NOT reviewed: Porsche 911 | Beyond the KM

This entry was posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

NOT reviewed: Porsche 911

Porsche 991

Porsche 991

I had hoped to be delivering a much overdue review of the new 2013 Porsche. Unfortunately, when I went into Porsche of North Scottsdale, the salesperson was far more interested in making a sale and dealing with other customers than he was handing me the keys for a test drive. Nice of him to make me feel like a teenager.

Anyway, I did have the opportunity to have a detailed look in and out of the vehicle, so I am going to deliver my initial thoughts here. My first thought is “wow!” for Porsche we have seen some significant changes. I say, “for Porsche” because the company is known for it is conservative styling changes. That design language has now made its biggest change in some time, perhaps since the 993 was introduced.

As an example, the exterior design now features rather oddly shaped front turn-signal indicators/daytime running lights. The front headlights seem more bulbous and really are the most frog-like of any 911. When the roof is open in the new 991, the panel slides outward, rather than inward. Porsche claims two benefits of this: 1) to increase headroom – very important in this very low-profile car, and 2) it decreases the drag coefficient from .31 to .30. What this means to non-engineers like myself is that the car is slightly more aerodynamic, and presumably more fuel-efficient and faster. Engineers can argue amongst themselves to which degree this matters.

Along those lines, Porsche designed to make a somewhat subtle change to the backend. No, they did not add large diffusers, as Ferrari has been known to do. Instead, they gave the rear of the car some lip. I am not sure what the purpose of this lip is. The 991 still has a retractable spoiler going up at 75 and back down at 50 miles per hour. Nearly every idiot who has commented on Porsche sports cars makes light of the fact that this will help the police with their inquiries, but I have yet to meet an officer of the law who gave out a speeding ticket based on whether the car had a spoiler, or not. I was really horrified by this new rear lip when I first saw it, but I am slowly warming to it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that I am a little concerned that the 911, the world’s most revered sports car model, is continually getting larger in size. For Americans who are used to seeing SUVs larger than my bedroom on the roads, this is of little consequence, but for true sports car enthusiasts, you have to admit the new 911 is far larger than the original, and even the outgoing 997 generation.

But for me, the more interesting changes have happened inside the car. The most obvious change is the center console, which distinctly divides the front two passengers. It is a lot easier to reach all of the buttons, and I think the interface is easy to understand. Oddly, there is not really a place for your iPhone or iPod. The salesperson I spoke with claimed that the only place to put an iPhone was in the glove box (why do we still use this term?), which surely is the last place most drivers want their phone. On that note, the system apparently does not read directly address book data directly from the phone, as the number of entries is apparently limited to 99. A very peculiar limitation in this day in age.

As for the accouterments, the steering wheel as it is standard fitted, has not changed much, and that is bad. The new optional steering wheel with paddle shifters is far more modern and should have been made standard on the 991, since so much of the car looks updated. Strangely, that steering wheel does not contain any controls at all, e.g. the cruise control – which is still in an odd position detached from the wheel, and the audio controls. I am not sure why no one at Porsche has thought of these updates since the rest of the industry certainly has. Ferrari, sorry to use them again as a counterexample, has taken the opposite tact and now has just about every control on the wheel in a sort of Formula One-like display of technological advancement. I think Ferrari has gone a bit overboard, but I am also sure their entire technical staff would disagree.

Perhaps the most annoying carryover from the 997 is the options list. Going through it, I feel like Porsche is nickel and diming me repeatedly. For example, why does metallic paint cost an extra $710? For a car, which has just seen a giant leap of MSRP from approximately $77,000 to $83,050, I am not sure I can comprehend the extra charge. On that note, the options list has now three different leather trim levels. It took the Porsche salesman about 5 minutes to explain them all. For an $83,000 car, the whole thing needs to be swathed in leather, not just the front seat covers. Anything less than full leather at this price point seems incredibly cheap for a company that once tried to take over the much larger VW Group. Incidentally, it was recently announced that Porsche has now been totally absorbed into the fold at the VW Group, so we shall see if VW ownership has negative impact on the iconic sports cars.

As a final gripe, I wish the company would bring back the Macadamia brown metallic color. From a visual perspective, there is no doubt that the 991 is more refined. It does look richer, especially if you option to spend the six-figures required to purchase a well-optioned model. I haven’t seen a base model in the flesh, so I can’t comment on how necessary some of these options are, but again, for me this is Porsche nickel and diming us. Not that the people who have the money to buy such an expensive vehicle care about spending a few extra bucks to get a decent set of options…

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