Thursday 21 September 2017

Heady mixture of power, pace from Porsche 911 with new turbo engines

First drive in Silverstone: Porsche 911 and others

0-60 mph in seconds: Porsche 911
0-60 mph in seconds: Porsche 911
Porsche 911
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

It may seem like a strange thing to say at a Porsche day out at Silverstone - but it was not all about speed.

Sure I flamed down straights at serious rates of knots but as my adviser for the day, Chas, said: We can get you to 60mph in a few seconds but we can stop you in half that time.

I was there, mainly, to drive the new-generation 911 range with its new 3-litre flat-six twin turbocharged engines over a variety of road, speed, braking and testing conditions.

More people are buying a Porsche in Ireland. It's a sign of the times. Irish prices start from €129,308 for the 911 (with PDK) and range upwards to €300,000 depending on model and spec.

But this was all about driving and, in a strange way, about me: How I reacted to speed, thrust, braking and how I handled the phenomenal forces at my disposal over dangerous, slippery surfaces too.

I learned a lot. The lesson really is that you've got to think ahead all the time, be prepared to use the accelerator rather than the brakes to get you out of trouble sometimes (I stress sometimes) and always be aware of what your car is doing. Sounds easy; it's not. Especially at pace.

The fun was about driving flat out and cornering. With a variety of different models to try out, it was wonderful to feel, sense and exploit the differences.

As you probably know the 911 has a new 3-litre engine with twin turbos now, heralding the biggest changes over the next three or four years than those of the previous 30/40 - but the core Porsche spirit, if you like, remains.

Purists may notice differences in the new engines/turbos, etc and quibble over some elements maybe, but after my drives I can only say I'd find it hard to complain about extra power and better handling.

For example, the 911 Carrera is now up 20hp to 370hp, and 420hp in the S version. Torque is up 60Nm (to 450) and 500Nm in S.

Power for the Carrera 4 and Targa 4 follow with power boosts too - AWD models accelerate faster than the traditional rear-wheel-drives believe it or not. The Carrera 4S hits 100kmh in 3.8 seconds.

The 911 Turbo is now 540hp (580hp for the S which can zap to 100kmh in 2.8 seconds).

You'll notice lots of change at the front where the apron allows for larger air intakes - vital for turbo power.

And at the rear, the air outlets at the bottom are for the intercoolers. New-design sports exhausts are nearer the centre of the rear. The new engine can rev to 7,500rpm. There's a special package to set up different driving modes, chassis, rear spoiler etc. And there's a button that boosts the power for 20 seconds (I used that a lot) - great for overtaking.

I also enjoyed the rear-wheel steer which made my turning circles so, so tight. The active suspension is now standard on all.

There's a new infotainment and connectivity system which I didn't bother much with - because I was driving, man, as fast and as many as I could. By the way there are too many buttons - massive cluster - on some models.

The Porsche facility at Silverstone surprised me. The track isn't for mad, outlandish racing as such (it can be). It's for driving. There is a difference. You know what? I would love to see more people getting this sort of experience - regardless of brand. It would make better drivers of them. After nearly three non-stop adrenalin-soaked hours I was tired but wiser.

First up to drive was the Carrera 4S with rear-wheel-steer and 420hp. So tight on bends, I could feel that extra turn-in on track and a special figure-of-eight that even I managed.

The 911 Carrera Targa with 370hp and 4WD felt heavier and better planted - or maybe I was getting used to the technicalities of the driving - flat out, down sudden slopes and through tight, tight uphill bends.

And then the 911 Turbo S. Mamma Mia; 580hp. Power just pours to the wheels, the chassis with PDCC sits as firm or soft as you want but the acceleration from standing start is breathtaking - 2.8 seconds to 100kmh. This is where I got seriously elated.

Then, the Panamera Hybrid (total 455hp) was a complete change of pace and handing. With this I took to the skid pad where the kick-plate threw the car completely off but I'm glad to say I counter-steered and kept control.

Chas, my expert Porsche companion tweaked a few settings and I went a bit faster second time. With my eyes closed. I did even better. Boy, was I confident.

Third time. Lost it - didn't hit anything - but spun like a top because I braked rather than gave power to the wheels.

Up to the uphill water fountains ping-pong. Did okay. Nearly lost it coming down. Why? Because I braked when I should have added gentle power. Got it about right after a few takes. Tricky. Wonderfully informative.

We went out on the road - ordinary roads - after lunch in a Macan SUV Turbo V6 400hp. Not impressed, especially with the interior which felt too plasticky. No sense of energy despite its power base.

The larger Cayenne GTS was far more enjoyable (3.6-litre 440hp); real substantial car.

But both drives were sampling rather than experiencing. That all came on track before lunch where we had rounded off with the 911 Carrera rear-wheel-drive 370hp. Same skid routine. Mixed results. Doing the right thing sometimes is counter-intuitive. My day proved that you need time to absorb such matters into your driving. Because it really isn't all about speed.

Indo Motoring

Also in Life