Chic@s! Apologies, but this is a car blog. If you’re not interested in cars, please go and water the garden.
A year ago last week I changed my car.
I blogged about it, promising a follow-up to inform you whether it had been a good or a poor decision, and here it finally is. It’s only taken a year to write.
If you don’t know me, I am an inveterate petrolhead. Over the course of a long and undistinguished lifetime, I have spent a fortune on a host of exotic vehicles including Ferraris, Aston Martins, TVRs and – for the past decade – an assortment of Porsches. And the rest of my money, to quote the legendary George Best, I squandered.
The best car I have ever owned was a 911 991 (2) C4S cabrio. I loved it so much that I kept it for three years, which is the longest I have ever kept a car.
Why did I change it? Well, the nice chap at Porsche Exeter offered a deal that was too good to turn down. He would take back my C4S for a few quid less than I’d paid for it, and for a couple of grand more, he would put me into a two-year old (992) C4 cabrio with only three thousand miles on the clock. The car was virtually new, and a year later, it still smells as if it’s just left Stuttgart.
I’ve had my 992 C4 cab for a year now, so I think I can make a fair and impartial comparison of the two 911s.
If I were to tell you that I’ve only done around 8,000 kilometres – and that includes the trip to my home in Marbella from Blighty, and a road trip to Barcelona, and then to Faro in Portugal – you could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve not entirely fallen in love with the thing.
There have been weeks when it has sat in the garage, wheels unturned. To be fair, I don’t actually need a car here, and since August, when my wife brought her car from Poland, I’ve needed one even less.
So, why do I have a car at all?
To me, a car is the expression of automotive art. Its purpose is to excite and not merely to transport. It is in my garage because I know that when I take it out, it will make my heart beat faster.
My 991 C4S cabrio did this in bucket loads. The 992 C4 cabrio does not, because it’s missing that visceral snarl, the badass attitude, and the profanity that its predecessor had. I’ve swapped Vinny Jones for Timothée Chalamet. If you don’t know who he is – Google him.
Truth be told, the 992 does everything just a little bit too well. I’ve flung it through the challenging approaches to Ojen, Monda, and Tolox. I’ve hurled it through the winding lanes of the Parque Nacional Sierra de las Nieves, and I’ve blasted it at ludicrous velocity along the A4 to Sevilla, and it doesn’t miss a beat. But I’ve never once felt close to losing it, and all that does to is to prove that it is a significantly better car than I am a driver – that doesn’t make my heart beat faster.
Okay, you may say, push it harder. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six produces 379 hp at 6,500 rpm, bashes out 331 ft lbs of torque from 1,900 to 5,000 rpm, and can hit 100 kph (remember I live in Spain) in under four seconds. And while I’ve probably not wrung every ounce of power from the thing, I’ve come pretty close to doing so on several occasions.
For sure, it’s a wonderful machine and great to drive, but I don’t walk away from it with my heart beating like it did when I exited a F355, and Aston Vantage V10, a TVR Tuscan, or… more importantly, my 991 C4S. And the music from the tailpipes is more Air on the G String by Johann Sebastian Bach, than the Hendrix’s Voodoo Child that emanated from the 991 C4S.
So, it’s a car that is perfect for long distance road trips, a bit of a pose in the mountains – for it is truly a thing of beauty – and well… it’s mostly okay to live with.
That’s The (reasonably) Good then; let’s move on to The Bad and The Ugly.
The Bad first. The interior design is a triumph of design over functionality. There are more irritating features in the cabin of this car than in the sum total of all of the other cars I have owned. Why are there so many dials, levers and switches in the cockpit of a contemporary commercial airplane? Because if everything were to be operated by a pilot using a touch screen, the chances of crashing the thing would rise exponentially. We’d be back to the days of Dan Air: land one… crash one, for goodness’ sake!
Switchgear is there for a reason: to facilitate the operation of things that a driver/pilot wants to do while trying not to kill himself and everyone else on board. To control, to protect, and to isolate… a bit like what the police are supposed to do. There is very little one can do in the cabin of a 992 without using the touchscreen, and using the 992’s touchscreen while driving is more dangerous and pointless than having sex with someone who is texting, while you are driving, and texting.
And the satnav is utterly useless. Okay, it wasn’t great in the 991 either, but at least you could use a dial to programme it, and so it wasn’t completely redundant when you were on the move.
