Though I'm sure some of my friends would disagree, I don't consider myself a braggart but rather someone who relishes the chance to share stories of amazing experiences. As I've fallen deeper into the black hole of automotive journalism, I've found myself relating more and more tales of intrigue that are often met with the same reply, "sounds awesome, wish I could have been there." That is of course a nice way of saying "I didn't get to do it, so fuck you very much." Jealousy is an ugly character trait but one that every single person on the planet possess whether they'll admit it or not. Few things will cause jealousy to rear it's ugly head like telling someone you're going to spend an afternoon driving some new Porsches on a track.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Porsche wanted me to drive the new Boxster GTS, Cayman GTS, 911 Targa 4S, Panamera GTS & Macan Turbo so bad that they sold my friend Nate a 991 Carrera & Macan S and included an invite for 2 to PWRS.
Now I've had a number of "best days ever" recently, many of them automotive related. However, when you're on your way to a racetrack to get behind the wheel of some brand new Porsches, oh how quickly those other days fade from memory. The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Fontana Speedway was how ma that compared to BMW's "Ultimate Driving Experience" this was a smaller operation in terms of it's footprint.
To the left there was an auto-x course which we would eventually tear up in a Panamera GTS and Macan Turbo. I'd driven the last gen Panamera GTS when I worked for WheelsTV and that experience long held status as a "best day ever". Both Nate and I were incredibly excited to drive the Macan Turbo given all the buzz around it and how it's just a "lifted 911" according to Porsche's driving instructors.
Beyond the auto-x course was the infield track where we would be driving the Boxster GTS, Cayman GTS and Targa 4S. From the moment I found out about PWRS I was hoping that the GTS twins would be there seeing as they are currently the darlings of the enthusiast world. When I learned I was going to get to drive both of them, back to back, on a track, well frankly I can't appropriately convey what I felt with words...
There was a quick orientation before we went out to the track. Honestly I don't know if it was more painful for me or the guy on the mic. Bad jokes were told, sales ploys were made, buzzwords were thrown around all willy nilly. Thankfully this only lasted about 20 minutes, not a bad tradeoff for access to all these new vehicles. Hell I'd sit through a much longer brand fellating session if it means getting into a Porsche on a track.
With a wealth of new found knowledge about Porsche's commitment to building the perfect vehicle for
your next ex-wife, automotive purists we headed over to the track. Nate & I were put in the group that would hit up the GTS twins and Targa first, then the Panamera and Macan. The experience would culminate in a hot lap with one of Porsche's driving instructors in a 911 Turbo. This was the part of the day that I wasn't particularly looking forward to. For someone who has hit extreme speeds while in the left seat, a ride in the right seat, even in such a lust inducing car isn't something that seems all that great. Normally I'd say it's a recipe for automotive blue balls but through an amazing twist of fate, my ride in the 911 Turbo will be something I will surely never forget. More on that in a bit, first here's a rundown of the driving experiences.
The first car I drove was the Boxster GTS and to say that it's phenomenal would be an understatement. To have an instant connection with a vehicle is a rare thing, to have it after only a lap in it is even rarer. That's how good the Boxster GTS is though, it just wants to be your best friend. It'll be there to support you when you screw up and will always make sure you're having the most fun you can possibly have at any given time. Sometimes I think it's crazy that people still have this idea that the Boxster is somehow a lesser Porsche. Then I remember that most people are fucking dumb and wouldn't know the difference between bourbon and rye let alone today's Boxster and the original.
The Boxster GTS sounds amazing, drives amazing and is a pretty damn good value, relatively speaking of course. With an MSRP of $73k for a manual and $77k for the auto some will certainly have a bit of sticker shock but when you consider all the goodies you get(Sport Chrono Pkg, Bi-Xenons, the exhaust) it begins to seem downright reasonable. However when you're spending that much money one must ask themselves, why not spend a little bit more for a roof an an extra 10 HP?
The Cayman GTS has been atop my most wanted list since it was first announced. Having driven a base Cayman a few years ago I was just salivating at the opportunity to drive the hardcore version of what I already knew was an excellent car. However total fulfillment was not to be had on that fateful day. The way the whole thing worked was there's an instructor in a lead car and then the 3 vehicles behind him. You rotate through the vehicles in order on a lap by lap basis. The order of the vehicles in our group was Boxster, Cayman, Targa. So when we were in the Boxster we were right behind the instructor, who would push as hard as possible so long as we kept up. We did just that and the result was an awesome hot lap.
We then moved back to the Cayman and two guys got into the Boxster, creating a wall of stupidity between us and the instructor. Now I know not everyone who attends these things is a great driver, most of them aren't even good drivers but the last thing you expect is for someone to be an overly cautious driver. Sadly that was the case on both Nate and my laps in the Cayman. We both hung back as much as we could to create a gap between us and what we could only assume were nursing home escapees masquerading as grown men. Unfortunately creating a gap is against the rules set forth at the beginning of the event and if you do it too much the instructor will slow down to make you catch up, thus defeating the purpose.
