Living with a 968 ClubSport – two weeks in

I’ve had my Porsche 968 ClubSport for just over two weeks now. So what are my initial impressions after a little more seat time? Let’s just say I continue to be a very happy camper.

The good

Build quality – My car was built 19 years and one month ago. You’d never know. I’m amazed at how solid it feels after all that time. Everything you put your hand on is well made using Porsche 968 ClubSportquality materials. The steering wheel, a thick leather piece distinct to the CS, still feels brand new. The leather gearshift likewise. Even the external door handles inspire confidence.

This is the best built car I’ve owned and it’s a lesson for me in what a car should have in terms of enduring quality.

Torque – An unexpected pleasure. I’ve got years of experience owning turbocharged cars so I’m well accustomed to the benefits of a healthy torque curve. The 968CS has a max torque figure of 305Nm (that’s 224 ft lbs for some of you). To put that in perspective, my Saab 9-3 Viggen – a car I considered to be an absolute torque-moster – had 342Nm.

I drive up a large hill when I go to work in the morning, called the Southern Outlet. It’s around 2km long and changes elevation by more than two hundred meters. I climbed that hill at 80km/h in fifth gear the other day and had plenty of torque to accelerate if had I wanted to (it’s an 80km/h zone). The rich torque curve makes this car effortless to drive. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to a turbocharged car without it actually having a turbocharger.

Fuel economy – Surprised? Don’t be. The 968 has a 6-speed manual gearbox and can be very frugal on the highway, sitting at around 2300rpm at 110km/h. Plant your right foot and you’ll use fuel at a prodigious rate, but it’s a real case of Jeckyll and Hyde, this car.

Porsche 968 ClubSportHandling – My goodness. The handling.

There are two primary contributing factors here. #1 is the mechanical grip inherent in having a well engineered car with great suspension, great brakes and 50/50 weight balance. #2 is option 220: the limited slip differential.

This car is so beautifully balanced. It feels a little bit corny to say so, but it really does inspire confidence and makes you feel like a better driver. And yes, the fact that this car is so competent scares me a little because I know that my own skills as a driver are nowhere near what this car can deliver. Over-confidence is a potential problem.

The looks – Let’s face it, no-one goes and buys a car that they consciously think is ugly. Maybe Aztek buyers, but even they might have seen some beauty there…. somewhere.

Anyway, I do love the way the car looks. Its stance. It’s a wide-hipped, tightly-wound bundle of muscle without a wasted line or curve.

That said…..

The not-so-good

Porsche 944 TurboThe looks – I do love the way the 968 looks, but I have to admit that I still prefer the look of the 944 S2.

There’s something pure and 80’s about those concealed pop-up headlamps that just works. The 968 combines that 944 look with the 928 S4 that was on its last legs and while it looks a bit cleaner, there’s something incredibly right about the 944.

Tyre noise – Having what are basically road-legal track tyres is great for grip. Not so great for driving comfort. They’re as noisy as a kindergarten 10 minutes before lunchtime. They’ll be replaced tomorrow morning and set aside for use on club days.

The lack of comfort – My car is a ClubSport, which means it’s a model that Porsche stripped of equipment with the dual goals of 1) offering a lower-priced entry model, and 2) saving weight for better performance.

I’m very happy to have the CS model. It’s the cult favourite, the one that holds its value best and perhaps the purest affordable expression of Porsche’s front-engined efforts of the era. But I have to admit that some more comfortable seats and power windows wouldn’t be unwelcome when it comes to regular driving.

I’m going to keep this car for a long time (well, a long time for me) but I wouldn’t mind looking for a non-CS 968 when the time comes, or a low-mileage 944 S2. The only thing that replacement car will have to have is the limited slip diff.

Maintenance Costs – It’s only been a few weeks. I haven’t even had to do anything yet but I’m already saving for it. The tyres I get fitted tomorrow are going to get me $1 change out of $1000. The odometer is currently sitting on 119,XXX kms so the 120K service will be coming up soon. I’m going to get the timing belts done at the same time and the timing belt kit alone is over $350. I’m budgeting on something around $2,000 for that service.

It’s a magic car to drive and you can feel the quality, but it doesn’t come cheap. This car was affordable in our situation but it’s still the most I’ve ever spent to buy a vehicle. That means I have to look after my investment while I enjoy it, which is exactly what I intend to do.

