Need for speed: Porsche is driving itself
Several years ago, Porsche took me to Mosport to try the new Cayenne Turbo S. This time the track is the same, albeit with a name change to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and the weapon of choice this time was the new 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera, well two of them actually, one with the all-new 7-speed manual, the other a 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.
First up was the S with the PDK. Now, I should point out that this was about as ‘open’ a track day as you could have with some, well let’s just say ‘substantial’ bits of kit on the track at the same time – with passing.
I was in a stock, off the showroom floor with 300kms on it 911 Cab.
Now, I am a manual type of guy, let me drive kind of thing, but Porsche’s Rick Bye managed to convince me to let the 911 Cabriolet S do all the work. We simply put it in drive, set it to sport plus and off we went.
What followed just amazed me to no end. The Porsche – and I know this can’t be – knew we were on a track, circulating at a significant pace. Normally you would arrive at a corner which you needed to go down a couple of gears and you would brake, grab the paddle shift, and click down a couple of gears.
I just braked…and waited.
The 911 did it all for me, just like I would have done. How is that possible I wondered? Bye told me that the car can sense when you are braking hard and it will take the appropriate action all by itself.
“You are kidding right,” I said.
But lap after lap, it did exactly what I would have done if I were to do it manually – amazing.
Now, think about this, sloppy downshifts unbalance the car, and when you are at speed, that can end in tears. With the new 911 Cabriolet S in this trim, just about anyone that can steer, brake and turn is in for a brilliant ride that is probably safer than if they were to attempt it on their own.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration for me to say that of all the cars I have driven on a racetrack, the Porsche and I were the best ‘team’ I’ve been on – it was that good.
Next up was the 911 Carrera Coupe with the 7-speed manual.
This time I was paired with noted Canadian racer David Empringham, who fondly recalled our last outing in the Cayenne.
The gearbox gave my mind problems. You see, I normally know that I need to be in third here, or fourth there or second in the corner coming up. With the new 7-speed, for the life of me I couldn’t remember what gear (the number) I was in. In fact, I asked Emp in one corner, “Is this a second or third gear corner”. It didn’t really matter what the answer was because I had no clue which was which. Even though the pattern of the gearbox is exactly the same as normal with 7th off and up to the right, it still messed me up.
It was me, not the car.
I have had this once before back in my days in the Atlantic series. My Reynard had first down and to the right, it always messed me up.
In short order I went back to the proven method of if it’s screaming: change up. And if it’s lugging: change down…problem solved.
As we pounded around for our 30 minute session, something dawned on me. When we do track days in ‘normal’ cars we are limited to three or four flying laps at the most because brakes overheat, engines get hot, gearboxes get hot and to be honest, most ‘street’ cars won’t put up with more than 5 minutes or so of a really hard workout.
I am here to tell you – and Emp will confirm – we pounded around for all 30 minutes in each of the 911’s and there was no brake fade. No overheating warnings going off, nothing, just a pure, well-engineered sports car doing what it is engineered to do (and keep in mind, these cars did this all day with a number of different journalists at the wheel).
Now, think about that for a minute.
What this means is that in order for the Porsche to put up with this abuse all day long, how do you think it will put up with the mild at best strains that are put on it during everyday driving? Clearly, this is what makes Porsches so good. They really are vastly over engineered in street car terms, with better brakes, better cooling and better electronics than is necessary for everyday driving. This means that when you do drive them every day they are in no danger of being over-taxed – it’s like a marathon runner walking to the corner store.
And that ladies and gentlemen is what makes a Porsche a Porsche…simply better than it needs to be.
Once again, Porsche has let me prove to myself that their products are a cut above. They didn’t have to sell me on anything.
They just gave me the car and I went….point proven.