When it comes to buying a car for the pure pleasure of driving spec is something that often becomes the subject of heated debate. The reason for this is due to things a lot of people believe to be essential on a modern car which were never available on the arguably more engaging, analogue drivers cars of a few years ago. So, in the real world should you spend money on Spec when the car is for the simple pleasure of going for a drive?
Let’s take a Golf GTi as our first example. My first GTi was a 1988 MKII and I loved it more than anything I had ever driven but this was mostly a status thing (previous car was a fiesta, mini and fiat panda) as it looked cool and was far faster than anything I had ever owned before. But, when you look at what this car was it was essentially a pretty powerful engine, well balanced chassis and nice gearbox. There were no driver aids, traction control, dynamic buttons etc. It was set up to be decent around town, comfortable on the motorway if a little revvy and a quick, nimble and fun car on the back roads which is where it shone. if you wanted more throttle response you needed to modify the car, louder exhaust you needed to buy one. Stiffer or lower suspension you needed new springs and shocks. You get my point
These days buying a car presents you with a lot of options which, if you don’t add a specific few of them you worry this may compromise your enjoyment of the car.
Sports exhaust, adaptive dampers, various driving modes, etc are all extras but do they do anything? OR, are these all aimed for your increased psychological enjoyment of the car paired with your inner show off?
This is where personal opinion gets dragged into it. Running the car club has many perks but one of them is that I get to drive a huge variety of cars, not only ours but other people’s in the quest to buy fun and exciting cars for the club. Something I discovered recently has caused me to write this article.
We love Porsches in the club and we have a 911 Targa (1985) and 997 C4S, a 997 Carrera and a 2009 Boxster S. All have the fact that they are great driver’s cars in common but they also have something else, they are low spec cars and, in my opinion do not suffer for it.
The Targa is a car I fell in love with after about 3o seconds behind the wheel. It has no driver aids and you need to be quite decisive when driving it as the gearbox is a bit agricultural to say the least. But, it is so much fun you can’t stop smiling.
The 997 C4S is the most popular car in the club and is low spec. It has adaptive dampers because they are standard, and sports seats which are a good option and …… nothing else. To be honest I wouldn’t even waste the extra money on 4WD as it adds weight, makes the boot smaller and definitely doesn’t make the car any more fun to drive. The wide body is a nice bi product of the C4S but you don’t need it and will never be driving fast enough to notice the dynamic difference between this and a Carrera S, or even a Carrera for that matter. We have also recently added a 997 Carrera to the club which demonstrates this point perfectly. It has S wheels and sports seats and is lovely to drive. So, why not buy the base car and add a couple of choice extras such as sports seats and maybe a sports exhaust to make the sound track a bit nicer? It doesn’t improve performance but definitely makes you smile more!
On to the Boxster. This has a 3.4 litre flat six, manual gearbox, traction control, no roof and nothing else. Do I ever feel like I am missing out? Definitely not. It even has the smaller 18″ wheels which I would never choose but after having driven it realise how much more forgiving the car is as a result. I’ve never been a convertible fan but have to say that taking off the roof definitely improves the driving experience from the point of view of sound and also means that your senses are elevated as a result meaning you don’t need to go as quickly to feel immersed in the experience. The gearbox is great, pedals are positioned well and the chassis is superb. Obviously there are downsides to most convertibles that were not made to be convertibles but the Boxster doesn’t suffer from this.
The point of the story is this, don’t get carried away with spec because you feel like a car would be better with the additional equipment. If you are buying a used car and the price is the same then go for it but, there is a lot to be said for simplicity. If you have the opportunity try a basic spec car and work out what it doesn’t have that you really need, then drive a high spec car and look at al the things it has that you either can’t work, don’t understand or make no positive difference to how the car drives.
If you would like to find out for yourself come and drive some of our cars and you will see what I mean when you come back with a big grin on your face!