Cayman Diaries: New Tyres

With summer on the cusp of arriving here in the UK I thought it was time to show off the car to its best potential and put the 18″s back on. I’ve been delaying the change over due to the increased firmness of the ride on the bigger wheels. However, a recent invite to the Sheffield Supercar Sunday meant that I wanted my little motor to be looking its very best.

The rear tyres were down to the nuckle so purchased some new ones from The price was a reasonable, but not particularly cheap £530 for a pair of Mitchelin Pilot Sports, fully fitted. These are the same tyres that I’ve always had on the Porsches, this time in the N4 rating. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any N3’s to match the front. However, I’m led to believe that the N ratings don’t need to match as long as the axel has the same on each side.

Whilst not the cheapest price, Blackcircles service was excellent. On payment I was allocated my own representative who would peraonlly handle and of my queries, and who would be carrying out my order to completion. In the world of call centres that we now live in, such attention to detail was a welcome suprise.

I had the tyres delivered to a local garage who fitted them for me.

Looking great once again, we are now all set to go for the meet in Sheffield!!! Read all about it here 🙂

Cayman Diaries: MPG Rocket

Here is some photo evidence of how economical these cars can be if you do some hypermiling.

This is doing around 55-58mph via cruise control on a relatively flat section of 3 miles of motorway.  Not bad huh! OK, so it was a small section of motorway, biased towards economy but hey its still do-able! 🙂

Cayman MPG - 52.1mpg

Cayman MPG - 52.1mpg

Cayman Diaries: Professional Detail and Paint Correction

The Cayman has finally had its bath! I took the car to Tony Spears of Autoshine in Wakefield, who specialise in full detail valets and paint correction.

After 18 months I decided it was due a good pampering and so off it went for a weekend of TLC.

Tony gave the car the full treatment. When the car went in, there were a number of items which I drew his attention to in particular:

1) The swirl marks which had appeared after 18 months of washing. I wanted it like new again.
2) The rear bumper had stained up to the spoiler with black dirt. I thought this might have been trapped dirt between the paint and the polish, if I hadn’t cleaned it thoroughly enough before polishing last year.
3) The leather (as mentioned in my previous post) had become scratched on the side bolsters. Could anything be done to mask and restore this?

I left the car on a glorious Saturday for Tony to do his bidding and collected Sunday afternoon.

On collection, the car was outside in the sunshine and looking spectacular. All of the swirl marks had gone and the paintwork was shining bright red once again! The wheels looked immaculate and the carpets and trim faultless.

Spearsy attributed the stains on the rear bumper to be likely from the exhaust and took a great deal of effort to remove. But remove he did and it looks brand new. As does the exhaust pipe, which was looking rather black.

The leather bolsters had also been re-dyed which had significantly lessoned the scratched look, almost to the point where they are unnoticeable. Unfortunately, the seats are coloured in Porsche’s own interpretation of ‘black’, so the dye is slightly darker than the seat which is currently noticeable. Tony suggested this will likely fade over the short term as it’s the area which gets the most wear. But I left with an assurance that if it doesn’t, to bring the car back and he will blend it fully into the seat to make it unnoticeable. 🙂

The interior now smells fresh and clean and looks lovely. The leather seats were properly cleaned and have returned to their firm to sit, yet supple to touch feel which is great.

So… with thoughts of fantastic photo opportunities (via a short shopping trip to Leeds) my lady and I departed.

And then 4 minutes (yes, 4 minutes) later the heavens opened. They really opened. The Lord was having a full-on sprinkler sesh and it was all aimed at my car. Shortly afterwards, the ice maiden got involved in the histrionics of this unfortunate turn of weather events and decreed that hail stones would now be the choice weapon of the gods.

With a scowl on my face like a shrivelled up walnut, we powered down a soaking wet motorway into the city. As my girlfriend wandered up and down the isles in the shop, all I could do was stare out of the exit window at my newly shiny motor being seriously beaten by torrential downpours courtesy of Mother Natures own hand. Payback for all that C02 I imagine. Gutted!

Cayman After Detailing - in the rain!

Cayman After Detailing - in the rain!

“Don’t worry about it” came the comforting attempts of my good lady. “Its now well polished, the rain isn’t even sticking to it”. She had a point. As we were driving along, watching all the tiny beads of water bouncing and sliding off the paintwork like ants on a windy ice rink was very satisfying. Spearsy done good.

Arriving home, I parked it up in the garage and a call to Tony was now in order to ascertain how to clean it without reappointing my own mark of swirls again. “Use a soft cloth to wipe off the rain, ideally a micro fibre” was the answer.

So, back at the garage and assessed the impact. It was positively filthy. Huge mud marks all down the lower end of the car. I gingerly tried to remove these marks which were now in the process of drying. Amazingly, all the dirt seemed to just fall off the newly polished paintwork. No scratches, no marks, just a very gentle wipe over and it was looking great again. And then the sun came out!

Time for some photos. Bar

Cayman Detail 13

Cayman Detail

e in mind that these are taken in the late afternoon, after the aforementioned weather incident and the pics then shrunk to be web-friendly. So the quality isn’t great but it looks so very clean!

I’m hoping Tony took some photos whilst it was in his possession, which I’ll dutifully add to here if he has any.

 So, in short- £250 well spent. The car really does look and smell like new, inside and out. Even those annoying bits that get all kinds of crap in them were nicely cleaned (see my piccy of boot releases – previously full of crumbs and other bits, but now clean. Looking in the side mirrors when driving along is great. As the suns rays move across the paintwork, it looks like a water ripple moving over the arches.

When I entered the garage the next day the whole room smelt of fresh polish! Awesome, my car has a fragrance! eau-de-Cayman.

A detail like this is highly recommended if you want to return your car to sparkly as-new showroom condition.  I’ll be back to see him in the next few weeks for my chat on how to clean it properly before I steam in again with my sponge.

Cayman Detail - Looking red!

Cayman Detail - Looking red!


Cayman Diaries: Detailing Photos

Those post-detail pictures in full…

Cayman Diaries: Service time

The time has finally come to have the Cayman serviced. At 31,000 miles it was due for its 20k service interval (the 40,000 major no less).

Cayman at service centre

Cayman at service centre

As mentioned before, I decided to take the car to Porsche Euro in Barnsley. They are Porsche mechanics from a previous life and are a top notch bunch of fellas with all the latest diagnosis kit for old and new Porsches. At half the price of the OPC and service carried out at a time that suited me the best, I had no grounds for complaint.

aaaah nuts!

aaaah nuts!

The work carried out as per schedule was;

  • Major Service using all genuine Porsche parts
  • Brake Fluid change (not technically required for another 5 months, but I got the timings wrong)

Additional work carried out;

  • Cleared the leaves and debris from the radiator
  • Replaced an interior light bulb that had blown (well, technically it had fallen out of place but it was sorted).
  • Replace blown fuse for the 12V socket.
  • Seatbelt was twisted – fixed and no longer floppy. (I know what your thinking “can’t you do anything yourself?!).
  • Resprayed all of the wheel nuts back to lovely silver. This was an unexpected offering and done and I was delighted at the result! Very, very impressive service.
  • Sorted out the “Depress Clutch” problem on starting. Replaced the soloid/clip beneath the clutch pedal.  Fixed!

After the full service inspection, the only recommendation/warning was that the brake pads will require replacing very shortly on the fronts, possibly the discs too – but this will be confirmed when it goes in for the pads in the next month or two. The car isn’t used a massive amount now so the few millimeters that are left will probably go for a while before the warning light comes on reminding me of either rectification or imminent doom.

