I’m relaxing on my sofa, flicking through the Awards 2008 issue of Top Gear Magazine, when I come across an article about Porsche’s new four-seater sports car, the Panamera. It seems that it is all the rage at the moment, for luxury pocket-rocket makers to stretch out the wheelbase and add in some proper back seats and extra doors. But as I was reading the short piece, I realised they neglected to talk about the one car that started this recent trend, and arguably also the best currently on the market.
Porsche’s Panamera will be up against some stiff competition when hits the dealers in April 2009, namely Maserati’s Quattroporte (top) and Aston Martin’s Rapide (above). There is also competition from Mercedes who know all about building luxury cars with slick engines, and their CLS Class is very popular among those with big enough bank balances. Audi are also hoping to muscle in on the action with a rumoured A7, and of course BMW have been slapping M badges on their range for years. And if Lamborghini build the Estoque (below), the market for millionaire motorheads with little darlings will be blown open.
The article in Top Gear praised the Panamera considerably, and included a side panel to the piece which mentioned Aston Martin’s and Lamborghini’s efforts. However, the failure to mention Maserati’s only served to get my neurons sparking. You see, while the Panamera looks like a Porsche, and the Rapide looks like an Aston, the Quattroporte looks like a Maserati and the Estoque looks outrageous (and therefore, like a Lamborghini), the latter three are also suitably different from the standard machines the company’s build. Porsche’s effort looks like, well, it just looks like a Porsche.
This is a problem Porsche have, and it needs addressing if the company are to continue against the increasing competition from their rivals. Below is a photo of two 911s from different ends of the time spectrum. Almost 40 years of development, and it looks the same. Undoubtedly, what has happened under the skin cannot be measured, but from the outside, Porsche have resolutely remained in the sixties.
They say if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, but looking at the Panamera, I’d say something is certainly in need of a fix. While Porsche may be sitting on its laurels though, having sold many thousands of cars over the years, they aren’t pushing any new envelopes when it comes to design and aesthetics. They are just riding a wave of brand popularity, but doing little to move the industry forward. Aston Martin, Maserati and Lamborghini are challenging people’s views though, by building attractive, yet striking cars. And this sums up the major difference between the manufacturers.
If you buy a Porsche, you will undoubtedly be buying superb engineering, but you will also buying into an idea from the 1960s. An idea of no news is good news. And while design should perhaps come second to the actual workings of the machine, it shouldn’t be left on the shelf for 40 years untouched.
When I redesigned BlogF1 back in the first quarter of 2008, some people said the design had damaged the site, caused it to run slower and hindered the navigation. While I disagree with the navigation points, I knew it was running considerably slower than previously. But at least I’m not a Porsche, I kept saying to myself. At least I’m not a Porsche.