Beautiful countryside road course allows unique opportunity to test Porsche SUVs
Porsche Centre Vancouver certainly takes care of its VIPs (Very Important Porschephiles), although the group gathered at Mission Raceway on Thursday, July 6 to take part in its most recent road and track day were a mix of current Porsche owners and interested aficionados, one participant showing up in his very own near-new 911 Turbo S and others in less exotic Boxsters, Macans, Cayennes and non-Porsches. A small number had previously experienced time on a racetrack, whereas the rest were excited for this new opportunity—a mixed group for sure, but all enthusiastic about spending quality time with some very special machinery.
On deck were a duelling quartet of 718 Cayman S hardtops and a sonorous duet of 911 Carrera S’ coupes, either model ideal for slaloming through the tight confines of the two-kilometre, nine-turn road course, while the public road portion of the program saw time well spent in Porsche’s sensational tag team of SUVs in various states of tune, as well as the all-new 2018 Panamera.
After introductions and obligatory nametags, Dilawri Group and Porsche Centre Vancouver’s on-site staff ultra-helpful in answering questions and making sure we all had what we needed, including a dose of caffeine and a particularly tasty breakfast in a bun (food is always best when trackside), my day started on the road with a newfound friend at my side, a base Macan four-cylinder being our chosen ride.
Macan and Cayenne remain SUV sector’s sportiest
For anyone who has yet to drive one, Porsche’s new entry-level model is everything a compact SUV needs to be including fuel efficient, while its 252-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder boasts 273 lb-ft of torque for spirited performance off the line and more than ample energy on the open road, where the model’s best-in-class handling made sure the drive through Mission’s circuitous and picturesque mountainside two-laners were unforgettable. Evidenced by a constant smile and plenty of positive comments, my road-going partner was impressed with the base Macan’s performance as well.
Porsche Centre Vancouver went further to enhance the countryside drive experience of the program by adding the more potent Macan S, which together with a 340 horsepower 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 plus a more aggressive suspension and wheel/tire package proved to be a positively gripping canyon carver, while the 300 horsepower base Cayenne and 420 horsepower Cayenne S models were also on hand reminded everyone why this mid-size luxury SUV is becoming more popular with each and every generation.
2018 Panamera new standard-bearer for Porsche interiors
If the new 2018 Panamera is an indication of where Porsche plans to take its interior design, we’re in for an entirely new level of luxury and sophistication. The quality and execution of this car’s cabin raises the bar for Porsche and the rest of the four-door coupe category, but even more impressive is the model’s new configurable digital gauge cluster, widescreen infotainment interface, and all the touch-sensitive controls on the sloping centre console. You’ll need to experience these first-hand to truly appreciate what Porsche has accomplished, but suffice to say you’ll be fully satisfied. The car itself drives brilliantly, as we should all expect by now, Porsche improving considerably on the old model that arguably already delivered best-in-class performance.
As enjoyable as the public road portion of this event was, saving track time for the second half of the morning was luck of the draw. The anticipation of attendees was palpable while Porsche Driving Experience performance instructor Kees Nierop (a Sebring 12 Hours winner, Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hours competitor, Canadian GT1 Champion, etc) and his team gave worthwhile seat, steering wheel and mirror setup tips, which were quickly followed up by some hands-on (and feet-on) track time.
No better place to appreciate Porsche performance than on the track
The Porsche Driving Experience smartly opts to start with some autocross action before heading out on the full road course, which allows each participant opportunity to get to know the cars they’ll be driving. This lets everyone become more confident behind the wheel when the only potential victims of a high-speed error are orange traffic cones. After all, even the meekest of cars enrolled in the track portion of this even boasts Porsche’s new 350 horsepower turbocharged flat-four capable of 280 lb-ft of torque, a sports car to be reckoned with, while the 911 Carrera S claims a sizeable 420 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque.
A short slalom allowed entrants to become accustomed to said engine output and adjust to each cars’ steering feel and handling, while a standing start acceleration run followed by a full panic braking test allowed all to experience just how quickly they rocket forward from standstill and then how formidable the brakes are when fully engaged. More importantly, the process caused each driver to push the cars to their limits, which was especially important with braking, and therefore prepared them in the event they needed to use those brakes on the track. With plenty of cars to drive, everyone had ample opportunity to test their mettle through the slalom and improve their braking results.
A twisty road circuit designed for Porsche’s ultimately capable sports cars
Mission Raceway is a relatively short track that lacks vertical challenges, but just the same it’s a technical circuit that requires close attention at all times, whereas speeds attainable down the main straight (that section being an NHRA certified drag strip) are much greater than anything legal on public roads, which of course makes such an event all the more entertaining. The three Cayman S and two 911 Carrera S coupes available to participants had no issues managing the track’s many tight twists and turns, nor did those taking part thanks to Nierop’s careful instructions via shortwave radios within each car.
Of note, each Porsche sports coupe has its own unique personality thanks to aforementioned performance differentiators, as well as mid-engine placement for the Cayman and Porsche’s trademark rear-engine design for the 911, these traits intensified with their “S” nameplate designations as well as Sport, and then Sport+ modes engaged.
We were encouraged to play around with our cars’ transmissions, each including a version of Porsche’s quick-shifting, paddle shift-enhanced seven-speed automated PDK dual-clutch gearbox, which while fun to flick through their respective cogs were probably best left to their own devices as they automatically downshifted at exactly the right moment during braking to maximize corner exits, blipping the throttle between intervals while doing so, and then upshifted precisely when getting hard on the throttle. The PDK is such an advanced transmission that even died-in-the-wool purists who previously would have only purchased manual gearboxes are opting for the upgrade.
A worthwhile road and track experience that shouldn’t be missed
Truly, the only missing ingredients from the Porsche Driving Experience were competitive products to gauge these cars against, because the Cayman and 911’s superb visibility, excellent ergonomics, and always-appreciated comfort make them best in their respective classes for both performance and daily driving. It’s no wonder Porsche continues to sweep the sales charts as thoroughly as it dominates on the track.
The morning ended with another yummy meal and plenty of enthusiastic conversation amongst the many new friends who attended, this group soon joined by a second round of excited participants who would take over the controls for the afternoon session.
To experience an event like this or one of these fine sports cars first-hand, or spend some quality time behind the wheel of a Macan, Cayenne or the completely redesigned Panamera, contact Porsche Centre Vancouver at (604) 736-7911 to make an appointment, or drop by their showroom at 688 Terminal Ave, Vancouver between the hours of 8 am to 7 pm Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 6 pm Friday, or 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
Date Posted: July 20, 2017