Porsche Cayman Engine

Porsche Cayman Engine

Cayman at Porsche Euro cars

Cayman at Porsche Euro cars

If you need your car servicing, I can highly Porsche Euro. There was a classic 964 cab which is having work done as part of a restoration, and a 997 arrived as I was on my way out for its service also. Euro would have also washed my car as part of the service, but I declined on this occasion due to time constraints – plus I want to “get my moneys-worth” from Mr Spears next week on my pro-detail! 😆

Next Up.
Detail – restoring my car to shiny and clean ‘as new status’ (yes, I have high expectations!) pictures to follow of the detail in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Cayman Diaries: April Update….

Usage / MPG

My good lady has recently got a new job and the location benefits catching the train to work and back so I have been using her car several days a week. This has meant the Cayman is now used a couple of times a week and for fun days out at the weekend, which is great!

Cayman and Caravan!

Cayman and Caravan!

Last weekend we went for a visit to my parents caravan by the seaside for a bit of a break on the cheap. Hurrah!! It was a bit muddy though, so the Cayman played the job of mud-plugger nicely for the few days we were there. Don’t worry folks, it was treated to a nice wash when we got back!

Over the recent months the car has been having trouble starting, with “Depress the clutch pedal” lighting up on the dashboard when the car is cold. This only happens when its cold and is getting progressively worse. My mate Google told me that its likely to be a microswitch which isn’t detecting that the clutch is engaged when the ignition is fired. A quick call to my local indi confirmed this should be relatively inexpensive to repair.

The service is now due, so I’ve booked the car in with Porsche Euro in Barnsley. I  received an initial quote of £1018 from Porsche Leeds for the major service (reduced to just over £600 after my club discount and deleting the spark-plugs maintenance as these are not required for another 5 months).

However, Euro came in well under this price and will also be doing a few extra jobs for me whilst its in. John and his team have had a poke around my cars computer a few months ago and found them to very competent, so they will be getting my business once again. Try as I might, the Yorkshire-man in me just cannot justify a 100% markup for exactly the same job at the OPC, even after discounts – it just doesn’t reconcile in my mind.

My previous specialist in Sheffield (used for the Boxster) are now a little pricey – almost to OPC prices. I think they are now aiming their market more towards the Ferrari and Lambo fraternity, whom they also service. I would still highly recommend them for anyone in that area though, wanting an alternative to the main dealer.

Full service update next month.

Having sorted the service out, I’m arranging a good ol’ clean with my local Detailer for later this month – full pictures to follow! 🙂

In other outings, here is a piccy at the office, next to a Boxster….

Cayman and Boxster

Cayman and Boxster

Electric Power
For anyone interested, I recently drove a Prius. An interesting car indeed! Read my review here….

Where is my 911??
I keep putting my name down for a 24 hour test drive, but no luck yet. I’ll keep trying…!

2008 Toyota Prius

I had already got some broad ideas for an introduction for this article. It started with an apology to all those other motorists on the M1 during my journey, having forced them to view my wonder-wheels and in doing so considering me to be one of the smug, self-satisfied, hype believing misled eco warrior wannabes.

You see, I love cars. I love sports cars even more but equally I don’t like being lied to. Climate change, carbon emissions and all that jargon is a controversial subject and one which no-one can conclusively prove. There are as many reports negating the human impact on the environment as there are doom mongers who say the end of the world is nigh just because I’m driving to work in a morning and I like my heating on at night.

The marketing for the Eco-friendly hybrid alternatives has been somewhat lame. Aimed at a stereotypical road-going train spotter who likes wearing cream trousers and knitted jumpers, the eco-cars have a functional design to match the target audience.

Enter the Prius.

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

To look at, you could be forgiven for thinking it was one of the lower end Korean car manufacturers’ best attempt at a cheap family hatchback. I mean, really – could it be any more bland an uninspiring? To look like this, with no real shape or design influence one could only assume it has been done deliberately.

This is the revised model and looks marginally better than the original Prius, with the very latest model looking better still. Looking at it individually it looks ‘OK’ – it certainly isn’t offensive, but it doesn’t stand out. You are an absolute man of anonymity in this car. Add to this the silent running engine and you feel invisible too as you wait whilst another person ambles across your path not realising that the car is actually in motion.

At the petrol station over the weekend, I pulled up next to a BMW M5 and in comparison my little Prius looked seriously cheap and very, very tacky. A different league, granted, but you’ll never win over well-heeled businessmen with this box that’s for sure.

Regardless, my recent business trip meant my choice was either a Passat, or a Prius. After the age old comedy line to the assistant who has probably heard it a hundred times as to whether the car will send me headlong into a field of its own accord, I chose the Passat. But all night, I couldn’t help but wonder what a Prius might be like to drive. A hybrid – electric car. An interesting prospect. Petrol heads pre judge them, yet Eco’s and Hollywood love them. I’m of an open mind and curiosity got the better of me.

The next morning I swapped my choice and here she is… all silver and….dull.

The Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius

But there much more to this car than its looks. The last time I had instructions on how to get a car moving was 15 years ago when I started driving. Yet here I am again, this time with a bit of scrap paper in hand telling me what to do next. Shove the plastic fob into hole. Press brake. Press Start. A few bits of whirring, then electric pops and bangs. Nothing else. Hmmmm… Embarassingly I opened the door to see if I could hear any sound of engine/electric noise. Nope. Has it really started? Strange business this electric stuff. I checked my scrap of paper again. “Check dashboard”. It dutifully tells me that the car is now ‘ready’, so apparently we’re ready. Tap the gear stick over to Drive, punch the ‘hand’brake with your left foot(!) and we are off!

The first thing that you realise is that this car ain’t normal and this makes it truly fascinating. But a little frustrating. Either way never before has my journey home, stuck solid in Friday traffic being so entertaining!

In the cabin nothing is where it should be. I would imagine this is deliberate to remind the driver that they are in something special and ‘futuristic’. The Speedo is right out below the window, along with the fuel gauge. Nothing else of interest is up front, all functions are on the centre screen. More on this in a moment.

Toyota Prius Interior

Toyota Prius Interior

The driving position isn’t great to say they have so much room available. The steering wheel is down around my knees, but the driving seat is elevated, feeling more like a people carrier. It is very odd. The plastic on the dashboard looks cheap – and there is a lot of it. The design is like something you’d imagine from a future production car but watered down with some of today’s naff budget material. Maybe if it was all shiny smooth white gloss or something we’d have a real future box on our hands!

The readouts do not tell you any of the typical stuff your used to in a car. Thermostat? Nah. Oil pressure? Nope. Gear selection? None of that here. Your in ‘drive’ – that means ‘go forward’ and that’s all you need to know. The unconventional design of the engine is truly interesting marvel of engineering. There are no gears, just some fancy wizardry best described with planets, orbits and some electrical brains controlling it all.

What about that centre screen then? First up, the bad news – its too far away. To press the climate button, or any other button to the left of the screen, you have to stretch. And See that typical radio below the screen? It doesn’t actually display anything. It is just a shiny bit of plastic. Audio, Climate, Phone, SatNav and fuel consumption outputs are all controlled and viewed on the centre screen. But this causes some confusion. The radio for example is very higgledy piggledy. If you want to change the station, you have a number of disarrayed options. First you select the physical radio button next to the screen (stretch). Then you use the touch screen to select the station. Or you can use the buttons on the steering wheel. Unless you want to manually scan the band, in which case you use the ‘real’ radio below, which has ‘real’ buttons for manual scanning. But this makes the steering wheel controls manual-scanning too. To make them navigate through the presets, you have to hit the touch screen again. The volume is on the ‘real’ radio, but bass and treble are on the touch screen. Its very all-over-the-place. The JBL speakers are Just Bloody Lousy too.

