First things first: Did you read my last post? If not, head over here. This story will make much more sense, I promise.
So I last explained the experience of the McLaren 650S and how I felt that nothing could ever top that if it isn’t a million bucks or more. I was wrong. The car that taught me horsepower isn’t everything and price doesn’t equal fun? The sexy engine note you heard at the end of the last post? The Porsche Cayman GTS.
Exploitability > Power
So how can I seriously claim the Porsche Cayman GTS is a better car than the McLaren 650S? I don’t. I can’t. The McLaren is definitely a more performant, faster, more exclusive and sexier car. If you have the money and from time to time find yourself on a race-track, the McLaren is always gonna be better. You might even like driving it more than the Porsche, but – if you’re like me – the Porsche will give you bigger thrills. Here’s why:
I found myself being able to squeeze that car out to its highest potential on a country road without immediately killing myself. Empty roundabouts are a perfect example: In the Porsche, you fly out of the roundabout in second gear, slightly sideways and definitely hitting the redline. It feels AMAZING. I don’t doubt that the McLaren would be faster through that same roundabout, but you (or rather I, as I am not a racing driver) couldn’t nearly push that car enough that would make me feel like I had mastered it. Don’t get me wrong, though: it’s crazy how easy it is to drive the McLaren at speed. But on a regular road I never felt like I had mastered driving the car up to its limit – and that’s a shame!
Then there’s the sound and the urge for revs. When I first got into the Cayman and, after a few minutes of warming the fluids, nailed it from around 2.500RPM, I was pretty underwhelmed. I remember having Benedikt on speaker phone at the time and telling him how the GTS failed to impress me at first. I called him again later and told him it’s the best car I had ever driven. Not only had I been able to play with the car even on my first drive (as described above), but the characteristics of its engine and power delivery had gotten me hopelessly addicted. You have to learn how to get the best performance out of the Porsche and figuring it out gave me priceless satisfaction.
How turbocharging changed me as a petrolhead
Now the discussion about turbocharging versus naturally aspirated engines is old and other people with way more expertise than me have given their opinions on this so I will try to take a different route: Now that turbocharging dominates the contemporary sports car market, what does that do to young enthusiasts like me? Having driven the McLaren 650S and the Cayman GTS so close together, I had a couple of realizations:
- the McLaren had forever, irreversibly, changed my perception of acceleration. The effortless way it always, anywhere stacks on speed makes the Porsche feel dull when you first pin the throttle. Re-read that sentence and think about the significance this has. The GTS is not a toy by any means and is a very potent car, but modern turbocharged engines just blow it so far out of the water that even a 80.000€ Porsche won’t impress you with its acceleration.
- I was always a firm believer in McLaren’s approach of scientifically proving their cars are just better than the competition. The power, the low weight, the cornering speeds all convinced me that the McLaren had to be the best car I had ever driven. And then I drove the cheaper, slower, less high-tech Porsche and fell in love. My interpretation: performance is only fun if you can feel its limitations.
- Sound and Driver Involvement. Another age-old debate. I guess I’m just a hopeless nostalgic in wanting an engine that sings to me without needing computers or speakers and being able to conduct the symphony of the engine with a gear stick in hand (I was later able to drive the same model with a stick) instead of pulling/pushing a lever behind the steering wheel.
Going forward…… slowly?
Today, 2 years after the above events, I feel liberated by the McLaren. It made me feel much more comfortable because I don’t have that feeling anymore of missing out on excitement just because I cannot afford the fastest current hypercar. Instead, it taught me that there are a few characteristics of cars that make me appreciate them and wanting to form a bond with them much more than their capability of gaining speed coming out of a corner. There’s a great side effect of this if I think about it: I learned a car doesn’t have to be super expensive and new to be desirable. And that, ultimately, led to me falling in love with and buying the first very special and “jalopnik” car in my life: a 50 year old Italian saloon car with 130hp. Stay tuned for the full story!