DSC_4708Driveway hassles – This isn’t the car’s fault. Well, not really. But it doesn’t get over the hump in our driveway without some serious help. I had to build these ramps to get it over the hump so that I can put it in the garage. They’re a pain to put in position every time I want to use the car, but that’s a small price to pay for what happens when you get the car out on the road.

Verdict

Like I said at the top, I’m a very happy camper.

The 968 is an outstanding car and I feel privileged to own one. I come from prety humble automotive stock. This is only the third time I’ve spent five-figures on a car in my life, so to get something so capable is a new and wonderful experience for me. It’s been a long time coming.

There are minor discomforts based on it being primarily set up as a track car, but they are outweighed 10 times over by what it does when you begin to drive in the manner the designers intended.

Cliché time (again): Owning this car is a dream come true for me. I encourage every one of you to chase your automotive dream at least once because it really does feel great to get there. I’ll be chasing other automotive dreams, that’s for sure.

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11 Comments

  1. You know, a red Porsche is about ‘it’. It looks fabulous and clearly drives fantastically well. What else would you expect from Porsche regarding quality? How much was it new, compared to other cars in the same bracket? A lot. And all these years later you get what you paid for…
    Love it!

  2. Swade,

    Can you expand your thoughts on the limited slip differential? How does if affect day-to-day driving?
    I realize that you may want to get some more weeks or months of driving experience before you come to a final conclusion.

    I’ve long wondered why Saab didn’t offer a limited slip diff. They were dealing with a completely different platform, of course: front wheel drive, front-biased weight distribution, but it seems like something that would have been beneficial in Scandinavian driving conditions.
    This couldn’t have been just a cost-based decision. GM offered a Quaiffe diff on the Cobalt SS which used a Saab transmission. Any ex-Saab employees care to comment?

    About the 968’s handling: my friend with the 944 has made similar comments. He had an experience where a fast sweeper turned into an emergency situation, and his conclusion is that “I didn’t make that corner, the car did. If I had relied on my driving skill alone, I would be sitting by the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.”

    1. Bernard,

      I don’t have enough experience of driving a 944/968 without LSD to make a real comment, but….

      I test drove an early 944 a few years ago for an afternoon and I also test drove a 944 turbo a few weeks ago. Both cars handled well but neither car felt as good to drive as the 944 S2 I test drove a few weeks ago with LSD, or my 968.

      Put it this way – this car handles so good that I wouldn’t want to take the chance of another car not being this satisfying in the corners. Every drive I took I’d be thinking about having an LSD fitted. Much better to make sure it’s already in there.

      Saab – I know that one of the head engineers had an LSD fitted to his 9-5. I spoke to him about it at one of the Saab Festivals I attended. He was going to make some recommendations about on for my Viggen (so it must have been 2007 Festival, when I still had that car).

      It baffles me, too, but then the cost of building in Sweden, Saab’s low sales and GM’s attitude to Saab’s costs probably precluded it.

  3. The car does look very good. I’m curious how you would rate this car overall in comparison to the Viggen you owned. On a scale of 1 to 10, what score would you give each after two weeks of ownership?

  4. $1000 for tires? Ouch! Not sure if tires are expensive in general in Australia but that’s expensive. I guess I am used to inexpensive tires on my Saab that last a long time. What size are they and which ones are you going to get?

    1. I priced some tyres at tirerack and it’s possible to spend $1000 in your part of the world as well, though quite a bit harder. I guess they are pretty expensive here, but that’s nothing new. Everything seems to be. I spent $700 on tyres for our 9000 Aero a few months ago and they weren’t anything special.

      The tyres I’m getting this morning are Goodyear Eagle Asymmetric 2’s. 225/45R17 on front and 245/40R17 on the back.

      Just checked them at tirerack and you can get the fronts (on special) for $103 each and the rears for $126 each (again, on special).

      Yeah, it sucks to be an Aussie sometimes. Thankfully we have a lot of other things going for us to counteract our expensive tyres 🙂

      But I’ll see how long these last and how strong our dollar is next time – importing them from the US isn’t out of the question. I have a friend who did this and saved a bit of $$$.

  5. I am glad to hear the car has turned out as well and as exciting a drive as you had hoped. That was a fun blog post to read…..until, of course, you had to bring up the Aztek. 😉 I can’t help but gag a little any time I hear that name, or worse, see one on the road.

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