Toyota Prius Dashboard

Toyota Prius Dashboard

And don’t get me started on the stat nav. This actually had me shouting, screeching and literally punching the buttons at the weekend during a period of lostness in Leeds city centre. Its absolutely sh1te and that’s being kind. For a kick off you can’t set it going when the car is moving. OK, so I shouldn’t be doing anything whilst driving but what about my passenger eh? You know she is there, Prius; you were frantically panicking about the seatbelt earlier. There is also no postcode search. When you have finally entered your destination, you have NO CLUE as to whether it is plotting a route or not; the SatNav will, out of the blue, start barking orders at you after a period of uncertainty. But where it will take you is anyone’s guess. I wanted a road 2 miles away which, despite being there since Leeds was invented, wasn’t on the SatNav. So I programmed in the nearest main road. I checked it had found the correct road and it estimated an hour an a half to arrival – trying to send me back onto the motorway!!

And THEN…. after sending me back on the ring road for the umpteenth time I couldn’t shut her up!! I swear I had steam coming out of my ears as my missus frantically pressed each and every button to try and get the stupid thing from telling me repeatedly, at every button press to “take next left” (in the wrong direction). Absolutely DIRE.



The Verdict

So, the Prius is a bit rubbish then?

Well.. actually no. Having lived with it for a week and several hundred miles I am surprised to say that, for the job it is intended, it is actually quite good. It’s very quiet for a start. The engine sounds coarse if your giving it some beans and much prefers cruising. But when you are cruising it is a genuinely nice place to be. If you are a motorway kind of guy then this car gives a relaxing ride.

The steering lacks sporty feel as does the handling, but then it’s not even remotely trying to be sporty. It wants to waft about and it wafts nicely without giving you a sea-sick feeling. The seats don’t have side bolsters which I thought would be uncomfortable but both my lower-back and my mind completely disagree. You arrive at your journey end relatively relaxed and I’ve had not even a hint of back pain whilst driving this car.


Prius Fuel Consumption

Prius Fuel Consumption

So what about fuel economy? The computer recorded an impressive 62.7mpg on the way home from work. This is a 30 mile commute, largely motorway and on a Friday afternoon means a fair amount of stop/start. Remember this is a petrol engine (cool) and an electric engine (cooler) not a clunky diesel. Overall, for a full tank of petrol doing a long motorway stint and local road driving, we averaged a computer indicated 48mpg. A point to note is that the computer over embellishes a little with its accuracy – a few sums revealed that a real world figure on this occasion was actually 41mpg. However the car is no slouch and accelerates quicker than you’d expect and can handle motorway speeds and overtaking with aplomb. A breathless underpowered car this isn’t.

The Prius also has a rear view camera, with computer aids imprinted on the screen to help you park. If that’s not enough, then the car will also park itself on your behalf. With a few presses of the touch screen, the Prius will reverse itself into a parking space or parallel park at your behest. Watching the steering wheel move about on its own its fantastic fun and when taking it to show my parents, my mum’s face was an absolute picture. “Its like Knight Rider!!!” she exclaimed! Being an old-school mechanic, my Dad loved the technology and engineering but wondered about longevity and future costs. This is something I have also considered – would this make a good used buy I wonder? Time will tell.

Here is a little (and a little naff) video I made showing the park assist doing its thing…

In America, the majority of people drive a petrol car. Big lazy engines with poor miles per gallon. There isn’t a great infrastructure for LPG or diesel and I’ll wager many other countries are the same. So here is a huge target market for the Prius, diesel economy from a petrol car whilst waving a ‘green’ flag with its eco posterior (the “Hybrid Synergy Drive” no less – sounds good doesn’t it!).

In the UK its a good alternative if you don’t want the tractor sound of a derv-burner. As a car-fiend, I absolutely couldn’t have this car as my only means of transport. It’s not exciting enough. But to get you to work and back, with something special tucked away for the weekends it absolutely does make sense. It really is worth considering as a company car. Zero road tax, fella’s!

This car is comfortable, quiet, has great gadgets and enjoys promising fuel economy. If you are the kind of guy or gal who sits on motorways in traffic then you’ll benefit the most. If it’s a relatively clear journey for your day to day commute, then the Prius may be a tad worse than a diesel. The nifty Toyota really comes into its own in traffic and it does excel in this area. But please, please, please – buy a TomTom.

Hybrid Synergy Drive!

Hybrid Synergy Drive!

Final Thought
When your stuck in traffic, it really does perk you up a bit knowing that your spending absolutely no money whilst crawling past another set of bollards. I guess owners can be justifiably smug in a Prius.

Now all Toyota need to do is wrap all this eco technology in a body that we will actually want to buy. The new Celica perhaps?

April 2010

‘Service’ or ‘Care’

Recently, both our cars have been in the garage for some paint repairs. The circumstances surrounding each have been different, but ultimately the goal was the same.  Both companies (Ford and Porsche) agreed to undertake the work and both outsourced the work to a 3rd party. The only difference being that we were paying Ford to do the work, whereas Porsche were doing complementary. Additionally Ford are two miles from our house whereas Porsche is a hundred.

The Fiesta had a slight chip in the door which had scraped the paint off, caused by some mindless moron banging their door against ours in a car park. The Cayman had a fault with the lacquer on the front bumper and required re-spraying.

After calling the Porsche centre from whom I’d purchased the Cayman, they agreed to do the work without question. I informed them I could only get to the dealership on weekends – they said they would arrange a courtesy car for the week, no problem. After calling on the morning before I set off, we headed up the motorway. We entered the showroom – immaculate, looking more like a high tech business office with very expensive toys than an oil shop. Greeting us was the smartly dressed receptionist, not a hair out of place. After I informed her of our business, she contacted the sales manager. He arrived momentarily, just as another member of staff came over to offer us a drink.

Mark, the sales manager, came out with me to inspect the problem. He was surprised at problem and said it would be rectified without question. After some general chatter, Mark showed me to my courtesy car – outside the front door. A brand new Cayman S, PDK. “We’ve filled the tank up for you to use and we will fill up your car on your return for the inconvenience. I think you’ll really enjoy this car.”. Nice!!!

We finished our drinks and after a couple of obligatory signatures, we left in the showroom in what is without question the best sports car I have ever driven. A few days later, Mark called again to say that my car was ready. It had been fully valeted and was now in the showroom to keep it looking good as new until I could pick it up. I said this would be at the weekend. “No problem”. On our return the following week, I was shown to my car, gleaming in the lights of the showroom – immaculately presented. We swapped keys and I went on my way completely satisfied, in both the work and the service I had received. Cost to me? £zero.

Next up, was the turn of the Fiesta. We arranged a courtesy car for this as well, as my lady needed it for work. After numerous calls to the dealership and always explaining the situation at length to whoever was on service desk, to avoid being incorrectly directed to some bizarre call centre, our car was booked in. We also got to the dealership as soon as it opened so that we could be away quickly for work. On arrival, we queued at the reception. For about 20 minutes. No matter, this is a busy dealership and Ford sell a lot of cars so they are bound to have a lot of people. Plus I can look at the cars in the showroom – regardless of the Marque, I like showrooms and Fords Kuga and Focus ST are particular favourites of mine.

Eventually it was our turn. The receptionist, dressed in a Ford jumper akin to the coat of a shaggy dog was something of a contrast to Porsche. “Go on, crack a smile” – the words repeatedly swimming through my brain – but I held my vocal chords back on account of moral decency. I couldn’t help but grin though.

