Poverty-Spec Perfection: When less is more.

As Christmas is fast approaching, I found myself reading my niece's letter to Santa. She is four and it was cute as hell. The usual things; Barbie car, princess shoes, doctor kit and coat and a phone. She seems a bit young for a phone and I'm assuming she means "toy" phone.

Regardless, I couldn't help but smile and began to mentally jot down my own list. Hot, hairy, emotionally mature and patient man...Porsche GT3 Touring.....PS4 Pro, with Spiderman and/or God of War 4 Lets not be too greedy, one game would be enough.

Imagine the scene on Xmas day. Me rising looking refreshed, very handsome and excited to open my front door to be greeted by the sight of a new Porsche with my hot man in the passenger seat, and PS4 Pro on his lap. Perfection, right? Then I thought about the reality of owning a Porsche GT3. Those things are not cheap to insure, fuel and service. Maybe I should ask Santa for a 911 Turbo or even a basic Carrera 4S? A Porsche is still a Porsche, right?

After considerable mental effort over my lunch break, I decided I could settle for a 911 Carrera T; the T denotes "touring" and dates back to the 70s. It is marketed as a pure driving experience because it is a lightweight, back-to-basics model, devoid of the company's larger engines and expensive options. If I was being cruel, I could claim Porsche is taking the piss by selling people their most basic model with optional decals along the sills of the car to have them never forget that they are the proud owners of what is, in reality a "poverty-spec" Porsche.

 

The refreshed mid-sized SUV Porsche Macan is now on the market and, like the 911 T, the basic model seems to be the one surprising many motoring journalists. The Macan is the Porsche cash cow that keeps on giving, and the lowest spec cars are powered by a 4-cylinder turbo charged petrol motor, similar to the one found in fast Volkswagen Golfs. On paper, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Surely buyers are losing out settling for this model over their larger-engined siblings?

 

 

My first car was a poverty-spec Mini, also with "City" decals along its flanks. In any automotive sense, poverty-spec is generally avoided by everyone, bar the poorest customers and taxi drivers. People want the top-spec models. They want 10.2 inch screens, huge engines with mild hybrid technology to show that they are rich and considerate. A GT3 is a faster, heavier and more advanced 911, but is it a better 911?

 

 

 

The new BMW 3-series is yet another case of a car company shouting about their more modestly specified models. The past few generations of 3-series have been launched with expensive and necessary electronic dampers, to get the best from the chassis. The thriftier customers and fleet buyers made do with standard springs and ended up with lesser cars as a result. Out to prove that the 3-series has reclaimed it handling magic, BMW have given the motoring press the standard 320d to review. This is the most relevant version as it is the one most people will buy with their own money.

 

 

I would assert that this IS great news for consumers. The days of nasty, really cheap cars are behind us. They would simply never sell. Besides, the examples above are hardly cheap cars. Porsche, being Porsche have carved out very appealing marketing positions for both 911 and Macan. The Carrera T is still a 911 and in any guise, is as fast a road car as you will ever need, looks like every other 911 AND is probably the purest 911 experience a driver can have in late 2018. The Macan has much broader appeal; fast enough for everyday driving, whether that is on the school run or to the grocery store AND handles better than any other SUV even when equipped with a small engine. You don't need to go any higher up the range to feel like you have something special. BMW, well BMW HAD to reclaim the 3-series's reputation as a "sports salon". The new standard suspension along with the cluster architecture gives the car more ability out of the box than before. Like the Macan, even in basic 320d form, it is enough to make a motorway drive relaxing AND still be entertaining on the back roads at legal speeds.

Marketing fluff aside, what we are getting are better cars at their core, rather than mediocre vehicles tarted up with technology and added weight. There is less to go wrong, lower fuel costs, (presumably) lower emissions and smaller bills come servicing time.

Bearing all this in mind, I am now certain that I would really love to get a 911 T, or Macan or even a 320d from Santa this year. I will have to ask my niece to add me to her letter ASAP. Now all I need to consider is the colour...Mm.

Porsche images sourced from Autocar (www.autocar.co.uk)

BMW Image from BMW Blog (www.bmwblog.com)