Porsche: Baby SUV ‘Macan’ On The Way

February 16, 2012

Porsche has been receiving some (deserved?) flak this week, what with their ludicrous statement from 911 project chief, August Achleitner, that the next GT3 could very-well receive a PDK-only gearbox, arguing that “No one complained when we made the Turbo PDK-only”… Really Mr. Achleitner…? Well, if we’re resorting to that level of grade-school justification then it’s safe to say that no one complained when the last two hardcore, driver’s-choice GT3 models (996 and 997) came with three pedals and a proper gear-stick with cogs… 100% approval from customers I’d say- they bought a GT3 for that very reason.

Was known as the 'Cajun', now officially named the Macan

So before I ruffle myself up into a tiz again, let’s move on… The promised Porsche baby-SUV has been confirmed and its name is Macan – translates to ‘tiger’ in Indonesian and is apparently a safe bet for worldwide translations (important when naming a new car). It goes without saying that its main rivals will be the Audi Q5 and the sleek ‘n sexy Range Rover Evoque, what with its compact dimensions (ie: no space inside, yet jacked-up to look like it has space) and ‘sporty’ coupe-like roofline. And, as is the Porsche way, its face and rump looks as though it has been designed by the same lazy designer of every new Porsche over the last 12 years – just imagine a smaller Cayenne… there you go, job done.

It goes without saying that this new Macan is a direct result of Porsche’s long-term expansion plans, with an eye dead-set on China where Panamera and Cayenne sales outnumber sportscars sales by a substantial margin. The numbers tell all – Porsche sold 118,967 vehicles last year, 59,897 of those were Cayennes. One-quarter of Porsche’s total production last year landed on China’s shores…

The old saying (belief ?) goes that Porsche only builds these Cayennes, Panameras and Macans solely as cash-cows to help fund development of their ‘true passion’: sportscars like the Boxster, Cayman and 911 derivatives (and to some extent, the forthcoming halo 918 supercar). But with the current fleet at an even ‘3 on 3’ now and with sales gravitating heavily towards the success of the big ‘n chunky sort in developing markets like China, it will be interesting to see what direction Porsche takes with the brand’s sporting origins amidst the oncoming horizon.

-Blake J.

Porsche: Next-Gen 911 GT3 Could Be PDK-Only…?

February 14, 2012

I’ve just read an article originating from Insideline that tells of the threat (yes, it’s ridiculous enough news to warrant it as such) according to Porsche 911 project chief, August Achleitner, that the next-gen Porsche 911 GT3 – remember now, the hardcore purists choice of 911 – could very well come with a PDK-only transmission…

According to Achleitner, both manual and PDK transmissions are being ‘evaluated’ for consideration in the next GT3 (and here’s where I roll my eyes) but apparently only one transmission will be chosen in the end for the hardcore GT3 and he reckons the boring-as-mud, poseur PDK will get the nod. Achleitner continues to blither on with false numbers and ridiculous statements, one of which being that ‘only’ 30% of 911 sales are manual stick-shift so therefore PDK is a no-brainer… huh..? That’s just poor business sense if you ask me.

The new 991-gen 911 - oh, how I squint further at thee...

The embarrassment continues when Achleitner says “When we launched the 911 Turbo S, we did not offer a manual, but we have not had a single complaint”. Sure you didn’t Achleitner… But then again, of course he’d say that as Porsche charges (and makes) a load of extra cash on each 911 that is ordered with the PDK. By that token then, I’d think I’d be safe in reminding Porsche that 100% of previous-gen 997 GT3 sales were manual transmission…? Despite what Porsche may think, not every 911 owner spends their time bragging about 0-60 times and impressing their friends with launch-control.

Seeing as how the next-gen GT2 and GT3 will also be fitted with the new (and highly-controversial) electromechanical power steering set-up that has already come under heavy criticism for its lack of ‘feel’ and reportedly synthetic feedback qualities, it seems an unnecessarily brash move against Porsche driving-purists (and proper drivers, in general) to come out swinging with this silly threat of ‘you can have this, or nothing at all’ type of statement.

