Do I Want a Porsche 911, Part 1: Driving the Porsche Carrera

Hello friends and thanks for stopping in.  Before we dive into this article and since you’re here and we know each other, I’ll tell you why it’s been so long since I’ve written.  There was a while when I thought CAFFEINE GT was better off not being CAFFEINE GT.  I kept the site up and instead decided to name it CGT Arthouse because I wanted to offer more amazing designs than just car related stuff.  What I found out is that people still wanted CAFFEINE GT and yet, they also liked the new CGT Arthouse offering. So I did what anyone would do.  I kept both.  And I’m happy to be catering to both groups of awesome design fans!
Back to cars.

Those that know me, know I’ve always had a thing for the Porsche 911.  Specifically the old aircooled ones.  But while I do have the means to purchase one, I really can’t afford to own a car that only does 2,000 miles a year with spare parts as rare as a 90 degree day in Seattle (ok 95 degree, correcting for global warming). Many years ago, I test drove a 996, but it just didn’t seem right.  I wanted the quintessential Porsche 911 look.  I wanted the round headlights.  Not the scrambled egg design the 996's had.  So I patiently waited for the 997s or better to depreciate into a price I was willing to pay and in the meantime, I’ve had a couple of sports cars.  The 996 I drove handled amazingly, had great visibility and telepathic steering feel.  Simply think it, and it is done.  To be fair though, I test drove it when my daily driver was a B5 A4. While great for daily sprints, its steering ethos when pushed to the limit was ask it very politely... and it will consider it.  So it got me thinking.  Was the 911 as good as I’d remembered, or was it good compared to, well, a doughy luxury sedan.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the B5 platform and currently own a B5 S4.  I revel in its soft suspension and vintage turbo lag.  But having had a BMW z4M and a tastefully modified 370z (yes, I’m writing about a Z car and a 911 in the same article... fight me), and I’m wondering what it would take to make me want to change my current beloved car configuration.  More specifically, do I want a Porsche 911?
For this very scientific experiment, I decided to test a base model, 2015 Porsche 911. I thought to myself, what a better comparison between my 370z, than a car that had roughly the same horsepower (350bhp for the Porsche and probably 350bhp for my Nissan after my mods).  Would the sheer Porscheness of this Porsche make me want to trade in my ride? Let’s talk about what I learned during my test drive. Firstly, I’ve heard and read that the 370z interior materials and technology are crap and so woefully outdated.  “Hogwash”, I would yell at my beloved Z car’s detractors, it’s perfectly fine.  And to me, it was. To be fair though, I traded a BMW z4M for the 370Z.  Not only was the Z4M, a car made in 2006, but it had an interior that was a welcoming as a week of high school detention... with a very mean teacher... with a wooden paddle.  When I got into the 370z, it actually had a navigation screen, and a volume knob.  I was amazed and felt like I was piloting a rocket ship. I will say, I felt a bit like a fool when I sat in the Porsche. The leather felt like it had been acquired from cows that spa’d in the finest mountain waters of Germany and were lotion’d in avocado oil and honey every night before bed.  All jokes aside, the seats held you in all of the right places and every knob, dial and button was perfectly weighted. The headliner looked as soft as a cloud and it had one of my personal favorites... a sunroof that was well integrated, solid looking and big.  I commented earlier that the steering was well weighted and direct in the 996 and this car was no different. The seating position was not cumbersome at all.  When I sat down, the only thing I had to adjust was the mirrors.  Then again, I might be giving the ole Porsche too much credit.  6 feet tall is a pretty common height, so there’s a good chance, the last guy to drive the car was my size. Forward visibility and wheel location were second only to an open wheeled race car thanks Porsche’s decades old swooped down nose and fenders that end in a bubble due to the rounded headlights.  Brake response was linear and powerful and ended with a very satisfying suction cup feeling at the end of each stop.  Even the useless back seats (compared to the 370z which have none) were welcomed, but then again, without a trunk, you must have somewhere to put the groceries. Finally was the engine noise.  It hit the right tones and rasp, but my gosh, I wish there was more of it. Even in sport mode, I had to floor it to get even a hint of the sweet baritone sound from the 911’s 3.4 liter flat 6.  If you’re looking for a snarl during downshifts, forget about it. It was still library quiet.  Speaking of the engine, I must say, when I put the pedal to the proverbial metal, something happened that I wasn't ready for. And that something was disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the engine felt balanced and confident, but somehow anemic for a car of such grand stature. It was possibly the automatic transmission that was responsible for what felt like sluggishness, though I'd heard great things about Porsche's PDK system. It was possibly the the fact that Porsche's rear engined format had been such a fabled, glorified part of my view of the automotive world, that I just assumed magic would happen and I'd feel some surge of acceleration that was some how different and better than the 370z.  In the end, the laws of physics are alive and well and two cars that have virtually identical power to weight ratios, will have a similar acceleration feel especially when you're not exceeding available traction.  350hp isn't a huge amount, so I figured it'd take a few more ponies before engine layout makes a huge difference.
Getting back into the 370z, I knew I had a lot to think about.  Thing one.  I noticed right away as I looked around the interior of the Nissan after the Porsche, I felt like I was driving an Atari. Limited pixel counts were everywhere, analog gauges were alive and well, faux suede wrapped the center of the seats and when driving, you could tell there was next  to zero sound deadening.  Somehow, surprisingly... I think I liked it better. I bought the 370z to be a sports car, not a luxurious grand tourer.  My Audi is the super quick, plush luxurious leather couch I drive when I go to yoga early in the mornings and just want a comfortable, quiet place to be.  The 370z couldn't be more different. It's what I drive when I want to blast 80's punk music and treat my tires poorly.  Speaking of tires, it’s actually time for a new set of rears.
In the end,  while the Porsche 911 Carrera is a better quality car than the 370z in nearly every way, it simply doesn't have the visceral stimulation of the 370z and offers very similar acceleration... for more than two times the price.  The Porsche isn’t punk rock, neither is it a soft leather couch. It’s somewhere in between.
So here's the next question.  Would it work for me to simply buy a higher end Porsche and modify the exhaust? Well yes and no. A 2017 Carrera S would set me back about $80k and that's before the joys of sales tax and fees.  I'm guessing light mods would cost another $5k. So all in, we're talking $90k with expensive repairs.  I’m sure I could find a deal with a higher mileage or  or older car, so let’s say $70k for fun. That kind of price still puts me in the range of literally a plethora of cars, OR a treasure trove of mods and build options for my Audi and 370z assuming I could even find that much spend on them. So in this series of blogs, I'm going to explore the different automotive choices I have in this range and try to test drive them.  It will take a while because some of the cars I want to drive aren't available at dealerships just yet, but I'll tell you what I need to drive before I can make a decision about wanting a Porsche 911 or not. C8 Corvette, 400z, New Bronco, a newer Mustang of some sort, Porsche Carrera S and maybe an Aston or a Jaguar F-type.  Finally, I'll list out the mods that I would do to my existing cars if I decided to keep them and that will help me figure out if I really want a Porsche 911, or something else entirely.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.  We'll talk soon.


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