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First Drive: 2013 Porsche Boxster

More 911 than ever.

by on Jun.14, 2012

Porsche delivers a "more mature" Boxster for 2013.

Hollywood executives aren’t the only ones who seem to come up with similar ideas all at the same time.  When Porsche introduced the original Boxster, back in 1997, it hit market about the same time as several other European roadsters, notably including the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z3.

The Porsche Boxster was clearly the sportiest of the three – though no one would likely confuse it with the German maker’s classic sports car, the 911.  It didn’t have the style, the body stiffness, the power or the performance.  It was, by comparison, something of a youthful toy.

To its credit, each successive generation of the Boxster has gotten better and better.  And during its unveiling in Geneva, last March, when we asked Porsche chief designer Michael Mauer what the goal was with the all-new model his response was simple: “to make it more mature.”  After spending a couple days with the 2013 Porsche Boxster we’d have to say that nails it.

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If there’s a downside, it’s something Porsche should worry about.  The new model is so solid, so nimble and so attractive that those 911 wannabes who might otherwise have to strain to get into the flagship model might now comfortably enjoy – rather than settle for – the Boxster as an alternative.


Porsche Bringing New Cayenne GTS to Beijing

Higher power, lower chassis = better performance.

by on Apr.13, 2012

The Porsche Cayenne GTS getting ready to roll into Beijing later this month.

Automakers will get one more shot to trot out their latest and greatest products as the Beijing Motor Show prepares to get underway before the car show circuit takes its summer hiatus.  And Porsche is preparing for China by giving us a sneak peek at the maker’s updated 2013 Cayenne GTS.

Don’t be surprised if it seems familiar.  The GTS has a lot in common, at least visually, with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, including the front fascia and hood.  But under that hood you’ll find a naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V-8 that makes 420 horsepower, 20 more than the current Cayenne S model.

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To further improve the fun factor, Porsche is lowering the GTS ride height by 20 mm – or nearly an inch – while also adopting a lower final drive ratio.

The Cayenne GTS isn’t an entire clone of the Turbo.  Exterior modifications include blacked-out window frames and quad exhaust tips, as well as wider fenders, lower sills and a double-wing roof spoiler.


First Drive: 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera

Evolution of an icon.

by on Nov.09, 2011

Porsche rolls out the seventh generation of its iconic 911 Carrera sports car.

As the styling chief for Porsche, Michael Mauer knew he had one of the biggest assignments of his career when he was told to redesign the maker’s flagship 911 sports car.  Few vehicles are more iconic, so, few projects would be more challenging.

The first thing Mauer recognized were the limits confronting him.  While he was asked to come up with something distinctive for the seventh-generation he knew that a radical redesign simply “wouldn’t be a 911.” That meant maintaining the car’s distinctive shape, starting with the long hood, bulging headlamps, “flyline” roof, and, of course, its rear-engine layout.

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What Mauer and his design team have come up with is somehow very different and yet surprising familiar – a Porsche 911 that is at once familiar and yet radically different.  There’s not a single panel or part carried over but for the powertrain – which nonetheless undergoes some significant enhancements.  The 2012 Porsche 911 is longer, lower and wider.  It delivers an array of new technologies intended to make it more powerful and more dynamic – while also improving its fuel economy by an estimated 16%.

The 2012 Porsche Carrera S is longer, lower, wider -- and 100 pounds lighter.


Porsche Plans Big Expansion for New Cajun Crossover

Will invest $685 million in Leipzig plant.

by on Oct.19, 2011

Porsche will invest $685 million to prep for the launch of the new Cajun sport-crossover.

With its Cayenne sport-utility vehicle now the brand’s best-selling model, Porsche is planning a hefty investment to ensure a second, smaller crossover — dubbed Cajun — gets off to a good start.

