selling the R8 – not that I would buy one and finally if you did not have a friend would you have been able to drive the GT3 or would it be a sophisticated variant on the Vega salesman’s spiel?

    I sure hope that the boys and girls at GM read this story…Perhaps Vettes need their own salesmen just **HINT** like the way Chevy has a Vette cert for techs.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      Nissan had similar problems with the GT-R when new.

      Recently, I spoke briefly with a former Porsche GM of a VERY prominent Florida dealer. He said he was unsurprised that GM dealers were so abrasive and out of sync with me as a potential customer.

      The story might be different if I pulled up in my new GT3 and sought a test drive.

  • avatar
    omer333

    While I do not have the means to enjoy the rarefied air that is Porsche or Audi super-car ownership, I would however slap the ever-loving $h!t out of a salesman at any dealership if he called me “Bro”. I am not your “Bro”, address me as “Sir” or put “Mister” in front of my last name; I may be barely hanging on to my middle-class status, but I will be treated with dignity and respect.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      I wish I could elaborate on the extent of the “discussion” at the bar.

      • 0 avatar
        omer333

        My dad was a car salesman, his father owned a few Oldsmobile dealerships in the 40s and 50s. I also have an uncle who does outside sales for various 18-wheeler manufacturers in the South. And I have also worked in retail and contemplated selling cars, so I have an idea of how to “sell” and how to deal with the public.

        I have a standing rule when it comes to car buying: I will not buy or lease a car from a guy with spiky hair and looks like he’s about to go to a nightclub. I want the old guy that looks like he has an alimony payment due, could use a vodka and tonic, and there’s a hint of desperation in his eyes. That guy will probably screw you over, but he’ll make you feel like a million bucks and can speak in complete sentences while doing it. Because he at least understands the business and respects it.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Please do, if it’s as amusing as the test drive. We’re all adults here.

    • 0 avatar
      MeJ

      That is what I was thinking. I wouldn’t let some prick talk to me like that.

  • avatar
    Reino

    I must say I’m not surprised by your choice. Once you own a Porsche, it’s hard to get excited about anything else. The famous line holds true: “There is NO substitute.”

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      I was excited for the R8, but it didn’t drive very well. It wasn’t fun or responsive. Just loud and fast and flashy.

      In the future I’ll probably look at Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren exclusively.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I bet you could get some seat time in a Cadillac ATS-V stick-shift Coupe. Try it!

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Take MARTA…It’s SMARTA!!!!

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I can understand a dealership not wanting to allow test drives on a limited-supply vehicle that has basically no miles on it yet. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to politely explain that, and at least offer a drive of a regular C7.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    …m…

    The Lotus gearbox in the 400 is improved according to reviews but still not great. All the reviewers were racing around the track and avoiding the tough questions. Sure the 400 is better, but has it improved enough to compete with the 911 or even the F Type?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    I bet the 991 GT3 drives fantastic, but I would be concerned about durability.
    Have you considered the Cayman GT4? I know a few people who have it and they’re enthusiastic.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Vaujot:

    I don’t understand your concern. The GT3 is designed to be a trackable car. I would expect it to be more durable to handle the track, not less. The GT4 is also a track focused car. Why would it be more durable than the GT3??? I would expect the opposite since the GT3 has been in the Porsche lineup for some time and the GT4 is new.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    ccd1: you probably don’t follow the Porsche news. Porsche recalled all cars of the initial 991 GT3 production run due to a series of engine fires and replaced the engines. Whether the new engines will hold up is a matter of debates among the Porschefiles. The GT4 fundamentally has the Engine of the Carrera S, which is not as high-strung as the GT3 Engine.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    vaujot:

    I’d forgotten about Porsche having to replace all the GT3 engines and have not followed any discussion as to the reliability of the replacement engines. I generally tend to think track focused machines are designed to withstand more abuse than other cars, but perhaps not in this case.

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