A friend of mine recently turned to me for advice in searching for a used car. He has been sending me different ads from all around the internet seeking my input. I have been giving him the pros and cons of each example and our discussion has touched on the differences between each brand, their strengths and weakness, tune-ability, reliability, quality, etc. Inevitably, the discussion turned to the philosophy of engineering.
Yesterday he asked me to rank the German auto manufacturers in order as I see them and why. This is a question I have been asked countless times throughout my career, and while my answer is subjective and has evolved over time with experience and the order sometimes changes, one fact continues to remain true...
Porsche is always on the top of the list.
Here is an excerpt from the answer my friend received:
"1. Porsche - Pedigree of engineering, Ferdinand Porsche was the engineer that started it all around the turn of the century. He headed the original Beetle project and the Auto Union Grand Prix cars. Porsche today is an engineering design firm, that also happens to build very nice street cars that have technology that is developed in their racing program. The "winningist" and most consistent, profitable auto manufacturer in the world. "There is no substitute." I could go on for days. They took a design theme that was inherently difficult to deal with, but had some basic physical advantages and engineered the difficulties away over nearly 70 years of evolution."
Below is a video of Bill Caswell performing an experiment on the new 2014 911 Turbo S for Road & Track magazine. (If you don't know who Bill is, please Google him, his story is worth the research, he also has a website http://www.buildraceparty.com/ ) This video beautifully illustrates my point and Bill does a great job pointing out the effectiveness of the incredible engineering design that goes in to the technology of Porsche road cars.
Eventually Bill realizes the car is engineered so well, and is so stable, he can leave his hands off the steering wheel while accelerating violently up to and beyond 100 mph. Simply amazing engineering. Chris Harris did it one handed in the 997 while drinking a soda a few years back, and now this is another level. I was lucky enough to be working for Porsche when the 997 Turbo S became available and was able to demonstrate the accessibility of the performance of the cars for their new owners, so I can attest to the transparency of this video. They really are that good. What is next? Eyes closed? As a matter of fact, there is probably more truth to that statement than speculation. But that is a topic for another article.
The PDK really can do it over and over again all day long as well. That is what it is designed for. I've heard a rumor that they are designed for over 3,000 launches. That's like once a day for over eight years. Ridiculous reliability. Eventually the materials will have their limits, but where those limits are remain to be unseen at the moment. I am sure there is a Porsche engineer smiling somewhere. I know there is a lot of debate about the death of the manual gearbox in the newer cars, however I believe this technology is indeed the way of the future and I think I am OK with that. After all, that is what makes the vintage cars and their history that much more special.
Hat tip to Bill (and Chris) for being awesome at their jobs, as well as to Matt Farah and the team over at the Smoking Tire, where I first saw this video: