Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Evolution & The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:
An Ongoing Conundrum, Part 1

2008 sees the arrival of the eagerly awaited and much applauded
Mitsubishi Evolution X:

The “Ten” is a complete redesign. Dimensions have increased. The new interior could only be described as luxurious compared to the one it replaces. Gone is the old iron-block 4G63 that has powered all Evos since 1992. In its place sits the new aluminum-block 4B11: a lighter, more capable engine working out a broader torque band through a double helping of MIVEC magic. The end result is smoother and more refined acceleration. In addition, a dizzying array of electronically controlled acronyms (S-AWC, ACD, AYC, ASC) pulls off the modern miracle of improved ride quality and improved handling. The roomier, quieter, more comfortable Evo X out-laps its frantic, bare-bones predecessor without even breaking a sweat. Well done, Mitsu, you have sufficiently ruined the only redeeming vehicle in your lineup.

Perhaps in a tragic twist of fate, 2008 also marks the 10 year anniversary of the Porsche 911’s death...

In 1963, the iconic rear-engine rear-wheel-drive sports car from Zuffenhausen was born, and for the next 34 years, it was tirelessly tweaked toward perfection. In 1998, the 911’s evolution came to an abrupt halt with model 993, as Porsche had finalized the decision to effectively sacrifice 34 years of inspired work to a porcelain god. The “new 911” (code named 996) that arrived in 1999 was redesigned from scratch. It arrived larger, more luxurious, and more powerful than the 993. The all new engine was now water-cooled, sporting double overhead camshafts, and variable valve timing. The modern underpinnings of the 996 allowed it to grace the road with a composure and civility that redefined Porsche, broadening the carmaker’s appeal to a wider audience who could suddenly purchase the title of “automotive enthusiast” without having to pay the ass-tax of driving a true enthusiast’s car. And in that moment of inevitable entropy, one of the most significant cars in automotive history met its irreversible end. While Porsche celebrated the “rebirth” of the 911, automotive enthusiasts worldwide prepared themselves for a funeral. As the grammatically challenged editor of Autozine struggles to state, “Since April 1998, our old friend 911 was dead. Although Zuffenhausen is still selling a car called Nine-Eleven today, all of us know the real 911 no longer lives in the world…I hope you will enjoy this special and always remember the real 911.” Shhh…It’s okay, Mr. Wan, I too learned English as my second language. I get you, I get you.

In these last days of being able to purchase a new Evolution IX,

let us not forget the deceased but ever beloved Porsche 911, which to this day still stands as a testament to the fact that “new and improved” is not always better, and to the truth that “appealing to a wider audience” almost always means an exchange of purity for profit, resulting in a wasteful dilution of something rare and special. In 1998, people buying new 993’s were branded as foolish for not waiting for the 996 arriving the very next year. But time, as it often does, reveals true wisdom not in days, but in years. Nearly a decade later, a comparison of resale value mirrors the clarity of greatness that was the Porsche 911 and the greed-driven myopia that envisioned its successor. Forget Edmunds “True Market Value” pricing on this one. Go straight to Autotrader.com and do a comparison for yourself. In the Los Angeles area, a search for ‘99 Porsche Carreras brings up roughly one hundred vehicles for sale whereas the same search for ’98’s rings up less than ten. Prices for a well kept ’99 range from $30-$35k. Prices for a well kept ’98? $40k-$60k. Oh the sweet justice of time...“Ti-i-ime…Why you punish me?” (A tribute not only to an old band obsessed with owls and life-threatening sushi, but also to you, Mr. Wan. Achtung, baby. We’ll get through this together, my German friend.)

[In Part II, I will discuss exactly why automotive enthusiasts mourn the loss of the 911 and will eventually mourn the loss of the Evolution IX.]


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