“We’ve got a courtesy car booked”. Insurance forms were promptly displayed for the courtesy car – which we had to pay for. After waiting several minutes for them to find the keys, “its over in that direction” was our informed location. “Just put in the amount of fuel you think you’ll use”. Oh dear, an empty tank then. Why can’t dealers leave them fully fuelled, and instruct to bring them back full on return?

We found the car eventually, a boggo standard Ford Fiesta. But it was in a different colour, so my girlfriend was happy. Until we got inside. Squeezing the driver door into the narrow space between the huge Transit parked next to it we encountered another problem. On that frosty morning the screen was completely iced over. And being a cheap-as-chips model it had no quick-clear front screen. Or air con. Or a scraper. Or de-icer. So, there we sat, with a car with such little fuel that I thought it might not even make it out of the forecourt, much less get us to a petrol station, waiting for the screen to clear.

After a few minutes I headed over to my car to get my scraper. We were now 30 minutes into the experience of simply dropping a car off. “I’m going to be late, I’ll have to take your car” my girlie said to me. I didn’t mind, but knew she was looking forward to driving a ‘different’ model. Being late, and the fact that it was simply the same car but much lower in the range took the tinge of the dream. A few minutes more and one of the employees came out with de-icer. A bit late now as my lady was on her way in my car. Eventually the screen was cleared and I limped to the nearest petrol station and finally set off for work.

After several chase-calls and an extra day, my car was ready. After payment I went to pick it up. It was “somewhere in the car park”. Its a big car park. I scoured the whole place several times and after 10 minutes, I went back in. “Oh, it might be in the compound then”. They took me to the rear of the building in a lockup area, and there it was. Hurrah! Unfortunately I couldn’t tell how good the paint job was as it was dark and there was no lighting. Left to my own devices I squeezed into the car – again parked dangerously close to the van next to it and went home….

Both companies had completed the work perfectly, both cars have been expertly finished and you can’t tell that any work has been done. We are very happy with the end result but the two journeys couldn’t have been more different. With Ford it felt like a chore taking the car in and a relief when we got it back. Contrast this to Porsche who provided an event and an experience – and made me seriously consider trading up to buy the courtesy car.

An there-in lies what I believe to be the difference between an after-sales service and exemplary customer care.

Jan 28th 2010

Cayman Diaries: Happy New Year!

Small update
Well, the 17″ wheels are back on the Cayman again. The tyres on the 18s are past their best and the rock-hard drive was giving me backache.

One of the 17’s had a puncture so I took it down to the local ATS to sort it. The puncture was too large for a spot repair so was sent away. The tyres were eventually put on around late November time. I’m happy to report that the 17s came as a relief to my back, as the car started to roll over potholes again rather than crashing into them like some hedonistic loony on a suicide mission. This has made the drive much more pleasant – and a bit quieter too.

The daily drive with the new wheels only lasted about a week though, at which point my girlfriend finished work so I’ve been using her car since. Then the snow came, so my lil’ car has been in its Garage for ages. I’ve taken it out for a spin once over the festive period and it was a great drive – but a very slippy one. I went sideways coming off a roundabout at about 10mph with only a small amount of snow flakage on the ground.  So, it went back in its box and the Fiesta has been the continued reliable daily driver.

I still love my little Cayman though!

I received some pennies for Christmas and I think these will be put to good use in the form of a full detail by our local car detailer in the coming months. And this time, it will actually happen!! Expect a detailed report and photos on this soon!

Off Topic
I’m hoping to get a test drive in a 997 in the next few months when my car goes in for its service, so I’ll create a report for that, and my lady bought me a Lamborghini track day for Christmas, which I CANT WAIT to do!!! Again, reviews and photos will be published in due course. Hurrah!

2009 Ford Fiesta Zetec

We collected our new Fiesta on March 1st 2009, our first brand new car!

2009 Ford Fiesta Zetec in Hot Magenta

2009 Ford Fiesta Zetec in Hot Magenta

My girlie has liked them since they came to the London Motor show and had a particular soft spot for the pinkie-purple one since she clapped eyes on it. A few months ago we took a trip to our local ford garage to see what sort of deals were on offer, all casual like with no intention of a purchase.

Fiesta Interior

Fiesta Interior

Two hours later, we had bought a new car! It was a choice between this pink colour and the bright yellow/green colour. My girlfriend chose the former after seeing a few green ones on the road, but no pink ones. The deciding influence also being the colour coded interior, which is lacking on the green one having only the dull-grey standard colour. A benefit of the pink dashboard is that it detracts from the scratchy plastic that Ford still use on its interiors. This something that is highlighted significantly on the grey dashboard, as the rest of the product is of very high build quality.

The delivery date was March 1st. After a few calls saying it would be delayed, then it wouldn’t, then it would again – it was delivered on 1st March.

The service by our local Ford garage has been great. We got a good deal on the car and also got free mats, mud flaps, and a few other bits and bobs. We went for the 1.25 Zetec model, as this offered a good balance between specification and price. We also purchased 2 years of servicing which, when purchased upfront, are discounted by a miserly £20 – but its still £20 in our pocket.

What stuff do you get?
Air con, CD player (which plays MP3 CDs), an iPod connection, alloys, quick-clear screen, Bluetooth connectivity (including phone capabilities) and a funky voice-activated radio! You can just talk to it to use many of the functions including the phone. The downside is that it doesn’t respond very well to ladies – I think it’s a trait of the technology requiring a more boomy voice to acknowledge. It also has very light power steering, and some fancy clutch wizardry, which makes it virtually un-stall-able.

What’s it like inside?

Ace! Its very nicely laid out, very up-to-the minute in trendiness. The dashboard is typical modern-car big, so it has its own little window on the side.  Ours, being pink, has a matching dashboard and seats and looks very funky indeed. Maybe a bit love or hate, but there won’t be many girls who don’t like it!

The seats have an appearance and feel from the class above; very nice and chunky with good lumbar support and huggy sides. I thought this might be a trait of the Zetec edition, but having recently driven a Fiesta in Style trim the seats did feel the same. Regardless, we think they are rather comfy.

The pre-purchase secret.
After getting home on the day we signed up to our new car, we had a look at personalised number plates and my girlie found one that she really liked. It was £400 so she thought it was a bit too expensive for her. Herein started my super secret purchasing plot of great surpriseiness. I contacted the dealership and told them of my little plan to buy the plate as a suprise and they agreed to keep it quiet. I purchased the registration entitlement and took this down to the dealer (thankfully it arrived in the post on a day I arrived home early!).

My lady said nothing else about the plate until the day we went to sign for the car (the week before collection). Amazingly, she had remembered the registration and asked if the dealer could try and get that one for her! The dealer played along with my game and said they couldn’t, as they can’t pick registration numbers any more (that bit is true).

The dealer was fantastic with my secret; they even printed copies of the agreement documents without any registration numbers and told my girlie that they don’t get the plate number until the 11th hour. In addition, our sales man instructed the mechanics to ensure the plates are not put on the car until the day before (they were kept in the boot), in case she comes down looking – and to keep the car in the compound at the back. It was funny listening to them going to lengths to keep my suprise under wraps when we were in the showroom – at one stage rushing into the garage bays to move it round the back when the salesman noticed she was in! Even the account manager pretended we hadn’t met before when we went in to sign. I think they went above what was required of them in this respect to make sure the collection day was that little more special for us, and I was very grateful indeed.

