Car of the Year: Performance Car Over $60,000Motor News Car Of The Year
Winner: Performance Car Over $60K - Porsche 911 Carrera S
Porsche's 911 may be expensive, but it's also head and shoulders above most performance cars.PT5M9S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2adfq 620 349 November 28, 2012
- 911 Carrera
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- S PDK
- Sports Automatic Dual Clutch
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- Petrol - Unleaded ULP
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- Rear Wheel Drive
Porsche 911 Carrera S (winner)
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
FPV GT R-Spec
It's tempting to take an apologetic stance when announcing the results of this category, but when judged against the DCOTY criteria, there's just no ignoring the Porsche 911's sheer prowess.
2012 Best Performance Car Over $60,000
The 2012 Drive Best Performance Car Over $60,000 is the Porsche 911 Carrera.
The temptation to play off the back foot is purely down to the new 911 Carrera S's enormous price tag, and no matter how you look at it, north of $285,000 is a mighty big number.
But again, when you come back to a direct comparison of the Porsche's abilities against the criteria we were using, it emerges as the consummate example of a performance car.
Its combination of extreme acceleration and road-holding was bettered only by the Nissan but, even then, the Porsche offered a tactile experience that nothing else here could match.
And the real magic of the 911 is its on-road demeanour. The expectation is that something with this sort of explosive performance is compromised in its on-road delivery, but the 911 bucks this trend and imposes no such trade-offs.
Every judge was impressed with the 911's ability to iron out on-road bumps and lumps as well as its easy-to-live-with nature that extends to everything from its rear vision to simply getting in and out of the thing.
The new interior was a debatable improvement according to some judges and the levels of interior noise (mainly from the tyres) was also a negative. So were the high prices on Porsche's options list, including the PDK clutchless transmission that adds just $50 short of $6000 to the price tag.
But the transmission itself is a revelation, with enough smarts to be a superb choice for both road and track.
Ultimately, despite that stratospheric sticker on the windscreen, the 911 excels at being a performance car. It does precisely what it says on the box, and that's enough for the DCOTY criteria to be met more or less in full.
That was borne out when the votes were tallied, too, and while initially the BMW M135i and 911 were locked at three apiece, when the inevitable recount occurred, the 911 streaked ahead six to three.
Occupying less rarefied air in dollar terms, the FPV GT R-Spec is nonetheless a car on a mission, too.
But the arrival of the supercharged V8 (codenamed Miami) to the engine bay of FPV's big sedans was a mixed blessing in a way.
While it certainly gave the model range a huge amount of performance – 335kW is never to be sneezed at - it also showed up the age of the basic platform supporting the five-litre powerhouse.
But the most recent tweaks to FPV's tried and true formula have seen the R-Spec version of the GT emerge as the most composed and capable model yet to make use of the Miami engine.
It is, without being flippant, absolutely hilarious to drive and the judges were all impressed with the car's straight-line speed and its rousing exhaust note.
Equally worthy of merit is the new-found levels of rear grip made possible through wider tyres and some intelligent suspension fiddling.
The ride and overall handling, however, were a constant reminder that not only is this a dated concept, it's also a heavy one, and the slow gearshift and heavy clutch were simply further reminders that the world has moved on a bit.
The seating position also copped flak for its perch-like quality and the lack of adjustment in the steering column and, frankly, silly starter button arrangement played against the big FPV.
Criticism was also meted out for the interior and exterior presentation, with the car earning the "Falcon in a track-suit" tag from one judge.
But for moving five people, a boot full of luggage and perhaps even a boat or caravan all at the same time? That's when the GT R-Spec would take some real beating.
Also strong in the practicality section of the DCOTY criteria was the AMG Coupe.
The non-turbocharged V8's days at Mercedes-Benz (and, by definition, AMG) are numbered.
More efficient designs using turbochargers and smaller capacities are on the way in and, in this case, that seems a shame because the 6.2-litre V8 fitted to the reigning champion in this category, the C63 Coupe, is a genuine highlight. It has awesome thrust (358kW as tested) and the most outrageous soundtrack of any of the cars that took on DCOTY this year.
The automatic gearbox works well on the road even if it failed to obey commands occasionally, and the front-end geometry is set up for going quickly.
