Minggu, 08 Juni 2008



Top Gear Porsche 911

By Sajeev Mehta

When you realize the Walther P22 in your hand is no match for your opponent’s Colt Python .357 Magnum… that's a bad thing. By the same token, one look at the sick power of a force-fed AMG cruise missile or a glance at the latest big-cube ‘Vette can ruin the fashion-conscious Porschephile’s entire day– no matter what they say about pedigree, finesse and handling. Yes, today's horsepower wars hit zer dicht to Zuffenhausen's 300-ish horsepower heartland. Luckily, Porsche lovers have a secret weapon: the RUF Auto Centre.

The internationally-known Porsche tuning-haus offers an extensive selection of 911 eye candy. Case in point: our tester’s front and rear valances. The RUF-exclusive bodywork is deeper and more forward thinking than stock, giving the 911 an altogether keener stance– and virtually guaranteeing some expensive scuff repair. RUF’s five-spokes are mercifully, purposefully flat and, mission critically, a half inch wider at both ends. Back in bling world, the RUF appearance package adds a bi-plane spoiler sporting both painted and exposed carbon-fiber wings. Like, awesome.
RUF’s retina-scorching red runner may attract more attention than a stock Carrera, or Adriana Lima, but metrosexual Teutonic purists rejoice: our tester’s interior upgrades were limited to a new RUF-embossed airbag cover and heat-soak friendly aluminum shift knob. Of course, the RUF's meat and potatoes lie under that spoiler. It’s all about the Bauhaus blower: die Kompressor uber alles.

American consumers buy into the experience via RUF’s modish Dallas digs. There, in search of Biblical power, donor engines are rent asunder; RUF moves the legendary flat-six’s compression ratio into boost-country via thicker head gaskets. Unlike other tuners, RUF developed their Kompressor package from scratch, carefully mating Porsche’s Germanic precision to the raw grunt of a boost-fed American dragster. While only a fully trained and licensed 911 mechanic understands the mechanical purity of RUF’s engineering, there’s not a driver alive who won’t appreciate the 100 extra ponies crammed under the RUF.

One of the first and most amazing things you notice about RUF's mechanical conversion is the complete lack of supercharger whine. At full chat, the RUF-tuned exhaust transforms the stocker’s John Phillip Souza cadence into a Battle of the Bands throw-down. And yet, aside from an occasional "whoosh,” you’d never know a bolt-on supercharger lurks atop the legendary boxer flat six. That is, until the clutch introduces the Kompressor to Mother Earth.One of the real joys of RUF's conversion– or any properly installed supercharger– is the way the pressurized pleasure works in perfect harmony with the vehicle's existing torque curve and gear ratios. A stock 911 is plenty quick. A 911 with a RUF Kompressor is plenty quick times two. Once the RUF car's engine enters Variocamland, available thrust errs on the towering side of immense– to the point where it’s a straight fight between firing synapses and forward momentum. This bad boy keeps all but the turbo twelve-pot AMG drivers out of sight, out of mind.

Pavement snuffling spoiler aside, OEM is the name of the game around town. The 911's famous light effort clutch, accurate shifter and precise steering mean the RUF is still the gold standard in street legal sports cars. The 19" RUF-specific hoops and lowered suspension (invisible unless a stock 911 is available for comparison) offers more grip and less body roll with an insignificant increase in impact harshness. That's all good, ‘cause the RUF Kompressor was born to hustle the chicanes.

The RUF Kompressor takes the 911's game to the next level. Whereas a stock two-wheel drive 911 requires a practiced hand to prevent nose bobbling from becoming speed-scrubbing understeer, the RUF-mobile feels a lot more Cayman-esque: balanced, planted and willing to pivot on its axis. And that means you can approach corners faster, stay on the power longer and hit the go-go juice sooner. No question: this is the Porker to take (and win) at a Porsche club-sponsored driving event.

On the street, the RUF 911 Kompressor cuts corners like a bad builder. The modified Carrera handled everything I dished out with ease– regardless of pavement quality, speed or turn radius– its stellar torque curve constantly taunting me to get on it and get on with it. Mid-corner launches with a Kompressor underfoot transform a quick exit into a joy ride on a catapult, without even tickling the PSM.

RUF’s Kompressor package adds more wholesome 911-goodness to a standard Carrera: speed, more speed and, um, a bit more speed. At the same time, the install doesn’t snag the everyday supercar’s cape, leaving all but a fraction of its legendary loping abilities. In fact, the Kompressor gives naturally-aspirated Porsche patrons a reason to sing “stand by your Carrera” instead of the obligatory nutting-up for a 911 Turbo. Factor the flawless installation, punchy powerband, unique style and a two-year warranty, and the only thing left to ponder is why Porsche doesn’t build ‘em like RUF.


