Recently I was lucky to be at an event where Porsche rolled out its entire line for customers to experience on a racetrack. Included was the new Cayman R, the luxurious Panamera, the Cayenne uber-SUV and the iconic 911. The participants soon realized this was a serious driver’s event as the instructors were professional race car drivers and the waiver was the length of the Declaration of Independence.
The first event was to drive each of the cars around the track at speeds approaching 100 MPH. From a purist viewpoint you cannot beat the 911 and the new lightweight high performance mid-engine Cayman R. Porsche equipped all of the test vehicles with its new automatic double clutch transmission known as Porsche Doppelkupplung or PDK for short. While I believe it’s a tragedy to buy a true sports car with anything other than a manual transmission, I have to admit the PDK is one sweet automatic and the faster option. However it adds 66 pounds and loosens your wallet by $4,000 so it must be one huge moneymaker for Porsche.
The surprise of the event was how fast the 6 cylinder Panamera performed. While it is no 911, it laps other high performance sedans including BMW, Mercedes and Audi. The fit and finish were first class although the wood grain and large center console reminded me of a Lexus instead of a Teutonic Porsche.
The disappointment was the Cayenne SUV. While it is fast and cool looking with its recent update, it is still heavy and more truck-like than sporty. A better SUV option is the Audi Q5 which is far more nimble and sporty, not to mention less expensive. This is largely due to the fact that it is built on a car platform, whereas the Cayenne is built on the same truck platform as the VW Touareg.
The last and most enjoyable event was the autocross where we drove a Cayman and 911 around a very tight track with an instructor who taught us how to push the cars to the limit. Both were marvelous and allowed me to legally and safely drive a 911 more aggressively could than I would mine. It’s hard to say if the 911 is really the superior Porsche, but for certain both remain true to their heritage and are the best options for anyone looking to buy a great sports car for under $100,000.
This unique event was a far more effective sales tool than customers having to covertly gun down suburban neighborhood streets to test drive the cars. And despite the thousands of dollars invested to ship up a dozen cars and instructors, it was probably an effective one. Now if only I could convince my wife we need a third Porsche!