August 28 and 29 saw the second installment of the Targa Trophy go flying out of the San Francisco Bay and into Silicon Valley. As we wrote in the October ’10 issue, european car has partnered with the event organizers as an official media outlet and will be offering expanded content at europeancarweb.com, including expanded photo galleries and the official Targa press alerts. The second event began at the San Fran W Hotel, with a midday lunch stop at the W in Silicon Valley, then continued over some damn tortuous roads en route back to the S.F. W.
Leg Two in the Bay and Valley was pretty special, since the ec team in our green Porsche Panamera 4S actually scored well enough to rank in the top ten. As we’ve stated before, Targa isn’t an all-out speed trial, that is, the fastest time between checkpoints wins. It uses a points system that takes your overall accrued distance and elapsed time into account and compares those to the distance and time set by the event’s pre-runners, who at the same time map a very specific route for event participants. So this rally presents its own very unique sort of challenge.
Of course, there are always the guys who just love to go completely balls out, throw the rules to the wind, and try and set the overall fastest time for the route. But those guys never win and a strategy like that pretty much guarantees you won’t place anywhere near the front. The Traga Trophy generally rewards more conservative driving, but more significantly, it rewards precise navigation. In fact, the navigator is usually the more important component on the driving team. The routes these guys map can be tricky, even downright diabolical.
As media partners, we aren’t competing for the prizes; even if we took the top place, we wouldn’t be collecting any schwag. But what the heck, it’s all about bragging rights, yeah? And so having never ranked anywhere near the top ten, this time around was surprisingly gratifying when we placed Eighth.
Yeah, we’re easily amused. Check back soon for the official Bay Area rankings, overall standings, and expanded photo galleries from the rally.
Considering the extended drive routes cover a good bit of ground and you can be physically on the road for anywhere between six and eight hours, we’ve been trying to think of cars to drive that offer an ideal combination of speed, driving dynamics, and a relative amount of comfort. Guys that show up in raced-out performance cars are very likely to get the crap beaten out of them, and certain sections of this outing’s route, at least, were decidedly not kind to stiff aftermarket suspensions and low-slung ground effects.
This time around, Porsche came through for us with a Panamera 4S. Despite the controversy that surrounded it basically since its inception, the Panamera was conceived as the ultimate four-dour performance car. And true to aim, that’s pretty much what the engineers in Zuffenhausen built.
Even more vocal than the “purists” who breathe fire and spit blood at the mere mention of a four-door Porsche—the same ones who breathed fire and spit blood when the Cayenne SUV was announced—were those who ridiculed its aesthetic design when the final, un-shrouded version first began making its rounds on the spy photography circuits. And some of the complaints tended to be rather contradictory. Some said they tried to make it look too much like a 911. Some said it looked more like a squashed Cayenne. I rarely weigh in on design criticism, considering such criticism is extremely subjective and there are generally as many opinions as there are critics. But I will say the Panamera’s looks have grown on me.
If the looks are controversial, the driving experience really shouldn’t be. I’ve had the chance to drive one on the track, and it quite simply kicks ass. It won’t be as quick through corners as a 911 or Cayman, but then you look behind you and see that huge back seat and the other two doors. There are very few things on the road with four doors and four full adult-sized seats that’ll perform at its level.
The Panamera S is propelled by a 4.8-liter, 400-hp V8 linked to Porsche’s very excellent twin-clutch PDK automated manual. The 4S adds all-wheel drive to the mix. On our route, the car was damn fast, and held the road in a German death-grip on all but the tightest sections. It even held on in those, too, but it’s there that the Panamera’s considerable size becomes pretty evident. And it’s here that you realize there are just some roads in the world where you just cannot beat a 911.
Then you get back on the highway, and you begin to wonder if the Porsche Panamera might not be the ultimate road tripper. The cabin is ultra-plush, very comfortable for long distances, and very spaceship-like in its layout and design. The inside wraps around you like no other sedan or saloon or four-door I’ve experienced, whether you sit in the front or back. Whatever I’m in, I normally slam the seat to the floor. In the Panamera, I actually had to raise it up a bit. Which might speak ill of its overall rear and lateral visibility, but says a lot for its undeniable sports-car feel.
Overall, the P4S made an ideal ride for the second Targa event of the year. We’re patting ourselves on the back for making the call.
2010 Porsche Panamera 4S
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.8-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Seven-speed automated manual
Peak Power: 400 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.8 sec.
Top Speed: 175 mph
Fuel Economy: 16 city/24 hwy
In the October issue we told you about our intent to pick one car from the entries in each Targa event that stood out to us. This time around it’s this blue metallic Audi TTS. Owned by Bay Area local Jason Crouch, the car wears subtle performance bits like prototype engine enhancements from APR and custom lightweight HRE wheels. The base TTS was one of our favorite cars from last year, an absolute riot to drive, and Crouch has given his some serious juice with a claimed 400 hp. Look for this car in the magazine when the engine testing is finalized.