The collection day.
Our appointment was at 9am (first ones to collect!) on the 1st March. The car was parked outside the showroom in the car furthest from us. We were a few minutes early and after confirmation it was indeed our car, we went to have a look at it until the salesman was ready. The first thing my lady said as we walked over was “I wonder what my registration number is going to be!!” When she saw her lovely new car, gleaming in the sunlight with her private registration on it she got all teary and overwhelmed, bless her. To say she was happy was an understatement and was definitely the right decision to buy the plate. I think it just finishes the car off nicely and makes it more personal to her/us.

Since then….
The car turns just as many heads as my Cayman! A lot of people point at it, which my missus loves!

Fiesta Front View

Fiesta Front View

Driving the car is a very comfortable and relaxing experience – reminding me once again that you really don’t need anything bigger than this. It does everything very well, has all the creature comforts you could ask for and feels responsive when driving. I’m not allowed to thrash it (being carefully scrutinized by my lady, protective over her new little baby), so can’t really comment (too much 😉 ) on the handling characteristics. Fords are typically very good at this though and what I tried on the test drive you can certainly chuck it about and it leaves you with a nice grin!

Average MPG in 500 miles is 40mpg, so not too shabby at all. On long motorway journeys, it gets to a fuel sipping 48mpg+. Lovely!

It has been accessorised in a way that only girls can, including a Little Miss Naughty air fresher, a flower shaped tax-disc holder and a pink worm – all matching the car of course!

We have also bought some kick plates for it, after browsing the accessories catalogue. Buying the servicing up-front entitles us to 10% off accessories, so they came in at around £40. They look great too.

Good stuff:

Sprightly engines, very nippy and nimble.

Great chassis, feels sporty to drive.

Lots of bright colours to choose from – about time we had some nice fruity cars again, painting our urban landscape as they travel.

Good price, full of equipment that would put lots of other cars to shame. Feels well built.

Not-so-good stuff:
Air con comes on automatically every time you start the engine if you have the vents pointed to the front screen, which is a bit irritating as us lot in Blighty don’t really need air con until the 2 weeks of summer.

Plastics are still a bit scratchy, but the colourful dashboards do detract from this.

Voice Activated controls is temperamental to softer voices.

Paul Os verdict: A first brand-new car for both of us. A great car, great service, great great greatness. 🙂

March 2009

The “To-Do” List

I’m sure many car nuts have a to-do list, a list of cars they’d like to own at some point in their lives. There have been several on my list of  “cars that I must own” and I’ve now got just a couple left. There are some newer cars which I quite fancy, but this first list is my definitive selection of cars that I have always wanted….

Red Toyota MR2 The car that I always wanted from being but a small boy was the Toyota MR2. When the MK2 edition came out, I resigned myself to the fact that I had to have one at some point in my life. I achieved the dream in 2002 and it didn’t disappoint. It was a Rev3 with a sportier rear end, t-top roof and leather interior. In bright red, it was every inch the sports car I hoped it would be.
Boxster After that, my plan was a Boxster, which I purchased in 2005. The introduction to semi-convertible in the MR2 meant I had to go the whole hog and experience the full monty. I’d recommend anyone do the same.
Red Porsche Cayman The Cayman entered my to-do list not longer after its launch. I liked the shape and as soon as they brought out the 2.7 model I wanted one. I bought this in 2008.
Ferrari F355 Next up on the To-do list is a Ferrari in some guise. I’m not too picky. Either a 348, F355 or 360 will do me nicely thanks. They all look awesome in their own right.

The 348 has got a chequered reputation for both performance and reliability but they are well within the realms of initial purchase affordability. However, I have my doubts on how liveable an 80’s supercar would be in the modern traffic congested, pothole ridden, speed bump obsessed land that is Great Britain. I sat in one a few years ago and quickly realised that one would need knees and thighs of steel to move the clutch! But it would be a Fez in the garage, hey!

The F355 is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Ferrari – and indeed all automotive – design. It looks exactly as a sports car should and doubtless will ever be bettered. This is largely reflected in the price of these cars, which now cost the same to buy as the 360. So, an expensive car with 90’s driveability then. Not one that you could enjoy on a commute without the AA card being close at hand.

That leaves the 360. A great modern Ferrari which could be used a lot more frequently than the other two – and in all weather. It could be left outside sometimes – even if it rained! The is the most tempting of them all, as I’m not very content with unreliable cars – they make me mad. I am also lazy, and the F1 gearbox looks appealing. The shape has a question mark in my mind, but its a modern Ferrari and it does look more up to date than the others. A further caution is that its almost as wide as a garage door, so success on keeping it hid away might be thwarted by its size.

Anyhow – One of those will satisfy the Ferrari craving, and it needs to happen in the next 5 years. I refuse to approach the mid-life crisis age with a Ferrari in the garage! Its just too stereotypical! Note to self: Work harder then. 🙂

Escort Cosworth The final car on my to-do list for now is the iconic Ford Escort RS Cosworth. “Cossie” for short. In red. This has been a desire twinned with the MR2 since my teen years and I still want one now as much as I did back then. Those phat wings and enormous spoiler had me hankering since day one. However, they are approaching 20 years old now and becoming even rarer. In addition, my girlfriend hates these with a passion like I’ve never known so true ownership experience might never come to fruition. But we’ll see!

The ‘Almost’ list
There are tons of cars that I like the look of, but they’ve not quite earned a place on the must to-do list (yet). These include the Jaguar XF, XK, Aston Martin, VW Scirocco, Lexus IS and a number of others. Here are some of my more interesting favorites…!

Red Toyota Celica 2000-2007 Toyota Celica.
I remember seeing one of these for the first time on the motorway. At the time it was a real edgy, fresh design and for some reason I’d not seen any pictures of this model prior to its release. I remember mouthing the word “Wow!” as it went passed. Initially I wondered if it was a new baby supercar! I’m still very fond of the looks and the shape, but as I’ve already got a small coupe on my To-do list, this car was pipped to the post by the Cayman. But never say never…
Crossfire Crossfire I’ve never been in one, and the reviews are generally not positive towards this little car, but I like the looks of them. They are quite rare and look smart, the convertibles have better dimensions than the coupe though..
Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayenne S. If you’ve read my reviews, you’ll know how much I love these cars. But the 18mpg and expensive running costs outweigh its desirability as a daily commutable at the moment.
MG ZS 2005 MG ZS. Cheap and chearful motoring from a legendary UK car company that ultimately lost its way. The last-of-the-line model was great to look at. I’m still not sure how this company went to the wall, as every other youth used to drive the smaller MG ZR. I really did think they were on the cusp of a great return to profitable british motorcars. I like the look of the MG ZS, but in real life it appears a lot more dated than some of the nice imagery that presents itself through the Auto-Trader.

The dream list
These two cars are reserved for those special “6 plus bonus ball” type moments. The outlay and running costs are reserved for the uber rich…

Ferrari F40 Ferrari F40. Poster for my bedroom wall when I was a child, this car represents the ultimate in motoring achievement. A rare sight on the roads keeps this car as revered today as it was when it was launched in the 80’s.
Lambo Gallardo Lamborghini Gallardo. The first time I saw one of these on the road, it overtook me on a dual carriageway. In shiny black with that pointy, purposeful nose it looked like a stealth bomber for the road. I’ve loved them ever since.

2001 Boxster Retroview

I don’t think there is a greater motoring experience than the feeling of wind-in-your hair on a great care free sunny day down your favourite twisty road. I bought a Boxster to satisfy the roofless craving and ran it for three years. Here is my retrospective thoughts on the ownership experience, along with the problems encountered and the financial impact in doing so…

2001 Porsche Boxster, Lapis Blue

2001 Porsche Boxster, Lapis Blue

The Purchase
My introduction to the experience of Porsche ownership began in 2005 with the 2001 986 model Boxster 2.7. Having owned an MR2 before this, I was looking to move up the motoring ladder and a recent promotion meant that the Boxster was now on the radar. So I set about looking for one. There were loads for sale, but there was also a lot of rubbish out there.

