Ass Engine, Narrow Body, Air Cooled, Rear Wheel Drive

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Rants
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Those four elements – that’s what makes a REAL Porsche, right?  I mean, ask any Porschephile and those are blatantly the elements that are required of the car – essentially, its got to have the same technology as a Volkswagen Beetle designed for Hitler himself (did you know that Ferdinand Porsche not only built the Beetle, but some insanely dominant cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SSK, along with a variety of German war machines, some used, some not).

So, if we carry along those lines with the die hard traditionalists, the first question you’ll have to ask them is “So then, any Porsche with fuel injection isn’t authentic, correct?”.  This should make their heads explode, because they’ll have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of accepting the fact that many of their beloved rear engine, narrow body, air cooled, rear wheel drive Porsches were in fact the recipients of mechanical and electronic fuel injection.  So, truly, is a fuel injected 911 a real Porsche, or just for poseurs?

(yes, that’s mine)

How about impact bumper cars.  These are actually my personal favorites, being that I grew up during the 1980s and nothing screamed performance to me like a Slantnose or something with a big fat whale tale.  I have in fact talked to many people who refuse to consider a 911 after 1974 (the year of the impact bumper) to be a real 911, or even a real Porsche.

Next up, lets challenge the idea of a narrow body car as a pure 911.  Is this like saying such wonderful (and dangerously insane) vehicles like the Porsche 930 aren’t real Porsches?  Big fat rear fenders and a laggy turbo that’s not going to come on until after 4000+ rpm, combined with  a suspension designed for cave men and the engine behind the rear axle?  What could possibly be NOT to love?

And speaking of suspensions – what about 964s and later – these cars eschewed the traditional Flintstone torsion beam and instead went to fully independent suspensions with coil springs all around.  Heaven forbid!  Power steering?  AWD (forthcoming AWD rant, as promised)?  BLASPHEMY!

And lets not forget the death of air cooling with the Porsche 996 – such things are unspeakable amongst the purest (despite the fact that power and efficiency were improved with water cooling, while emissions and noise were reduced).

But then we get to my FAVORITE part of the debate – “If it is not a 911, it is not a Porsche!” – oh really?

This is the argument that gets me the most riled up, because I will go on the record and say it now

The Porsche 911 is inferior.

That’s right, the Porsche 911 is in no way, shape, or form the best Porsche car made in the past, or made today.  Yes, I get the heritage – I just don’t really care about it.

Lets go step by step.

The Porsche 914?  Ok – I’ll give you that one.  I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put a Volkswagen weedwhacker motor into a mid-engine car and call it a Porsche.  But I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen these cars autocross and at DEs and they haul some major ass, despite their shortcomings.  Sure, they’re just waiting to rust and fall apart, but what is a Porsche?  What really defines the brand?  Is it simply rear engines and air cooling or is it sporting intent and overall performance?  If we look at it from that perspective, the 914 did perform well then and does perform well today, despite its shortcomings in the power department and its terribly cheap construction.

And how about the 912?  The purists should LOVE this car, rather than deride it.  Why, its like a throwback to the original 356 – instead of the flat-6 that Porschephiles seem to have a case of priapism for, this car has a flat four like the original 356 (but don’t you dare mention the Beetle) – meaning despite the fact that its down on power, it weighs less and should be viewed as a dilution of purity to the original formula – if you’re going to be a purist, be consistent and shower love on the 912.

(used to be mine)

Lets start to really terrorize the old folk by talking about the 924.  Yes, this car was a heap of shit with a terrible engine, but it did have perfect balance – something that can’t be said for the 911 (lift your foot off the gas completely, mid turn in a torsion beam 911, I dare you!).   Once Porsche finally got around to giving it a true Porsche engine (half of a 928 engine in the form of a slanted inline 4) the car truly delivered the performance commensurate with a REAL Porsche – I’ll go on the record and say it, the 944 drives better than any 911 I’ve ever been in – it is a delightful balance that transitions so gently and easily between understeer and oversteer that it truly flatters the driver, as well as informs the driver as to what’s going on – the linearity of it all is wonderful.  And how about the 951 (that’s a 944 turbo) – this thing outperformed the 911 of the day!

The 928 – where do I start with this wonderful beast?  The product of a modernization program within Porsche, all I need to say about this car is that the Porsche family did not drive 911s.  They drove these cars.  Gone was that primitive torsion beam suspension – in was a perfect 50/50 weight distribution with a big, powerful V8 and the Weissach Axle!  Again, this car outperformed and was far more comfortable than the 911 of its day.

Ferry Porsche with his 928

Which leaves us with the modern cars.  We have two types of modern cars to deal with – the mid-engine sports cars, and the wtf were they thinking family cars.

With regards to the mid-engine cars – my god – why haven’t all Porsches been designed this way?  What a dramatically superior drive – this is what a Porsche is all about.  I would argue that the mid-engine Porsche truly represents the essence of the brand – distilled purity of driving.  Its a shame they won’t give them the stones to demolish their rear engine bretheren – these cars are the recipients of crippleware in an attempt to deliberately make them inferior to the 911.  When the Cayman S first came out, it was, in fact, faster than the 911 in many circumstances – and this is with a neutered first and second gear plus a smaller displacement engine!

(also mine)

Now, I also have to admit – I’m a bit biased as I own a Boxster – but I’ve driven plenty of 911s, and I do own a 911 myself.  I simply have to say that the mid-engined cars are better cars – bar none.  If Porsche wants to continue to dominate, they need to make the switch.  Looks like they’re already thinking about it.

Lastly, we’ve got the bimbo box Cayenne and the Panamera.  What can I say – I haven’t driven either one.  The Cayenne supposedly is a beast of an off-roader, which, in my mind, at least complies with Porsche’s brand identity and mission – it excels at what it was meant to do.  There’s hope with this car too, apparently Porsche LOST 400 lbs off the car, which is refreshing these days as manufacturers continue to add more and more pork to their cars (I’m looking at YOU, BMW – rant forthcoming).

(my EYES!  The goggles, they do NOTHING!)

As for the Panamera – what can I say other than it makes babies cry when they see it.  My god, what an ugly, tasteless car.

But, the argument goes at least they make money with these cars (which outsell all other Porsches in America) so that they can keep making totally bonkers cars like the Boxster Spyder and GT2 RS.

And there we have it – I hope this generates some discussion as to what really is a Porsche.  As for me, I’m curious to see how they do under their new corporate overlords – Volkswagen.

  1. Yeah says:

    You da bomb marc!

  2. allen says:

    356 hardtop; that is all.

  3. MLM says:

    “I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put a Volkswagen weedwhacker motor into a mid-engine car and call it a Porsche”

    This made my day.

  4. Primeaardvark88 says:

    The Porche Tiger tank, which you almost touched on, was not put into mass production, but was possibly the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle to be made with a specifically military purpose. But hybrid technology had been made for quite some time at that point. Porche himself even drove a hybrid as early as 1901. What about hybrid technology at some point? Everyone likes that. And electric cars and hovercrafts.

  5. I feel fairly strongly that whatever Porsche you happen to be driving at the time is the best Porsche in the world. Let’s face it, we’re a lucky group that gets to play with these cars (not because they have to be crazy expensive or inaccessible) but because we get it. As true enthusiasts we own them and drive them for the fun of it. I have yet to drive a Porsche I haven’t enjoyed and would highly encourage you to get some seat time in a Panamera. You may not like the styling, but it performs better than many of today’s purpose built sport cars and outperforms just about anything of its competition.

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