Sunday, March 04, 2007

Porsche's devolution into monster SUV

When this Porsche advertising supplement fell out of the Sunday New York Times, it caught my eye with its echo of the clean look and minimalist copy of the old Doyle Dayne Bernbach ads for the classic Volkswagen Beetle, whose upscale cousin was the original Porsche.

I used to love the idea of the Porsche, while never really wanting to own the actual car -- I lacked the skills and opportunity to drive it to its limit, the patience to maintain a finely tuned driving machine of this order, and last but not least, the means to acquire it. But to me, it always embodied a sort of Platonic ideal of the fusion of functional design, fine engineering and the lure of the open, preferably winding, road. The supplement unfolded to show the car's ancestry -- grandfather, father, and whatever modern wonder followed that -- and I opened it eagerly only to find...

The "new" Cayenne -- a big, honking SUV with a curb weight of 5,724-lb. for the top-of-the-line Turbo model, which belches 12.3 tons of emissions per year in average driving and is rated at 13 mpg (city) to 18 mpg (highway), though you're likely to do worse in real life driving conditions. Oh, and as the brochure mentions, its top track speed is 171 mph.

The car is not even new, and here they were, trying to flog the current cosmetic model change by using its illustrious lineage to pass it off as a sports car. The frontal view and blurry background suggest a sports car, but the reality is you're still driving a huge luxury SUV that weighs as much as a GMC Yukon XL.

It's an "inconvenient truth" that growing consciousness of global warming is starting to influence the luxury SUV market, just as Porsche embraced it to lessen its reliance on the fickle sports car market. The market is starting to switch over to hybrids. Porsche has talked about a hybrid version in the future, but nothing specific so far. They'd better get a move on. They probably won't be able to rely on smoke and mirrors like this brochure with the misleading teaser much longer.

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