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Posts filed under ‘Porsche’

Taking a Look at
the Production Porsche 918 Spyder

September 25, 2014 by Matt

Porsche 918 Spyder

I take it back. I take it all back.

I lambasted the prototype 918’s goofy stickers and stripes and its seeming lack of fit and finish for an $800K+ car, but had I known Porsche would rectify all those faults (and how!) I would’ve muted my critique.

Porsche 918 Spyder

No, the production car is a drop-dead stunner, more beautiful than even the italianite Carrera GT and more resolved than the 918 RSR Concept I praised in my previous post. The RSR now looks stumpy and compact where the production 918 is consummately low, long and wide. The 918’s looks are now perfectly calibrated for a show-stopping arrival at, say, the famous Casino in Monte Carlo—a prime criterion for a proper supercar.

From a design perspective, the two focal points of the 918 are the side air intakes and the way the body of the car is pushed down, Le Mans racer-style, enlarging the wheel arches. The intakes, beginning at the bottom of the side cavities, resolve themselves perfectly into the roof line, pulling the flanks of the car inwards for a leaner, more lithe look that reflects the 918’s actual agility in spite of its considerable 3,750-lb weight. As for the wheel arches, their size gives the car a very aggressive, sled-like stance, while the overall proportions are a nice hat-tip to Porsche’s endurance racing heritage while serving an actual, center of gravity-lowering function.

Porsche 918 Spyder Interior Inside Cockpit Console

Even the interior is beautifully resolved, with neither the clutter of the Ferrari LaFerrari (I still cringe every time I type that name) nor the kit car feel of the McLaren P1. The 918’s cockpit conveys a Teutonic sense of businesslike restraint in the midst of its high-tech trappings. To reuse a couple of words long since rendered cliche by automotive journalists, it’s purposeful and elegant. There’s just no other way to describe its functional yet “concept car” feel.

Yes, compared to its direct competitions in this generation of hypercars, the Porsche 918 is unquestionably the looker of the group.

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the Production Porsche 918 Spyder

Supercar + Herbie = Porsche 918?

August 7, 2013 by Matt

Porsche 918 and Herbie Love Bug VW Beetle

So…I’m a little confused.

You’re Porsche. You have a brand-spanking-new supercar stuffed to the gills with the very latest electronic trickery and a bleeding-edge hybrid powertrain. You’re charging the few lucky buyers somewhere north of $800K to drive one home. And…you tart up the unpainted exterior with flame decals and plain round number stickers that look like they belong on your neighbor’s 16-year-old son’s dented Accord?

I don’t get it.

Furthermore: The panel gaps. They’re huge. I could insert my finger in the space between the fender and bumper. I understand your fancy new range-topper is made of carbon fiber and Inconel and other difficult-to-work-with materials, but you’re such a famously exacting, perfectionist automaker and the price of admission is so outrageous that the fact that parts of it look worse than a rebodied Fiero is, well, shocking.

Here’s what your new supercar should have looked like:

Porsche 918 RSR Concept

You drew that, remember? It’s your 918 RSR concept. You penned that tidy, aggressive, cohesive shape, complete with nods to your extensive racing pedigree and a few details that hint at the technological sophistication under the sultry contours of the bodywork. It’s racy, it’s beautiful, it’s…not tacky. It’s one of the best-looking cars you’ve ever envisioned. I wish I could say the same about what actually rolled through the factory doors.

Scratching my head here, Porsche.

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Wrong Direction, Porsche:
New Cayman Takes Styling Cues from Panamera

July 9, 2013 by Matt

2014 Porsche Cayman Yellow

The 2014 Cayman

2014 Porsche Panamera

The 2014 Panamera

It’s no secret I consider the Porsche Panamera one of the ugliest vehicles available today. In a recent post on Porsche’s much-missed 928, I pointed out Porsche’s reputation for taking what some would consider a less-than-ideal design and persisting with it, improving to the point of excellence:

It’s this resolve that gives me hope that the automaker will refine the technically peerless but aesthetically hideous Panamera to the point where I can actually stand to look at it.

However, when placed side-by-side with a rear view of the Panamera, the brand-new 2nd-generation Cayman’s design seems to take some visual cues from the supersedan. Rather than backing away from the Panamera’s much-maligned squatting, hunchbacked proportions, Porsche actually seems to be doubling down, expanding that visual feature to include at least one more model in its range.

Porsche Cayman R Green

The 2011 Cayman R

At this point, I would normally just throw up my hands and move on…except that the 1st-generation Cayman is a stunning vehicle. Shown above, with the graceful, non-concave integration of the rear deck and fenders, the 1st-gen Cayman becomes more than just “a Boxster with a roof,” achieving a level of visual cohesiveness and purity rare for a hardtop derived from a convertible. The 1st gen looks lean, muscular and lithe where its successor appears slab-sided, bathtub-ish and awkward.

