Ferrari vs. Porsche...on the track!

I just drove a Ferrari F430 and a 997 Porsche 911 Turbo back-to-back on an F1 racetrack, as part of an Xtreme Experience event. The setup: after a class on driving dynamics, we go to our chosen car with a pro driver in the passenger seat (who gives real-time coaching). There is a pro driving the chase car (a Mustang!) and we play follow-the-leader. My purpose for doing it—besides the obvious cool factor—was to calibrate what the auto scribes write about these kinds of performance machines. What follows is my take on these iconic machines; I have no interest in puerile flame wars among fanboy factions. The point is to a) give any prospective buyers a non-biased data point of comparison; and b) encourage said folks to actually drive these machines at speed to really find out what these cars are like in their element. I drove the F430 first. First off, I noticed the interior looked dated, drab and just plain cheap. Yes, it was (well) used, but it looked horrible: the materials looked cheap—they didn’t wear well over time. So count me as one who demands better interior materials on premium sports cars (yes, I’m over 40). But that’s my only criticism. Folks, this car just felt right. The engine sound was perfect. My instructor gave me outstanding marks and I had to slow down a couple of times because I was getting too close to the chase car. The last time I was on a track was, oh, 4 years ago. But the Ferrari felt so intuitive that I hit my lines and pushed performance to the max (for an amateur) with utmost confidence. When I was a bit too hot and slightly missed my line, the car faithfully oversteered a bit, the back end kicked out a bit, but everything was right with the world. This car just felt right in every way. The 911 Turbo came next. I sometimes shake my head at scribes who write about how a car “feels” even though it’s objectively slower or faster than another. The 911 was clearly more powerful when the turbos exploded. Plus it has AWD for more grip. But folks, it just didn’t feel right to me after coming from the Ferrari. (As an aside, I’m biased in favor of AWD: my last 3 cars were Audi S4, BMW 535 xDrive, Infiniti M37x.) It’s hard to articulate, but it felt like I needed more laps to “figure out” the Porsche. I missed more lines and generally felt more tentative and unsure of what to do than was the case with the F430, which seems counterintuitive since the 911 has AWD. Perhaps I just need more laps or maybe I need a rear-drive 911. But as it stands, I easily favored the Ferrari. By the bye, I talked with some of the pros there about their preferences (there were a few other choices available to drive—for a price). They generally ranked the cars this way (in descending order): 1) F430; 2) 911 Turbo; 3) Audi R8 V10; 4) Mercedes SLS; 5) Audi R8 V8; 6) Lambo L560. Anyway, time to start saving my pennies for a Ferrari (though I’ll have to sample a McLaren as well)…. Let the (good-natured) comments begin!
by ilxman99 on Nov. 09, 2012 - 6:16 p.m.