Then there’s the fact that your view of the two outer dials is totally obscured by the steering wheel. Which genius in the Porsche design office came up with that one? It’s a level of incompetence that even British Leyland in their heyday couldn’t rival.
With the roof raised in the convertible, the rear window is useless. My wife had to drive my 992 with the roof down all through July and August simply to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic when joining the A7. And while that may sound like fun in Blighty, it’s a recipe for skin cancer in Marbella.
Then there’s the “keyless go”. I have only one word to describe this: “Why?”. You need the key to enter the car, so what on earth is the point of then placing it somewhere you will have forgotten by the end of your journey, instead of the traditional method of slotting it into a purpose-built hole in the dash?
Let’s move on to The Ugly, and start with the driver’s cup holder, placed in the central console. It’s plastic and horrible, but is a good place not to lose your key… unless you want to use it as a cup holder. You can remove it and replace it with another, well… plastic bin. The cup holders in the 991 were practical and a clever piece of design.
Then there’s what we may refer to as the transmission control. This is a small black nodule that’s as difficult to find and use correctly as a woman’s… okay, let’s not go there. The gear lever in the 991 wasn’t exactly a work of art, but it was easily located, functional and I rather liked it. D meant drive, and R meant reverse. In the 992 – illogically – when you want to go forward, you pull the thing backwards, and the opposite when you want to reverse. And in the 991, when you wanted to engage manual drive, you nudged the thing to the left, but in the 992, you have to locate and press a small button bearing the letter M.
Lovers of the interior of the 992 applaud the lack of clutter, the smooth surfaces and the lack of switchgear, but the only thing I consider an improvement over the interior of the 991 is the steering wheel. It is perfectly sized, impeccably shaped, and is a sublime feat of tactile excellence.
So, having decided that the 991 (2) is a more engaging, visceral and better designed car, I wanted to revert to one.
Looking through Auto Trader, an idea struck me: me: how about a Targa 991? Let’s go back to the future? The Targa, in my view, has always been the most striking looking variant of the 911, and I’ve never owned one.
A trawl through Porsche UK informed me that Porsche Exeter were advertising an Agate Grey 2018 GTS Targa with a decent spec. This included the essential elements of rear wheel steering, sports seats, LED lights, and a Bose stereo. It also had rather sexy looking (but impractical and extremely uncomfortable, as it turned out) carbon fibre bucket seats. With the GTS, most of the extras which one would add to the spec are included, But some, such as electronically folding wing mirrors, bizarrely aren’t.
Unfortunately, by the time the nice chap I dealt with was back at his desk, it had been sold.
Nonetheless, I decided to pay him a visit when we visited Blighty last weekend, mainly to review the Targa option. He had a Targa 4S available, so we went for a drive, and I loved the car… it felt so good to be back behind the wheel of a 991, and the Targa worked perfectly for me, because it was much more than a sliding roof, and transformed an ironic car into a super iconic car. It’s been called a piece of automotive theatre, and with that I would concur. So … that would this be game on, he enquired?
Unfortunately not. To my chagrin, my wife didn’t like it. Regrettably (and you will know this if you have watched the movie Barbie) there are things which women like, and there are there are things that they don’t like. And to a man, their reasons for disliking something may appear to lack logic, but once that opinion has been formed, no amount of what we blokes may call “applied reasoning” will change their minds.
She disliked it for two reasons. The first was that she considered sitting in the rear seats to be a little too confined.
‘But it’s no different to the convertible,’ I pointed out.
‘Yes it is. This has a hard top. It’s like a coffin.’
I could have pointed out a couple of things: that a hard roof would be safer than a soft top in the event of rolling the thing over. And that she would be as likely to sit in the back as Barbie would be to have a sex change. I could have, but naturally I didn’t.
And the second reason she disliked it was that it was smaller than the 992.
‘But isn’t that a good thing?’ I suggested. ‘Easier to park?’ Apparently it wasn’t.
Bloodied but not beaten, my chap at Porsche wasn’t ready to give up on this yet.
‘How about a 992 Targa?’ He suggested. He had an Arctic Grey model in the showroom, and my wife rather liked it. Colour is a big thing, and can swing many a decision. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available for us to drive, and the only demonstrator he had was out until Monday, which was no use to us.
The following morning, I come back from my run and discover a text from my Porsche man.
