“You wanna roll up to this thing with Magnus tomorrow?”
It’s amazing how many times I’m just minding my business, living my best life, and I run into my old friend Matt Farah. In this case, we happened to both be in Miami at the same time for work. My work, of course, being of the cubicle-dwelling, advertising-selling variety, and his being of the driving-an-Aventador S-around-Wynwood-slowly-in-front-of-cameras variety. Naturally, I insisted that we meet up at the most Miami place I could think up, Lagniappe, for some wine, jazz, and excellent company on a Tuesday night.
Turns out that Matt’s good friend and occasional TTAC subject, Magnus Walker, was doing a book signing the following evening at Parkhaus1, a veritable institution in the Porsche community. I normally despise this sort of thing. I’m not a particularly social person to start with, and while I had never made the acquaintance of Mr. Walker and I assumed he was a pleasant and genial fellow, I’m not one to stargaze at another grown man.
“Nah, man. Besides, what would I show up at Parkhaus in? My rental Grand Cherokee (which, by the way, is an excellent vehicle and totes deserving of its own review)?”
“Why don’t you get on Turo and rent something dope?” (Matt says “dope” a lot. And “dank.” I’ve tried his vernacular on for size but it doesn’t work for me.)
Now there’s an idea.
I had never used Turo before, mostly because I rent upwards of 40 cars annually from National for work, so I never have a shortage of free rental car days for personal use. Also, my employer sure as hell isn’t going to reimburse me for a $200+ a day exotic car, and everything else on Turo is comparably more expensive and more janky than anything I’d find on the Emerald Aisle.
So I quickly downloaded the app and began browsing through the available cars. I landed on a BMW i8 in a lovely shade of blue for $199 a day. I clicked to “rent instantly,” entered my credit card information, and began to fantasize about arriving on the scene in the big Electric Boogaloo. However, I quickly received an email notifying me of a lengthy approval process — one that looked like it would take more than 24 to 48 hours to complete. I had to send a picture of my driver’s license, a picture of me holding my driver’s license next to my face, a picture of my credit card, and a copy of my insurance policy. In other words, I had to supply Turo with all of the information that anybody could possibly need to steal my identity forever. Oh, and they wanted a $2,000 deposit, too. I decided to pass and investigate other options.
Hertz DreamCars was willing to rent me a 911 for $159 a day, which seemed like a steal. But wait — they also required a $2,000 deposit and a DMV check. Welllllllll, ol’ Bark’s driving record isn’t the greatest, so that wasn’t going to work. Enterprise had a 911 Cabriolet in white with red leather for $275 a day, and they, too, required a $2,000 deposit, but no DMV check. So I swallowed hard on the deposit and clicked “reserve.”
However, as I awakened the following morning in a haze from the lovely red wine we had consumed, I couldn’t get the thought of the i8 out of my head. So I did something I very, very rarely do.
I pulled the journo card. I emailed Turo and said, “Hi, I’m Mark Baruth, and I’d like to rent a car from you without having to jump through all your hoops.” Within 30 minutes I was approved to drive one of their Standard or Luxury vehicles. That did not include the i8, which was considered a Premium vehicle — they would still require a longer approval process for that.
But it did include a 2014 Porsche 911 Carrera, resplendent in red with black leather interior. $204 a day, but no deposit. I canceled my Enterprise reservation and selected the rouge Super Beetle, which was located right on Calle Ocho, around the corner from my Coconut Grove home on Calle Ocho. I picked up mi pequena amiga Lulu (because what good is renting a red Porsche in Miami if you don’t have a Latina in a black dress to ride shotgun?) and we ubered over to pick up the 991 from the owner, Joseph, at his brand new condo building across from my favorite Mexican Miami spot, Mi Rinconcito Mexicano.
Joseph was a chill, younger dude with a backwards, flat-brimmed hat. We shook hands and followed him out behind the building. And there it was — a superbly detailed, spotless red PDK-equipped 991. We did a quick walkaround of the car, noted the mileage (17,550 miles) and condition of the vehicle, and he offered a quick Turo orientation, explaining how the TollPass and mileage limits worked. I had 150 miles for the one-day rental, and any toll charges would be passed directly along to me.
“Have you ever driven a Porsche before?” he asked.
I thought to myself for a moment. Yes, I have. I’ve owned Porsches before. I have driven everything from a 944 to a 991 GT3 and Turbo S. But this would be my first time with a regular ol’ 991 Carrera. “Yes, many times. But yours is gorgeous.”
“Cool, man. Enjoy it!”
I slowly rolled away from the parking lot, and pulled out onto 19th Avenue. We had a little bit of time before the event, so I decided to roll out to my favorite Peruvian restaurant in Miami, Divino Ceviche. Given the fact that it was 5:15, and I was trying to get from Little Havana to Doral, this was maybe not the best idea.
The first thing you notice about driving a 991 in Miami rush hour traffic is that you are very, very low. The omnipresent G Wagens and X5s barely notice your existence — I was forced into evasive action no fewer than three times by oblivious CUV/SUV drivers before I even made it to the highway.
The second thing you notice is that while the 991 makes very neat sounds, it’s just not very quick. In fact, it’s slower from 0-30 than your average Golf R, WRX, or Focus RS, and just about the same from 0-60. The steering rack is bizarrely heavy, too. In comparison to its more performance-oriented siblings, the GT3 and Turbo S, the Carrera is slow to respond to inputs. Sport mode makes throttle response a little better and makes the noises even burblier, but the 991 just isn’t a fast car. I know, I know, you’re going to complain about this and call me a spoiled brat and tell me about the time in 1986 when 4.8 seconds from 0-60 would have made this the fastest car in the galaxy, but it’s true.