By Robert Farago

Greed is good, but gluttony is better. Greed means you have an insatiable desire for more. Gluttony means you're busy catering to your insatiability. Although many observers still consider the Porsche 911 a Gordon Gecko greedmobile, it's actually a glutton. For curves. No matter what kind of corner you throw at it– from a highway sweeper to a twisting country lane to a freshly laid race track– the C4 wants, needs, must have more. Reverse camber, broken surface, bad weather– it doesn't matter. As soon as it's exited one corner, the C4 is ready for the next. And the next. No question: the way this thing handles is a sin.

The C4 is the next-up next-gen 911: a wide-hipped iteration of the new Carrera's Coke-bottle-as-suppository design theme. As such, it's also a minimalist vision of the forthcoming be-winged and bi-gilled Turbo. Although the C4 offers Porsche-spotters a few cosmetic tweaks to the basic model's retro-modern mix, it is, at its core, another Armani-clad psycho-killer. Considering the C4's inherent potential for luring its pilot into legal entanglements, the stealth wealth aesthetic is probably a blessing in disguise.

The C4's interior remains unchanged from the last time Porsche changed it. Now that The Sultans of Stuttgart furnish their 911 interiors to match their $70k-and-up price tag, we can stop bitching about the quality of the cabin materials– and start bitching about the ICE and HVAC interface. Although the C4 has all the gizmology you'd expect for one so dear– sat knavery, XM radiology, integrated cellularity– its Chicklet-sized buttons make its functions a hit-and-miss affair. (Even the daintiest digits suddenly seem elephantine.) Given the C4's glove-weather capabilities and the dashboard's limited real estate, a central touch screen would have been the logical solution.

Nothing needs doing in the sound and fury department. Crank the C4's starter and the Porker's 3.6-liter engine tells the world that motorized mayhem is manifest. The C4's flat six's sonic signature is hard to pin down– and even harder to forget. It combines the nuclear-powered bass notes of Mr. Incredible's cartoon car, the mechanical whirlwind of a Florida Everglades fan boat and the resurrected rasp of Porsches gone by. It's about time paddles appeared on either side of the blissfully button-free steering wheel, but at least the C4's clutch action is perfectly judged. The six-speed snicks home with all the tactile satisfaction of a swooshed b-ball. Right. Time to smoke 'em since we got 'em…

The C4's surge into VarioCam Land is so smooth it's easy to mistake the rev limiter's stuttering for aberrant ABS. It all happens so fast. Sure, the weight of the all-wheel-drive gubbins makes the C4 a tad slower than the identically engined C2. As both mean machines sprint to sixty in near-as-dammit five seconds, arguing about the difference is like debating the relative merits of Dom Perginon and Cristal. More to the point, the C4's ability to transfer up to 40% of its horsepower to the front wheels makes it the quicker of the two cars in anything other than a straight line.

When contemplating the C4's ability to violate the laws of time and space, the main thing to keep in mind is, of all things, safety. The C4's stability-controlled four-wheel-drive system and its stupendous stopping power give adrenalin-crazed amateurs the freedom to make mistakes at truly monumental speeds. This is the sports car that maintains its death grip on the tarmac when rear wheelers have twirled off into the scenery; that lets you know when you're about to make a mistake; that tells you when you've just made a mistake; that gives you a chance to rectify your mistake; that shrugs its computerized shoulders and sorts it all out for you, so you can try again.

If you really want to get picky, yes, the C4 has a bit more understeer at the limit than the C2. On the other hand, the C4's slightly heavier helm makes it easier to position than the rear-wheeler. Again, these are differences without a distinction. Both Carreras are finely-honed surgical instruments fully capable of dissecting your favorite road and leaving it for dead in less time than it takes to deploy its [much-appreciated] cup-holders. That said, only one of these cars significantly increases your chances of avoiding the same fate as the roadway, should over-exuberance and inexperience conspire to kill you dead.

The biggest problem presented by C4 ownership is… greed. Once you've driven the C4 boldly where you've only tip-toed before, you will feel a deep, irresistible urge for more horsepower. And then it's straight to… envy. The first time you see the Carrera 4S or, God forbid, the new Turbo, you will experience an ugly mix of desire and hatred. As anyone who owns a Carrera will know, buying the new C4 makes you a glutton for punishment.


By Matthew Neundorf

Since 1859, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has challenged religious fundamentalism. Forget Adam and Eve. Humans started as random spices in a primordial soup. Natural selection took us from soup to trees, trees to cars. And then Ferdinand Porsche created a mutant Volkswagen. Since its inception, the 911 has been evolution’s four-wheeled poster child, moving quickly from an oversteer monster to a supersonic pussycat. And then, on the seventh day, Stuttgart created the latest Turbo, a car so capable that driving it is a biblical revelation.

Walking up to my loaded lender, I realized that the more things stay the same, the more they change. The Turbo still wanders the line between “normal” and “steroidal” with delicious subtlety, advertising its alpha status with the kind of nonchalance one associates with closeted superheroes– and TV serial killers.

If natural selection dictates aero-friendly styling, artificial selection demands the return of the bug eyes. And there they are. Meanwhile, the Turbo moves the styling needle towards the temper of the times: Bauhaus bling. Clock the split-level induction ducts in the rear quarters and the new, “Audi-inspired” LED’s in the snout.

