Photos: Stew Lawson
For the first time ever the traveling sportscar (and SUV) experience that is the Porsche World Roadshow has made its way to Canada. Held at Mosport International Raceway, just outside Toronto, the former Formula 1 facility played host to the vast majority of Porsche’s fleet of cars, with activities both on and off the track.
The Porsche event will be in Canada for several weeks, offering current and prospective Porsche owners a chance to truly appreciate the capabilities of these amazing machines. But before the event was officially opened, Porsche Canada invited us to bang gears, hit apexes and even go off-roading, to experience just what a Porsche can do.
In total, we had the chance to get behind the wheel and experience a Boxster S, Cayman S, 911 Carrera S, 911 Targa 4S, Cayenne, Cayenne GTS, oh… and a 911 Turbo. Other vehicles on-hand included several Cayenne S models, a Cayenne Turbo and a GT2 (which was strictly reserved for instructors to give hot laps in).
OFF-ROADING IN CAYENNES
First up during the busy day of activities was an off-road course, which was a genuine eye-opener. In just a standard Cayenne I drove through ditches, clawed my way up steep hills and climbed treacherous inclines – even dropping off small cliffs and getting the luxury SUV’s wheels up in the air at times.
Possibly even more amazing is how relaxed such an off-roading adventure can be in a luxurious Porsche cabin that doesn’t creak or squeak. Even the engine seemed relaxed, thanks in part to the low-range gearing that can be selected, a setting that also tells the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) to give maximum range to the active front anti-roll bar, allowing the wheels a greater range of movement.
The only real sounds detectable from inside the cabin are the differentials locking and the traction control ticking and clicking away, giving you maximum grip to get up a dirt slope you never dreamed a Porsche could.
The Cayenne, our instructor informed us (and we experienced), is capable of tremendous off-road feats, even though very few drivers will ever need or want such back-country credentials. Greater off-road capability is possible, however the Cayenne, being a Porsche, needs to sit somewhere in the middle to ensure the best possible on-road performance as well.
Normally a Cayenne has 215mm (8.46-inches) of ground clearance, while selecting the High Level I will give 241mm (9.49-inches) of clearance for speeds below 50 mph. A special High Level II, which we used, stretches the maximum ground clearance to 271mm (10.67-inches) and stays that way for speeds below 19 mph.
In the High Level II setting the Cayenne has an approach angle on gradients of 31.8 degrees and a departure angle of 25.4 degrees, with a ramp breakover angle of 24.7 degrees – all of which we used to their full extent.
OUT ON THE GRAND PRIX RACE TRACK
And so with mud covered SUVs we headed back to the main tent and exchanged our Cayenne keys for a set of sportscar starters. In groups of two we followed instructors out onto the Mosport Grand Prix track (officially the third fastest race track in the world), where we had the chance to toss around a Cayman S, Cayenne GTS and two 911s (a Carrera S and Targa 4S).
I felt the most at home in the Carrera S with the Targa 4S a close second. Both cars kept me pushing the instructor harder in his Boxster S, with the roadster’s smaller and less powerful 310hp 3.4-liter engine no match for the 385hp 3.8-liter engine in the 911s – especially on the back straight.
Having never had the opportunity to track drive a Cayman, I wasn’t as blown-away as I expected to be. There was nothing wrong with the car, as it delivered a well-balanced and neutral experience. I think I can chalk up my experiential discrepancy to the fact that unlike a lot of folks I’ve always felt at home in a 911, despite its rear-engine layout.
The final vehicle was a 405hp Cayenne GTS, which was certainly a surprise. It handled fabulously for a big SUV and I had no problem hanging with the Cayman driver in front of me. Body lean was incredibly minimal and the brakes were equally as good.
I don’t think I’d take mine in the Nordic Gold Matallic (with matching wheels), but the full Alcantara interior was a sight to behold.
BOXSTER AUTOCROSS, 911 TURBO BRAKE TEST
The final two events of the day involved the Boxster S on a large autocross track and a 911 Turbo, which we used for a braking exercise.
The Boxster really is a fabulous vehicle for autocross and when combined with Porsche’s PDK double-clutch transmission (which automatically upshifts, taking one element of difficulty out of the equation) is incredibly easy to drive hard. Even when the body does pitch and roll (as evidenced by the photography) it never felt that way inside the cabin.
As for the braking exercise, it’s arguably a waste of the 911 Turbo’s acceleration talents, however, it proved an excellent way to get a feel for the Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes (PCCBs).
We did also get a chance to try out the Turbo’s torque converter that allows the car to build boost while sitting still for better off-the-line performance. Just place your left foot on the brake, with your right foot on the gas and watch (and hear) the boost build on the dash gauge. Once you’re at a suitable level (0.8 bar or 11.6 psi in our instance) just release the brake and hold on.
HOT LAPS… AKA REVENGE
As the day drew to an end, there was one final event left. Referred to as “Hot Laps” a more accurate name would be “Revenge,” as the instructors took willing journalists out for a full-speed romp on the Mosport track.
Unfortunately, with the huge number of journalists in attendance it wasn’t possible to get a ride in every vehicle. We all drew straws for our “hot laps” and unfortunately I didn’t draw the GT2. Instead I got the Carrera 4S and Cayenne Turbo.
First up was a Carrera 4S, which rocketed around the track with precision and poise. Next was the Cayenne.
As both the Cayenne off-roading experience the Cayenne GTS track drive proved to be the most surprising events of the day, I decided it wouldn’t be wise to pass up a tour around the track in a Cayenne Turbo. Boy was I right… this was no Sunday drive.
Along with two other writers I went for the ride of my life as our 26-year-old instructor manhandled the Porsche SUV with frightening vigor. Throwing the big truck around with the fearlessness of youth on his side, it wasn’t until we reached turn 8 at the end of the back straight that things got really hairy. After shaving off some speed, he flicked the steering wheel and sent us into a completely sideways drift, all four tires screaming for their lives as we defied gravity and never even came close to rolling over. Knowing full well that we were moving at a good clip, I chanced a glimpse at the German-spec speedometer and sure enough it read 160 km/h (100 mph)!
Porsche needs to work this into its marketing materials for the event. “The Porsche World Roadshow: 100 MPH… Sideways!”
AN EASY SELL
As I mentioned earlier, this was the first time the Porsche World Roadshow was held in Canada, and it’s not likely to be the last time either. Every aspect of the experience leaves participants with a specific impression of just how capable a Porsche is.
It’s hard not to think how successful this sort of event must be for securing vehicle sales. Who wouldn’t want to take this experience home with them?
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GALLERY: Porsche World Roadshow