Is The Porsche 911 a Fast Car?
The answer isn't necessarily obvious...
Since I was about 4, I've had the perception that certain cars are fast and certain cars are slow. I've always more or less accepted that diesel, Volvo estates are slow, and that two-seater Ferraris are fast. I've always considered little shopping-trolley come school run taxi hatchbacks as generally quite slow. Of course, sometimes the lines become blurred. That little Ford Fiesta might be slow, but if it's the 'hot hatch' version then is it still slow?
Back in the days when I was enduring daily, public humiliation, cruising around in an embarrassingly bad Seat Marbella, I'd have sold a kidney for an XR2i or Fiesta RS Turbo - if organ sales were legal at least. Are they fast though?
I mean we were talking the mid-nineties so the XR2is and RS Turbos within my budget would have been the 1989 to 1992 model years most likely. That XR2i was an insurance nightmare and was exponentially faster than a typical Fiesta of the time. It had about 105 PS, so just over a hundred horsepower. The Turbo had around 133 PS, so still not an astonishing amount by today's standards. The XR2i would do 0-60 mph in 8 seconds and go on to 125 mph. The Turbo could do the 0-60 sprint in 7.8 seconds and press on to about 128 mph.
These were considered 'hot hatches' at the time. Budget performance cars! A 2011, diesel Volvo T60 estate will do 0-60 mph in 7 seconds and achieve over 140mph. A diesel estate. A Volvo for god's sake!
So what got you thinking about this?
Well, the other day I was following a silver Mondeo through the leafy backroads of Cheshire. Behind me was a chap in what looked like a brand new Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works. A modern 'hot hatch'. The fellow in the silver Mondeo was enjoying a spirited drive and myself and the Mini were simply enjoying keeping up at a safe and sensible distance.
Now the Mondeo had to pull up to a complete stop and wait to turn right into a side-road. This gave me and the chap in the Mini the perfect setup for a game of 'can you keep up?'
Thankfully, the present Mrs. Stanley wasn't in the car. She wouldn't approve of such juvenile behaviour and would have encouraged me to creep along at 30mph in this 60mph zone whilst waving the youth in the Mini past.
Imagine this in Orange (Image Source: Wiki Commons | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mini_Clubman_John_Cooper_Works_(1).jpg)
So what happened?
Well, we were pitching a 2005 junior supercar against a modern hot hatch. I was actually genuinely surprised and quite pleased at how well the Mini kept up. I thought I was just pulling away a little, but I can't be sure, and if I was - it wasn't by much. Of course beyond timing smooth gear changes, there wasn't much of a test of skill in this race. More than anything it was a 'who got the best value for money performance-wise?' challenge.
Now the Mini is a 'hot hatch'. I believe it was a Clubman JCW (approx 300bhp to kerb weight of 1625kg) so that would put it at 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, topping out at 155mph. It's also AWD, the same as my Porsche 911, 997.1 Carrera 4S. The Porsche (approx 350bhp to kerbweight of 1515kg), does 0-60mph in around 4.7 seconds and tops out at 179mph.
So performance specs-wise, they are actually very close?
They are! The thing is though, how much do these cars cost? I paid around £25,000 for my Porsche a couple of months ago. The Mini JCW has an RRP of around £34,500. RRP isn't always a fair guide though, so I checked on the Autotrader. Surprisingly new ones are listed at over £40,000! A low-miles, ex-demo is listed at £38,000. The best buys I can find for 2020 cars are at £30,000 to £34,000. However, purchase price doesn't really reflect the true cost of a car.
If you looked at the depreciation cost of the Mini, it could end up expensive. A 4 year old 230bhp model appears to be worth around £20k. So in 4 years, it looks like you lose between £10,000 and £20,000 in sinking value. I don't think that'll be true of the Porsche. The 997, as the last of the true 'sportscar' 911s I think could appreciate in value eventually (I think the larger 991 and 992 are more GT cars). Or at least level off to the point where they are valued on condition and miles rather than age. However, the Mini is going to be rock-solid reliable and almost free to run, bar fuel, tyres and brake-pads. My Porsche, I anticipate, will cost me a significant amount to maintain.
This is all very equal, so your saying there's nothing between them?
The fact is there, are reasons for choosing either car. I don't think you can argue that one or the other is a 'better buy'. Only a better buy for a particular person. I WOULD say, on balance, the Mini is probably a more sensible choice. If you had a long commute and needed reliability and practicality, you're probably better off getting the Mini. In the UK you can't hit your top speed outside of VMAX200, so the Porsche's additional 25mph top speed really isn't relevant. Even if you lived in Berlin and commuted to Jena, driving along unrestricted Autobahn every day - I don't think it'd make much difference. I've driven that road. I suspect conditions perfect enough to hit 180mph in your Porsche are quite rare.
Are you having regrets? What are the reasons for having the Porsche?
Take a look at this:-
The Porsche Cup Holder
In case you're wondering, this is a cup holder. Specifically, it's the cupholder which features in all 997, 991 and I believe 992 Porsche 911s and Boxsters.
So you're saying the Porsche has a better cupholder?
Ironically, no. In some respects it isn't a great cup holder. It extends and retracts nicely to hold a variety of cup sizes snugly, but it perches your hot beverage precariously above your precious entertainment system!
So what's so special about it?
Well, it's an example of what sets the Porsche apart. Though the design could be argued to be flawed, it's extremely well engineered. To access the cupholders, you press open the slim, silver panel above the glovebox, then it folds out. Then you can close the panel so the cupholder looks neat. It's attention to detail. Even though it's 'just' a cup holder, somebody has given it a lot of time and thought. Boffins at Porsche have laboured for hours, sharpening their pencils, drawing and re-drawing the design for something which most manufacturers would just blow-mould into the centre console as an after-thought. This design philosophy extends throughout a lot of the car. It's a silly car in many respects, the engine is in the wrong place, the boot's rubbish and the rear-seats are only fit for kids or double 'above the knee' amputee, dwarfs. However, the people at Porsche have spent a long time and a lot of effort making what was perhaps a silly idea 'work' and it shows.
So engineering then?
Engineering, and that it's 'interesting'. I rarely see myself coming the other way. Porsche 911s aren't that rare, but most people who own them don't drive them daily. The conclusion is that whether the Porsche 911 is fast is irrelevant. You don't buy one because they are fast. A modern Carrera 4S will do 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and hit 181mph. Objectively I think it would be classed as a fast car, but it would cost you £95,000 or more to buy. Would you be happy parking something unusual that's worth about the same as a terraced house on the road outside a kebab shop in Bradford? The reality is, in real-world useable terms it's hardly any faster than a Mini Clubman JCW at less than half the price. Yes, if you buy a 992 Turbo S, you'll hit 0-60mph in 2.7 seconds and go on to 205mph - not much will be able to keep up with you. However, even then, someone in a 2016 Tesla Model S P100D that's worth £65,000 to your £200,000 will be able to hit 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds.
So don't buy cars based on Performance?
Performance is part of a recipe. There are a lot of ingredients in the pot when you're choosing a car. Yes, if you're an enthusiast, you probably want some performance. But you have to factor in reliability, practicality, interestingness and more. You can't really choose your next car purely on performance 'bang-per-buck'.