Porsche Canada recently reached out to us with an invitation to try out their new Porsche Driving Experience, so you know we had to take it. What is the “Experience” exactly?
The Porsche Driving Experience is a program designed for customers or potential customers of the brand. Each participant takes part in a three-day adventure involving several vehicles from the German’s manufacturer’s line-up.
The first two days focus on street driving – although an off-road portion is included, right where Land Rover has its own off-road school near Montebello in Quebec – and connects the drivers to the beautiful scenery north of our nation’s capital.
The roads are fantastic and the colours changing at this time of year are simply gorgeous, especially when you’re at the wheel of a Porsche 718 Boxster or, even better, a 911 Carrera.
But the best part about this lifestyle event is that, like a chocolate cake at the end of a wonderful meal, the sweetest part comes towards the end! On the third day, Porsche lead us on a beautiful road trip from Ottawa to Calabogie Motorsports Park—but it’s when we hit this well-hidden race track that things really get interesting.
It’s better on a track
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to drive on some of the world’s best closed circuits, but for some reason, the CMP (Calabogie Motorsports Park) was still missing from my short list.
I’d be taming it in the Porsche 718 Boxster and 911 Carrera, a perfect duo when it came to improving my driving skills and discovering an unknown track. Needless to say, I was quite excited to start the first session.
Until that afternoon, our journey had given us some information on all the different trims available in the Porsche portfolio (two-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive; S or not-S; rear-wheel steering-equipped; etc.) but to really feel the difference, there’s nothing like a few laps at high speed on a race track.
But before we could drive on the track, instructors took a few minutes to remind us of the ground rules, safety being the number one priority. I dared ask if Porsche Canada ever had an incident over the years, and the answer was “no.” These experienced instructors just know how to cool things down.
The Calabogie Motorsports Park opened in 2006 and is still the longest in the country, offering a course some 5.05 km in length, with 20 turns, and a straightaway of 609 meters. During their briefing, the organizers warned us about the tricky parts with all these blind curves and elevations changes.
The Porsche 718 Boxster: better in S trim?
Fate wanted me to start the session on track with a base 718 Boxster. Being the least powerful of the range, the sporty mid-engine car was a great starting point when it came to tackling this twisty circuit.
Even down on power, the “follow-the-leader” format ensured we weren’t going to go all-out at first, giving us enough time to mark some visual cues and to adopt the best racing line.
If the base 718 Boxster proved an amazing candidate for learning amateur lapping, the S version added a little spice to the equation, especially with the Sport Chrono package allowing more focused performances in terms of gear changes and throttle response.
During my time on the track, the little drive mode knob was placed in Sport Plus. The S was not only more exhilarating to drive, but perfectly balanced. In this case, the 718 Boxster S is a better car, but the base model still makes for a very decent option for this type of driving.
Meanwhile, in the 911 Carrera—
The biggest technical difference between the 911 Carrera and the 718 Boxster is the position of the engine, with the flat-four turbo of the roadster being in the middle; and the flat-six of the 911 pushed behind the rear axle. Even though the 911 Carrera sits atop the 718 Boxster in the line-up, both cars perform very well at high speed.
However, the more expensive of the two is also without a doubt the fastest one on the CMP circuit. Of course, the 911 Carrera S is the one that delivers the highest level of adrenaline thanks to its 420-horsepower turbocharged flat-six. In Sport Plus mode, the Porsche engine noise reminds you that you’re driving a $150,000 sports car.
All cars on this event were equipped with the optional PDK unit, making it easier for all the drivers to handle, especially the ones that had never drove on a track before. No need to place it in manual mode—the automated settings are quick enough to maintain the RPM where it needs to be.
My favourite moment is when you apply full brake pressure, the transmission downshifting in the most efficient way possible.
Two- or four-wheel-drive?
While testing the different 911 Carreras on-site, I really felt the difference between the two types of powertrains. The Carrera 4S Coupe isn’t a bad car to drive – far from it actually – and the rear-wheel steering pushes the car in the right direction when you need it.
But on the other hand, the more traditional Carrera S just seems easier to drive, with lighter steering and a more predictive way of handling tight bends. I can’t deny it, the Carrera S Coupe is the one I’d take home today.
The Porsche Driving Experience is an amazing way to spend three days on the road at this time of year, but, as expected, the last portion of this crescendo was clearly the best. Being able to “hoon” some of the best sports cars on one of our best closed circuits in Canada is something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.