Could there not be anything more 'wrong' in the sportscar realm than a Porsche 911 without a manual option...?

I call BS on the whole story – this is just Porsche, once again, ruffling-up the feathers of the automotive world and heaving mass attention in their direction for the sake of headlines and discussion…. Does Porsche really, I mean really, think that GT3 buyers will be happy as lambs with electromechanical power steering and PDK-only…? C’mon…

Porsche has been developing (and offering) a new 7-speed manual transmission for the new 991-based 911 already so I don’t exactly buy into Achleitner’s claims that this ‘populist’ PDK-only option/threat has any weight behind it at all.

The GT3 RS 4.0 - the last proper 911 aimed at driving purists/enthusiasts...?

And my friends actually wonder why the new plethora of sportscars continue to fail in exciting me anymore… So thank you, to all the flappy-paddle posers… you have now successfully contributed to the ruination of, what used to be, one of the greatest driver’s cars ever.

-Blake J.

Spotted: McLaren MP4-12C ‘HS’ Version – Video

January 17, 2012

A cosmetically tweaked new version of the McLaren MP4-12C has been spotted at a Miami, Florida dealer sporting an ‘HS’ or ‘High Sport’ moniker on its rear bumper. Having been created by McLaren’s long-standing Special Vehicles Operations division (responsible for such past madness as the Mercedes-McLaren SLR 722 and various ‘special’ McLaren F1s from the ’90s), this HS is one of just 5 examples that were special-ordered by a commercial partner of McLaren. Four of them are slated to be sold by the Miami dealer seen in the video below.

As is the norm for a company like McLaren with its roots firmly planted (and dominating) in the F1 arena, constant evolution is the name of the game. McLaren are no strangers to instilling drastic changes to their cars within an amazingly short amount of time as that is exactly how they build their cars to begin with – purposely designed from the offset to invite gradual alterations, endless tweaks and upgrades on-the-fly throughout the lifespan of their creations.

Last year, I attended the Luxury & Supercar Concours held in our fair city and I was treated to an exclusive one-on-one with the still-developing MP4-12C. Most of the exterior tweaks, upgrades and such were on display with their newest showcar and you could easily sense that McLaren has been trying to instigate more ’emotion’ and ‘aggression’ after its rather bland/lacklustre beginnings when the MP4-12C was initially launched to the public. Visit our own High-res MP4-12C wallpaper gallery of this one-off showcar here.

A spider version (with folding hardtop roof) of the MP4-12C is slated for later on in 2012, but it goes without saying that everyone is really waiting for the road-going variant of the current GT3 racer to emerge…

-Blake J. 

Spied: The Next-Gen Porsche 911 GT3

December 8, 2011

With the all-new 991-series Porsche 911 barely breaking cover after a recent launch, it seems almost premature to be even thinking about the next hardcore GT3 variant. Yet, the photos published in German magazine Auto Motor and Sport clearly show a new 911 with the GT3 signature big-wing, twin central exhausts and slightly more-aggressive bumpers.

As you’d imagine, any further details would be by mere guess-work at this point in time but count on the next-gen GT3 achieving a nominal gain in power and (hopefully) a further decrease in weight. Industry-talk has also confirmed that the latest electric power steering unit found in the new Carrera will find its way into the next GT3 – that move will undoubtedly cause some controversy amongst the Porsche driving-purists…

The outstanding GT3 RS 4.0 - ending the 997-series 911 with an exquisite, metallic bang

If the incredible last-hurrah GT3 RS 4.0 (pictured) has proven anything, it is that Porsche engineers still know how to chisel-away and fine-tune their most-iconic of sporstcars. No wonder the GT3 cars feel and drive as if they’re hewn from a solid chunk of granite…

See the spy-shots of the next GT3 on the Auto Motor and Sport website here.

