January 25, 2014

Horse 1601 - I Have Now (In Theory) Driven Every Porsche 911 Ever

...according to Jeremy Clarkson.

It's kind of known by some of our more regular clients that I quite like reading about motor cars; I also quite like driving them too. Of course if someone wanted to pay me enough money to drive them and write about them as a full time job, I'd jump at the chance but as Kid President reminds us "Don’t stop believing, unless your dream is stupid… then get a better dream and keep going, keep going, keep going…"
In that spirit and knowing that I'm only doing this for the fame and ovation of the people forever, this is what I have to say about the Porsche 911.

I don't understand it.

The 911 Carrera Convertible that I drove at Friday lunchtime was one of our client's and he sat in the passenger's seat whilst we went forth and back. I suppose that to the outside world, it either looked like that I was driving daddy's car or perhaps that I as a high-flying executive was taking daddy for a drive.

The first thing I noticed apart from the slightly overly squishy seats, is how low you sit in the car. This common problem that I'm finding with a lot of modern cars is that the window line is rather high. Now I'm probably 6 feet tall; so it isn't as much of an issue but if I was 5'4" or something, I'd imagine that I'd have felt claustrophobic.
Also, this particular example being a convertible, wasn't exactly helped by the convertible top being packed in where the rear parcel shelf would have been.

The second thing which was obvious was just how strange the engine note is. With a V8 you get a nice kind of rumble which sort of says that the car wants to run and run hard. With a V12, there's an exotic symphony which Franz Liszt or Edvard Grieg would be proud of. With the flat-6 engine in the back of the Porsche, it's a confused cacophony which is part Subaru and part Sunbeam Mixmaster.
The engine spins up as though it were like a child's mechanical spinning top before letting go in a mad rush that hits you square in the butt; though in all honesty that is what a sports car is supposed to do. I've driven other cars (hey Mercedes-Benz, I'm looking at you) and when you put your foot down, it's like it goes through the computer which then has a committee meeting about it before deciding. Not the Porsche, it acts like a willing servant.

Gear changes in this thing are a dream. The throws in the box are effortless and I swear that you could probably flick the lever through with just one finger if you wanted to. It was also kind of fun to watch the rev counter and the speedo run around as though they were in some strange ballet piece; though listening to the noises out the back, such a ballet piece would have all the subtlety of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna".
You know that you're in control of a machine in a Porsche. It's just not an organic experience at all. I imagine that to properly drive a Ferrari would be like becoming one with the car and I know that driving a big Mercedes is like being the captain of a ship.
Driving a Porsche is all so severe, very adroit, pellucid in execution, so... Teutonic.

This is the part I just don't get though. We drove down Strathhallen Avenue and across what I suppose is called the Northbridge and although the Porsche felt really solid, it didn't communicate a sense of nimbleness to me. This car is all about being powerful and stable but you equally get a sense of that from a Ford Falcon. The point being that because I'd only ever seen a Porsche from the outside, the packaging gave me a sense that I should be expecting something like a pair Nike Mercurials. Instead it was like getting a pair of Doc Martens - something completely adequate and even a bit stylish but not exactly what you'd want to go dancing in.
I suppose in a roundabout way, the way the Porsche felt to drive exactly encapsulated the mentality of German efficiency. To put this in perspective, in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, Porsche have won 16 times and Audi 12 (only missing out on 2003 this century), yet if you want proper passion, Ferrari is the marque. If you want insanity and crazy-go-nuts-bonkerousness, Lamborghini is the way to go, and if you like breaking down on the side of the motorway, get something British.

I'm sure that this 911 and indeed every 911 would make an excellent track day car; especially if you wanted to punch out quick lap times. All things being equal though, if you had a Porsche and a Ferrari which gave you identical lap times, I'd take the Ferrari because I'm pretty sure that the soundtrack would be better and there'd be a greater chance of it breaking down on you. Now that sounds slightly ridiculous on the face of it but I'd rather have a car with feisty sort of character than one with solid stoicism.
The Porsche just does everything you ask of it very very well and I suppose I understand that sort of reasoning but it isn't for me. People ask that sort of motoring from a Toyota Corolla and I wouldn't have one of those either.

I don't know if Clarkson's claim that all Porsches are the same is valid or not and it might be for purposes of writing hyperbole but it wouldn't surprise me if they all feel the same. It makes sense if people expect that, to keep on producing something that evokes that same sort of spirit.
If nothing else, I can tick that off my list of marques that I've driven now but if it's all the same, I'll continue to be content with my little Peugeot 206. It doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of power as the Porsche 911 but it has something in buckets that the Porsche doesn't have - Fun.

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