If Porsche applies the same rear-end treatment to a third model, is it officially a trend? Regardless, let’s hope their better aesthetic angels wave them off before we see another example of this unfortunate design direction.

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New Cayman Takes Styling Cues from Panamera

Is the Porsche 918
Unnecessarily Complicated?

May 18, 2013 by Matt

Chris Harris raises the question around the 2:40 mark of his preview of Porsche’s newest supercar.

His basic point is that although the combined 887 hp of the 918’s conventional V8 and electric motors may seem impressive, the car is saddled with the extra weight of the batteries and associated hardware, to the point where it tips the scales at a not-inconsiderable 3,700 lbs. Given the extra poundage, it needs the extra power just to be able to keep up with its British and Italian competition, the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari respectively, and even then finds itself nipping at their heels past the quarter mile posts. With respect to acceleration, the weight of the 918’s hybrid system takes away with its left hand what power it gives with its right.

The obvious solution, then, would be to dispense with the electric motors, leaving the car with “only” 608 hp from its 4.6l V8 and half a ton lighter—a solution Harris proposes during the course of the review. He does get some seat time around a test circuit, and his experience seems to suggest that the torque-vectoring ability of the added hardware might be of use to the chassis for more than just pure acceleration… But, somewhat annoyingly, a factory “chaperone” was along for the ride, and given the in-car audience, Harris’ comments may have been less impartial than they would have been otherwise.

Still, to take a wide-angle view of the new class of hybrid supercars, there’s little doubt the value of the older, purer range-toppers like the McLaren F1 and especially the Ferrari F40 will go through the roof as a kind of backlash against all the new techno-wizardry. That much is certain.

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Unnecessarily Complicated?

Fixing a Porsche:
The Cayenne Turnaround

May 15, 2013 by Matt

Porsche Cayenne White

The 2011-Present Cayenne

Porsche Cayenne White

…in which the German performance automaker shows that when it wants to, it can fix exactly what’s wrong, while augmenting what’s right.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of the Cayenne. I’ve always seen it as something of a necessary evil, a cash cow for Porsche to milk for development capital to fund its more enthusiast-focused offerings like the 911, Boxster and its racing program. The first-generation car did absolutely nothing to dissuade that notion; it was massive (~5,000 lbs), barely functioned off-road and was breathtakingly ugly, cursed with awkward proportions, an array of lesion-like intakes on its nose and an anonymous, truck-like rear aspect. Sure, it was fast and its manufacturer did an amazing job of making such a juggernaut corner, accelerate and brake like a sports sedan, but at the end of the day, its looks were the real deal-breaker, to the point where Jeremy Clarkson famously refused to drive one home at the end of a Top Gear review, but simply left it in the middle of a field (Series 3, Episode 7).

Porsche Cayenne Turbo Gray

The 2004-2010 Cayenne

Porsche Cayenne Turbo Gray

Porsche certainly seems to have taken the criticism to heart. The 2011-present, 2nd-generation car has leapfrogged all others to become the best-looking SUV on the market; more importantly, its revised nose, tail and overall proportions actually make it look like a proper Porsche, like it belongs in the same stable as the 911, Cayman and Boxster, among others. Sure, it still weighs north of two tons, but instead of looking like a girthy automotive cinder block for status-minded country club denizens, the refreshed car looks exactly as an SUV from Porsche should look: An automotive capsule, an all-terrain bolide, ferrying its occupants anywhere in a cocoon of speed. And it manages to bend the laws of physics in delivering startling performance for something so tall and heavy, same as its predecessor.

Well done, Stuttgart. Now perform the same feat on the Panamera.

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The Cayenne Turnaround

The Perfect Porsche? The 928 GTS

February 25, 2013 by Matt

Porsche 928 GTS Blue Silver Gray

The perfect Porsche for me, that is. The German performance automaker’s history is so studded with greatness that it’s inevitable there would be almost as many different favorites as there are enthusiasts. But I remain a fan of the GT category, and as such, the ultimate 928—the 1992-1995 GTS—is it.

Porsche 928 GTS Engine Motor V8

Sporting a front-mounted 5.7l, 345-hp water-cooled V8 sending power to the correct wheels via a rear-mounted transaxle, the 3,700 lb 928 GTS could hustle from a standstill to 60 mph in the high 5-second range—not jaw-droppingly quick, but the sheer thoroughbred competence of the chassis more than compensated for any dearth of straight-line speed. Besides, even though they occupied different niches—the 911 has always been more of a pure sports car—Porsche understandably wanted to position the big GT a suitable distance back from their evergreen icon, performance-wise.