Nineteen inch two-tone rims (revealing epic brake discs) and a subdued spoiler indicate function, while Bette Davis’ eyes and Bettie Page’s hips project the iconic form. The Turbo’s wheels are by far the most “distinctive” yet offered as stock. To my eyes the fifteen-spoke Ferrari-esque pentagrams are the only miscue in an otherwise perfectly judged stealth wealth gestalt.

Open the Turbo’s door and the six figure price tag is well represented. Illuminated door sills greet, leather aromas intoxicate. The Turbo’s build quality and material choices offer haptic harridans Teutonic titillation. All the buttons and switchgear click with infinite precision, nestled within their intuitive homes. The Turbo’s low-slung sport seats hug your hide while the side bolsters holster your spare tire. Digital ICE rends Floyd asunder through thirteen channels. While Dr. B’s boom box isn’t as orchestral as Lexus’ Levinson unit, Turbo owners won’t care until at least their third oil change.

Twist the Ned Flanders-friendly ignition and life breathes into the miraculous mill through twin-intercooled turbines. (THAT’S what you paid to hear.) The horizon takes on a bi-xenon hue as you slot first. Loop your thumbs over the spokes at nine and three, mash the gas and the world begins to look like the Matrix. The seats give a little before they don’t; keeping you locked and loaded.

The last Turbo I sampled was of the calf-master floor-mount clutch variety. It provided an ideal setup for three pedal track tangos, but felt like three left feet when negotiating a city grid. The new Stiletto-savvy pedal positioning and lighter clutch uptake make pothole-piloting and Honda parking a piece of piss. Yes, well, even a gentle tickle on the go-pedal provides an unequivocal indication that this car is built to be driven hard and put away wet.

As enthusiasts of a certain age will tell you, waiting for big blowers to spool up sucks. I’m pleased to report that Porsche’s professors nixed the problem in the low-rpm bud by blending Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) and VarioCam Plus. VTG modifies the planes directing exhaust gases to the turbine so that low rev launches are fully spooled. Those planes then change as the big tach needle in front of you flickers by, keeping optimum boost primed. VarioCam Plus keeps the twist on tap through two different cam profiles; city schlepping and Bahn burning.

The new Turbo Porker’s 3.6-liter flat six stables 480 apocalyptic horses. When dispatched, over 500 pounds of twist try to eat Mother Earth. In manual trim, rest to sixty arrives almost before it arrives: 3.7 seconds. Endure cries of wuss, and the Tiptronic S gets there .3 seconds earlier. To keep all that power from going up in ZR-rated Holy Smoke, an all new electronic controlled multidisc AWD system ensures forward motion.

There are very few cars that mind meld with the driver as quickly and easily as the new 911 Turbo. Look, point, accelerate. Wipe stupid grin from face and repeat. I’m told there’s a bit of understeer out there, somewhere. Didn’t see it. In fact, this car is so easy to drive at such stupendous speeds that within minutes I was thinking Matthew “Schumacher” had a nice ring to it. When your ego gets the better of you (and it will) Porsche Stability Management (PSM) steps in to save your bacon.

The new 911 Turbo is the fastest, friendliest and safest evolution yet– at least until the Turbo S arrives. Why in the world anyone would want to make this car any faster is beyond me. But then this is the company that has done more than any other to ensure that well-heeled speed freaks can procreate. That is, if their Porker’s ever parked long enough for them to bother.


By Jonny Lieberman

Last year, TTAC named the Boxster S Car of the Year. I found the award ludicrous. A decade old, under-endowed Porsche-lite trumping the best and the brightest from the US, Italy, Britain, Japan and the rest of Deutschland? It's like arguing that the "S" in "SUV" stands for "sport." With the possible exception of my misplaced belief in the longevity of love with a certain young, deceitful woman, I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Last week a "regular" Boxster painted in "take my license, please" red showed up at my house. I have lost my ability to not smile.

Clocking the new Boxster is like checking out the teenage daughter of your old high school crush. Everything that attracted you to the roadster is still there, only fresher, perkier and more… streamlined. From most angles, the Boxster resembles Ye Olde 996 Turbo, chopped and dropped. From the rear though, and especially with the beefier haunches, the Boxster still appears as if someone is bent over and spreading 'em. If you think this is a coincidence, you haven't watched enough German porn.

Anyone dissing the Boxster as a "chick's car" mistakes form for function. From the controls' perfect positioning to the gauges' layout and legibility, to the thick carpets—everything lets you know you are in a gentlemen's lounge. Sure the buttons are tiny, but 80% of them are for the radio. The wheel, stick and pedals might as well have been designed by you, for you. The lone misstep: Porsche's handling nanny button sits below the passenger heat-seat switch. (NB: do not try to reheat your passenger in a tight right-hander.) Returning to the cockpit is like slipping on your favorite pajama bottoms.

