Saturday, 19 November 2011

Two Ways To Make A Porsche

There is a right way and a wrong way to build a Porsche. Or is there? Maybe, with the Panamera and Cayenne selling just as well or better than the 911 and Boxster/Cayman, there are two ways to make a Porsche, or maybe it's proof that people will buy anything with a Porsche badge on it... except a new-age Need For Speed game, perhaps. They all suck and so does EA for claiming exclusivity on using Porsches...

Anyway, what we have here are two new cars based on existing Porsches. One is an official model, called the Panamera GTS. The other is a heavily modified version of a '73 911, called the dp Motorsports "dp11 RS 2011". Catchy. But which one is best?

Let's start with the official one. The Panamera GTS is a slightly fettled version of Porsche's first executive car designed to have a sporting edge. Based on the Panamera 4S (that's the 4-wheel-drive one with a non-turbo V8), the GTS has an extra 30bhp and 15 lb/ft of torque persuaded out of the naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8 (mostly to distance it from the S, I suspect), making 430bhp and 384lb/ft in total, and as a result it can do 0-60 in 4.3 seconds before topping out at a strangely precise 179mph. To remind yourself that you paid extra to get extra, it has a new 'Sound Symposer', developed for the new 911, which transmits intake noise through the A-pillar using an acoustic diaphragm between the throttle body and air filter, which amplifies the vibrations. Apparently it's like a drum head, and it essentially means that you get more noise when you accelerate, which is nice. You can turn it off if you're boring.

It also has Porsche's suspension upgrades such as Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, and the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK), which translates from German to Porsche Double-Clutch Transmission, also as standard. The adaptive air suspension is 10mm lower by default than the average Panameras, but as usual the ride height is adjustable, and the dampers are set to a harder setting to make it sportier. These upgrades are teamed with 20" RS Spyder wheels, and Sport Chrono Plus, which includes a stopwatch, performance information on the central screen when you want it, and sharper responses from every element of the drivetrain. The GTS also gets some bits from the higher Turbo, including the front bodywork, rear wheel spacers and larger brake discs, and adaptive pop-up rear spoiler. Inside, the GTS gets lots of sporty Alcantara, a choice of five interior colours and 18-way adjustable sport seats.

So the Porsche Panamera GTS is the same affair as many a German posh version. They've made the suspension firmer, ticked some options boxes for you and added one or two special features to make it seem unique, or at least like it's worth £7129 more than a Panamera 4S. It sits between said 4S and the fully-fledged Panamera Turbo, both in terms of spec and price. Doesn't it all seem a bit artificial though? Like they've done it to milk the proverbial cash cow and/or get early buyers to replace their old-hat Panameras for new ones, perhaps. Everything it has already existed, they just threw it all on a special edition. Of course, special editions like this happen at Toyota and Vauxhall, let alone Porsche and Audi, but all the same it's not how I would spice up a Porsche...

This, on the other hand, is more like it. Obviously the dp Motorsports RS 2011 can't eat up the miles with the same effortlessness as a Panamera, but it is truer to Porsche's heritage than the, er, Porsche...

Based on a 1973 Porsche 911 (the same year as the famous Carrera RS 2.7 but not actually using one of the highly sought-after hardcore editions), the dp RS 2011 features an updated and uprated version of the original flat-6 engine, beefed up and bored out to turn 2.7 litres to 3.6, with "50-mm PMO carburetor with open air filters", a wideboy bodykit including an RSR-style front bumper and their own take on the good old "Whale Tail" spoiler and a rollcage. Right off the bat then, this is a very different kind of Porsche. The engine produces 310PS, or 306bhp, which is a significant 124bhp less than the factory Panamera above. That said, I guarantee you this is faster around any given corner or track. While the Panamera GTS weighs 1920kg, the dp RS 2011 weighs 870kg. That's less than half as much weight for that power to carry around. The power-to-weight ratio for the dp is 352bhp/tonne, whereas the GTS's is 224bhp/tonne. That's the difference between a BMW 1 M Coupé and a Ferrari 599 GTB.

The reason this car weighs a good 210kg less than a normal '73 911 is because virtually everything is made of carbon fibre. The minimal dashboard, air-con cover, underfloor, every single body panel, the roof, maybe even the "lightweight light fixings", it's all carbon fibre. It also has plexiglass windows, quick-release pins instead of anything so wasteful and cumbersome as a handle for the bonnet and engine cover, wafer-thin bucket seats (you know what they're made of by now) and no interior sound-proofing whatsoever. Back seats? Don't be silly, that's where the rollcage goes. Well most of it, anyway. Finally, the dp RS 2011 has a bigger, 70-litre fuel tank, a 25-amp gel battery starter, a smaller washer fluid tank, a "light electric interior airing system", enhanced oil cooling and a brake cooling housing made of, yup, carbon fibre. Like the Panamera, the interior also featured alcantara trim. You won't find any leather in here, though...

So there they are, two enhanced Porsches. One is a 4-door land-based business jet, an All-Wheel-Drive comfort zone with a DCT and a cynically-conceived special edition. The other is an old-school-meets-new-tech retro racing car with number plates, packing the performance of a V12 Ferrari. Which one floats your boat? Electric privacy windows or plastic sliders set in fixed plexiglass? The engine breathing falsely through the A-pillars or barking unavoidably through every crevice of the car? Of course, in an ideal world, you would have both, one for 9-5 and one for beating 959s at Silverstone, but what if you could only buy one of them?

Hmmmmmm............... I'll take the dp 911.

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