The next-gen GT3 will arive in 2013. Can’t wait..!

-Blake J.

Pic of the Day: Porsche 911 GT3

November 10, 2011

The next-generation 991-series Porsche 911 is set to hit the showrooms in the Springtime of next year and by now most of you (aficianado or not) will have surely gleaned over the raft of changes and updates that will encompass the next 911 model.

Most noteworthy is the lengthened wheelbase over the outgoing 997-series and the rather controversial (and worrisome) addition of an electric pump to assist with the steering – an aspect of the 911 that has always been its trademark for driver interaction unlike any other car on sale today. Let’s just hope this new tech and additional creature comforts hasn’t further sanitised a key element of the 911s appeal…

Until those first drives and detailed reports come flooding in, let us take a moment to remind that there will undoubtedly be Turbo, GT2 (perhaps) and GT3/RS versions coming down the Porsche pipeline over the forthcoming year or two – the 911s we actually care about.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven extensive miles and cared-for a 997-series GT3 in identical spec/colour to the one below and without pause, I can firmly deliver that it was one of the most incredible sportscars I’ve ever driven.

It was also one of those cars that (still) shows you something new to learn and/or discover about its handling character and idiosyncratic foibles each time you got behind the wheel – I like that, a lot. The drivetrain itself was seemingly carved and engineered from a single solid slab of granite with an engine that sang a song of metallic urge and howling might… Yes, this car has soul and buckets of precisional beauty. Quite looking forward to the next-gen GT3….

-Blake J.

The Porsche 911: Which One Is The Ultimate…?

October 31, 2011

If you were given the task of choosing just one Porsche 911 to own and enjoy for the rest of your motoring days, which one would you choose..?

That’s a fairly heavy question, I’ll admit, seeing as how the 911 range spreads across a broad stretch of time drawing in on nearly 50 years. But by simply aiming at the core values of why we love 911’s (handling, lightness, feedback, steering, various precisional attributes, that Flat-6 engine of unparalled awesomeness, etc…) and thereby focusing on those specific models that accentuated these well-honed and beloved 911 characteristics, the whittled-down choices tend to become a bit more clear…

997-series GT3

Starting with the most recent of 911s  and moving backwards in time, I’d easily nominate the 997-series GT3 (’06-’09)…and to some extent, its 996 predecessor. Some would point to the more hardcore RS derivative of the 997 GT3 but despite the hike in power and slightly sharper steering, I’m not sure I’d want (or need) the flashy RS paint schemes (bright orange or green with black accents, only), roll cage and generally bone-crackingly stiff ride to navigate on a daily basis.

The ‘regular’ GT3 has always been more than enough sportscar for your driving needs anyways. Subtle, classy, comfortable and it handles like nothing you’ve ever driven before. Plus, that phenomenal, naturally-aspirated Metzger Flat-6 howls (and shoves) with a deep, metallic tinge that urges you to press farther and further into the car’s plethora of impressive capabilities. Even better with an Akrapovic exhaust fitted (video above). A truly sublime 911.

993-series GT2

Next up, I’d like to nominate the plastic-fender-flared, massively be-winged 993-series GT2 (’95). The last of the Air-Cooled 911s, this homologation special (built to meet motorsport requirements) featured a 3.6L twin-turbo variation of the bullet-proof flat-6 churning out 430 bhp and nearly 400 lbs/ft of torque (upped to 450/430 in the ’98 model).

What makes this particular 911 so dangerously appealing is the fact that it retains a rear-wheel drive layout. The (safe) 4WD layout of the regular Turbo was ditched for the lairy GT2 and as a result, it was dubbed the ‘widowmaker’ within 911/motoring circles for very real and applicable reasons… That much power and torque all driven through the rear wheels within the relatively short wheelbase 911 chassis… Brilliantly insane.