That will include a 500-million Euro investment to expand the German maker’s showcase plant in Leipzig, Germany where production of the Cajun is set to begin in late 2013 The Leipzig plant, which opened in 2002 and is something of a tourist attraction in old east Germany, is already used for building the Porsche Cayenne, the maker’s first sport-utility vehicle, as well as the four-seat Panamera sports car.

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The Cajun will target a lower, more mainstream segment than Porsche’s current SUV, potentially opening up markets where the Cayenne is simply too big – as well as expensive – such as Europe. But with even U.S. buyers downsizing as fuel prices rise, the maker also sees opportunities in the States.


First Look: 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0

The “ultimate” non-turbo 911?

by on Apr.28, 2011

The new GT3 RS 4.0 is the most powerful naturally-aspirated 911 Porsche has ever produced.

Faster than most folks can get “2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0” out of their mouths, the Schwabian automaker’s “ultimate” normally-aspirated sports car will hit 60 – on the way to a top speed of 193 mph.

The appropriately named GT3 packs a new 4.0-liter flat-six in its rear engine compartment, the powerplant derived from 911 GT3 RSR race car, and borrowing such niceties as the forged pistons and titanium connecting rods.  A six-speed manual is the only gearbox offered.

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The new Porsche also borrows a variety of race-derived parts designed to shed weight, such as carbon fiber seat frames, front fenders and luggage compartment lid.  Even the carpeting is “weight-optimized,” Porsche proclaims, trimming the 911 GT3 4.0’s total mass to just 2,998 pounds – with a full fuel tank.


First Look: Porsche Panamera Turbo S

More powerful flagship debuting in New York.

by on Apr.04, 2011

Porsche will unveil its most powerful version of the Panamera sedan at the upcoming NY Auto Show.

The horsepower wars continue.  For those that just couldn’t get by with a mere 500 ponies, Porsche is offering the even more powerful Panamera Turbo S, which bumps the number up to as much as 550.

Set to go on sale this spring, the newest update of the Porsche 4-door flagship will make its formal debut at the New York Auto Show, later this month.

The big news will require lifting the hood, though there are some notable tweaks to the exterior of the Panamera, starting with new 20-inch Turbo II wheels which sit a bit wider due to the S-model’s wider track.  There’s also an adaptive four-way extending rear spoiler to improve aerodynamic performance.

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The Panamera Turbo S powertrain starts with the same 4.8-liter V8 found in the current twin-turbo model.  But the newer sedan adopts a modified engine controller and twin turbochargers with titanium–aluminum turbines. The lightweight metal, Porsche claims, can spin up more quickly to improve performance.  Officially rated at 550 hp, a 10% increase, torque climbs 7% to 553 lb-ft – and can temporarily peak at 590 lb-ft in overboost mode.


Porsche Puts $845,000 Price Tag on 918 Spyder Plug-in Hybrid

This green machine will set you back plenty of green.

by on Mar.22, 2011

The Porsche 918 Spyder will deliver 718 hp and 78 mpg

When the subject is green machines you’ll often hear the topic turn to “payback period,” the time it takes to recover the added cost of an alternative drivetrain through the money you’ll save on fuel.

When it comes to the new Porsche 918 Spyder, the German maker’s first plug-in hybrid, you’ll have to count the payback period in centuries – but then again, how many buyers will really be buying the high-performance sports car just because it saves a few gallons of gas?

More than a year after the 918 Spyder made its show-stopping debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, Porsche has confirmed the design will be going into production – with an asking price of $845,000.  That will make the Porsche 918 Spyder the world’s most expensive environmentally-friendly automobile, unless you consider some of the Formula One designs using hybrid power-assist systems.

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For your money, you’ll get a 500-horsepower V8 that’s paired with twin electric motors – one mounted at each axle – kicking in another 218 hp.  Lithium-ion batteries help capture energy normally lost during braking or coasting, though like the much more mundane Chevrolet Volt, the 918 Spyder can be plugged in when parked, and will yield up to 16 miles running on pure electric power.