Yes, yes; never mind all that. Once you get the 2.7-liter motor screaming, the seats might as well be made of nails, snakes and glass. Special, endless props go to Porsche's acoustic boffins for getting the soundtrack exactly right. Take the rpms above 4,000 and the Battle of Midway is being waged behind your head. Screw that; the bombing of Dresden. I have never heard such monumental, merciless violence.

The Boxster feels great going straight, stopping, turning left, right and just sitting still. To put it bluntly, the Boxster's a blowjob with wheels. Sure, it's a bit of a power-bottom, totally content to submit to whatever punishment you decide to mete out. No matter what the torture, the Boxster is up for it. Into a turn at full speed? Love it! Mad, second gear acceleration attack out of the apex? More please. Your automotive perversion simply doesn't matter; this ride goes both ways.

Since I'm being a complete pig, the red Boxster produces more cargasms per mile than any other whip in existence. It is so stupidly simple to rotate the rear tires past the plant of the fronts that even a hack driver like me can do it, and do it again. While stomping on the laws of physics during a pistonhead-perfect two-lane canyon romp, my passenger shouted above the cacophony of the exhaust, 'How does it do that?' Dunno. I mean, I'm sure there is a logical, engineering-type explanation for the new Boxster's handling improvements– modified suspension geometry, recalibrated springs, shocks and anti-roll bars– but I chalk it up to magic. The Boxster has the ability to twist the world in front of you; all you need do is tug at some leather.

The only problem with Porsche's Boxster is that other cars exist. I never realized the Boxster was gutless until some vapid, bleached-blond skank in a BMW 650ci beat me in a drag. I had her till 70, but then the Porsche ran out of legs. Point is, I never would have guessed. I suppose the S model solves that deficiency, though you could just give up stoplight shenanigans and pocket the 10 large. Furthermore, no matter how awesome your power slide, no matter how heroic your heal and toe, there always seems to be a mid-80s Dodge Caravan going ten miles under the limit as you round the corner. But that's simply not Porsche's fault.

As the years roll by, one racks up a lot of lovers. Many are duds. Some are fantastically fantastic. But there is always that one: the ugly little secret you cherish in your heart, the truth that you can't stand, hidden from your current partner at all costs. Yes, you convince yourself, I am happy. But then, from across a parking lot, out of the corner of your eye, there she is. I will be testing a lot of extreme metal on your behalf, dear reader, but I have a hard time convincing myself that I will ever get over the new Porsche Boxster. Car of the Year? And then some.


By Robert Farago

The English say it's horses for courses. The French say it's horses for main courses. And the German say it's horsepower uber alles Schätze. Well, everyone except Porsche. Since ’96, Stuttgart’s parsimonious power brokers have restricted their entry level Boxster’s engine so as not to steal big brother Carrera’s thunder. Porsche’s policy stands in direct contradiction to Mercedes and BMW, who happily pump-up the volume on vehicles that need more speed like an obese caffeine addict needs a bottle of Black Beauties. That’s just mean; the Boxster deserves proper motorvation. And now, finally, it’s got it.

Don’t ask me why Porsche suddenly decided to upgrade the Boxster S’ 3.2-liter powerplant with the Cayman S’s 3.4-liter 295hp short stroke flat six. Other than its sexy fastback and slightly stiffer chassis, the Cayman’s extra 15 horses and 15 ft.-lbs. of twist provided the primary justification for stumping-up the $6k differential between the ragtop roadster and its hard-topped twin. Now, why bother? Yes, the Boxster S’ roof generates wind roar at speed. Yes, its body flexes more in the corners (not that you’d notice in any absolute sense). But once you’ve joined the Boxster S club, you won’t spend a femtosecond wishing you’d bought the more expensive whippet snapper.

You will, however, wish you had more road. Unless you’ve got regular access to 50 miles of lightly trafficed, gently policed winding mountain tarmac, you’ll run out of corners long before you run out of desire to wind out the Boxster S’ silky sonorous six. Although there was nothing wrong with the way the “old” 987 carved-up the twisties, the incrementally more powerful Boxster S turns the speed-crazed sublime into the violently ridiculous. Porsche’s roadster is, finally, quick enough to scare you. Until it doesn’t. Which is even scarier. Until it isn’t.

The new model owes much of its aggressive nature to the Cayman’s borrowed gearbox. The shorter first and second gear ratios all but eliminate the Boxster S’ pre-Variocam lag, giving the German roadster Tyson-esque punch a moment after git-go. Second gear is especially useful; in the “instantaneous and abundant thrust” sense of the word. Third gear is relentless; in the ”you’ll be sleeping in that cell over there with Bubba” sense of the word. Equally important, you can now buy your S with 19” wheels. Unless you order Porsche’s pricey Active Stability Management, the resulting ride is as stiff as a triple Stoli straight up. And twice as intoxicating.

