In the driver's seat: Pushing past limits in the all-new Porsche 911 range of cars in India
First things first. You’re about to step into a gleaming new Porsche 911, one among the first to be available in India. And, it’s only normal to draw a deep breath, just to hold your nerve.
The car is parked on a stretch of tarmac on a scorching summer day, and the rays of the sun seem to be dancing on the edges of the Porsche’s muscular curves. You can take a moment to catch that glint in your eye.
We have one of the sunshiny ‘racing yellow’ models in mind, for visual reference; you’re free to pick the classic, ever-pleasing ‘guards red’ for your favourite Porsche 911 colour, or choose from a range of black, white and metallic variations, which includes a sparkling blue, and a glamorous rhodium silver.
In the blink of an eye
At the start of this very special rendezvous, I certainly had to catch myself several deep breaths, as I found myself tagging along with a gaggle of journalists and motorsport enthusiasts on a visit to the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
To be sure, we were led out to the middle of the Buddh racing track — as in, bang in the middle, where all the Hamiltons and Vettels of the world zip, zap and zoom by in the blink of an eye, for the world to look at them in awe.
That’s just to say, we weren’t exactly craning our necks, and looking for our eyebrows over our noses, squashed up against a pillar, somewhere high up in the stands of the racing circuit. We were here to be race car drivers ourselves. The experience of cheering world-class racers could be reserved for another afternoon.
The day was thus divinely bestowed, as we were ushered in for an exclusive speed trial of the new Porsche range of cars in India. This was a part of the Porsche World Road Shows (PWRS), currently touring the globe with its showcase of the next generation of Porsche engineering.
At the end of it, I’d lived out every schoolboy dream of playing race car driver, and I returned home with a little personal thing for the Panamera; but that’s a story for my friends on social media. (Look out for our special Porsche videos on www.indulgexpress.com)
A unique soundtrack
Then again, first things first. Before I took that first step into the new Porsche 911, I had one essential piece of baggage that I had to dispose of — quite literally, I had to take the dictionary out of me, and toss it out by the kerb.
With that went every conception of cerebral and sensory stimulation I have ever experienced. For a confession, I did feel compelled to restart a lifelong quest in search of the true essence of sound, and the meanings of the sounds themselves.
Once you’ve stepped into the new 911, and settled into its snug seats of supra-grade leather (lowered by 5 mm for a more sturdy driving position), you’d be dazzled for a few moments by the magnificent classic dashboard, marked by recessed instruments, and directly inspired by the 911 designs from the 1970s. All of this is done up with touchscreen refinement, and laced with custom-stitched highlights, for an added special touch.
Thereafter, you are only going to need a handful of words — nay, sounds — to retain for good measure, and to tell every difference there is to tell in life and everything else. In no particular order, the sounds begin to take shape in such forms: growl, grunt, howl, squeal, shriek, roar, rumble, bellow, wail, tear, riot, and so on.
It isn’t for nothing that they say, the Porsche 911 brings the beast out of you. At breakneck speeds of up to 200 kmph, knocking off drift pylons in high-speed manoeuvres, burning a few layers of rubber, and skipping a few heartbeats, you’d only be crying heavenwards in screaming alarm — and enjoying every bit of it.
Cute, mean & a tease
As it rests, this eighth incarnation of the iconic Porsche 911 series sits smug in a visibly tougher, more assertive stance. For a design note, the new rear-engine model range sports significantly wider wheel housings that arch over the (20”) front wheels and (21”) rear wheels.
It’s almost puffed up at the gills, with a grimace and a scowl — rather than any cute stuff — and seems ever-primed to pounce all over you. Think of it in miniature form, and the new 911 —with its slimline centre section, and tapered side contours — makes for the meanest-looking tabletop dinky car collectible you can imagine.
In the utmost manly sense, even as it sits motionless in a garage, the 911 is adorable, in a way that can make full-grown adults bawl like unattended newborns. The rear spoilers themselves are reason enough for men to begin cooing and gushing like infants.
The car also sits lightly on the ground, with its entire outer shell made from aluminium. The revamped interiors are marked by the clear and straight lines of the dashboard, while the seats have been modified too, reducing the overall vehicle weight by around three kilos.
For me, the Porsche was almost quivering in anticipation, working a tease, goading me to put my foot down and tame its unbridled power. The new 911 even performed an improvised item number in my head, moments before I got to step into it. Good thing I held my nerve, and reigned in my fanciful imagination.
Feel like playing god?
Each rev and throttle of the new 911 counts as proof of the miracles of science, in the most primitive sense of rupturing through and blasting forth in time and space, with a mere burst of propelled hot air.