I can't call what I did in the Cayman GTS driving so it remains atop my list of most lusted after vehicles to get seat time in. Same guys were in front of us when we moved back to the Targa 4S but it didn't bum us out as much because we were having so much fun talking shit on them. Besides I've torn up some of Southern California's best roads in a 7spd manual 991 Carrera, the Targa didn't feel all the special. It's a very pretty car and a feat of engineering but this day was all about the GTS twins for me. Even with those jokers in front of us, the experience was fucking awesome because the Cayman GTS is very a big slice of rad with a healthy dose of booyah on top. Nate is already thinking of ways to swap his 911 for one and I don't blame him. It's a better car, anyone who disagrees is a badge snob, a stubborn 911 elitist or just hasn't driven one yet.
The base price of $75k seems rather attainable after considering similarly priced vehicles. Like any Porsche you can easily push that into the triple digits with a couple options but if you're really honest with yourself, do you need those leather air vents and illuminated door sill guards? Of course you don't. This is a hard edged sports car we're talking about. All you need is a manual transmission, sport suspension and seat ventilation. That last option is the only one you'll pay for and I think it's worth every penny. Be a reasonable person like me and you'll have a howling 340HP, 2 seat track weapon, for only $77,825.
Once we'd cycled through all the cars and done out best to convince the woman in charge to let us go for another round we headed over to the auto-x course to check out the Panamera GTS and Macan Turbo. I thought it was pretty cool that they were giving people the chance to drive these vehicles on a cone course vs. a road course. The thing I remembered most about the Panamera(besides the Burmester audio system) was how the car seemed to shrink around you the harder you drove it. This certainly holds true with the new generation and it benefits from a butt lift which it sorely needed. Still, the Panamera remains a polarizing car in the enthusiast community though all of us should love it because without it, the GTS twins wouldn't be financially feasible. After having our ears treated to the glorious burbling of the Panamera's 4.8L V8 we slipped into the Macan Turbo, eager to see what if it would live up to the hype.
While I wish that it had more personality(aka. whooshy turbo goodness) the Macan certainly lives up to the hype in the driving dynamics department. Both Nate and I were pleasantly surprised at how composed it was through the tight corners and how easy it was to get it to rotate exactly how you wanted it to. We agreed that the most impressive thing about it were the brakes and how good the pedal feel was. These were the stock brakes too, not the insanely priced carbon ceramic ones that only the most soulless of the 1% will feel obligated to add on to their spoiled spawn's college graduation present. Overall I'd say that Porsche's claim of the Macan being a "911 with a lift kit" isn't that far off. Fun to imagine outfitting one of these with a brush guard, HELLA light bar and aggressive off road tires for a stage rally in some hostile climate in a remote corner of the earth. Of course the most hostile climate a Macan will likely see is the parking lot during Black Friday but hey, one can't help but dream.
Now as I mentioned at the outset of this writeup I had an experience in the 911 Turbo that I will never forget. Part of that is due to the insane nature of this car but it's mostly due to the man who was driving it.
On our drive to the event Nate and I got on the topic of past vehicles. He asked me about the first car I ever owned and I told him the story of buying my white, 5spd, 4cyl turbo, 1991 Subaru Legacy Sport Sedan. I bought it from a guy I worked with at a local snowboard shop when I was 16 and it was the car that ultimately put me on the enthusiast path. I had grown up loving cars as many boys do but some grow out of it and some end up writing long winded pieces for their blogs. I can't fully explain how much that car meant to me and who knows where I'd be had it not been my first vehicle. Having told Nate all about that car, I wondered what the guy who sold me that car was up to, I wanted to thank him for selling it to me, for planting the seed. I got my chance when I climbed into a white, 7spd, 6cyl, twin turbo, 2015 Porsche 911 Turbo.
Yup, that's right, the guy who sold me my beloved first car was the guy who took me for my hot lap in the 911 Turbo. I hadn't seen Kevin Hans in 12 goddamn years and when we walked over to the staging area I couldn't believe my eyes. Nate didn't believe me at first and when I introduced myself Kevin could hardly believe it either. I mean what are the fucking odds of that?! All I could do was laugh and smile. It's the kind of crazy shit that rarely happens but when it does, you have to believe it's for a reason. For me that reason was being totally at peace with someone else going flat out in a 520hp car with me in the passenger seat. I probably would have gotten a kick out of the experience had it been some random instructor driving but it wouldn't have been memorable the way this was. Kevin took us around the track at 100%, pushing it every turn. I've gone faster in a straight line but never that fast sideways and that in control.
And so what I thought was going to be the least exciting part of the day was actually the most exciting. I now know what rocket like acceleration and true precision driving feels like in a street legal car. I said it before, I'll say it again, this was a day that I'll never forget. Not because I drove some seriously impressive cars, not because I got to catch up with a friend I haven't seen in over a decade but because I now know that there's some cosmic forces at work and I'm doing exactly what I should be doing, exactly where I should be doing it. If that doesn't qualify as the best day ever, then I don't know what does.
Andrew Maness writes about cars because he has one and also has a computer. He's been known to drunkenly Tweet as @thisnicelife and upload photos to @theroadlessdriven. He also has a YouTube Channel and thinks talking about himself in the 3rd person is really weird but knows it's necessary if he wants to be taken seriously as an Oppo contributor.