‘The great thing about ordering a Porsche new is that you get to indulge in the joy of specs’

Porter plays ‘Horrible & Expensive’ with the Porsche online configurator

Richard Porter opinion

A few years ago, a man I know in the US accompanied a mate to a Porsche showroom, loafed around the pleather sofas while his friend test-drove a 911, and somehow agreed during that waiting time to trade-in his Toyota FJ Cruiser so that he could drive home in a brand new Boxster. How did this happen? Well, it’s a tale of end-of-the-month targets, inventory to clear, and the immortal phrase: ‘What would it take to get you into that car?’ It’s also a stout lesson in how Americans traditionally buy cars. Instantly, impetuously, straight from stock. Essentially, my mate was bored so he bought a Boxster. 

Today, however, supply can’t meet demand and Porsche buying in the United States has started to follow the European model, where the ordering and waiting is all part of the foreplay of getting your new car. Where once Porsche USA carried a huge stock to snag people like my mate with tempting monthlies on an instant drive-away deal, now they have a set-up called Track Your Dream, allowing anyone who’s factory-ordered to follow their car through the system so they know when it’s on the production line, when it’s headed to the port, and when it’s on the boat. If they bought earlier this year, they’d even know when it arrived at the bottom of the ocean. 

The great thing about ordering a car rather than buying from stock is that Americans now get to indulge in the joy of specs. And this is important if you’re buying a Porsche because few car companies outside of Bentley or Aston let you play such tunes on the precise configuration of a car. If you want a £2700 surround sound system on your base model Cayman, you can have it. Anyone desperate for a carbon roof and door mirror casings on their 911 Carrera will not leave disappointed. You can also commit some extraordinary colour & trim crimes on these cars, cutting loose with brown seats, red seatbelts and white dials so that every journey in your new Panamera is like taking an acid trip on a bouncy castle.

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To enable you to see the ways in which a Cayenne can resemble Timmy Mallett’s sock drawer, Porsche has long boasted one of the best online configurators in all of car land, one which permits you to play an excellent fantasy game called Horrible & Expensive. The object of this, as the name suggests, is to spec a mythical car to be as eye-watering as possible on two fronts. This can take some patience and demand some tough decisions. Yes, the dark walnut rim steering wheel is revolting but the slightly less vile one with carbon spokes is more expensive. Do you follow the money or stick with the biggest visual sick-trigger in the hope you can make up some of the cash by insisting on £1335 body-colour alloys to go with your £2670 Papaya Orange paintwork?

Of course, if you’re actually buying rather than dicking around trying to put purple virtual seatbelts on a pretend bright green GT3, there’s an important opportunity that arises if you’re not impatiently taking whatever’s sitting in a puddle of its own reflection on the showroom floor tiles. You can get the smallest details right, and these things matter. 

Case in point: a few years ago I bought a second-hand 997 Carrera S and what told me the original owner was on the right wavelength was not the Carrera Sport alloys or the retro-fitted Sport Design wheel. It was the instrument pack. On a Carrera S of this era each dial should have been ticky tacky silver, like a cheap mid-’90s hi-fi. But the person who specced my car had taken the time to option the tasteful black dials from the lesser Carrera. A small thing, but important all the same. 

I was thinking about this the other day after meeting an evo-reading bloke who went to my school. Hello Nik. He’s five years younger than me so I don’t remember him from the playground, but he clearly paid more attention than me in class since he’s in a position to order a new 911 GT3 in Oak Green with a tan interior. It’s a winsome spec. He’s gone for the manual ’box too, in case you were wondering. 

But again, it’s the little details that will make it. In this case, he’s decided to go for the ceramic brakes, and by default that means yellow calipers. Most Porsche customers seem happy to accept this, as if showing off your fancy anchors is more important than looking like you’ve gone real on the Expensive & Horrible game. But not Nik. His GT3 will arrive with the calipers optionally painted in black. 

It’s a tiny detail, but when it comes to the joy of specs, this stuff matters. It matters to Nik, and now it matters to Americans. 

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