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Driving Two New Porsches - Macan Turbo, 911 Targa

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There are two new Porsches on the market. One, the Macan, is a direct competitor to BMW's X3 SAV. The other, if you squint, could go head to head against the Z4 but at a substantial price difference. Let's discuss the Macan first.

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Porsche Macan - The new Macan comes in two models. The Macan S and the Macan Turbo. The Macan S clocks in at a cool $50,000 without options and sports a 340 HP engine that gets 17-23 MPG while scooting 60MPH in a few tenths over 5 seconds. The entry level BMW X3 (BMW X3 sDRIVE28i) is over $11,000 less expensive but it also lacks the power of the Macan S. Closer in performance and price is BMWs X3 xDRIVE35i, offered at a base sticker of about $46,000. It still falls about 50 HP behind the Macan S. However, Porsche, being Porsche, they also offer a turbo option and, unlike BMW who is using turbo charging to improve both performance and volumetric efficiency, Porsche puts in the turbo to nail your backside in the seat and that's just what the Macan Turbo does. However, at a price! Yes, the Macan Turbo is a stunner on the road and the track (our car was tested at Monticello Motor Club). 60MPH comes up from a dead stop in just 4.6 seconds and cuts curves like a real sports car. In fact, except for the higher seating position, you could easily fool yourself into thinking that a Macan Turbo is a pure bread exotic two seater.

In terms of Porsche sales, while the 911 is the icon of the marque, Porsche actually sells a lot more non-sports cars like their Cayenne and Panamera lines than they sell the model we all think of when the words Porsche flash across our brains. That's the rational for this new model. Having said that, the Macan Turbo handles, stops and rides like the best sports car most of us have ever driven. You could even convince yourself that it is a sports car since the rear seat room is more suited to skinny pre-teens and anyone who hasn't discovered the magic of carbohydrates or long pants. As mentioned before, the Macan Turbo's performance comes at a price. Porsche offers this new model at $72,300 and can easily climb, as our tester did, to over $77,000. Certainly not an inexpensive vehicle, despite the Porsche badge and stunning performance.

If you are considering a BMW X3, you owe it to yourself to try a Macan (recommended - try the S first, it is closer in price). You will at least have a little fun and know that your choice was based an informed decision.

Porsche Targa - The BMW Z4 is a drop top, drop dead gorgeous sports car with a hard top when you need it and a sky reaching convertible when you want it. The top of the line Z4 is the sDRIVE35is model that starts small change under $66,000 and is powered by a twin turbo, 335 HP motor that squeezes 24 MPG from a gallon of high test dino juice. The new Porsche Targa 4 is both similar and very different. The similar is the way the roof retracts mechanically to offer an unobstructed view of the great outdoors. The gears, motors and computers that do that in the Porsche look like they were the first prize winner in the Wernher von Braun Junior High School ninth grand science fair. Wow! But that's about where the similarities stop. First is price. The Porsche Targa 4 crosses the six figure range with a base at $101,600 for the silky smooth six speed manual (yes, Porsche is still offering manual transmissions, but for how long, who knows…) Next is space. Where the Z4 is, being kind, cosy, the Porsche Targa 4 has lots of interior space - most noticeable in hip and shoulder room. And then there is power. The non-turbo Porsche has a scant 15 more HP than the BMW. What? $35,000 gets me a little more interior room and 15MP! Shocked? You should be because on the road, the Z4 feels faster and more toss-able. Around here we call that "involving". We did test the Porsche Targa 4 on the track and it was no slouch. At the limit, you would never guess that the engine was hanging out back. Porsche has worked for over 50 years learning how to tame trailing throttle oversteer and all of the acquired knowledge is in their new cars. You would have to be very unlucky and have turned off the PSM (Porsche Stability Management - AKA Please Save Me) to experience a tail happy Porsche these days.

For your 101 Large you get a lot of German-ness which is to say the Porsche has impeccable interior, flawless paint, super soft leather, a timeless design and it is quite a fast sports car. However, so is the BMW Z4. In fact, the Z4 is more sports car while the Porsche Targa 4 is more GT. Which you choose is probably more dictated by the money in your bank account than anything else. But if you could buy either and just want to scratch that two seater, open air itch, drive them both. They each have a lot going for them but 5 minutes behind the wheel will seal the deal as to which is your 2 seat drop top fantasy car.

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