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Skid Marks

Driving the Porsche 991 Carrera S in America

/ 09:34 PM November 22, 2011

THE AUTHOR’S latest test-drive experience brought him to Santa Barbara, California, for a date with the newest Porsche.

I haven’t been to the United States for 15 years, so coming back was going to be a big shock. Thankfully, Porsche chose the hilly, seaside Santa Barbara Region for the launch of the Porsche 991 Carrera S. When I asked Dieter, a historian working in the Porsche Museum why Porsche chose California, he said it best represents what the 911 lifestyle is about: cool, relaxed, yet sophisticated, free-spirited and adventurous. Santa Barbara is a small, uber-upscale community 160 miles north of Los Angeles. I’ve never seen a high concentration of luxury cars, sports cars and premium SUV’s in one place with mega-million-dollar homes. It seems like everyone here forgot the economic downturn the rest of the US is facing.

More importantly, though, for me, I would get a chance to drive the 991 Carrera S on some of the best driving roads in America, albeit closely following the speed limit. Our driving route consisted of a 150-mile drive through coastal roads, the freeway, mountain passes and really tight, barely four-meter-wide and heavily crowned slip roads through farmlands and vineyards. It was a good mix as we were able to try out the advancements made to the 991 from the previous 997 sports car.

At speed, the 991 impresses deeply. The driving position can be set race-car low, and the refinement, comfort and stability was impressive. Which was a trouble as Porsche executives kept begging us to observe the speed limits. Often, I’d find myself nudging close to 90 mph as I was enjoying my conversation with my driving partner, and there were empty, desolate stretches with no cops around, which was too great to resist: we’d floor it all the way to 4th gear then quickly slow down to the posted speed limits simply because, rather than feeling the g-forces rush in, my newfound friend and I just wanted to hear that marvelous flat-six on trailing throttle.


Out on the make-shift handling track at the nearby Santa Maria airfield, driving instructors demonstrated just how impressive the 991 is, going faster than we thought was humanly, physically possible, the 991 seemingly defying once again the laws of physics. I guess in that sense you can argue that Germans, despite their ultra-disciplined and efficient ways, are juveniles at heart, wanting to push the boundaries of the laws of physics in eking out more performance from the 991. I went out on the handling track as often as I could, earning the annoyance of the instructors as they wanted to close the track already while I still wanted one more time. You can never have enough track time in a 911.

The 911 series itself is special to me as well. No other car feels as stable and composed at high speeds as a 911. Rather than using superlatives that fail to express how I feel about it, I can describe it in a more physical manner. It feels like a tank in its solidity, and combines the best of the hyper-active abilities of a rally-replica like a Lancer Evo or Subaru STI, yet infusing the chassis with higher levels of grip, speed and acceleration, plus comfort and refinement. I also perceive the 911 to be a very human car. Like us, the 911 is flawed in concept, with a big heavy weight sticking out at the back, increasing pendulum-like tendencies at high cornering speeds. But with almost 50 years of careful fine-tuning and evolution, the 911 is pretty much perfect in that it feels like an organic experience, a proper driver’s car that continues to reward you many years after you first drove it. And as your skill grows just like a computer game, you unlock new, higher levels of performance in a 911 of any generation. Much like humans who, with age, become better.

Next week: The full feature on the new 911

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TAGS: auto, driving, Motoring, Porsche 991 Carrera S, US
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