Published on December 31st, 2018 | by Subhash Nair0
What Porsche Does Best
I have to admit that the more special and expensive cars get, the more difficult they are to write about. This might sound strange to those who can’t stop talking about their dream cars. To me, there’s an element of subjectivity that’s difficult to put into words without it coming across like text on a brochure.
Today I thought I’d face my fears and talk in general about a brand that I genuinely fear writing about. I’ve driven a handful of their cars, but could never really muster the will to say anything about them. I tell myself there’s just too much customiseability for what I have to say to mean anything. Plus, those who have their mind set on one of these will probably buy one regardless of what I have to say.
Then it hit me. Why not discuss that aspect of the brand if that’s what I have to say about them.
As the title suggests, I’m talking about Porsche.
There are many, MANY performance car brands that I could talk about. Some have histories as long and as rich as Porsche. Others are brand new or just a few years old. Yet there really is something tangibly different about Porsche, isn’t there?
In a nutshell, I would say that the brand is extremely focused on staying ahead of the competition in all areas.
They were the first all-out performance brand to introduce an SUV. They pioneered and perfected the dual-clutch transmission. They even downsized and turbocharged their engines to an extreme. These aren’t ‘compromises’ in the eyes of Porsche. These are inevitabilities. If they don’t find a a way to get there first, they’ll be playing catch up later. More importantly, it keeps their sales volume up, which gives them the advantage of scale. Scale brings the prices of parts down, which makes it easier to own these vehicles. They’re certainly not cheap to run, but the parts are there if you’re passionate to keep the car alive. That must be the reason why 70% of all Porsches ever built are still running today.
Before experiencing some of the more ‘controversial’ modern Porsches, I used to consider myself a detractor. But after a short drive of each, I found my mind completely changed.
Take the Macan and Cayenne.
Two all-out performance SUVs that existed years before the competition knew what hit them.
In hindsight, it makes sense. There are plenty of millionaires who take care of their family members.
Not every millionaire has the garage space for a sportscar to use on the weekends.
All Porsche did was combine what was necessary to keep a family mobile with the performance and prestige expected at a certain price point.
Today Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maseratti and some say Ferrari all have SUVs either in development or for sale.
Porsche got there at least a generation early and now have the experience they need to perfect the product. And because they lead the industry instead of following, they’ve only strengthened the brand.
In a way, the Panamera is very similar. If you were someone important enough to be chauffeur-driven on the weekdays but had the weekends to carve up the back roads, there isn’t really anything better for the job. And just like the Porsche SUVs, I genuinely didn’t warm to the Panamera when I first saw it.
The first time I got behind the wheel of one was at a Porsche Driving Experience. I won first prize doing a slalom. I was (and still am) too inexperienced a driver to have won out of skill. The Panamera’s Active Suspension and Stability Management (PASM & PSM) was so adept it took all my hamfisted moves and translated it into what my brain thought was going to happen.
Then there’s the 718 Cayman. Yes, it’s disappointing that the 6-cylinder is gone. Truly disappointing. But there is a flipside to this. Think about what the Cayman really represents. If you want the full-on Porsche experience, you’d buy a 911. End of discussion. The Cayman is the gateway drug to that experience. It needs to be accessible.
Yes, maybe buying it new is out of the question for most of us, but with the road tax of a 2.5-litre or even 2-litre engine, think about just how tempting this might be in a few years time. It’s still one of the best sports coupes ever made. If it means losing 2 cylinders and a soundtrack to make ownership more realistic, then maybe Porsche are on to something.
I’m aware that these new Porsches aren’t a thing like the Porsches of old. I don’t think any successful car brand can make something new feel old and get away with it. Many of us romanticise the past but when we try and live in it we find all the reasons the world moved on. Unlike many other sports car brands out there, Porsche does one thing right: it fully embraces the path it has set itself on. There’s no self-doubt. There’s no half-hearted exercises. That kind of self-confidence is really what it takes to keep a brand strong in times of change.