New Porsches for the Meltdown

January 28th, 2009

Back in the Stone Age of foreign car imports to this country, we called it a “Porsh,” partly to Americanize a funny name. Today, the word “Porsche,” pronounced correctly by nearly everybody, typically ignites lust and longing in the heart of all lovers of Sportwagens.

For good reason: Over the years Porsche cars have been about 90% great. Even the 914 I once owned was a brilliant exercise in adaptive tech, and I loved it despite its flaws. The company’s marketing has also been extraordinary, making a niche car desirable and salable to a fairly broad audience.

A couple of Porsche’s new offerings seem to be turning a different page; others refine already successful models and practices. Let’s talk about a few. Click the photos for larger versions.

porsche-cayman-s-sportThe Cayman Clubsport will continue Porsche’s tradition of offering a lightweight version of a 911 for the track. Called the Cayman S Sport in England, it’s got the typical stripped-down Clubsport interior, lightweight body panels, lighter wheels and a few external body mods. Available in October in the UK for around $67K, when it will arrive in the U.S. is anybody’s guess. Demand, we think, will be high, even in these bad times. Tell us, where are you going to get a car with this kind of performance for this price?

With new fuel injection for a newly refined boxer engine (320 hp), a PDK seven-speed transmission and a host of refinements, the Cayman S Clubsport makes it possible to go to the track, win races and drive home in style—just like in the old days.

2010-porsche-boxster-sThe new U.S. Boxster starts at $46.6K for the base version, $56.7K for the S. Engines for both, like those in the Cayman, are 6-cylinder opposed (boxer) with improved fuel efficiency. Horsepower is 255 vs. 310 for the S; the suspension reportedly is improved, and you get the PDK tranny.

There is some restyling, and we like the new look. In typical Porsche fashion, these changes are incremental, while the mechanicals have evolved to keep pace with technology. A Launch Control—hold the brake, rev the engine, and take off for better acceleration—and Brake Assistant (extra power for emergency stops) are S-package options. You won’t need these to enjoy a rousing ride.

A lot of people complained about the Cayenne when it first arrived, and a lot of people are complaining about the Panamera, Porsche’s first attempt at a four-door sedan. The car debuts in Shanghai, April 19 and, we are told, will be available in South Africa sometime in 2010. Why not here? Too ugly.

panamera

Well, they said the same thing about the Cayenne, and it sold well, at least before the crash. Rich Chinese, if there are still any left, will presumably buy. They’ll get, you can be sure, a very well-engineered car, V6 or V8 powered, 300-500 bhp, and all the goodies, including Porsche Dynamic Traction Control, Traction Management (i.e., limited slip), all-wheel drive, and other options. The full boat.

maserati-quattroporteI don’t know, there’s something about the car’s appearance that just seems Teutonically . . . wrong. If you want to know how a bona fide high-end four-door sedan should look, check out the new Maserati Quattroporte, supposedly going on sale here this spring. Read the press release here.

But Porsche ain’t done yet. Their real tour de force, I think, is the 911 GT3 RSR, an update of the successful GT2 series, with a lot of aerodynamic improvements, new brake system, and larger 4.0-liter motor with a better torque curve (but less hp). The cockpit features a new multifunction display, which indicates shift points, and other racing niceties.

porsche911rsr2009rearporsche911rsr2009cockpit

Pricewise, this is one serious Porsche. In racing form it costs around €380,00 – that’s about US$500K at today’s exchange rates. Just think, you could have bought a GT2 RSR for only $200K last year. That’s what this stinking meltdown has done to us.

You just won the lottery. Which of these cars would you buy and why?

—jgoods

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