In dry conditions, the Boxster’s mid-engine balance, masterful suspension and fat rubber make it virtually impossible to break the rear end loose— leaving you free to explore cornering limits enjoyed by drivers of stratospherically-priced cars prepared by Maranello’s satanic mechanics. If and when you over-cook it, Porsche Active Stability Management steps in and saves your bacon. Switch off the handling Nanny and overwhelming rear grip is still less likely than securing a Manhattan cab in a 3am snowstorm. Drift kings need not apply, but the new Boxster S [still] isn’t about tire smoking machismo. It’s about tripping the light fantastic.

In fact, the Boxster S’ competition better hope that the old saw about a car only being as good as its brakes is wrong. As improbable as it sounds, the new S’ brakes are even better fear reducers than the previous binders. Porsche drivers familiar with the company’s curious clutch engagement now face acclimatization to the Boxster’s initially touchy brakes. It’s worth it; once mastered, the four-piston aluminum monobloc anchors (with new vacuum brake boosters) provide infinitely variable, endlessly reliable retardation.

And one more thing: once the revs crest three grand, the Boxster S’ raspy engine note hardens into something not entirely unlike a jet turbine. It’s nowhere near as addictive as the old BMW M5’s burble and roar, but then an unquenchable penchant for Chateau Margaux is less compelling than a crack cocaine habit (if equally pricey). Now that the M's V10 sounds like a diesel delivery van/F1 racer, there's only one thing better than an allegro concerto con Boxster S: a Boxster S fitted with a MAXFLOW exhaust. Even without the decibel enhancing (kill the spare cat) mods, if you like sex and violins, the Boxster S is your car.

Now more than ever, the higher horsed Boxster S is a more entertaining machine than the 911. Porsche’s $50k and [WAY] up convertible roadster is simply a more willing and nimble dance partner than the company’s ass-engined slot car. The new engine makes the Boxster S (and its Cayman cousin) only marginally slower than a base Carrera, so the 911's diddy rear seats and snob value are its only advantage. Put another way, there's no good reason not to buy a Boxster S (kids when you're caning?) and use the difference to reduce your monthly nut.

It’s a shame that it’s taken Stuttgart a decade to fit their mid-engined marvel with an engine capable of living up to its phenomenal chassis, remarkable suspension, peerless steering and world class brakes. Oh, and for the record, it’s still not enough. I’ve driven a 400hp Cayman. In any language, that car is the very definition of horsing around. Boxster brokers: you've broken the barrier. Now bring it on.


By Robert Farago

About a decade or so ago, I traveled to BMW's Munich HQ to pick-up a press fleet K100RS. I arrived with a hard shell suitcase, intending to transfer its contents to the motorcycle’s panniers. When a press flack asked about the case, I joked that I was going to bungee it onto the back of the bike. When we returned from lunch, German engineers had attached my suitcase to the butt of Beemer’s “flying brick,” complete with homemade aerodynamic addenda. They’d found an elegant way to accomplish a completely ludicrous task. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S? Same deal.

C’mon, why build a 5500 pound truck that can accelerate like a sports car, ford streams, plug mud, climb and descend precipitous inclines AND provide upmarket MILF’s with a leather-lined suburban schlepper? Yes, yes; Porker’s porker is a hit. The Cayenne has dumped enough cash into the German automaker's corporate coffers to finance family plans to re-conquer VW and, thus, the world. But even if you set aside the SUV’s corrosive effect on the Porsche brand, you still have to wonder if this whole Cayenne thing is nothing more than porcine lipstick application.

The answer depends on two questions. First, would you drive a $112k SUV off-road? If you’re ready, willing and able to throw Porsche’s mad bad beast into streams and mud, over stones and sand, through forests and Wadis; to scratch your precious paint and dent your fantastic fenders, then I’ve got no beef with this truck. The Cayenne Turbo S can triple digit down a gravel road as easily as a Honda Fit can squeeze into an urban parking space. It can raise itself up, detach its front and rear anti-roll bars and overcome a medium sized boulder. Even without the Advanced Offroad Technology Package, the Cayenne Turbo S rocks. Literally.

Second, if I tell you that a German vehicle can blast from zero to sixty in 4.8 seconds and top out at 168mph; is that just about everything you need to hear? The Ford Mustang GT500 proves there are plenty of wealthy pistonheads for whom cornering ability plays second fiddle to the thunderous timpani of massive straight line thrust. If you’re a well-heeled truck-loving fool who lives for foot-stomping, neck-snapping yee-haws, the Cayenne Turbo S is good to go like Hell. And while the Turbo S doesn’t relish corners any more than a K100RS with a suitcase strapped to its ass, it is without doubt the least likely of its ilk to fall off the road should you be brave stupid enough to carry even a small portion of its considerable speed into a tight corner.

In case you hadn’t guessed, neither of these talents is enough to endear the Cayenne Turbo S to your humble reviewer. When I go off-road, I want a relatively simple and inexpensive machine that I can thrash and stash without paying the body shop cash. When I want to have my vision blurred by acceleration-squeeshed eyeballs, I want a small, light, low-slung machine that can corner like a Boxster S. And if I want a fast SUV, I want a beast that beams me from A to B in seamless, mindless luxury. This the Cayenne Turbo does not do.