Porsche 928 GTS Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The 928 GTS’s interior hold particular appeal. Perfectly complementing the space capsule exterior with its “command center” ambiance, the interior features the upswept-into-the-dash console I love so much and a lovely bank of instruments rendered in a pleasingly businesslike, no-frills theme.

Porsche 928 GTS Black

In spite of its lack of success—production numbers for the 4 model years the GTS was produced only amount to a tick over 2,900—I love the final 928 for its handling composure, timeless “rocket sled” appearance, and especially the fact that it demonstrates Porsche’s commitment to a concept. In contrast to, say, yesterday’s post about the short-lived-yet-excellent Pontiac G8, the 928, whose future was in doubt more than once in the face of a changing marketplace, remained with us for 18 long model years, constantly improving until the final evolution was nothing less than a consummate GT car. In an automotive world of one-and-dones, Porsche bucks the trend, meticulously researching a particular corner of the market before throwing all its (considerable) engineering and development know-how behind the eventual car.

On a side note, it’s this resolve that gives me hope that the automaker will refine the technically peerless but aesthetically hideous Panamera to the point where I can actually stand to look at it. But that’s a topic for another post. For now, among all Porsches—yes, even over the 993 Turbo—give me a 928 GTS.

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The Porsche 944 Turbo: Technical Tidbits

January 14, 2013 by Matt

Porsche 944 951 Turbo Bronze Silver

As an avowed sufferer from Automotive ADD, this is what I want today. Saw one trundle by yesterday—bronze with black Fuchs—while I was putting up beadboard for my in-laws and I was freshly reminded of how much I like them.

Besides its universally-acclaimed attributes like world-class handling, good looks and a startling turn of speed in Turbo guise (internal model code 951), the Porsche 944 has a few technical quirks that particularly endear it to a fan of unconventional engineering like myself.

Porsche 944 951 Turbo Differences Ad Advert

Click image to enlarge.

Take a look at the Porsche advertisement above. What seems like a fairly conventional layout (front-mounted, water-cooled engine) from an automaker known for beating their own path with the 911, upon closer inspection the 944 Turbo reveals some neat little engineering details:

  • Rear transaxle. Perhaps the most obvious difference between the 944 and a more mundanely-engineered sports car is the location of the transmission. A key element of the car’s perfect 50:50 weight distribution and stellar handling, an unfortunate side effect is the fact that the clutch and trans arrangement is more difficult to service for those of us used to a more conventional layout.
  • Rear suspension torsion bars. Another noteworthy feature of the 944 is the absence of coil springs at the rear of the car. Instead, Porsche equipped the car with torsion bars. Advantages include lower unsprung weight for better suspension geometry response, as well as a more compact installation, but aftermarket upgrades can be hard to come by.
  • Under-engine exhaust manifold. This, to me, is the most interesting 944 Turbo quirk. When I first saw a 944 4-cylinder on an engine stand, I remember thinking, “The turbo’s on the wrong side.” However, given the compactness of Porsche’s installation and the fact that the engine is strongly canted toward the passenger side of the bay, the engineers must’ve run out of room to install a turbo and its required plumbing, so they simply routed the exhaust manifold under the engine to the driver’s side and located the turbo there. It’s a fascinating bit of make-it-work development rivaling Audi and Saab’s occasionally Rube Goldberg-ish turbo solutions. The length of the exhaust manifold isn’t ideal for quick spooling of the turbine, but Porsche compensates for this through careful manifold design, allowing them to incorporate a:
  • Divorced manifold and post-cat wastegate exhaust return. Porsche was an early master of turbocharging technology, and their engineering decisions on the 944 Turbo show it. The wastegate location and intersection with the manifold and exhaust pipe are all crafted to allow the smoothest, highest possible energy flow into the turbo itself. Yes, there’s a bit of extra piping and complexity, but the arrangement pays dividends in performance and shows Porsche really knew what they were doing, in contrast to many of their less-experienced, downmarket contemporaries.

I love cars like this, ones that seem so common and run-of-the-mill externally but hold more than their share of mechanical uniqueness. In the 944 Turbo’s case, the external design was so successful that it spawned a number of imitators like the FC RX-7, and as such the styling blends in to the automotive landscape perhaps more than it should for something so attractive. The prevalence of its shape means one has to dig a bit deeper to find the design quirks, but they reward seekers with how well they reflect on their manufacturer’s performance expertise.

