January 31, 2006

The Axis reviews a '06 Porsche 997 Carrera S...

It is a measure of our insanity that a Carrera S gets reviewed (and rationalized) as a quasi SUV family car! In any case CG, in an email, wrote this nice insight on what still has to be considered one of the best automobile money can buy. Would that all car magazine reviews were so to the point and in the language of true enthusiasts.

GC wrote:
Test drove extensively and intensively a 800mi Carrera S in the Greenwich dealer lot. It is GT Silver (Best color IMO but a $3K for which I plan on paying $0K) with all the above options and few more. Did a real world test drive as I strapped Santiago to the backseat.

It is really a great car. Feels like a Sportscar (nimble, agile, wraps around you) and a great GT (all comfort stuff, supple ride even with PASM sport on - I would never ride it soft unless passenger complains - and excellent quality interior and build quality. Solid as a Rock).
Best thing is the engine. Frenetic high end ramp up as the S54, but humonguos 3.8L torque down low. It has enough power to break traction anytime under cornering in 1-2-3. That's something I've missing from the M3 in the Elise.
The rear end reacts as if it had LSD (quite obvious b/c I can't imagine how can you put 1 rear wheel in the air in such stiff rear engine chassis). It is very easy to powerslide coming out of corners and the angle it can take with ease its absurd if you stay committed, which is not that difficult. It is not neutral like the M3, it is natural for it to hold those ludicrous angles while accelerating hard forward. It had the sport shifter that works great (AC, a must in any Porsche as it gets close to S2000 or NSX perfection)

The nose is not that jumpy as I remembered it from the 996. Feels very similar to the Elise, and it is always better to start turn-in while still on the brakes. Once you have that weight on the front wheels the steering has tons of feedback despite being assisted (Elise feedback is still benchmark but it is just impossible to replicate in a power-assisted car at 3000lbs+).

The acceleration and rear grip in 1st and 2nd in a straightline is absurd. Feels much faster than M3 and Elise (They Cayman S didn't) and the brakes are just surreal and you feel you could do and enjoy 1.5g stops all the time. Best thing is, even without a booster, Santiago was tightly secured in the back with the belt holding him perfectly in all maneuvers. What I liked a lot is that it seems that the car doesn't require nor reward aggressive inputs, so it seems to suit my small inputs progressive driving style.

I didn't push anywhere close to the limit on lateral holding as the weight transfer feeling is really something different. Feels very keen to rotate, but it seems that if you go for Apex speed it might betray you with too much rotational inertia from the rear (pendulum), not being able to hold balanced 4wheel drifts, b/c the rear gives you more slip angle. I understand a bit more the 911 concept of powering into and out of the apex as the most efficient strategy in these cars, but it sure will require several laps at the track to internalize the concept and adapt your driving to it for maximum speed.
Despite not being close to the limit you always had the go-pedal to play around and break traction due to the superb level of throttle-control. Easily the best in any modern affordable car (Not having driven a F430). That's probably one of the best things in this car, b/c it really alllows you to use all the engine's torque and hp with increasing linear delivery (not flat as power goes up with revs, but never jumpy like the extreme being the Elise VVTi).

Certainly it doesn't give you the same feeling as the Cayman S, that you could just drive up to WGI and break your lap record in the first 5 laps, but it is certainly something special, a different animal worth playing with.

I always thought that all those good drivers that said every enthusiast needs to have at least one 911 once in their life had more Snob to it than actual substance, but there might be something wise about it; Even if its not the fastest most effective car out there on a track day it seems that it could really be worth a try, and hopefully help me be a better driver. On top of all, is the only real sports car with infant seats in the back.

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