I like to drive two speeds.
Very, very fast, and very, very slow. This is probably not too shocking – my day to day routine is very, very average. But I recently experienced the Porsche World Road Show, which meant I got to live out fantasies at both ends of the spectrum – in the same day.
Porsche was absent from the recent Detroit and Toronto Automotive Shows. In the midst of turbulent times, many buzzed about how to interpret their decision. It’s not just the ailing manufacturers who are tinkering with the formula; everyone is using every creative resource to better make the connection between the consumer and the product.
I would happily have Porsche continue to skip the shows to provide the experience of the World Road Show. Think about it: crimson carpets, beautiful cars protected by stanchions, and the opportunity to read about the machine you’re aching to drive. The Road Show tears down the barriers and plunks you in the seat.
Mosport Speedway, located in Bowmanville, Ontario, has been rented by Porsche for nearly 3 weeks as they play host to prospective buyers. Press got an advance taste of what’s on offer from Porsche – they’ve set up shop with a full line of their new cars, from Boxters to Caymans to Cayennes, and their elite international instructors.
With 20 various Porsches lined up and glistening like rows of candy, the race track beckoned in the background on a cool, sunny morning. It was easy to see where the very, very fast part of the day would be taking place. But I paused by the Cayenne SUVs, wondering where we might be putting them to any real test. This should include the very, very slow part, but the only way to truly test a real SUV is to stand it on its nose in the middle of a forest or desert. These looked too pretty to scratch, and I doubted I was going to be invited to dirty one up.
I was wrong. After being divided into driving groups, we headed out to various testing areas featuring different vehicles. You team up with a driving partner, which can be a little sketchy with people you’ve never met. While stupidly believing everyone would be delighted to drive with me, I did a cursory once-over of my fellow journalists. There are no stereotypes; quiet little mousy types can roll a car as quickly as some hotshot Ricky Racer. After a brief chat revealed a young man who had a 10-month-old daughter, I cut him from the pack assuming he’d like to live forever.
After a safety briefing and explanation of the Cayenne’s capabilities, we headed out to the rolling treed backdrop of the famed racetrack. In no time, we had suspension raised, wheels hanging in the air and tires clawing their way out of deeply pitted sandy ruts. The first real test of the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), however, was a really steep drop. Take it too fast, and you rip out your rear. But following your instincts and standing on the brakes means everyone goes on without you. I was shocked to feel our basic Cayenne walk itself down with calm precision, requiring only some minimal steering. Not just a pretty face, after all.
As the first group out, we got to take a nasty cliff drop that mushed out later in the thawing temperatures. Featuring one – and sometimes two – wheels off the ground through the stage, the Porsche Traction Management (PTM) automatically delivered full torque to the required axel. Slight but consistent pressure on the accelerator to head up, minimal steering as the truck again eased itself down. At speeds under 19 km/hr, the High Level II setting takes the clearance from 215 mm to 271 mm; as you speed up, it settles itself back down.
Back at pit row, a colourful string of Porsches sat waiting. At the head, the instructor’s car, a Boxster, sat ready to lead us around the track. First lap? A sizzling red 911 Targa 4S. While most of the day’s rides featured advanced transmission magic that basically turns them into point and shoot speed beasts, I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart and I like my stick. While my instructor said I got the white Carerra S to 225km/hr, I never, ever looked down.
Successive laps in a Cayman S and another Cayenne GTS rounded out the track experience. Just when I’d decided the Cayenne could convincingly join the ranks of impressive off-roaders, it decided to forget it was a rock-climber and handled with an amazing nod to the sporty gene pool from which it was sprung. The blue Cayman S had a seven speed double-clutched power that literally threw you back into the form fitting sport bucket seats. Though you had the option of shifting with your thumbs, I pretty much just held on and floored it.
The entire day was an adrenaline junkie’s dream. While Porsche has made luxurious buffets part of the World Road Show, most were eating lightly lest they see it again. Proceeding to the next stage, a Boxster S sat poised at the start of a slalom course, it’s dropped top promising fun. Within minutes, we were careening around the coned course in timed laps. With my instructor Stef Vancampenhoudt yelling “faster, faster!” as he pushed my right knee, I reminded him over the scream of the squealing tires that he was a professional driver, and I was a rapidly aging mother of two just trying to stay alive. After two laps, I was deceiving myself that I was the racing star – in no small part due to the Porsche PDK double clutch, which removes most of the work from delusional racing stars and keeps this agile little car bolted to the pavement no matter what you do to it.
The penultimate driving test was a stop start, which is pretty much what it sounds like. You jump out of a coned gate from a dead stop, travel a few hundred metres, then jam on the brakes and swerve in the direction a flagman indicates at the last second. They expect you to get up to 85-90 km/hr before you begin your stop. This is what all that 0-100km in 3.5 seconds stuff is about. It took longer to write that than do it.
Our vehicle for the phase? A chocolate brown 911 Turbo Cabriolet. While the exercise was an impressive test of the new Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes, my final Do Not Try This At Home moment was a display of barreling off a start with no lag. Called various things (boost, launch), you fully engage the brake. You then fully engage the accelerator, hold as the engine revs to the right moment (8 bars on our dash), then release the brake.
Chocolate in a slingshot. The 911 went off like a rocket.
To end the day, we did a couple of hot laps with the instructors driving. Again, it was the Cayenne, with our 26-year-old “I’m gonna live forever” driver that blew the doors off my view of this SUV.
It’s hard to leave the Porsche level of handling and speed behind at the end of the day. I sat at a stop sign in beautiful rural Bowmanville, wondering in my minivan would do that slingshot thing.