Recharge times will run about seven hours using 110v wall current, and less than half that relying on a dedicated 220-volt charger.


McBlog: The Nicest Car I Ever Had

Meditations on the merits of Ferraris, Porsches and Colt Vistas.

by on Mar.21, 2011

Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder. But what does our columnist find so appealing in the Colt Vista?

“I think this is the nicest car you ever had,” my mother said to me from the passenger’s seat. Her eyes, still a snapping dark brown in her late 80s, choked off my emergent laugh though that’s the response the remark deserved.

After all we were not in my Porsche, my Alfa, my Lancia, my Ferrari – cars I had owned serially over a few decades. We were not even in the MG-TC in which she had shared an at-limit dart up Mt. Diablo — clinging tightly and smiling broadly though precariously exposed to traffic in this right-hand drive roller skate. Nor were we in the semi-rally-prepped Mini Cooper in which we toured a newly opened-to-foreign-traffic USSR in the mid-1960s.

No. The car she had proclaimed to be my “nicest” ever was a white Colt Vista. Colt Vista! A minivan-tall-station-wagon sort of vehicle that was badged a Dodge and imported in limited numbers when Mitsubishi and Chrysler had some sort of patty-cake relationship.

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Instead of laughing I set to musing about what is it that earns a car the “nicest” title.  I realized that the Colt Vista restored to my mother some fading independence. She did not need my help to get down into it or up out of it like she did in my sportier machines. (SUVS, with their demand for a Sherpa gene to ascend, had not yet invaded the marketplace.) The Vista door opened wide and stayed there yet at least a part of it could be reached while seated to pull it to. The car seat matched her seat height. She could simply turn, plonk down then swing her legs over the low sill. Voila! In.


Porsche Quadruples Profits

Credit non-traditional models.

by on Mar.18, 2011

There's reason Porsche's Panamera is on a pedestal.

Say the name, “Porsche,” and sleek sports cars like the 911, Boxster and Cayman quickly come to mind for most folks.  But for the German maker’s management – and investors – the models that matter are Cayenne and Panamera.

While purists might bristle at the idea of Porsche’s expansion into SUVs and four-door models, those non-traditional offerings are bringing major financial gains, Porsche more than quadrupling its earnings in 2010.

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And the jump from $227 million in profits for 2009 to $960 million, last year, came despite a shortened fiscal year.  Revenue for the adjusted August to December period soared 59%, to 3.87 billion Euros.

Crossover/SUVs are very definitely a part of the sports carmaker, today.  The Cayenne accounted for 20,770 sales during the 5-month fiscal “year,” while the relatively new Panamera saw a 44% jump in demand, to 9,385 during the period.


Porsche Approves Cajun Crossover

New crossover set for 2013 launch.

by on Mar.16, 2011

Porsche formally approves the Cajun crossover.

It was only a matter of time.

With the Cayenne now the single most popular model in the Porsche line-up it was only a question of finding the right crossover to add to the model mix, and now the Germans have apparently found what they’re looking for – giving the go to the much-discussed Cajun concept.

The downsized crossover, which looks like the love child of a 911 and a Cayenne, will be produced at the Porsche plant in Leipzig – which means Cajun will be built alongside both the Cayenne and the 4-door Panamera, another model that has stretched the limits of what defines a Porsche.

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Plans call for a whopping 1.5 square-mile expansion of the Leipzig plant, with work to begin sometime this year.  While Porsche isn’t revealing specifics, that would hint at a launch of the new model sometime in 2013, either as a 2013 or ’14 model.  The project is expected to add another 1,000 jobs at the Leipzig plant, according to a Porsche press release.  The facility first opened in 2002 to produce the Cayenne, the Panamera being added seven years later.

The Cajun will be slightly lower and shorter – but wider – than the Audi Q5, which reflects the fact they’ll share key underpinnings, much as the Porsche Cayenne has been a fraternal twin of the Volkswagen Touareg.