My journey took me several hundreds of miles to be met with lots of disappointment and frustration. From cars that were generally tatty (one hadn’t even been cleaned!), cars having rust(!) and one which I initially purchased until the agreed day of inspection by a professional at which point the seller backed out.

I eventually found my car 100 miles from home, in Lapis Blue. The owner had just washed it as I turned up and in the sunlight it looked great. Lapis has a purple tinge which gave the car a more unique colouring than the midnight blue colour that I had originally purchased.

Front view...

Front view...

Time for a test drive.

The owner lived on a farm and there were plenty of small, quiet roads to give the car a road test. The roof was down and the ride was enjoyable. Then I took a turning down a narrow road with a church that was in the final throws of a wedding celebration. The photographer – and all the guests – were out in the middle of the road. And there was me, sheepishly creeping towards them – roof down – with another bloke sat next to me.
That was my first experience of fully fledged self-consciousness. As I shrunk into my seat (as best as a 6’4″ bloke in a small sports car possibly can), I uttered various apologies as the waves parted allowing us through.

The seller – my passenger – seemed largely oblivious to the attention – something I later attribute to having owned the car for some time, you become incognizant to the attention the car can attract. My spirits were heightened to a ‘done deal’ level as we crawled past the attractive bridesmaids who dutifully commented “oooh, nice car”.
20 minutes later, I had me a Boxster, subject to inspection.

The inspection report (done by Peter Morgan, if you ever need one in the UK) highlighted a few niggling faults, but nothing to be too wary of. Overall the report stated it was a good buy, at a decent price. Slightly over what I wanted to pay, but this was a 2.7, rather than the 2.5’s that I had been looking at previously. In fairness, I couldn’t tell the difference between the engines but from a resale perspective I figured a 2.7 would be a better bet with the added bonus that I was stretching to a newer car, with presumably newer and better internal components. It also had the revised Tequipment model wheels, which are similar to the “S” model wheels but less rounded with a more edgy design. I liked them a lot.

Out in the woods

Out in the woods

The Worry!
Driving home, after buying my new car was both a wonderful and scary experience. I’d just paid £18,500 for a Porsche. That’s by far and away the most I’d ever spent on a car and I’d just bought a legendary badge with a preconception of wealth. That made me scared and proud. With these thoughts I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Maybe I should have stayed within my comfort zone and bought a ‘normal’ car? I stepped out of the box with the MR2, maybe this was a step too far?

“Porsche Panic” – a common affliction that affects mere mortals who purchase desirable Marques – started to settle in on the way home. However, after about 30 minutes this feeling subsided as I thought “aah, fek it!”.  Pressing the loud pedal a little harder and glancing in the rear view mirror at those wide Boxster hips helped to bring me to a grinning calm.

I was in a Porsche Boxster. Me. I’d got one. It was all mine and truth be told, I couldn’t be happier!!

Driving and Ownership

Looking out to sea....

Looking out to sea....

Driving the Boxster is fantastic. Walking outside and seeing the sun shining on those rare occasions in Britain comes with the immediate thought “TOP DOWN!!” – and you’ll find excuses to drive places. Weekends away and regular days out became a very common occurrence. Its a feeling I’ve never had before or since in another car. The lapis blue looks fantastic when clean – it really gleams in the day, and looks dark and shiny at night. However, it attracts dirt like the colour black and requires lots of cleaning to keep at its optimum pose level.

The car has taken me all over the country and I’ve only ever had positive comments about the car. It turns heads, people ask you about it and kids will point and mouth “Porsche” as you drive by. From a pure vanity point of view, its cool! Porsche is now common enough that it won’t attract much attention in the car park, meaning you can leave it at Tesco’s without worrying that it’ll be a photo opportunity for passers by, nor a noticeable item worth a punt by a thieving chancer.

Interior, very curvy

Interior, very curvy

The car handles beautifully and inspires confidence when applying effort to your driving. You can corner at speeds which are both safe and fun, and feel like your being rewarded for your efforts.

The interior of the 986 is very curvy and there are some neat little styling cues marking a notable attention to detail in the cabin. The swooping lines which follow along the doors and door pocket covers look great, the instruments are nicely placed to glance at (I love how Porsche deem that the rev counter is more important than the speedometer!). The Becker stereo (with Sound Package Plus option) kicks out some meaty bass without being overbearing. The standard speaker system is pretty terrible though, getting very breathless at even moderate volumes. The Sound Package Plus, or the Bose are definitely worthy of consideration if you like your choons bangin’.

As a tallie, its perhaps a little too cramped inside and longer journeys require a couple of stops to get out for a stretch. A small price to pay for such a rewarding driving experience though.

Extra Stuff
I purchased a Smart Top relay for my car, meaning you can drop the roof whilst moving at up to 30mph. This is a great feature, meaning you don’t have to pull up with the handbrake on to active the roof mechanism.

ooooh, lights!

oooh, lights!

I also bought a set of clear lights to freshen up the face of the car. A worthwhile investment, and makes the car look more modern. Clear lights came standard from 2003 model cars, whereby all the indicators are either ‘smoked’ or clear in colour, rather than yellow. This lessons the ‘chucky egg’ effect of the front assembly.

Speedster humps, sporting. Even more.

Speedster humps, sporting. Even more.

For the summer time, I bought a set of “Speedster humps”. These are genuine Porsche items from the Tequipment range. They affix to the hard top fixing kit and attach to the roll bar. I thought they looked pretty smart, and covered the visible fabric when the roof was down.

As my car was kept outside, I also sourced a hard-top for the car. This required additional Spinlocks to be fitted, so that the roof can be mounted on the car (cost about £50). These will only have been pre-fitted to cars which have had a hardtop at some point in their life, so most cars will need these before a hardtop can be attached. The hardtop was brilliant – it made the cabin noticeably quieter and warmer for the winter months, and gave the car a different look to the convertible. Two cars for the price of one; can’t be bad!

All these items (except maybe the humps!) are a good investment if your thinking of purchasing. Although the initial outlay is expensive, you recoup most of these cost if you sell them on again separate to the car itself. Over 3 years, although the above items cost around £1,700 initially, they were all sold on for about £1200 with most of the loss being from the hardtop and humps, due to having them re-sprayed in blue (you won’t recover this cost, as all colours tend to sell for the same price). However, as the roof saved the aging fabric from the harshness of the winter months, this meant that I didn’t have to buy a replacement during my ownership.

Boxster with hard top, 2 cars for the price of one...

Boxster with hard top, 2 cars for the price of one...

As mentioned, my Boxster was inspected by Peter Morgan who also writes for 911 & Porsche World magazine. One of the photos he took of my car was later featured in the Boxster buying guide supplement in one of the magazine issues. I was delighted when browsing the magazines in WHSmiths I saw my car proud of place on the back page! I bought 3 copies!

Reliability and Costs
Now, you may have heard about the ‘legendary build quality’ of Porsche. So had I, one of the reasons for looking at the Boxster. Back in 1996, when the Boxster was introduced, this statement of Porsche was based largely on one car; the iconic 911. By all accounts, this was a supercar and rivalled the likes of Maserati, Lotus and Ferrari – all of which seemingly required nothing more than a stiff breeze to have the internal engine components shrivel up and die, leaving you stranded in whichever bus stop or lay by you could coast to. By comparison then, the everyday supercar from Porsche really was something special. You could actually use it in all weather – any time that it suited you. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should do. This superb reliability compares well to other supercars of the same era – but not really compared to that MX5 you were considering, nor the German engineering that comes from the VW Golf on your driveway.