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Carrera GT: The Ferrari of Porsches

December 3, 2012 by Matt

Porsche Carrera GT Silver

Jeremy Clarkson called it “a supercar unplugged.” No AWD, no semiautomatic gearbox, no turbos—no roof, even.

3,000 lbs. A mid-mounted, 5.7l, dry-sump V10 producing 612 hp, propelling the car from 0-60 mph in a recorded time of 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of over 200 mph. A traditional 6-speed, single-clutch, three-pedal manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels alone. Taut, seductive bodywork. And…that’s about it.

List those attributes and it’s likely the first company that pops into a typical car enthusiast’s mind is Ferrari. The Italian automaker has created dozens of supercars over the years that fit that template, most notably in the 1980s with their legendary, elemental F40. Described as little more than a go-kart powered by a beastly twin-turbo, 471-hp V8, the F40 was fitted with only the barest amenities, but delivered a thrill ride like no other. It mesmerized the imagination of supercar purists, including Clarkson, who proclaimed it the one to have.

Porsche Carrera GT Silver

And that, of course, is the supreme irony of the 2004-2007 Porsche Carrera GT, the car actually featured in this post. The F40’s archrival during the supercar wars of the ’80s was the über-sophisticated Porsche 959, a 444-hp missile that combined breathtaking speed with civility and practicality, bandwidth made possible by the unprecedented amount of technology crammed under the 959’s sheetmetal. The F40 was the purist’s rocket sled; the 959 was the supercar for the techno-geeks, folks (like me) who derived as much enjoyment from poring over the car’s spec sheet as fantasizing about actually being behind the wheel.

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and while the performance philosophies of Ferrari and Porsche hadn’t been completely reversed, Ferrari had, by that point, embraced the potential of electronic aids like semiautomatic gearboxes and multiple driving modes to augment the driving experience. For its part, Porsche stayed the course and built on the foundation laid by the 959, continually refining their mastery of the driver-computer-car connection… But then, out popped the Carrera GT.

Porsche Carrera GT Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

It wasn’t a total ripoff of the F40 stripped-down supercar philosophy; after all, being a German car, it was polished to “basic” (read: still high) standards of tractability and utility, but compared to every other Porsche offering since the 959, the Carrera GT seemed utterly…analog. And yet—it exuded a grace, a presence, an almost un-German passion, and above all, it radiated a kind of supreme focus completely absent lesser supercars like the BMW Z8. The Carrera GT knew exactly what it was: A lightning-fast, beautifully styled, relatively basic thrill ride, full stop. Unlike its German peers, it didn’t seem obsessed with posting a record-beating Nürburgring lap time. It wasn’t “the supercar for all seasons.” It wasn’t even some kind technological testbed. No—it burst onto the supercar scene quite suddenly, and seemed for all the world like a spontaneous expression of carmaking joy on the part of the designers and engineers who developed it. Italian passion + German know-how = The ultimate, essential supercar?

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Needs A Good Home:
Joel’s 1973 Porsche 911T

September 3, 2012 by Matt

1973 Porsche 911 911T Classic Red

My experience behind the wheel of this beauty is, to date, my only time in a Porsche. As a long-time car guy, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit ashamed of that fact. But it doesn’t take anything away from the transcendence of the event.

Joel and I had been friends for a little over a year, and I was on the verge of a significant move. As a kind of going away present, he let me tool around for a little while at the helm of the car pictured in this post, his 1973 Porsche 911 911T, now for sale.

1973 Porsche 911T Classic Red

It was everything I thought it’d be and more. The steering’s communicative nature was evident even at low speed, and there was a pleasing mechanical directness to the gearchange and the bottom-hinged pedals. I loved the overabundance of gauges spanning the dash, and the 911’s racing pedigree was evident in every response; the classic air-cooled thrum from behind me eager for more gas, more speed.

1973 Porsche 911 911T Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

For those who don’t know, the “T” submodel of the 911 was the new entry level replacement for the outgoing, 4-cyl 912. Featured a slightly detuned, 140-hp variant of Porsche’s signature 2.4l flat-6, the 911T slotted in nicely below the contemporary 165-hp 911E and 190-hp 911S. The 911T’s lack of power compared to its brethren may initially seem like a turnoff, but the classic lines and handling and still present in spades, the engine still has six cylinders, and even the range-topping 911S isn’t going to win any stoplight drag races nowadays. Any Porsche is partially about the speed, sure, but the classics are more about the experience, and that the 911T delivers just as well as its stablemates.

I’d love to see it go to a good home. From Joel’s description, it’s in excellent, original condition (read: pre-restored), with only hints of surface rust in a couple of places. It deserves to be well looked after.

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Joel’s 1973 Porsche 911T