Miami Heat: BMW M6, Jaguar XKR, and Porsche 911 Carrera S Convertibles

Brian Konoske

The Porsche is gracious when consigned with low-speed grunt work, but its downside, should you care, is its ubiquity. The layman would not guess that the Carrera S cab is a $100,000 car, which is at least partly due to the resale-value plummet of the previous-generation 996-platform 911. Whatever Porschephiles say, the current 997-series looks very much like the 996, and the Depreciation Fairy has waved her wand and dropped cherry 996 convertibles into the mid-$30,000 range. When you're driving a 997 and look over at the next lane to see a guy in a 996 who might've paid $65,000 less (for a car that's a few years older and has blobby headlights instead of round ones), you realize that you don't buy a new 911 to flaunt wealth. You buy it for yourself.

Eventually, I can't stand the puttering any longer. We have to get out of South Beach and find someplace to let the big dogs off the leash. But where can you take advantage of cars like this in traffic-choked Miami? Well, I'll let you in on a secret, since it's not going to be around much longer anyway: Bicentennial Park.

Shielded from prying eyes by the harbor on one side and American Airlines Arena and a forest of rising condos on the others, Bicentennial Park is thirty acres of languishing land right in downtown Miami. But this isn't some run-down municipal property. Winding through scrubby hillocks populated by napping homeless people and abandoned shopping carts is a bit of history, a seven-corner section of road course once used for the Miami grand prix. It's seven-tenths of a mile long, and even the corner curbing is still intact from the last time this place saw action, when Jacques Villeneuve took the checkered flag in the circuit's lone CART event in 1995.

Soon, I'm blasting from corner to corner in my own private grand prix. Hustling along in second gear, I hit an apex in the M6 and gradually feed in more throttle until the rear end breaks away, painting stripes on the corner exit as I gather it back and hammer down the next straightaway. The M6 dances, its balanced weight distribution and smooth torque delivery rendering joyous midcorner oversteer a no-brainer, even for a hack like me. The transmission, recalcitrant in automatic mode, happily cracks off full-throttle upshifts like the Formula 1 car it's supposed to emulate. This is what this car is built to do. Too bad that what I'm doing is incredibly illegal.

But until the cops arrive, I'm learning a thing or two about these cars that I just wasn't getting on the boulevard slog. For instance, the Porsche's steering transmits more information than the racks of the other two cars. Thick steering wheel rims are the current fashion, and the BMW's is so bulbous that you don't know whether to use it to steer or to float down Lazy River. The Porsche defies this convention with a slight, thin-spoke wheel that promises delicate tactility and delivers, no doubt helped by the narrowest front tires of the group--235/35YR-19s. If you study the Porsche's steering wheel while someone else is driving, you can actually see it thrumming mildly, a thing alive. The XKR goes where you point it and hangs on like gangbusters, but this is a car that is slightly less driver focused. Its ride is soothing rather than sporting, but, in this class, that's a calculated move.

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