Monthly Archives: January 2013

More About Porsche

The point of spine compression should the tarmac be anything less than glass smooth. I could take Sport in small doses only – staying in that mode for too long proved tiresome.

What is far from tiresome is the cabin, specifically its high level of comfort for those occupying the front seats. (Yes, there are back seats, but they are of little use except as another place to stash the groceries.) The dominant material in the interior is black Alcantara, found in the centre sections of the sports seats, steering wheel rim, gear and hand-brake levers, door handles and door storage compartments. It feels almost ticklish to the touch at first, but it’s a unique alternative to leather.

Equally unique is the centre console, the same Carrara white colour as the tester’s exterior, as well as the bright red seatbelts, the same shade as the piston calipers hiding behind the stunning black-spoke rims.

What isn’t so cool is the way Porsche jams it to its dedicated fan base, and I’m not just talking about the price discrepancy between Canada and the United States. Come on, $600 for heated front seats on a car with a $117,600 sticker? Ridiculous! How about $2,410 for the navigation system? Shameful.

That beef aside, the GTS is otherwise one sweet ride – a driver’s car that is docile when need be, ferocious when unleashed and eminently controllable. It’s a modern muscle car from the other side of the pond and a tonic for those of us with long, fond memories of performance past.

THE SPECS

TYPE OF VEHICLE: Rear-wheel-drive sports coupe

ENGINE: 3.8L DOHC boxer six-cylinder

POWER: 408 hp 7,300 rpm, 310 lb-ft of torque 4,200 rpm

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual

BRAKES: Four-wheel disc with ABS

TIRES: P235/35ZR19 front, P305/30ZR19 rear

 

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Porsche GTS

What does a trip down memory lane have to do with the 911 Carrera GTS? It comes from Stuttgart, not Detroit, and it sure isn’t V8-powered, true. But that big-displacement (for a Porsche) 3.8-litre boxer-six, unfettered by a turbocharger a la 911 Turbo, pounds out a very Detroit-like 408 horsepower which is sent to the massive rear wheels. And since the engine is sitting over that same grippy rubber, hookup is instantaneous. With the optional Sport Chrono Package and Sport mode engaged, the 1,420-kilogram GTS will blister to 100 kilometers an hour in less than 4.5 seconds.

While nobody will mistake the banshee wail of the boxer engine in flight with the basso profundo of a seven-litre V8, the electrical charge it sends to your nerve endings is just as visceral.

The thing about the GTS is not just the fact it is one of the most potent non-turbo production 911s, but that it also satisfies the requirements I have come to appreciate with that aforementioned maturity. Yes, I cursed like a sailor when I had to fill up – 93 octane or better is required – but the 13.3 litres per 100 kilometres I averaged for the week wasn’t horrid for something with the GTS’s performance bona fides. Much of the enjoyment comes from interacting with the six-speed manual tranny. Yes, Porsche’s PDK double-clutch manumatic gearbox is as slick as they come – and will actually hasten the GTS to 100 km/h in less time than with the manual – but there is just something proper about doing it yourself. While the sports car is perfectly compliant when puttering about town, there is some notchiness when sliding the stubby shifter gate to gate. It’s when you get a little more authoritarian with the Porsche that the action becomes fluid as the engine/transmission duo finds its sweet spot. The musicality of the boxer engine sitting behind you rises with the revs; a quick dab of the clutch and a perfectly slotted shift provide the requisite push back in the deeply bolstered, Alcantara-swathed sport bucket seat.

Marry this powertrain with the GTS’s wider track – two millimeters at the front, 32 mm at the rear over a regular 911 – fat rubber and optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system and the car will slice corners with the keenness of a carving knife.

Before you fork over the $1,090 for PASM, though, consider the roads on which you normally drive. The GTS is already stiffly sprung; switching to the Sport mode ramps up the stiffness.