Another hard top shot

Another hard top shot

20,000 miles a year takes its toll on a Boxster – and it will cost. Its a high performance machine and whilst its true that most will probably never leave you stranded in the same way that other prestige sports manufacturers might, it will cost a fair bit to keep going. There are plenty of users who report problems on the 986.

It was reported that Porsche themselves became concerned about the reputation that 986 and the 996 were gaining that the 987 was positively designed to be more reliable. To date, this appears to hold true – forums are less littered with disgruntled 987 owners – and as an owner of both cars in some guise I would agree that the 987 is certainly better put together.

But don’t let that put you off – the 986 is a superb car and hundreds of owners will tell you that its been trouble free motoring since they have bought it. Don’t forget though, whilst you can buy them now for 5 or 6 grand, they were £35-50,000 new – and the running costs maintain that prestige.

For info, here is a list of expenditure over 3 years with my Boxster. Many of these items are quite common, according to the specialists who looked after my vehicle during its ownership;

MAF sensor £351
a clamp for something £1.48
electrical fault – £558.13
hard top kit £120.33
reseal cam box bolts £32.32
New steering rack £187.55
relay £12.94
(oil seals, ignition coil pack, rear anti roll bar bushes, brake fluid change) £344.65
wheel bolts £113.36
Radiators x 2 and Air condensers x2 £930.61
Rear screen – £250
Front screen – £60 (excess)

1 minor service (approx 400?)
1 major service (£550)
1 lot of front tyres (approx £200)
2 (or 3) lots of rear tyres (approx £300 per set)
full set of brakes (£300)

Hard-top – £700
Speedster humps – £400ish
Smart Top – £120ish
Clear Lights – £500ish

Depreciation over 3 years – £9,000

An approximately total of around £12,000-£13,000 over 3 years of ownership, using independent Porsche specialists for most of the repair work.

Where is it now?
I sold the car back in 2008 to a local chap, who still has the car now. He’s put a personalised number plate on the car and I still see him driving around from time to time – always with the top down – and always with a big grin on his face.

In the end….

One big-ass light

Big-ass light

On balance, it was a fantastic car. Despite the downsides of the breakdowns and sometimes eye wateringly expensive repair bills, it remains a fantastic car. If I had the room and finances to store the Boxster and the car which replaced it, I’d probably still have it now. I guess that holds true of all my previous cars, but the Boxster was not only great to drive – it actually made you feel a little special, just for driving it.

If you love driving and aren’t bothered about other peoples preconceived ideas about these cars, then get one bought. Highly recommended.

September 2005 – November 2008

2003 911 C4S Vs Cayman 2.7

6 months after I bought the Boxster, it was due for a service. I took it to the main dealer, which then gets you on the radar for various events which take place at the Porsche Centres in your area. One such event was a free 111 point inspection on your car, just before winter. The idea being that you can ensure your car is in tip top shape for the cold months ahead.

Whilst the car was in for inspection, I was invited to take a test drive from anything on the forecourt that took my fancy. Happy days.

So, my choices were a Cayman 2.7 (a car which I had my eye on for a purchase a few years down the line – assuming I worked hard enough), and a 911 C4S for comparison. And really, I just wanted to drive one!

First up was the Cayman demonstrator. With just a few hundred miles showing on the clock on this brand new car, the salesman caned it down the highway from cold. Mental note to self, don’t by a demonstrator.

Cayman test drive

Cayman test drive

That aside, I was impressed with the Cayman. The interior was more modern when compared to the 986 Boxster. It felt a little quicker, but not overly so, but it was a manageable car that anyone can drive; fast, but not put-you-in-the-hedge fast. The engine was also a bit more throaty than my Boxster, perhaps some of that being attributed to the fact that its in the cabin with you.

After a demonstration of the frighteningly capable braking quality and it was changeover time. Myself and the driver swapped sides and I got to give it some beans. The car pretty much sold itself onto my to-do list for the next purchase in a few years time. It looked good, felt modern, was a bit faster than my Boxster and felt like I would be upgrading.

Porsche Cayman, Grey

Porsche Cayman, Grey

However, I also wanted a go in the iconic 911. I’d not driven one up until this point but was well aware it was a top-of-the-tree supercar. A bit out of my price range at the time and I was very excited. I kept my cool as I asked the sales man to get one out for a ‘comparison’!!

His response surprised me as he went for the keys. “Now you’ve driven the Cayman, your going to be disappointed with the 911”. Disappointed? Really?! I realise it was the previous generation model (996), but it was a C4S – quite high up in the range and only a couple of years old. I was sure he was wrong and couldn’t wait to have a go!

911 996 C4S

911 996 C4S

As I took the keys and sat inside my first impressions as I got into the car was that it looked the same as the Boxster, but with a few more dials. Having owned the Boxster now for several months, this was noted as “nothing special”.

I’m not overly struck so far, but wasn’t expecting anything with the interior – I already knew that both the Boxster and the 911 share a lot of the same parts. Starting her up was nice though, a very meaty rumble. As I pulled onto the road I couldn’t help but think “Look at me, I’m in a 911. A Nine-Eleven. Me.” I was so excited inside, but tried not to show too much to the salesman who was probably expecting  a little more decorum than the re-enactment of an overly excited child.

911 C4S

911 C4S

The exterior of the C4S is nice though. It has the extra wide hips and the red stripe across the boot lid – a nod the the C4S models of old. In Silver with the larger turbo style wheels and the low stance it looks really nice. Very purposeful, reminding others at a potential traffic light grand prix not to bother.

As the car warmed up I got to a nice straight road and put my foot down hard. My excitement started to deflate. I was expecting something iconic, savage, brutal. An awesome grin to go with an awesome piece of machinery. But it didn’t happen. The car sounded great, sure, and it went quickly. But it didn’t go that quickly, and it didn’t sound a million miles away from the Boxster, or the Cayman. Certainly nothing that a sports exhaust couldn’t fix. The car moved fast, but not so fast that it made the Boxster feel like a shopping trolley. It didn’t make me feel like I’d bought a “poor mans Porsche”. Ditto on the twisty roads. All of these cars are significantly more capable than my abilities, so I’ll never know which ones are better than others – they all corner really well but mid engined cars are generally known to be a more secure option in the hands of amateurs. Either way, they all went around the bends as hard as I dared push them, so the 911 didn’t leave wanting – but it didn’t excel from the other cars either.

If I’m honest, I wanted it to be amazing and to put the Boxster firmly in the shade. I secretly wanted to get back in the Boxster and to feel underwhelmed. Why? Well, because its good to have something to aspire to. I love cars, they are what make me work harder each year to try and earn more money simply so I can spend more on the next model in my hobby. I’d got the Cayman planned now, but then what? The 911 certainly wasn’t that amazing and for the extra money it just didn’t satisfy any cravings. Plus, the 2 seaters look much better.

This left me in no doubt that the Cayman was the next car for me. The old shape 911 was a disappointment, but maybe I was expecting too much.

People, largely whom have never driven any Porsche, say that the 911 is the only model to get. I disagree and I’m quite happy to say that the significantly cheaper little sister is a great car in its own right and whilst it will never put the legendary 911 in the shade, it certainly is a perfect little Porsche in its own right.

For anyone who hasn’t owned/driven a Boxster, then the 911 will feel fantastic. But if you’ve had one already, you might find this a tad disappointing.

