For many new car buyers, heading over to the local dealership for a test drive is part of the shopping routine. Unfortunately, going for a 10 min. spin around the block with an over-eager sales-person sitting shotgun doesn’t really help in evaluating a car, especially if it’s a high-performance vehicle.
Recognizing this flaw, Porsche has decided to hit the road this year and make its world-class cars available to the public, and allow for much more than just a brief test drive. The Porsche World Roadshow program will be stopping at 6 US cities this summer, offering extended test drives and a performance driving experience that allows prospective buyers to put select models to the test.
We were invited to check out the San Francisco leg of the tour, which was held at scenic Candlestick Point, home of the San Francisco 49ers. A good portion of the stadium parking lot had been converted to a short autocross-style course and a longer track-style course. We joined around 30 Porsche enthusiasts for a 2 hour afternoon session that included drive time in a variety of Porsche models on both courses.
After a brief presentation and pep talk from Hurley Haywood, chief instructor at the Porsche Sport Driving School, we were off to the autocross to see how Porsche’s mid-engine models perform in tight cornering conditions. An extra bonus was being able to drive different models of the same car back-to-back to see the subtle, but significant differences between versions. A few quick laps in a Boxster, Boxter S, Boxster Spyder, and Cayman R demonstrated how nimble this platform really is.
Once finished with the autocross we were directed over to the longer track course and a lineup of different 911 models, including the base, S, and 4S. Also thrown in for comparison was a base model Cayman. The routine here involved playing follow the leader around the mile long course, and so long as we kept appropriate distance the instructor in the lead car promised to keep the speed nice and high.
After flinging each of these cars around the surprisingly bumpy, twisty track, we came away with a definite appreciation for the performance potential of each of these Porsches. The surprise performer proved to be the Cayman, which despite short on horsepower, felt as quick and quite a bit more nimble than the larger 911 models.
As always, the driving session ended far too soon, and we were directed back to the showroom style tent and invited to chat with representatives about the cars. We took the opportunity to chat with some of the other participants to gain some insight into why Porsche has developed such a loyal following of performance-minded car enthusiasts.
For many attendees, Porsche was already an important part of their lives. One man regaled us with tales of picking up a 1969 Porsche 912 from the factory in Germany and then going on a road trip throughout Europe. Another mentioned having recently purchased an Audi R8, but being unable to sell his older 911 because of the sheer joy of driving the car, even if it isn’t quite as fast. For the few Porsche newcomers, the main response was one of smiles and grins, and thoughts about which model to own, should the bank allow it.
We came away with one certain conclusion: Porsche will gain more than a few new lifelong fans with its World Roadshow events. We would happily join this growing community, if only automotive journalism were a more lucrative profession.
2011 Porsche World Roadshow Locations
South Florida – Palm Beach International Raceway
April 5 – 7, 2011
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX – Texas Motor Speedway
April 15 – 17, 2011
Los Angeles, CA – Autoclub Speedway at Fontana
May 3 – 5, 2011
San Francisco, CA – Candlestick Park
May 11 – 13, 2011
Chicago, IL – Autobahn Country Club
May 25 – 27, 2011
New York, NY – Monticello Motor Club
June 10 – 12, 2011
Atlanta, GA – Turner Field
June 28 – 30, 2011