For a handful of numbers, you’re looking at turbocharged flat-six engines (in the 911 Carrera S and the Carrera S Cabriolet) that now produce 450 hp — that’s 30 hp more than the previous generation.
Both the new 911 models beat the four-second mark from zero to 100 kmph: the Cabriolet clocks 3.9 secs, and the Carrera S squeezes out a blistering 3.7 secs — that makes both cars 0.4 secs faster than their predecessors.
An optional Sport Chrono Package reduces the sprint by a further 0.2 seconds, while power is delivered via an eight-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission. So, your top speeds are at 308 kmph for the 911 Carrera S, and 306 kmph for the soft-top version.
For a ‘kitna deti hai’ query on the sidelines — the estimated fuel consumption of the new Porsche 911s is about 8.9 litres/100 km.
But that’s perhaps the only quibble about the new Porsches in India — that they’re being pitched as ‘sports cars for the new era’, and pure driver’s cars, which also offer everyday usability.
How you’d ever get to open up this baby’s throttles on an Indian highway is anybody’s guess, but that line of thought wasn’t about to quash our enthusiasm.
For a bit of rationale, with price tags of just under INR 2 crore — these boy’s toys aren’t meant for everyone. If anything, they’re for big-spending players who can afford to hire out a race track or private circuit — only to get their wheels out for a spin, and soak in the air at speeds like you’d never imagine on a city street.
Inside the car, as you’re holding back the adrenaline on the pedals, you realise, this isn’t for the faint-hearted — which means, over-anxious girlfriends and hyper-sensitive better halves are best escorted to pavilion seats, a safe distance away from all the action.
In the new 911, while withstanding unstated levels of g-force and going against gravity like a superhero with newfound powers, the feeling of playing god with a machine comes with its own set of flipsides — for one, you’d still need to have airbags at hand (you’re advised to eat light before taking a spin), and the good sense to have taken a washroom break before you walk onto the track.
Taming the Porsche
For the rest of it, the new Porsche 911 is pure exhilaration in every turn, in every delicate move, and in every fresh salvo of brute force. It’s also extremely informative for the sake of safe driving practices.
The ever-watchful official instructors and hosts at the PWRS emphasise aspects of safety, with all manner of controls and assistance systems meant to augment your driving experience, and make it as secure as possible.
Starting with the seats, lessons in adapted geometry offer better lateral support for the driver’s shoulder area, while the overall design is focused on the combined factors of increased stability, traction and balance, with significantly reduced understeer and improved oversteer safety.
There’s also an extensively developed Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) that completes the chassis design.
So, when you’re hurtling forward on the tarmac like a hurricane, and bulleting through the air of a summer afternoon, you can be reassured that you will get home safe, sound and in one piece (discounting any monkeying around on the track, which you’re strongly cautioned against).
The new 911 also offers a world-first Wet mode, included as standard function, which detects water on the road, preconditions the control systems accordingly and warns the driver.
At the pit lane, you’re also urged to take a moment and admire the new LED matrix headlights (with PDLS Plus for improved visibility) comprised of 84 LEDs that form the core Dynamic Lighting System.
From any angle, the lights are as dazzling as any extravagant costume you can ever hope to toss over a Bollywood starlet.
For a daintier Audrey Hepburn moment on the track, with your hair let down and loose, the Cabriolet S lets you pull off the hydraulic roof on the move — opened and closed in around 12 seconds, at up to speeds of 50 kmph.
Among all the blinking gadgetry at hand, there’s an electric wind deflector too, to give you increased comfort at higher speeds.
The roadshow thus ended as a basic crash course for one to play racing driver — with sessions on slaloms, sliding and braking tests and even launch control, apart from actual track time — all of
it coordinated and closely monitored, while you get your head around the Porsche concept of sheer ‘driving emotion’.
The launch control experience, in itself — of a crushing naught to top speed run from a stand-still position — is a tale to carry forward for many generations of your friends’ and families’ lifetimes.
We were also allowed extended runs in the top-end line of Porsche Cayenne SUVs — making easy, breezy laps of off-road obstacle courses, over hill ascents and descents, and through a handful of rather tricky wheels-off-the-ground manoeuvres that accentuate the Cayenne’s incredibly nifty 4WD capabilities.
By the end of it, with all racing dreams intact, we were left squealing in raptures, and shedding soft tears over the pleasantly cushy steering wheel — because the new Porsche 911 isn’t really a living woman.
That is to say, while we’re not entirely sure of having tamed the feisty 911, the car certainly made whimpering men out of us.
The writer was at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, by invitation from Porsche India. Prices: Porsche 911 Carrera S (ex-showroom) INR 1.82 crore; 911 Carrera S Cabriolet INR 1.99 crore. Now open for bookings across India.