This past week, we’ve been blessed with bright sunny weather in Oregon. I’ve taken advantage of this by taking the SCM 1991 S4 928 auto out for a couple of runs from downtown Portland to Astoria on the Oregon coast and back.
Every exotic car speaks its own language. It dares you to understand it on its terms rather than overlaying your own experiences with other cars.
I’ve driven hundreds of cars, and the 928 speaks a dialect all of its own.
While Porsche has built many variations on its sports car theme, the preponderance of them have been air-cooled and rear-engined.
This front-engine V8 model, built from 1977-1995, stood alone in the Porsche catalog until the Cayenne was introduced in the US in 2003.
When I first slid behind the wheel, it was clear I was not in a 911. The car has a heavy, solid feel to it, more so than its air-cooled brethren.
When you twist the key, the resultant rumble reminds you of a small-block Chevy in a Corvette with a tuned exhaust system. The sound of the 5-liter V-8 is not reminiscent of a 911 flat-six. Not in any way.
From the moment I pulled onto the highway, it was clear that I was in a car that had its own lineage and language. The sensory information it offered was just different than any other Porsche or really, any other car.
It took a little while to get comfortable with the odd mix of analog and digital information displays. The 928 was created at a strange time, when the dreams of the electronic engineers outstripped the ability of the technicians.
I drove all three of my large-displacement GT cars on the same day. The 1971 Jaguar V12 is a pure analog car, festooned with switches and gauges. The 2004 AMG SL55 is a digital machine, with readouts and touchscreens to guide you along the way.
The 928 is neither. While it has a few digital screens, for miles-per-gallon and distance covered, its climate control could have been inspired by a Toyota Corolla, with sliding switches and arrows pointing every which way.
The car begins to hit its stride at 70 mph. The suspension, which seemed rock hard on city streets, smooths out. You can feel the car begin to lope along. With just over 300 hp, this is not a supercar. Instead, it is a high-performance GT car designed to cover hundreds of miles a day.
I haven’t challenged the car yet, and I may never. Its forte is gentle curves marked at 50 mph that you can swoop through at 80.
Granted, if I were driving one of my 1.6L four-cylinder Alfas on the same roads at the same speeds, I would feel like my hair was on fire and my skinny tires would be holding on for dear life. And while I was aiming for the apex, I would know that our 928 could simply drive around the car, on the outside, without causing anyone’s heart to skip a beat.
I’ve got more miles to put on the 928, a lot more in fact. I want to learn more of its vocabulary, and the strange and exotic phrases it uses.
Of the many Porsches I’ve driven, this one stands out as something special. It may have been a flawed model during its era if measured by sales. But at 30 years of age, it reveals itself to have a unique approach to high-speed motoring, one that needs to be experienced to be understood.