Mind you, the Turbo S’ cabin is as far from a torture chamber as the Waihua spa at the Maui Ritz. There are Saville Row tailors who couldn't match the fit and finish of the truck’s fragrant Alcantara headlining and leather-wrapped dash. The toys are all present and accounted for, save a rear seat DVD system but including a BOSE blaster fully capable of drowning out your passengers’ screams (as they learn that a Boeing 747 isn’t the only behemoth that can fly). On the down low, the Cayenne Turbo S’ switchgear is a bit small, cheap and not so cheerful; a reflection of both parts bin cost saving and Bauhaus chic.

But the real trouble lies with the model’s engine – gearbox combo. As you might expect from a 2.5 ton vehicle with a turbo-charged V8, turbo lag is something of an issue. Even with 530 foot pounds of torque underfoot, it’s entirely possible to catch the Cayenne Turbo S’ six-speed slushbox off-guard and bog down. Much of the blame rests with the ECU’s struggle to reconcile bonkers speed, personal driving habits and the need to eke out more than ten real world mpg (e.g. it always starts off in second gear). Sometimes she’ll kick down two gears, sometimes one, sometimes none. Bottom line: wafters need not apply.

The Turbo S meets or beats any other luxury SUV in terms of off-road prowess and on-road élan. But it lacks that one ingredient that would make it an unimpeachable daily driver and a better vehicle than the magisterial Range Rover or the hot-to-trot ML63 AMG: mechanical harmony. Come the March refresh, we’ll learn whether or not Porsche's boffins have somehow fixed the Cayenne Turbo S' powerplant's inherent limitations.


Fifth Gear - Porsche Cayenne Turbo

By Jay Shoemaker

Global warming. Some consumers consider hybrids the responsible response. Others are busy taking one last toke on the tailpipe of extravagance. Pistonheads, have I got a bong for you! After accelerating Porsche's 2.5 ton brick to 60mph in less than five seconds, I can only conclude that you NEED a Cayenne Turbo– if only to outrun the Earth Day crowd tossing rocks at your windows. The Turbo is pointless and politically incorrect and you better get one now before all the oil and clean air are gone forever.

The previous Cayenne Turbo was styled by the same people who train (inject? genetically engineer?) WWF wrestlers. The '08 model is even less in touch with its feminine side. In fact, the new Turbo's mammoth grill looks set to swallow a Miata whole. In the rear, quad pipes jutting out from my tester's prison wall rear made an interesting contrast to the trailer hitch ($630) located between them. The Porker's 21" wheels ($4145) had me checking my fillings ($375).

The Cayenne Turbo ($93,700) comes standard with plenty of modern conveniences: satellite radio, heated seats and steering wheel, dual zone climate control, etc. For slightly less than the price of a Kia Rio, your dealer will gladly upgrade his profit your comfort to the requisite extreme. How about a cool looking cargo management system ($590 or the same price as 118 bungee cords)? The panoramic sunroof ($3,900) is a must-see. But I'm not so sure about the rear camera and park distance control ($1680); I'd rather pay a bystander $5 each time I need help backing up.

The Cayenne Turbo's nav system had me wondering about the price of tour guides. I swear: Werner Von Braun couldn't operate this system. After my driving partner and I became momentarily disoriented (lost), he fiddled with the 39 buttons surrounding the nav screen for a good ten minutes. We eventually gave up and retraced our missteps.

As you might expect from a German automaker that came to luxury trucks via purpose built sports cars, the Cayenne Turbo has a few lessons yet to learn. Although the leather makes the grade, the plastic switchgear isn't pleasant at this price and the erstwhile operation of the Cayenne's fold-down rear seats is maddening. Continuing your OCD RTFM education from last week's Bimmer review…

First, squeeze the cleverly concealed latch that allows you remove the rear headrests and throw the neck savers on the floor. Next, pull on the back of the rear seat cushions, starting on the driver's side, until the bench stands upright. Now fold the seat back towards the front– oops, not enough clearance. Open the front door, move the front seats forward. Ignoring the effect on front legroom, fold down the seats [as] flat [as they can go].

On the flipside, Porsche engineers get Mehta-esque mad props for making the "refreshed" ‘08 Cayenne Turbo even faster than its preposterously pacey predecessor. Using direct injection engine technology (applied across the Cayenne line), Porsche's boffins boosted the Turbo's horsepower to 500 and upped torque to 516 ft.-lbs. I'm afraid it must be said: that's an excremental load of grunt for an SUV.

Forward thrust is appropriately brutal. The Turbo's weight actually adds to the experience– in the same sense that an F18 Hornet wouldn't be half as much fun blasting off a carrier deck if it weighed half as much. Unlike the outgoing Cayenne Turbo S, blower lag is no longer an issue. Although there's a momentary delay as the afterburners light-up, the twin turbos are wonderfully responsive to both a wide open throttle and cruise control. As you'd hope, the anchors are automotive arresting wires.

