Porschification: The Endless Variations of High-End Sports Cars
One of the 12 Porsche 911 models on sale now
In my last post, I mentioned what I call the Porschification of Aston Martin; that is, the seemingly endless number of variations of a single model that a high-end sports car manufacturer will create in order to help maintain or boost sales. I call it Porschification because Porsche was the first company I noticed pumping out multiple versions of the same car. For instance, Porsche makes five cars: the 4-door Panamera sedan, the Cayenne SUV, the Boxster roadster and its fixed-roof cousin, the Cayman, and the classic 911. But a quick look at Porsche’s model lineup looks like this:
These are all the brand new cars Porsche sells, and with the exception of the Panamera, all have been updated in the last two years or so. Compared to previous years, the 911 actually has less variants than usual, as the more hardcore GT3 and GT3RS, and GT3RS 4.0 (all more expensive, more powerful versions of the Carrera S, with RWD and a naturally aspirated engine), and GT2, and GT2RS (the most hardcore Carreras with a twin-turbo 6-cylinder and RWD) have all been discontinued for right now. Expect to see the return of the models in the coming years as Porsche stretches out the lifespan of the new 911, referred to as the 991 series.
If the practice of continuous, incremental upgrades at an increasing price was limited to Porsche only, I would regard it as a quirk that warranted no special designation. Other sports car manufacturers are taking a page from Porsche’s playbook, however, and adding all sorts of engine upgrades, interior treatments, and bodywork, all while charging premium prices for doing so.
Take Lamborghini, for instance. In 2000, the company famous for making ridiculous, flamboyant V12-powered supercars sold one model, the Diablo. Three different versions were offered, the “standard” VT and VT Roadster, and the VT 6.0, with an extra 20hp. Today, Lamborghini offers two models, the Gallardo (on sale since 2003) and the Aventador (introduced last year). The Aventador comes only in coupe form, although a roadster is in development. Over the course of its nearly 10-year life, the AWD, V10-engined Gallardo has been offered in a stunning eight standard combinations, although special limited edition models more than doubles that count.
Bentley sells two cars: the Mulsanne and the Continental. The Mulsanne is a large, exquisite 4-door sedan with only one version available (although the options list is so extensive that extreme customization will likely render no two Mulsannes alike). The Continental, on the other hand, is Bentley’s entry level (read: least expensive, highest selling) car, and you can have it in a whopping nine variations.
So why do these manufacturers offer such a wide variety of one or two specific models? The car companies do not want to dilute their brands, but with development costs per model exceeding $1 billion, they are needed to extend the lifespan of the core cars in order to cut research and development costs, stay competitive, and ultimately, remain profitable.
Upgrades to the existing vehicles incur marginal costs, like a bigger bore here, lowered suspension there, and sports exhausts for everyone! And the tradeoff for all these extra little bits add up to a premium charged by the dealer.
The Bentley Continental GT is a 2-door grand tourer with a monster twin-turbo 6.0L V12 pumping out 567hp, all for the the paltry sum of $193,000. Modified turbochargers, suspension upgrades, bucket seats, and a few other goodies are tacked on to create the Bentley Continental Speed, which boasts an extra 50hp and max speed 7mph higher than the normal GT. And the extra cost for exclusivity and carbon fiber bits? Swallow your beverage, lest you have the money for a new keyboard and monitor.
$267,000. That’s an increase of about $70,000, and no, I didn’t type an extra zero.
There’s an immaculate Acura NSX or Ferrari 355, or brand new BMW M3 or Cadillac CTS-V between these two versions of the same car. The Continental Speed doesn’t go on sale until the end of this month, and sales figures won’t come in for some time after that, but I don’t anticipate Bentley will have a difficult time unloading the cars.
Is $70,000 for 50hp worth it for anyone?
Maybe having the ultimate edition of any car is worth the extra price for the people who can afford it, those for whom money is no object and only the best of the best will do, inadequate manhood be damned! But I’ll settle for the standard Continental. Hell, I might even downgrade all the way to the V8 version to see how the 99% lives.