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26 March 2012

The Porsche World Roadshow: A day with 10,000 horsepower

Words by Ferman Lao | Photos by Christopher Kho
Ok, perhaps it's not exactly 10,000, but with the least capable vehicle available for testing producing almost three times more than your typical subcompact, while the most powerful easily over 500, to it's easy be lulled into thinking that the day's selection had a total power output was within that region... or a bit more. In fact, the experience could undoubtedly be the automotive equivalent of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's “The Greatest Show on Earth.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Porsche World Roadshow = a day wherein every model in the Porsche catalog are driven in the manner they were designed to be driven, made possible only by Porsche AG and PGA Cars Inc.
Warming up
The show starts bright and early with a hearty breakfast, ensuring every participant has more than enough energy to last the entire day; not that you needed it, given the amount of rare metal in the lineup. Albeit the quick brief on the day's activities does nothing to prepare one for what lies ahead, the lead instructor's closing caveats is enough to get our hearts racing when he said: “While we want you to have the full experience of what it's like driving a Porsche and we want you to push the cars, we also want you to keep safe. When you are in a car and think of doing something silly, make sure you've chosen a car with a color you like.” At least, that's what I think he said. In any case, the message is clear.
The morning intro was followed by the unveiling of the newest star in the day's show, the all-new Porsche 911. Based on the new 991 platform, the new 911 is lower, wider, and longer than its predecessor. And the best part is we won't just be cruising around in a regular Carrera, but in the more potent 400 hp 3.8L Carrera S.
Then, we were led to a quick and humorous lesson on the basic driving positions that one should never be caught dead doing in a Porsche, capped off by what's proper. Interestingly, there were a couple of new details that even jaded motoring hacks haven't heard of. 
Later on, the day's attendees were broken up into groups, each with their own assigned instructor. Ours let us know early on that there'll be a short driving competition amongst the teams as part of the activities further in the day. Simply put, he wants to be the instructor of the winning team. Everyone loves a winner; that's for sure. 
Giving it some stick
First grind of the day was the handling exercise. With two drivers assigned per car, each discerning soul gets two laps around Clark International Speedway's (CIS) South Short Course; after which, you hop onto the next car until you get seat time in all four Porsche's available for play. On the “to drive list” were two brand-spanking new Porsche 991's, a 911 Carrera GTS, and a yellow Cayman S. 
We weren't allowed though to touch the immaculate 911 GT3, which was used by our instructor to lead the pack. “Keep up and keep it tight, gentlemen,” the radio cackles. 
After just a few laps behind the wheel, I swear we've died and gone to automotive heaven. Each Porsche we switched to exactly communicates the difference between the one before it and which one will be right for you. I now know, when I get a Porsche, it's going have to be in white. 
On new terrain
Next exercise in store was the road tour. Contrary to the flat out driving we did on track, here, we got the chance to enjoy a relaxing drive in a different set of Porsche's on normal road conditions. We got to taste a slice of the good life in a Panamera, 911 Targa, 911 Turbo, and yet another 991. Hmmm... the glass roof looks good on white, and it's got to be a Turbo. 
After the road tour, we are taken off-road to try out the Cayenne's capabilities. Even with its 20-inch rims, we tackled a smorgasbord of steep descends, deep ruts, and 30 degree side crawls which succinctly demonstrated just how adept the Cayenne was even on the rough stuff. It definitely was an exercise not normally associated with Porsche's. Perhaps, I should consider an SUV.
We were then led on to the CIS' North Short Course where we were given the chance to find out for ourselves what oversteer and understeer really meant in nothing less than a Porsche Panamera, Panamera Turbo, Cayenne Hybrid, and Cayenne Turbo. At 2 kilometers, the North Short Course is identical in length as the South Short Course, except that with its long straights, speeds in these German supercars could easily pass the 120 km/h mark. Do it wrong and understeer and oversteer will never be demonstrated more clearly. While trail braking helps, Porsche's Stability Management can turn any regular Joe into a Walter Röhrl with a press of a button labelled PSM. It was also the only switch on all the cars that we aren't allowed to fiddle with. “Touch everything except the PSM switch” echoed in our ears. Let's just call it the “Please Save Me” button.
The greatest show on Earth 
The final event of the day was the driving competition in a lovely Boxster Spyder. It was a short chicaned course designed to demonstrate that, despite the brute force every Porsche is capable of, driver skill and finesse are still the keys to winning. All sorts of excuses were heard here from the drivers. 
As the sun began to set, the show ended all too quickly but not before taxi rides were given to the attendees with our experienced grand prix driving instructors at the helm. We witness up close just what a Porsche, in the right hands, is truly capable of. How we wished that this was the first activity of the day, but then again, everyone agrees that hotdogs are best on buns or sticks, not in showboats. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's definitely got nothing on The Porsche World Roadshow. This has got to be the greatest show on Earth. Plus, I now know which Porsche I want.