964-series RS

Jump backwards a few years to ’92 and you’d find me drooling all over any 964-series RS model. Basically what we had was a stripped-out, lightweight, lower and more powerful (260 bhp) 911 that was based on Porsche’s Carrera Cup racecar. You had manual windows and seats, no air-conditioning nor rear seats, no stereo or sound damping materials… or power-steering – truly raw.

What you did get was a 911 that was obviously inspired by the legendary 2.7 RS of the early-70’s and updated with sports seats, limited-slip diff, lightened flywheel and other suspension-related goodies that turned the 964 RS into one of the most beguiling road cars Porsche ever produced.

The 959 Supercar

When the technological tour-de-force AWD 959 came about in 1986 (originally built for Group B Rally and homolgated as such) it broke loads of performance records, among them being the world’s fastest production car (that was, until a certain be-winged Italian blew onto the scene one year later). To this very day, the 959 is hailed as genesis for the advancements in the evolution of the 911 and its subsequent supercars.

It came with a twin-turbo 2.9L version of the flat-6 and bragged a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds along with a top speed of 197 mph. And while I’m not usually one to be attracted to cars that are jam-packed with all of the latest high-tech gadgetry and wizardry, this particular ‘ultimate’ version of the 911 from the impressive minds working in Stuttgart of the era has always been at the forefront of my performance-minded curiosity… despite its dodgy looks.

When new, each car cost approx 150K GBP to purchase, yet Porsche themselves state that each car cost the company upwards of 300K GBP to produce… when you factor in all of the long-term developmental costs and expensive tech, etc… Still though, it remains a dream to one day have-a-go.

Carrera RS 2.7 – 1972

While there are various 911 models throughout the 80’s that whet the ‘ultimate 911’ appetite of this exercise (The mighty Turbo of the 80’s comes to mind), there can be no doubt that the iconic and now-legendary Carrera RS 2.7 of 1972 set a milestone within 911 circles that subsequent models often struggled to match the sheer brilliance and breadth of its intimate idiosyncrasies. Porsche themselves must have thought that they had reached a peak with the 2.7 RS of ’72.

Weighing-in at a paltry 1075 kg, the RS (which stands for RennSport) was no ordinary 911. It was an incredible blend of lightweight manageability, the best steering of any road car available and imbued with a willing sharpness that would often find you hunting out the best driving roads just to feel the pleasure of the forces that build-up within that sublime chassis.

It was strong, reliable, agile, compact, practical (4 seats) and powerful enough (0-60 in 5.8 sec) without being over-bearing. Quite an impressive blend, not to mention that it was also derived from a competitive background. Sleek, sexy, simple and adorned with that complimentary ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler to accentuate its motorsport heritage (and assistance in planting those rear tires into the tarmac), the 2.7 Carrera RS of ’72 forever remains a tantalising favourite of the 911 range.

>>>>>>….Yet, what if you crave something a bit different… perhaps something more personal. Something that ticks all of the essential 911 boxes but marries the past, with the present…? Well, there are companies out there that take that logic and, well, build upon it… for you, specifically.

There’s the American company, Singer, who’s “work involves taking a customer’s existing 911 and performing both restorative work and cutting-edge modifications to update the car’s performance, aesthetics and modern day useability in an attempt to optimize its strengths while preserving the essence and magic os the original” Oh-so tempting…

Then there’s also AutoFarm in the UK who will perform roughly the same set of ideals upon your old-school 911 without compromising or altering the classic looks.

Or, you could just go ahead like Mr. Harris did, and spend a good chunk of your earnings on creating your own ‘ultimate 911’ with the help of various specialists that will assist in building your own bespoke, dream 911…

If it were my wish..? Hmm… I think I’d be sorely tempted to recreate the wonderful, yet terrifically limited (only 55) 2.7 RSR of the early-70’s within the shell of a 964-based RS… which would look something akin to this….

-Blake J.

BMW Z4 vs BMW Z4 GT3

August 23, 2011

The BMW Z4 Design Pure Balance doesn’t only mean that you have drive with style but its also a sporty car as well. Check it out for yourself!

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