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June 9, 2009 - Autos

Robert Eckaus
Porsches don't show well - a 911 Twin Turbo review

But they sure do drive well. Interestingly, a Porsche is like a Harley. No two are exactly alike but I'll get to that later. First in the looks department, it ends up being the back marker. The car is amazing by any standard but let me explain my position.

By itself, a Porsche is a beautiful car. But they are very "buttoned up" and tidy. Like a beauty contestant in a one-piece bathing suit next to the bikinis, i.e. Ferraris and Lamborghinis. What was once a traffic accident-causing distraction is now forgotten. Hence the bane of Porsches at car shows like the Concorso Italiano. The Ferraris and Lamborghinis really show it all off. Exposed mechanicals, see-through engine covers, flashy wheels, bright colors. It's like spring break on the golf course! I'm sure other analogies have already come to mind. Do Porsche owners really care? Probably not. They take pride in the number of podium finishes for decades at racetracks around the world.

But most of us realize that fantasy isn't always reality. And one is usually the better choice to live with on a daily basis. Probably another reason why Porsches are so popular. Then again, when you can have more than one "model", why not? Monogamy with a model (car) isn't necessary and quite frankly, unrealistic. I'll stop before I offend some readers...

And the Harley part? What makes Porsche so unique is the variety of customization from an appearance standpoint. Right from the factory, too. Harley Davidson publishes a catalog of customization parts for their bikes every year. Virtually everything can be changed by the owner with parts from the factory. The world's most profitable car maker allows it all to be done before the car is delivered. This means the potential for no two to be alike. I'll list the ways this particular example had an option list that took it to an MSRP of $160,000.

The list of options in this example is extensive. Leather covered: seatbacks, console, sun visors and center upper console, dashboard, doors and steering wheel. Additional options include the silver stitching is color matched to the seat belts. Porsche crest on the headrest and an alcantara head liner. The white dials and lighted door sills add to the interior appeal. The optional Sport Chrono Turbo package is a gem of a lap timer, fitted in the center of the dashboard and activated by one of the steering wheel stalks for starting and stopping the timer. It also means the torque rating jumps from 460ft lbs from a low 1,950rpm to 5,000 rpm to 505ft lbs from 2,100 to 4,000 rpm. An outstanding increase from any perspective.

Surprisingly the storage space in this small car in the glove box and doors is impressive along with the deep rear seats. The rear seats fold down flat, protecting the leather surface from the cargo. In case your milk leaks, right? Porsche even engineers small folding flaps in the roof for mounting ski or bicycle racks. Have you ever mounted a rack on a roof or trunk? It isn't fun. I once creased the metal in the oddest way underneath the padding mounting a bicycle rack on a trunk. Luckily it wasn't a Porsche!

Moving downward, opening the hood in the rear since the engine is located there, you notice the integrated drip trays for the fluids. Very thoughtful. The extraordinary optional Ceramic Composite Brakes with yellow calipers fill out the 19" wheels with the Porsche center crests and painted-to-match spoke edges looks both purposeful and elegant. These brakes were developed originally for racing due to their lack of fade when hot, longevity and lighter weight. Some squeal is evident depending upon circumstances but it sounded more like an electronic beep rather than a grating, annoying and cheap sound.

This low riding machine has a front spoiler or air dam that used to cost $1,200 to replace in '01 or so but now is just $200. A bargain in light of the inevitable scrapes that occur. Many cars need a repaint over time, this solution is far better. Some other features and options include mirrors that turn downward when backing up, a smaller, thicker steering wheel and no front license plate or model designation on the exterior. Yes, not having a front plate is against the law. A silly law, too.

There is a fire extinguisher mounted under the driver's seat and I'll digress here. Imagine going off road at the track into grass that is a little tall. Or parking attendants directing cars onto a field where the overflow parking is for an event. That fire extinguisher can sure come in handy when the grass touches hot parts. We've all seen far too much debris on the road, haven't we?

Alright already! What is it like to drive? A dream. A little harsh over bumps, especially in the "Sport" mode that tightens the shock absorbers. Known as Porsche Active Suspension Management. The Sport mode also adjusts engine responsiveness with fuel and spark manipulation. You can hear a subtle difference when idling.

With 480 horsepower on tap and the torque coming on low, downshifting really isn't necessary on the highway. If you do downshift, it pulls, hard. You're exceeding the speed limit and the car actually seems to enjoy it. Its hard to describe with a Porsche, but when you drive one, the faster you go, the more it seems in it's element. Oddly, it has a 5 speed automatic but when there are virtually no "dead spots" or lack of power in the low rpm range, more gears or "speeds" are not really needed. But it would make the car even quicker! Downshifts are so well controlled and immediate, despite the automatic, you think race car not passenger car.

When you explore the cornering and braking limits of a car like this versus the world of daily driving boredom, the mind initially can't comprehend how it isn't flying off the road in plume of smoke and protesting tires. It's as if the laws of physics are manipulated slightly when in reality, it is a matter of your senses adjusting to the higher g-forces. Not unlike riding a roller-coaster.

At full-throttle while hitting a dip in the pavement, the rebound of the suspension or "jounce" which unloaded the weight on the front wheels made the steering wheel momentarily very loose and wiggly. The rear-engine weight bias is a major contributor to this as well. It immediately reminded me of my Harley feeling loose at a full-throttle shift into second with a heavy rear-weight bias. Go figure, another Porsche-Harley comparison! I couldn't make this up if I tried.

This compact and wondrous 3572lb car made the 4200lb sedan I returned in with a similar horsepower level feel slow, ponderous and loosey-goosey. Any other mention or comparison is simply ridiculous. Riding in the Porsche as a passenger is a treat, driving it was true grin-inducing pleasure. It may not draw a crowd, but that isn't what it's all about, is it?

Further information and technical specifications can be found at the Porsche site:

More at cartruthblog.blogspot.com

Keywords: Porsche, 997, Turbo, lamborghini, ferrari, alcantara, ceramic, brake, harley, davidson, 911
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