At 5:30am my street is very much asleep. I jump into my 930 Turbo and off into the darkness, as I rumble towards dawn and a more modern driving experience. Sunrise comes and goes, along with the M32, M4, A420 and the M40. At 7:40am, I arrive at Silverstone and park the car, still feeling a little fuzzy from the early start.
The Porsche experience centre at Silverstone is everything that you would expect from the Stuttgart manufacturer. The cylindrical building is clad in glass, with a showroom downstairs and a long sweeping parabola of stairs taking you up to a restaurant, overlooking the test track.
After a much-needed cup of coffee, we are introduced to our ‘chaperone’ for the day: a gentlemen by the name of Ben McLoughlin, who is as nice a chap as you could wish to meet, not to mention very handy behind the wheel. But more on that later.
Airfields are never the balmiest of places in the world, let alone in February, but I always find that Silverstone takes hypothermic winds to another level. Today the temperature resembles something akin to the dark side of the moon.
The sky is overcast and people are sheltering behind cars and buildings, clutching at their lapels like scared refugees. Thankfully, though, we’re not scared, we’re not refugees and we have the keys to the new 991 Porsche 911.
Upon first seeing it, the car has certainly grown in size—not only does it look bigger all round, but the narrower rear light clusters give the back a menacing look. The 991 is an entirely new chassis and therefore offers very different proportions and feel to its predecessor the 997 (which shared a chassis with the 996).
The car that I’m driving today is the Carrera 2, which produces 350bhp and will relieve you of just over £75,000.
After a bit of ogling at the new car, Ben asks me if I would like to take it onto the track. Silly question. Being a press car, this vehicle is equipped with Porsche’s PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) gearbox, as the German firm are keen to show it off. Lots has been said in the press about this system and also by drivers who lament what now seems to be the inevitable move by sports car manufacturers towards automated gearboxes. Without getting dragged into the debate about the ‘future of the driver’s car,’ I will say that this gearbox is very good. In auto mode you can cruise around all day long with a silky smooth shift, or you can do what I did and press the button marked ‘sport plus’; this lets the engine rev to the 7600rpm redline before up shifting and opening the exhaust valves to give you a bark that any bone fide supercar would be proud of. It gives the car a very distinctive Jekyll and Hyde manner, and I absolutely love it. The crackle on the overrun may have been engineered in but it sounds no-less satisfying.
The electronic power assisted steering is also a hot topic, due to observations of it lacking feel. I thought that stepping from my 930, which has the quintessential 911 wheel wobble-bump steer (Porsche enthusiasts in roll neck sweaters call it steering feel), I would be bowled over by the contrast. However, it feels right—like a proper car and everything. I, for one, would not miss the Porsche ‘steering feel’ of old.
After a few laps pootling around and talking about the car with Ben, I begin to wind up the pace. This car comes alive at speed and can do things that beggar belief. Under Bens instruction of “Brake, brake, brake…Go! Now! Flat through here…” the machine begins to goad you on. With tyre temperature building, it just grips and grips until you reach the limit of adhesion when gentle under steer offers a friendly warning.
Then there is the noise: 7600rpm from a flat six mounted behind you is aural ecstasy. For a moment, you could be Vic Elford on the sweeping bends of the Targa Florio in a 908. Beautiful.
Pulling back into the paddock, I’m overwhelmed by this car’s capability. With a wry smile, Ben looks across and says “Right then, hop in the passenger’s seat and I’ll show you a few lines”.
Minutes later we’ve lapped two GT3RS and a 4.0 RS. Arriving very quickly into a sweeping right hander, he turns the car in sharply, and when the rear end loses grip, he buries the throttle and we exit the corner in a lurid slide accompanied by clouds of rubber smoke and that glorious engine note. This is repeated several times before we return and it not only serves to highlight what Porsche have achieved with their cars, but also their strive for very high standards in the professionalism and competence of their personnel.
As an aside from the car, if you get the opportunity to spend some time at the Porsche experience centre, then I strongly urge you do. Whether you’re a prospective buyer or just there to fulfil a dream, you’ll be treated with equal care and enthusiasm. Of course, for every new owner you’ll get your own one-to-one tuition and a private stretch of racetrack to explore your car’s limits. It’ll save you earning magic points on the road. Maybe.
After spending a day with the car on track, I was left feeling a little depressed. Not for any number of ‘profound’ clichéd reasons about diluted brand heritage, or the car being too efficient, but because I don’t have £75,000.00 to spend. What this car offers you is the ability to drive from your house to the shops and back, with all the comforts that you would expect. If you decide that one day you would like to do that same trip, except via the Nurbürgring, then it will also ably oblige.
The next step is to live with this car out on the road. I’ll keep you posted.