Saturday, February 14, 2009

2009 Porsche Carerra 911 S Cabriolet

For 2009 ... Porsche has one upped themselves yet again. Upgraded, yet again... the 911 that we all loved from the past has come with a few tweaks and enhancements to make it even more of a superb car. The new car maintains its level of practicality while still flirting with the performance edge ... but for $102,000, you would expect nothing less. The 911 Carerra S Cabriolet was equipped with the Chrono Package, the Navigation Package and the new Porsche Double Clutch Transmission (DKG) and I must say, even with these few options, the price tag was still busting the six figure mark. Flipping through the 60 page Porsche option book may tag on another 20-30,000 if you are not careful.

First things first. The outside of the car looks well, the same. The most critical and discerning eyes will bark at that statement, but lets face it, to the average Joe... the outward appearance is little changed outside of the cometic upgrades to the lighting jewelry both front and rear. One really nice update is the front bumper is adorned with some nice LED lighting for turn signals and daytime running lights. The rear of the car still holds the engine and a picture window through which to view it to make sure it is still there and nobody has absconded with it. If you want to impress your friends, you pop the bonnet and show them what is in there... but don't dare try and explain what you see or how to work on what's back there without going under the car.

Interior, little has changed as well because let's face it... Porsche has the receipe for perfect already well figured out. One trick feature is the Chrono Package which adorns the dash board with a stop watch. However, this is no typical stopwatch... this stop watch is only something a Porsche badge could be associated with. The detail and precision with which is glows in the dark makes mere mortals drool with envy or question why you need a stop watch on your dash. The latter type of people do not concern us... Controls for the stop watch are available at the flick of a stalk behind the steering wheel or via touch controls in the navigation.

Another so nice feature of this car was Porsche's new DKG (double clutch transmission). Lets just say, it is not perfect. For their first iteration, it could use a little work, so we will get the negative out of the way first. First and foremost, it feels as if it has a gear specifically for idle crawling speed... booo. As much as it is dubbed as a manual, when you take your foot of the brake, you roll forward just like an automatic. What is even worse, it feels like an automatic which the idle RPM set at about 1500 RPM. So when you take your foot off the brake... you're rolling and you are rolling fast. Second, slow speed control is not quite right. Transitions on and off throttle need some help. Now the good stuff... the gear changes are Porsche perfect. Ask for a gear change and it is almost as if the car can read your mind and begin the execution of the shift before your hand touches the steering wheel mounted buttons or the console mounted shift lever. Downshifts are accompanied by a wonderful throttle blip which sends shivers down your spine with that exotic Porsche boxer engine note. Upshifts are quick and time off throttle is almost inperceivable. If you want more gusto, you engage the sport mode. The sport mode sharpens everything. The shifts are crisper, the throttle responser is faster and well, you will be happy if you have a canyon near by to drive on. Now, for the unfaint of heart, there is a "sport plus" button. Now, I must warn everyone who happens to come across this car and this button. Activation of this button will induce a smile that may be permanent or too wide for your face causing unknown consequences. The "sport plus" button maximizes everything. Shifts are now so fast, your brain will be smashed up against the back of your skull. Throttle response has tuned up to the utmost sensitivity and gear changes are now only executed at optimal performance times... meaning, you are going to shift at redline and when you do the shock to the brain will pull your brain back so far it will drag the corners of your mouth with it. It is the instant fun smile factor and it will make anyone look good. Downshifts happen quickly and with utmost perfection and if the car deems that the RPMs are falling too low, it will go down to the lower gear to keep the engine speed at close to maximum output as possible. Don't be suprised if you find yourself at 6000rpm as the car downshifts into first for a slow speed corner.

Now speaking of corners... let's touch on the handling aspect of this car. Given it's super light curb weight and wonderful balance it is an absolute joy to drive. Sicne you have the engine at the back of the car and not hanging over the wrong wheels, the steering and front tires have less work to do. The suspension no longer has to worry about holding up this massive engine as it tries to maximize grip out of the front tires. This means, the front suspension and tires are all business. Turn the wheel, and the front end goes. When driving this car around corners, the terms surgical precision comes to mind. Find yourself going around a bend and need to adjust your line... no worries. Adjust your steering angle, and the front of the car will follow. It is almost as if you have rubbed a magic lamp and the genie is more than happy to do as you please. Push the car harder and harder, and it is happy to ask for more and more. Finding the limits of this car are going to be dangerous. It has so much capability that when you find the razor's edge, you are going to be going VERY fast and while I have no doubt controlling the car at that speed will be easy as pie, it will probably be the fast pie you will ever eat.

Now let's talk about acceleration. With almost 350 horsepower and a curb weight of about 3300lbs, motivating this chassis forward is simple. Ask for it and you go it. Punch the gas, and you are gone. Acceleration from a stop leaves nice black marks on the road as the systems maximize forward momentum. Ask for more when you are on the highway and the torque from the motor is happy to usher you forward even in the tallest of gears. Want some fun though, downshift to the lowest gear possible and introduce the go pedal to the carpetting and you can almost see the shock and awe and jealousy of the people in your review mirror as you are passing them and disappearing into the distance. It is almost as if, this car was born to run.

Porsche will have a hard time making a better car than this... oh wait, they did. The turbo cabriolet. I can't wait until that one become available to drive. If this car was so good, I can only imagine what another 150 hp would do. Oh, I think I started drooling on myself again...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009 BMW 750Li - First Look

BMW redesigns the 7 ... and it looks impressive and it is packed with technology goodies that will blow the mind. Starting with the nose, it very forward and very flat. It gives an impressive stance. I'm sure lots of that nose adjustment had to due with safety regulations, but they still pulled it off quite nicely. Looking at the headlights, they are trimmed and noted with a new "BMW Dynamic Xenon" logo. Moving around the side, you will see mini camera located in the front bumper. These camera allow you to look right or left as you peak around the corner of possible a tight alley (not that you could really drive this in a tight alley anyway). Stepping further away from the car, you can start to really appreciate it's length. It's long... really long. The doors swing open with heft and one of those wonderful 7er features is that when you swing them open, they don't bounce back or bounce to a preset position. You open it... it stays where you leave it. Slide around to the trunk area and the rear is completely redesigned... some say with a hint of Lexus in mind. Taillights are very similar to the large Lexus sedan and so far the exhaust oval trimmings in the rear bumper. One interesting note is that the exhaust mufflers are not really connected to the exhaust trim and actually site a few inches behind the bumper. You can clearly see them and you can clearly see the exhaust flap that is used to adjust backpressure as needed.

In silver, it is about as bland and bland car be... but it's presence is still hard to miss. I'm not sure if that's because of its size or if that's because of it's shape. Only time will tell. More will come when a vehicle becomes available to drive. Who knows, it has become so technologically advanced, it may drive itself.