Acronym-starved rivet counters (and the Pendleton District Camera Club) will delight in the knowledge that The Sultans of Stuttgart have blessed the PASM-equipped Cayenne Turbo with yet another automotive acronym: PDCC or Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control. So now upmarket truck drivers get a side order of active stabilizers (on the front and rear axles) with their infinitely adjustable adaptive dampers. With both systems engaged (or at least going steady), you'd swear you were driving a VW GTI with sandbags in the back.

Again, the Cayenne Turbo's fuel economy sucks: 12 city, 19 highway, and a lot less when driven by the type of person bound to buy one of these astounding luxobarges. But hey, it's better than it was– only the EPA's changed the testing procedure so it doesn't seem that way and anyway how many people really care? About as many people who've taken this thing off-road.

If you're ready to party like it's 1999, the 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo will gargle gas, accelerate, brake and handle better than any of its competition– you know, if there was any. It's an extremely capable, utterly unique and completely indefensible vehicle. Nice one Porsche.


By Robert Farago

Sam Adams Light. Porsche Cayenne GTS. Same deal. Both the American light beer and the German "sport truck" are fundamentally flawed concepts– made palatable by knowledge, passion and invention. Did I say palatable? I meant enjoyable. You can quaff copious quantities of Sam Adams' 124-calorie-per-bottle beverage without thirsting for "real" beer. By the same token, you can drive the snot out of the 405hp GTS without asking your companion "Dude, where's my Boxster?" In both cases, if you didn't know better, you wouldn't, and you wouldn't care. But if you do, will you?

To placate the purists, the Sultans of Stuttgart have made the GTS a mucho macho machine. Wheel arches that once sheltered Bambi's friends are now stuffed with 21" tires. The GTS shares its nose with the range-topping Turbo– continuing to prove that you can't make a silk purse out of sow's snout. Yes, well, the GTS' no-cost optional rear spoiler is pure Porsche: stylish, slick and sick. The quad pipes, not so much.

Inside, there's nothing to remind GTS drivers that they're the something wicked that this way cometh. A meaty steering wheel pretty much completes the list. I was expecting Porsche to go the whole hog (so to speak) and fit some honest-to-Gott racing seats. Perhaps that's where the keepers of the flame drew the line; the chairs offer nothing more than a little extra bolstering (front and back) and Alcantara inserts, just waiting for juice box dribbles and Diet Coke debacles.

Kick-over the GTS' V8 and the next time you do so you'll be channeling the WWE's announcer. Initially, it's not so much a rumble as a whole lot of noise– which had me wondering if the GTS was firing on all cylinders. And then the vario-cam plus powerplant settled into the "outer space is really big" sub-woofer special effect, ready for a couple of infantile brap, braps on the go-pedal.

Obviously enough, the Cayenne GTS is quick. Should you wish to blast the beast from zero to sixty miles per hour (hey, you're paying for it), the German SUV will oblige your accelerative aspirations in 5.7 (manual) or 6.1 (auto) seconds. That's either a half second faster than the Cayenne S or, according to Car and Driver, not. Anyway, talk about motor authority; in full kick-down, the GTS' mill issues an entirely purposely growl, winding out to the redline with unrelenting determination. Followed by a tiny upshift beep. Oh, please.

Journalists have seized on the fact that the GTS comes with a stick (as does the base V6). Our GTS didn't; the Porsche guy says his store sells fewer manuals than an iPod dealer. Although reports indicate that the Porsche's six-speed self-shifter is a sloppy cog swapper, I was left lusting for an oar to row. Yes, once again, the Cayenne's gearing sucks.

Despite [new] direct injection technology, the GTS remains insensitive to anything but major inputs. It might be OK for a Saturn slushbox to rethink on the fly, but when you're shelling out $70k (and the rest), you don't want a vehicle that shifts down a gear, then shifts down again. You can use the Porsche truck's Tiptronic buttons to manage the problem, but the GTS is supposed to be a luxury sport SUV. [Note to self: did I just say that?]

The problem is, still, weight. The GTS tips the scales at a kaffe und kuchen-loving 4949 lbs. With Porsche unable or unwilling to ditch the SUV's phenomenal off-road capability, the boffins had no choice but to gear the GTS for mileage. While Car and Driver hails the Porker's "400 mile fuel range," the EPA reckons the GTS (auto) gets 13/18 mpg. Yeah right. Mix gas and air like you just don't care and you're looking at single digits. To achieve S-Class throttle response, well, how low can you go?

At least the brute handles impeccably, in a "747 doing a barrel roll" kinda way (true story). As long as you keep the GTS' handling Nannies on duty, you'll only run out of grip if you're stupid enough not to change over to winter tires (special order, big ticket). And although my lack of "ass calibration" (Porsche guy's term) prevented me from discerning any difference in any of the GTS' three suspension modes, no matter. The ride quality on those jumbo donuts is fully commuter compatible.

I also appreciate the fact the GTS' elevated seating position allows you do things on the highway that no low-slung sports car could/should do. But I'm still left wondering if the forthcoming four-door Porsche Panamera wasn't the family car Porsche should have built in the first place.

