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Stephen Corby: Flat-six and out

By Stephen Corby, 04 Nov 2018 Opinion

Stephen Corby: Flat-six and out

"I spent a week in a yellow Cayman GTS and disliked it so much I never took it for a proper drive"

Even intelligent apes weren’t designed to live as long as we do, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we start doing odd things as we age, like pulling our waistbands up to our armpits, and complaining about loud noises even when we’re deaf.

Older folks also seems to grow less wedded to what you might have thought were their core beliefs. My old man, for example, no longer cheers for Australia in sport, because he just doesn’t care enough, even though he’s the reason I wear Wallaby boxers and have a Steve Waugh tattoo.

All this has only made me more fiercely determined not to change my mind about anything, and to stick to what I know is right, because if I shift my opinions on important things at this stage, it won’t be because of my accepting a considered argument, it will be a symptom of dementia. 

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And then along came the 718 Cayman GTS, and one of the bedrock beliefs on which my life rests – the inviolable superiority of Porsches – began to crumble.

Obviously, it had been badly damaged before, by the seismic shock of the Cayenne and the dark inevitability of the Macan, but at least the perfection of the 911 and Cayman could still be enjoyed in their shared isolation.

My doubts about the latter were raised, hackle-like, with the launch of the 718 Cayman and its Subaru WRX-sounding turbo flat-four, but when I took delivery of a new bikini yellow GTS model I was confident that all would be resolved, because those three letters have always spelled ‘J-O-Y’ in the past.

I am deeply saddened to report, however, that I disliked even the GTS version of the current Cayman so much that I never, even once, took it for a proper drive. Yes, I’m ashamed of me too.

I know, just from piloting it in town, that it would be fantastic around corners, and that its steering would make me weep, and that its 2.5-litre turbo flat-four would deliver brilliant pace with its 269kW and 430Nm.

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The problem is that I hate the way it sounds, not just because it’s farty and flaccid and awful, but because it is entirely removed from what a proper, flat-six Porsche has always sounded like; a howl of ecstasy so pure you could wash diamonds with it. And no, ‘hate’ is not too strong a word. It riles me, even at high revs.

I could forgive the engineers when they turbocharged the 911 – I didn’t love it, but I couldn’t argue with the benefits, and it didn’t entirely ruin the sound. But for me, the Cayman – on some days, with a manual transmission, my favourite car in the world – is ruined.

And yes, I know this is madness, or, worse still, old-man logic (built around the dictum of the fuddy-duddy “things were better in my day”), because one of my learned colleagues succinctly told me so. “You not wanting to drive one of Porsche’s most dynamically rewarding cars because you don’t like the sound makes me sad; it’s as if a beautiful New Zealand swimwear model wants to make passionate love with you and you’re declining because you don’t like her vowel-mangling accent.”

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I do hate it when other people are right, and yet, as I get older, I’m pretty sure that such logical arguments will concern me less and less. Fortunately, by the time I’m ready to retire, I reckon I might be able to afford the kind of Cayman I now want more than ever – an old one.