Porsche Cayman GTS, £55,397
SOON ALMOST no one will want to buy a car. You may think the industry is vibrant and full of many exciting things, but the truth is: cars are enjoying their last hurrah, burning brightly as suns do just before they fizzle out.
The problem is simple. Apart from a few friendless weirdos, today’s young people are simply not interested in cars at all. When I turned 17, and this is probably true of you too, I became consumed with the need to get on the road as quickly as possible. I wanted a car, not just for the freedom that such a thing would afford, but for the sheer joy of being able to drive a ton of machinery at a hundred miles an hour.
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My son is very different. He’s 19 and has not bothered to take his driving test. His argument is a simple one. There’s a coach that stops right outside his flat in London and it takes him, in a blizzard of wi-fi, to and from Oxford. For £11.
If he wants to go somewhere else, he can use a train or something called “a bus”. An Uber cab is never more than a few clicks away, and there’s always a Boris bike for short trips on level ground when it’s not too cold or hot or wet. He can move about without worrying about breath tests or speeding fines or parking tickets or no-claims bonuses. My son therefore thinks he’s free simply because he doesn’t have a car.
And there’s no point going on about the open road and the wind in your hair and the snarl of a straight six because he just doesn’t see cars this way. With good reason. When he was little he spent two hours a day on the school run strapped into a primary-coloured child’s seat, in the back of a Volvo, in an endless jam. There’s no way this was going to engender any motoring-related dreams. He wasn’t sitting there in a goo of expectation, thinking, “Hmm, when I’m big I will do this as well.”
There’s more. When I was a boy we had Grandstand and World of Sport on the television, bringing us all the action from the country’s racetracks. We had rallycross, and we had Minis going wheel to wheel with Ford Cortinas and enormous American muscle cars. And Formula One had no stewards in Pringle jumpers making sure that on the circuit there were no overtaking moves at all.
But look at what we have today. F1 is so boring that the television companies have to show replays of a pit stop. They do. In Barcelona last week they showed us a car having its wheels changed and then they showed it to us again, as though we might be interested. My son certainly wasn’t. So we turned it off and went to watch some football.
In the olden days there was even a car show on the television. There were Lamborghinis whizzing hither and thither and McLarens at full chat in Italian motorway tunnels. But that’s gone too now, and when it comes back you can be fairly sure it’ll be full of handy eco-Milibandy hints on how to get more miles to the gallon from your hybrid.
Then we have car advertising. Where are the burning cornfields and the shots of pretty women hanging their fur coats on parking meters? Gone. And in their stead we have £9.99 win free save international zoom-zoom nonsense full of palindromic numberplates with a bouncy Europop beat. They’re selling cars as though they’re fridges.
F1 is so boring that the television companies have to show replays of a pit stop
And if you sell something as a practical proposition, it had better actually be practical. Which, as we’ve established, a car isn’t. Nor is a fridge, for that matter, since you have a supermarket on every street corner now that can keep everything chilled until you need it. Free up the space in your kitchen. Get rid. And free up the space in your garage while you’re at it. Because you don’t need a car. Not really. Not these days.
My generation, we see the car as an Alfa Romeo drophead on the Amalfi coast with a French playboy at the wheel and Claudia Cardinale in a headscarf in the passenger seat. Today’s generation sees the car as a Toyota Prius, in a jam, on a wet Tuesday, with a Syrian accountant at the wheel and a broken TomTom on the passenger seat.
The tragedy is that car makers don’t seem to have noticed that this is going on. That there’s nothing — absolutely nothing — out there selling the idea of a car as a dream.
Jaguar, for example, makes a sporty car and then two weeks later brings out a new version that is sportier still. But it is chasing an audience that is getting older and dying. Most people just want a bit of peace and quiet and 40 miles to the gallon. And the new generation don’t want a car at all. And certainly not a car that can do 180mph.
There’s a similar problem at Porsche. I tested the Cayman S not long ago and thought it was pretty much spot-on, an almost perfect sports car for the fiftysomething chap whose automotive love affair began long before the thought police arrived with their Gatsos and their parking-by-phone nonsense.
So what does Porsche do? Well, it brings out a new model called the GTS, which is lower and gruntier and more sporty. Hmm. Does Porsche think the world is full of people saying, “Wow. There’s a new Cayman out that is 10mm closer to the ground for better cornering”? Because it isn’t.
Still, that’s its problem. Not mine. Mine is reviewing a car that’s a bit odd because it is not, as you might expect, a follow-up to the 2011 Cayman R. That came with no equipment at all and was designed for track-day enthusiasts. The GTS comes with all the usual appurtenances of gracious living. But is actually more powerful and faster than the R was. Odd.
And it gets odder because if you buy a normal Cayman S and fit all the stuff that the GTS has as standard the two cars cost as near as dammit the same.
I don’t see the point of this car. If Porsche wants to give us a lower ride height and slightly higher cornering speeds, it’s got to start reselling the dream of the car. It’s got to forget G-forces and think about the G-spot
I’d stick with the S because while the GTS is a lovely thing to drive on the sort of deserted road that doesn’t exist any more, really, apart from in Wales (where I was, luckily), you’d need a stopwatch to tell it apart from the S. Both are beautiful to hustle through bends, both go well and both ride nicely apart from on bumpy city-centre streets, where they are both a bit crashy. The GTS especially so.
I had only two criticisms of the S. I didn’t like its flappy-paddle box and its seats were deeply uncomfortable. Well, the GTS I tried had a manual, which was sharper, even if it did feel very old-fashioned to be doing so much work, and seats that felt better.
But were they? I only ask because after a week with the car I had to visit a massage person. I’m not saying the two things are connected. But it seems likely.
So I don’t see the point of this car. If Porsche wants to give us a lower ride height and slightly higher cornering speeds, it’s got to start reselling the dream of the car. It’s got to forget G-forces and think about the G-spot.
We need more glamour. We need more Italian starlets in headscarves. We need a new James Dean, because he sold more cars by dying in one than a million engineers will shift in a lifetime.
Porsche Cayman GTS specifications
- Price: £55,397
- Engine: 3436cc, 6 cylinders
- Power: 280 lb ft @ 4750rpm
- Torque: 479lb ft @ 1750rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Performance: 0-62mph: 4.9sec
- Top speed: 177mph
- Fuel: 31.4mpg (combined)
- CO2: 211g/km
- Road tax band: K (£640 for first year; £290 thereafter)
- Release date: On sale now
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