 

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Preview: 2012 Porsche Cayman R

PALMA DE MAJORCA, Spain – With the new Cayman R, available in Canada as a 2012 model, Porsche has borrowed just about every page from its Boxster Spyder playbook to create the lightest and fastest Cayman ever. The power-to-weight ratio is the end-all of automotive performance, so making the car lighter while giving it more power will significantly improve its dynamics. This is precisely what the engineers at Porsche have done with the Cayman R, which is 55 kilograms lighter than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. The numbers might not read like much, but, believe me, this new car raises the bar significantly in terms of performance. Here at the RennArena race track, the Cayman R proved to be totally at ease, thanks to its perfectly weighted and exceptionally communicative steering. With the optional ceramic brakes, the braking action was stellar, with immediate response and very good pedal feel, while the standard locking rear differential made for quicker corner exits. The Cayman R is available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, which delighted thanks to the very precise, short-shift lever throws. But Porsche’s latest track-day weapon can also be had with the seven-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox, which now features proper steering wheel paddles that are set up exactly like those on its competitors – upshifts selected via the right paddle and downshifts via the left. Porsche has finally seen the light and ditched the previous arrangement consisting of awkward and counter-intuitive steering wheel buttons.

Acceleration times are quicker with the PDK gearbox, but the Cayman R is more satisfying to drive with the manual transmission.

Aside from a few laps of the race track, most of my time with the Cayman R was spent driving on the extremely slippery, wet roads of Palma, which compared with snowy or even icy roads in Canada. Under these conditions, the car’s electronic aids proved to be very useful, especially given the fact that it comes standard with a locking rear differential and high-performance tires.

The electronic stability control was very busy on the drive up mountainside switchbacks – not only when power was applied but also during the turn-in phase to help overcome the prevalent understeer. Applying power at mid-corner, with the locking rear differential sending power to both rear wheels, had the electronic stability control working to effectively control acceleration.

Under these treacherous conditions, the challenge was to drive just fast enough to remain below the threshold where the electronic stability control kicks in. This was easier said than done, given the peculiar pavement I was driving on, but I was secure in the knowledge that the electronics were constantly on the alert should the need arise.

With its standard fixed rear wing and more pronounced front spoiler, the Cayman R certainly looks the part and can easily be differentiated from a run-of-the-mill Cayman or Cayman S.

Inside, the extreme weight-saving measures mean the car does not have regular door handles but red cloth pullers. It’s also devoid of an air conditioning system (which can be added as a $2,010 option) or even a radio (a basic unit can be added as a no-cost option). The standard one-piece sport bucket seats are very form-fitting and can be adjusted fore and aft. Wide adjustable seats are available from options list.

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Volvo C-70

The C70 Coupe and Convertible look almost too good to be Volvos. Indeed, the Volvo badging is the only thing with a straight line on these cars.

Two new variations are added for a total of four models this year. The HPT models are highly “motorvated” by a 236-horsepower 2.3-litre high-pressure turbo-charged in-line “five”. LPT models do almost as well with the 190-hp 2.4-litre low-pressure turbo motor. In either case, the engines drive the front wheels. For 1999, a new 4-speed electronic adaptive automatic transmission adjusts to the driver’s individual driving patterns. The selectable winter mode is still included. Volvo’s Stability and Traction Control (STC) is available. Increased security is provided by larger Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) airbags and the addition of a Whiplash Protection System.

 

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Porsche Boxster

The entry-level Porsche is proof positive that automotive exhilaration is possible without explosive acceleration.

The Boxster is decently quick (0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds), but no more than that. The real joy in driving this mid-engined 2-seater comes from its way of doing things rather than what it does: the blood-curdling wail of the exhaust note at 5,000-plus rpm; the near-perfect blend of steering feel and effort; the way you can explore its handling limits without fear that it will turn around and bite you.  Used low km Toyota Nissan . Essentially unchanged for ’99, the Boxster is propelled by a 201-hp, 2.5-litre Boxer six mounted behind the (two) seats. A 5-speed Tiptronic automatic, which permits sequential manual shifting, is optional to the standard 5-speed stick. The soft-top is power operated, an aluminum hardtop is optional.

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