I’m a car guy. I always have been, and always will be. I love how they stimulate my senses and how a rumbling exhaust sound can invigorate me to my core. I love the promise of freedom that they evoke. However, it’s very rare that a car makes me cross the street to simply look at it from up close. A 2016 Porsche 911R did just that. Let’s explore why.
I had the day off on a Friday a few weeks ago, so I decided to go eat breakfast with my girlfriend at Arthurs Nosh Bar in St-Henri (pro tip: there’s no lineup on Friday’s at 8 am). After a delicious meal, we crossed Notre-Dame street over to the south side to grab a coffee at Cordova. Then, as we walked east towards home, I stopped dead in my tracks. “Oh my God…” I said, “that’s a 911R.” I proceeded to cross the street like a giddy little boy to go look at it. About 30 seconds later, to my delight, the car’s owner showed up. “Is that a 911R?” I asked. “Yes,” he responded. And then he did what any respectable gentleman would do; he started the engine for me (that’s what I like to think anyway).
So what is it about this car that made me involuntarily displace my 208 lbs frame?
Was it the physical design?
No. The 911R literally looks like every other 911 out there. The grey paint with green stripes were the only things that gave it away from afar. In fact, the overall 911 design language hasn’t changed much since the birth of the icon in the 1960’s.
Was it the exhaust sound?
No. It was parked.
Was it the fact that it was a limited production model with lightweight construction, a manual transmission and 500 horsepower?
No. The 911R is considered the “last” purist driver’s car in the Porsche lineup (more on this later). With technological advances in automatic transmissions, Porsche’s PDK gearbox is widely considered the best in the business and has de facto replaced the traditional manual. Some say this takes away from the human experience, so Porsche decided to make what the people wanted.
Was it the fact that it’s worth over half a million dollars?
No. This car’s MSRP was US$180,000 before options. On the used market, it’s now worth over US$300,000 (some were resold for as much as US$1 million).
The human experience when interacting with the 911R is greater than the sum of its parts
Anyone of these single characteristics would not be enough for me to care that much. However, when one combines its iconic design, its legendary boxer engine sound, its bonkers specifications, and its insane price tag, the car now has an aura about it. This aura or secret sauce is what Seth Godin would call a “purple cow.” This thing is so insane that it defies automotive norms.
The point is that it was designed this way. The human experience when interacting with the 911R is greater than the sum of its parts (even for people who have never driven it!). That’s the sign of great design. Everyone at Porsche — design, engineering, marketing, sales, finance, production, etc. — came together to give this car a soul like no other.
Great design is intrinsic to a product, service or experience.
Design isn’t just graphic. Design is the journey, the interactions, the service, the materials, the specs, the feelings… Great design is intrinsic to a product, service or experience. Great design makes grown ass men cross the street to stare at a hunk of metal on four wheels!
The cow is no longer purple…
Bad design, however, is Porsche’s recent decision to produce in high volume the Porsche GT3 Touring Package, which shares almost the same specifications at the 911R, to combat the inflated prices of second-hand 911R’s. I understand why they made that decision, but it essentially ruins the caché of the 911R. It’s no longer the last purist driver’s car, and so, the cow is no longer purple…
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