The 997 however, that might well be a different story. And as soon as I’ve been in one I’ll be sure to let you know…

Jan 2010(r) October 2006

Porsche Driving Experience

6.15am. That’s close enough. My alarm is due to go off at 6.30, but its near as damn-it. Certainly better than my last 2 attempts, waking up at 1.30am, and 4.17am. Like a child on Christmas day, I can wait no longer and I’m up and ready. Time for breakfast? Of course there is. But I’m not having any, too excited.

My appointment is at 10am at the Porsche Driving Experience Centre at Silverstone. The journey is around 2 and a half hours. With 1 hour contingency.

So, off I go in the Cayman, picking my Dad up on the way – he’s coming along as my non-driving guest and is really looking forward to it. The relaxing journey down consists mainly of conversation around cars, driving, and bad habits of passing motorists. We pick up a fair amount of traffic on the M1 as we pass the 12 mile contra flow. A broken down lorry in lane one ensures that traffic is pretty solid as we chug past the road works.

After a stop at a services, we arrive at Silverstone at 9.50am (good job we added the extra time allowance). Driving up to the barrier, the security guard pops his head out. “Porsche Experience please” says I. “Turn right here, a mile down that road”, comes the reply. Great stuff. Almost there! Driving down the road, parallel to the Silverstone race track is cool. There is just us on the road. And its a nice new road. Weather is looking good. Very good.

A few minutes later, we arrive at the Centre. It looks like a typical showroom affair. Very nice. We pull up in the car park, next to a sea of Caymans. Lots of red ones, including mine..

Lots of Caymans...

Lots of Caymans...

The entrance looks even more dramatic with the eye-candy on offer…

mmmmm, car candy...

mmmmm, car candy...

Car bums....

Car bums....

As we enter the building we are met by an immaculately presented receptionist. After announcing our names, she gives us our day passes and

Day Pass for the Driving Experience

Day Pass for the Driving Experience

explains how the event works. The passes have our name on them, along with the Porsche logo and a picture of a Cayman. My Dad hasn’t been to anything like this before and is absolutely made up with having his own Porsche name-badge. “I’m keeping this as a memento!” he says proudly, smile beaming from ear to ear as it puts it around his neck. He decides that he’ll keep his Ford hat on though, as he feels more comfortable in it…!!

We pass through the showroom, which dons a few racing cars, a 911, Cayman and Boxster. All looking very nice indeed…

The Entrance

The Entrance

Racing Car

Racing Car

Nice Boxster

Nice Boxster

My slot is a 10.40am. Time for some breakfast now. We get a Window seat looking over the Centre handling circuit and grab some coffee and bacon sarnies. The Caymans are all lined up outside in every colour imaginable. It looks great.

To the right of the cars there is a wash bay, where the cars keep being sent for a good clean. I was wondering how I could sneak mine in there to save me a job at the weekend. Upstairs in the restaurant there is a big Scalextric track which provides some good entertainment, and a selection of car magazines to read next to the comfy-seats. To the left of the restaurant is the Options board, which shows you many of the different customization options you can have for the interior and wheels when specc’ing a new car.

Looking out onto the race track...

Looking out onto the race track...

Whilst having breakfast, the centre manager from Porsche Newcastle comes over to say hello, mistakenly assuming my Dad was the one who bought the Cayman. The cheek! Dad sheepishly removes his Ford cap.

£70k Black Porsche Cayman

£70k Black Porsche Cayman

Hoooow much?!

Hoooow much?!

10:40 arrives and we are greeted and taken for an overview of the building and the cars which are in the showroom, including a £70,000 Cayman with all the trimmings. Looks fantastic…

Then its my turn out on the track. Hurrah!!!! First up, the skiddy stuff. I am reminded on the way to the skidpan that we aren’t actually supposed to be going full-tilt on the track as yet. You get to test the power of the brakes first by accelerating down a hill and then stopping really close to the end. I was amazed just how quickly these cars can actually stop. Then we head down a section of tarmac which is covered in water, mimicking a road of ice. A sheet of water sprouts up randomly from the floor and you have to try to avoid it. Having the car swirl all over the shop is a good reminder as to how dangerous the roads are in bad weather if you have to suddenly change course.

Then we head onto the twisty section which is half the slipperiness of the ice section, and is like a polished marble effect on the floor. This allows you to get the back end out and do some great slides out of the corners. I absolutely loved this bit, getting the rear out and then doing that thing where you let go of the steering wheel and letting it shoot round to correct the lock was awesome!!

Next up track stuff. My instructor was great, helping me to get the most out of my car and telling me when to brake, lines to use etc. This was good as I’ve never done anything like this before. It felt really quick into the corners but my Dad said it looked slow from the viewing platform. haha!! I think the latter was probably true, but it felt quick at the time!! Here I am…

Yeah, racing on a track baby!!

Yeah, racing on a track baby!!

So… Cayman S. Very nice – very quick!! Love the engine note, and the effortlessness of the acceleration. this was a manual car. I then had a go in the new non-S model. It had PDK. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference really in speed from my current 2.7 and I struggled with PDK. I couldn’t get the hang of pushing the thing forwards to change up a gear. My driver had to keep pointing the direction which I needed to move the paddle or stick, engine merrily revving its heart out whilst I worked it out.

After a good few laps in each car we headed over to the final skid section, which had a kick-plate as you drove onto the water drenched area. The plate knocked your back wheels randomly left or right, causing you to go into a skid. This was good, but I managed to catch all of the skids and keep the car level (driving around 22mph), as did most in our group. One notable exception was a lady who was pirouetting every time, looked very funny. Then my instructor turned off PSM to demonstrate just how much the computer assists you without always realising it. I put my foot down and turned the car in to cause a skid. The loss of control was immense, with the car like a spinning top. With PSM on, it was much, much harder to force the car to skid. PSM – the button of doom. I’ll leave mine on I think!

A couple more laps, and then it was game over. I met up with my Dad and we went for another brew, followed by a presentation on the Cayman. This was delivered expertly by one of the Porsche staff at the centre and was about the history of Porsche and the development of the Cayman. On the questions section I asked about the double-clutch system, and how it knows whether to change up or down. The answer, by the way, is that the second clutch is continually monitoring what your doing with the accelerator and will keep changing the pre-selected gear (up or down) depending on which one your going to require.

Our final ride of the day was in the Cayenne, where we were treated to some off-road demonstrations of what the 4×4 can do. I love these cars!

Porsche Cayenne Offroad Experience

Porsche Cayenne Off-road Experience

This finished with a fast-lap in the new Cayenne Diesel to show off its capabilities as both a driver car as well as an off-roader/mummy-machine.

A lovely Turbo was also in the showroom…

Porsche Cayenne Turbo - Heeeuge front end...

Porsche Cayenne Turbo - Heeeuge front end...

Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Porsche Cayenne Turbo

We finished the day with another look around the showroom and then headed off back up the M1 to home. The distinct lack of any salesmen meant that we could indulge in each car for as long as we liked without any hint of sell or attention. Brilliant! The interior in the Cayenne (an orangey colour) and the 911 (red) really looked good!

Lovely 911

Lovely 911

911 interior

911 interior

Cayenne Turbo Interior

Cayenne Turbo Interior

Final thought…
The Porsche Driving Experience Day. Absolutely brilliant, unforgettable day out for me and the ol’ man. Sometimes the best things in life are free – you just have to have paid a small fortune beforehand in order to get them.

Outside, Classic 911, and latest 987.

Outside, Classic 911, and latest 987.

April 2009