And I still prefer the Infinit FX45 for high-end SUV fast-driving fun. [Note to self: read previous note to self.] But the Porsche Cayenne GTS is easily the best fully off-road capable sport truck money can buy– including the less dramatically styled, lag-afflicted Cayenne Turbo. Put another way, the Porsche Cayenne GTS is the world's most-fire-resistant-paper-hat-on-wheels. Now that's saying something; although I'm not exactly sure what.


Fifth Gear - Porsche Cayman S

By Robert Farago

If Porsche's new Boxster hardtop is a misspelled caiman, its 911 Carrera is a crocodile. While the two species share a common ancestor, put them in the same territory and one of them will end-up lunch. Maybe that's why Porsche rigged the fight; when you make a living selling Carreras, you don't want Caymans cannibalizing their cousins. Well guess what? Evolution will not, CAN not be denied. One blast around the block in a Cayman S and its future alpha status is inescapable. But let's drop this discussion of internecine conflict for a moment and consider the Cayman on its own merits…

Physically, it's no stunner. Yes, the Cayman's muscular fastback and sculpted haunches are exquisite: a deeply alluring shape that finally eliminates the Boxster's insipid push-me, pull-you design. But the Cayman's bootylicious butt draws new attention to the exceedingly bland Porsche family nose. Embedded fog lights may separate the model from its stablemates, but they do nothing to lift the miasma of mediocrity that has bedeviled the Boxster's face since birth. The Cayman's side air intakes are another distraction, lacking in both shape and scale. The German/Finnish roadster is also more color-sensitive than Martha Stewart; in anything other than black, the Cayman looks like a small and frivolous sports car souffle. Which it bloody well isn't.

It's funny how a roof adds gravitas to an interior. For one thing, the Boxster's Chicklet-sized buttons don't seem quite so tiny. For another, the containment instills a profound (if subconscious) feeling of safety, increasing the overall sense purpose. Although there's nothing particularly wrong with the Boxster's switchgear or its cabin's fit and finish, Porsche's decision not to alter anything in their 'not a Boxster hardtop' is indefensible. Where's the Cayman-specific shift knob, steering wheel or pedals? Porsche buyers' brains are wired for that kind of action.

And for driving fast. If you want to boldly go where police chase cameras yearn to record, the Cayman's an ideal whip. It's the laser-sighted Glock of sports cars: a perfectly balanced weapon offering infinite accuracy and virtually limitless stopping power. The ammunition provided is controversial– the 295hp 3.4-liter six nestling in the Cayman S' belly could just as easily be the Carrera S' 350hp 3.8-liter mill– but there's no doubt that Porsche's two-plus-nothing tin top has enough shove to hunt with the big dogs, and enough poise to leave them panting by the side of the road. Lest we forget, the Boxster S spanked the Enzo through Road and Track's slalom course. The Cayman S is both stiffer AND faster than a Boxster.

Out in the real world, the Cayman S drives with surefooted chuckability. At slow speeds, the car's fingertip steering, flyweight clutch and slow (though progressive) throttle fools you into thinking it's a bit dim-witted. As you pile on the revs, the Cayman's controls suddenly synergize: the steering gains heft, the six-speed snicks home like a spring-loaded knife and the engine switches into lunge mode. To get the best of the whipper-snapper's powerplant, you have to keep the revs above 4000rpm– which is a bit like saying you have to drink a glass of '59 Chateau LaTour to enjoy it. The noise blatting from the cojoined pipes is cargasmic: raw, animal, aggressive.

The first time you chuck the latter day lil' bastard into a corner its superiority to big brother 911 is immediately apparent. The Cayman's mid-engine layout and light weight make it far more precise going into a turn, more stable through the apex and more benign coming out (C4 and Turbo excepted). Thanks to Porsche's decision to put the 911 into the horsepower protection program, the Cayman can't match the Carrera's post-corner blastitude. But the Cayman's inherent balance lets you carry more speed into the corner. Ultimately, all the [bigger-engined] Carrera variants are faster than a Cayman S. Even so, they can't touch the Cayman S– or the Boxster S– for pedal-to-the-metal fun. What's more, with PSM (Porsche Stability Management) in Sport, Frau Nanny allows a whiff of drift. Wikkid.

Hey kid. Ever dance with the redline in the pale moonlight? Cayman drivers will. And it won't be enough. The truth is, the Cayman S lacks the low end grunt, the mad cackle motorvation it needs to complete its performance matrix and achieve the greatness it deserves. If Porsche put a bunch more whoa Nellie underfoot, the Cayman S would wipe the floor with all but the mightiest 911. In fact, the Cayman S is nothing less than a detuned supercar. What's the point of that? Protecting Carrera sales? Not to coin a phrase, that's a croc. This is the German sports car company that constantly harps-on about the importance of evolution. Ironically enough, Porsche will eventually realize you can't keep a good reptile down. The Cayman will force the 911 to adapt or die and, in the process, bite the hand that feeds.