And then you notice the interior is kinda…spartan. I mean, it’s nice and all, but the seats feel squishy and unsupportive, the infotainment system just looks old, and the friggin’ USB port is in the glovebox. The dash is confusing, and the rear-view mirrors are virtually useless.
But then you catch a glimpse of yourself in it in a passing mirror or window reflection, and all is forgiven. Because it is fucking gorgeous, and this is undeniable.
All of a sudden, the car’s faults become charming. The interior isn’t spartan, it’s quaint and idiomatically correct, a throwback to the 911’s roots. It isn’t slow, it’s a proper touring car, and who wants to drive one of those hopped-up shitboxes anyway? This is a 911, damnit, and that slow steering rack is just there to keep noobs from killing themselves, am i right? Of course I am.
And then you roll up to the Porsche place with all the Porsches and the other owners give you a nod and you can buy a PCA hat and isn’t it all just wonderful? In fact, the best thing my rental 911 did was cruise slowly as I pulled up to Parkhaus. We showed up 20 minutes after the event had started, so naturally the entire street was lined with RWB Porsches, older 964s, and even a freaking 991 R. Farah’s Aventador S was double-parked next to an Orange Gallardo, and he waved at me as I rolled by. “Not bad for $200!” he shouted! Dude, why you gotta call me out for being in a rental, yo?
Parkhaus is a miraculous place, full of wondrous creations from all generations of Porsche. (This one was my favorite.) The shop is overflowing with Speedsters and RSes and oh-my-god-did-you-see-that, to the point where I walk by a 991 GT3 and it barely registers. This is Miami Porsche culture at its ultimate. You want to be cool and act like you’re not impressed by anything, but it’s just not possible. If you have a pulse, you can’t help but fall in love a little bit with every one of the cars, each one with its own character, its own story. There are no boring, base, blah cars here. It’s a museum, and the pieces of art just happen to have four wheels and engines.
The line to meet Walker is well over an hour long, and he quickly sells out all of the 150 books he’s brought with him. But the crowd surrounding Farah at any given time is nearly as large. I estimate that well over 300 people ask for a picture or a selfie with Matt throughout the course of the evening, and I quickly became a bit of a handler, moving the would-be groupies in and out of position. Of the hundreds of fans, exactly two are women.
One young man looks at me and says, “I know you, right? You’re a writer or something?”
For the second time that day, I prepare to leverage my autowriter credentials. Perhaps sign an autograph or pose for a picture. “Yes, I’m Mark Baruth.”
His eyes widen. He becomes excited.
“You’re…you’re…you’re Jack Baruth’s brother! I love his Road & Track columns! Tell him I’m a big fan.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake, man.
As the evening wound down, Matt stopped over to say hi to Magnus, two gents with Instagram followers well into six figures. This delighted the fans in attendance to no end, most of whom were nearly orgasmic to be able get a picture of their two heroes together. I briefly shook Magnus’ hand, took a photo for the gram, and we bounced. Or, we tried to, anyway. It was tough to extract him from the legions of fans, but we finally escaped, I in my 911 and Matt in his Aventador (possessive adjectives being relative here) over to the Spillover in Coconut Grove for a flight of mead.
Unfortunately, the next day wasn’t nearly as exciting, as it was back to the office for me and a 7:00 am flight for Matt. But since I had the 991 until 5:00 with over 100 miles of rental mileage to spare, I decided to take the red (non)barchetta to the office just for the hell of it. And this time, I woke up early to avoid rush hour and actually enjoy my drive.
It made all the difference. No, the Carrera isn’t fast, but it’s a treat to drive in ways that other, faster cars aren’t. The elements that it lacks in comparison to the GT3 and the Turbo S make it easier to deal with in daily life. You can take it over a speed bump or up a driveway without holding your breath. The sounds from the exhaust are fun, but not annoying or overwhelming. And I didn’t have to drive it over 80 mph to enjoy it — but I did anyway. At higher speeds, you start to appreciate the heavier steering a bit, as it makes the car feel stable and safe amongst the behemoths of the highway.
Turning in the car at the end of the day was easy. Joseph requested a receipt showing that I had fueled it with 93 octane fuel, and I uploaded photos of the mileage, fuel tank, and condition of the car into the Turo app. Joseph was there to meet me at his condo right at 5:00 on the dot, and after a quick signature confirming the mileage, I was on my way back home in my Uber Civic. My total for the rental was $224 plus about $20 in gasoline.
Would I use Turo again? Absolutely. It was a quick, easy way to grab a fun car for a day. Were I financially so inclined, I could get 15 percent off my daily rental fee to rent a car for a week, too. At my income level, I still don’t want to pay $175 a day for seven days on vacation, but if I were a little wealthier? Why not? If you love cars and you want something a little more unique, it’s worth it. The app was easy to use, and the experience was phenomenal.
Now, here’s the tougher question: Would I spend the $75,000 required to buy a similar pre-owned 2014 Carrera? No. Not even close. I’d rather take a new Corvette Grand Sport, Mustang GT350R, or even bump up a little to an Evora 400. The Carrera provides a small sample of the Porsche owner experience, but the actual driving experience falls far short of the other cars available in a similar or even lower price bracket.
Just like many people might say about Miami, the 991 Carrera is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
[Images: © Mark “Bark M.” Baruth]