‘The demo is back in. Come in and have some fun if you have time.’
After a bit of horse-trading with my wife, it was decided that all systems were go, as the friends with whom we were staying were planning a trip to Exeter. My wife and Barbie (not her real name) would go shopping in town, while Ken (not his real name) and I would take the 992 Targa TGS out for a blast.
All is going well until we’re led out to the car.
‘I’m not bloody sitting in that!’ shrieks Ken.
‘Why ever not?’ I ask.
‘Because it’s pink.’
‘Actually, it’s not,’ interjects the salesman, sensing a potential sale deposit going west. ‘It’s Ruby Star Neo.’
‘Which is another name for pink,’ counters Ken.
Eventually Ken is prized into the car and off we set.
An hour later, I’m in love with the thing, and Ken has gotten over its pinkness sufficient to share my enthusiasm.
‘It’s a very fine piece of kit,’ says Ken, who understands fine machinery, because he still owns the 1955 Ferguson TO-35 tractor I sold him fifteen years ago.
The GTS is simply light years ahead of my car. While it doesn’t sound quite as visceral as the 991, it’s not far off. The howl from the exhausts is terrific, particularly when you push it towards the last 500rpm of its range in the Sport setting. The fact that the chassis is set 10mm higher than both the cabrio and the coupe is dwarfed by its overall capability. Coming down Halden Hill at a rate that I wouldn’t contemplate in anything else I’ve driven, it felt utterly secure, the feel of the enhanced electronic steering perfect, and the brakes flawless… sharp but progressive.
We drive down to Newton Abbot with the roof panel retracted and I don’t notice any of the buffeting I had read about. There’s a clever little spoiler which pops up above the windscreen to deflect the worst of the wind. Without this, you’d have a vortex in the cabin, meaning that there is a lot of wind with nowhere to go, and no one likes trapped wind.
Everything about this car feels engaging and utterly driver focused. Everything, that is, apart from the irritating details appertaining to the cabin of the 992, which I have already pointed out. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six produces 473 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It has a top speed of 191mph and hits 60mph in 3.5 seconds. It not only feels – but is – significantly quicker with more accessible power than my 992 C4… which is no slouch. Everything I dislike about interior of the 992 is utterly eclipsed by the driving experience, and this is what a truly great car should have the capability to do.
‘Well, what did you think?’ Asks the salesman, who already knows, from the smile on my face, that I’m hooked.
‘I don’t want to give you the keys back,’ I reply. It’s almost certainly the best car I’ve ever driven.
‘Just a pity it’s Ruby Star Neo?’
‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘just as well it’s Ruby Star Neo…’
‘Pink’, interjects Ken.
‘… or I’d have to seriously consider it.’
The price of high-end used cars, including Porsches, is currently in freefall.
The lack of availability of new cars, the shortage of microchips, and problems caused by the pandemic meant that the prices of used cars soared from 2020 onwards. Hence the offer my chap gave me on my 991 C4 cabrio.
Now that the supply chain has been resolved, buyers with expendable cash are facing much shorter wait times for new vehicles, and this means that buying a used car is now a much better prospect than it has been for several years.
Let me give you an example: a 2017 GT3 with a little more than10,000 miles on the clock came onto the market in August priced at £135,000. It is currently for sale at £115,000, a drop of fifteen per cent.
However, the cheaper Porches are currently experiencing a little less of a price hit – or so I believe.
The other thing is that interest rates on Porsche finance are currently sitting a 11.5%. With a bit of luck, the cost of financing will revert to more sensible levels fairly soon.
So, here’s my plan:
- Follow the market.
- Wait for interest rates to drop a little.
- Look for a 992 Targa 4 GTS in an acceptable colour, and try to persuade my wife that the Targa – er-um… due to the better rear visibility – is the optimal right hand drive car for Spain. And if I’m unable to do that, I would happily settle for a GTS cabrio because what is missing more than a piece of roof is the excitement that this configuration delivers.
Amigos, I’ll let you know in a year or so how I get on.
But… having enjoyed a blast up to Ronda for lunch this afternoon, if I’m still alive and kicking and driving my 992 C4 cabrio in a year’s time, life will not be a complete disaster.
Hasta pronto chicas y feliz Navidad! Do please “Like” this post on Facebook, and maybe even share? And do whatever you do on Twitter, or whatever it’s called now. Thanks a million!