Unfortunately, the AMG is not necessarily set up for maximum comfort. True, a firm ride is the usual trade-off for such mighty handling, but the judges thought that, maybe, AMG had gone a bit too far this time. On really beaten-up surfaces, the C63 tended to send every imperfection straight into the cabin.
The meaty steering is delightful, though, and even though it's a two-door vehicle, the C63 remains a vaguely practical car with seats for four and a spacious enough boot.
Strangely for a member of the Benz family, the C63's ergonomics are not without criticism: The foot-operated park brake seems outdated and there was always the chance of accidentally snagging the cruise-control wand when going for the indicators.
The judges also questioned whether keyless start should be an extra-cost option on a car with a base price of $154,300.
In fact, our test car also sported a performance upgrade which, when combined with a clever differential added a full $20,000 to the asking price, although even at $185,380 as tested, the AMG remains a remarkable package for the money.
But so, too, does the smallest contestant in this category.
It's tempting to look at the layout and footprint of the new BMW M135i and conclude that it's simply a grown-up's hot-hatch.
In fact, it's much, much more than that with blinding performance and a cohesive feel that impressed every judge.
The inline six-cylinder engine is familiar to anybody who's experienced the epic 1M. With a pair of turbochargers boosting the three-litre inline six-cylinder engine, the BMW cranks out 235 very usable kilowatts and torque to match.
A highlight is the eight-speed automatic which not only matches the engine perfectly, but gives the car a real dual personality as it tackles everything from a racetrack to the daily grind through heavy traffic.
In some cases, though, the judges felt the transmission could feel a bit hyperactive and at $4000 as an option, it's hardly cheap.
Other options fitted were criticised for their cost, too, and the Bluetooth connectivity at $200 and metallic paint at $1700 didn't sit too well with the judges.
The plain interior also attracted a few negative comments with some feeling that not enough differentiation had been made between the M135i and lesser 1-Series BMWs.
No such problem on the dynamic front, however, and the BMW's combination of accessible power and nimble handling made plenty of friends across the week of testing.
Although some testers noted a degree of nervousness in the upper-limit handling, the M135i hatch is vastly more controllable and stable than the 1M we sampled last year. And given that it has all that car's performance, a much more practical body and costs about $20,000 less (even as tested) it's easy to see how it made the DCOTY shortlist for 2012.
It's almost as if Nissan's engineers, meanwhile, were concentrating on just one thing when it comes to the GT-R.
Godzilla didn't impress the judges with its manners and on-road demeanour, but it surely nailed the actual performance criteria. A 0-100km/h time of 3.5 seconds is more than a full second faster than the 911 and underlines Nissan's claims of 404kW for the twin-turbo V6 engine.
The built-in abilities of all that computer power on board also raised the Nissan to a new level in DCOTY history and, if corner speed is your thing, the GT-R will not disappoint.
The PlayStation-inspired dashboard layout will appeal to younger lovers of performance and the Nissan's $170,800 sticker, while hardly pocketmoney, is, in fact, a bargain when lined up with the model's hypercar abilities.
A race car with number plates the Nissan may be, but as a road-going proposition, the judges were less impressed.
Interior noise levels are the worst in this category and the gearbox that feels so decisive on the track fails to inspire on the road as it shuffles clumsily through every gear on downshifts and then throws in a measure of crudity around town.
The judges also agreed that while ride quality had improved with this latest version, it still left a fair bit to be desired on even moderately maintained surfaces.
Again, this is not the be all and end all for a performance car, but the GT-R's manners were compromised enough for it to lose marks in the "comfort and practicality" section of our criteria.
While it got our votes as the pick of the crop, can the Porsche 911 Carrera S at $285,000 really be nine-and-a-half times better than the Toyota 86 at $29,990?
It seems like a ridiculous proposition, especially when the little Toyota coupe is so darn good at what it does.
After all, the 911 isn’t nine times faster, nor can it get around a race-track in a ninth of the time, so what’s the buying proposition?
Clearly, it comes down to a raft of things such as badge-prestige and sheer desirability, but it’s also worth remembering that the Australian Government makes more from each Porsche sold than Porsche Australia or its retail dealers, combined, ever do.
Take the Federal grab of between $80,000 and $100,000 from the equation and the Carrera S suddenly looks a whole lot tastier.
But go even further and look at the US experience and you’ll see that a 911 Carrera S, thanks to Porsche USA’s enormous buying power, retails over the pond at about $100,000. Which must make Australian Toyota dealers shiver.