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How a Supercar Takes a Writer on a Journey of Discovery

By Lynette Kee

Strapped in an understated beauty like the 911, it doesn't take long for one to realise why it is still a head-turner 50-odd years since it's introduction.
 
Porsche
Strapped in an understated beauty like the 911, it doesn't take long for one to realise why it is still a head-turner 50-odd years since it's introduction.

There are not many ways to explain the long-lived enthusiasm for iconic designs — like a Burberry trench coat or the Barcelona chair — even decades after they were first conceived. Many of these designs were groundbreaking ideas treated with scepticism at a time when tradition was heavily emphasised but they stood their grounds and eventually became style-defining after having weathered through the test of time. The Porsche 911, introduced in 1963, is one such icon. 

Growing up in Singapore, I have heard the oohs and ahhs from non-local friends when Singapore is introduced as one of the most expensive cities in the world, especially when told the cost of owning a car — one of the many contributing factors — in Singapore. According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore, car owners are shifting their attention from mass-market car brands to luxury brands, and cites statistics that show between 2013 to 2016, the number of Porsche cars in the country, jumped a hefty 35.7 per cent from 3,539 units in 2013 to 4,832 units in 2016. The numbers have since reached a new high of 5,816 units in 2018. 

During the launch of the eighth-generation 911 in New Zealand, the new supercar is introduced as an evolution rather than a revolution. In other words, the 911 is the same, but better. 

PorscheThe interior of the car echoes the same sophisticated design language as its exterior.
The interior of the car echoes the same sophisticated design language as its exterior.

At a glance, the new Porsche 911, also identified as the 992-generation model, doesn’t look like an entirely new iteration, which nevertheless, is the core appeal of this updated model. It’s not easy to recreate an icon. However, it is possible to build on the success of its predecessor with the help of intelligent technologies that also boost the car’s performance. For a supercar like the Porsche 911, the tweaks brought on increased power to 450 hp and 530 nm of torque, weight, aerodynamics (to reduce drag and wind noise) and a newly introduced wet mode, which enables auto-detection of wet road conditions and a corresponding set up for increased driving stability. 

Meeting the new 911 was a rush of emotions: Excitement, nervousness and everything in-between. Two rows of three cars — the 911 Carrera S and the 911 Carrera 4S — lined up before me in the most understated form of grandeur. Stylistically, Porsche cars steer away from the loud and extravagant and instead, organic outlines, sloping roof design and minimalistic details define these sports models. The Porsche 911 remains quietly luxurious until it wants to be heard, cue: Sports mode. 

My driver’s instinct kicked in as soon as I settled myself behind the wheel — aside from the usual longitudinal and backrest adjustment, the height and angle of the seat can be adjusted to create a snug pod-shape that’s customised to each driver; one would feel it as a hug, cradled in the arms of comfortable leather cushions. The dashboard and cabin architecture — housing a multitude of functional purposes — kept its clutter-free and sophisticated layout, much like its outer facade. 

As someone who appreciates the simpler things in life, I was worried the complexity of a sports car would distract me from enjoying the experience of driving one. But every doubt that I had disappeared the minute I befriended the centre console, which was very much like the car I’m used to driving. Toggling between the hand brake and engine control is as easy as a push of a button or a flick of a switch. As the last bits of reservations left me, I put my foot on the gas pedal and off we went; the magic was revealed. 

We cruised along the highway leading out of Auckland city, in a convoy, for approximately an hour before entering Matakana, a town just north of Auckland where acres after acres of idyllic farm pasture replaced the cityscape we had left behind. Surprisingly, it was not difficult to get comfortable in the 911, and driving in the countryside meant that we could start realising the potential of the cars. 

PorschePorsche introduced the all new Wet Mode exclusive to the 911.
Porsche introduced the all new Wet Mode exclusive to the 911.

Bit by bit, the weight of my foot transferred onto the accelerator as I watched the numbers on the dashboard increase — 80 kph, 100 kph and then 120 kph. I could feel my heart pulsating to the music that accompanied our ride, all the while waiting for the signal from my brain to alert me to slow down, but it didn’t happen. And just as I was approaching a bend on the winding road, my foot shifted towards the brake pedal, and the car responded with a progressive speed change — centre-pivoted, agile and smooth even on bumpy gravel trails — as I made the turn. It’s true when people say you don’t know what you’re missing out until you experience one. 

I was told that the new 911 Carrera S is able to sprint from 0 to 100 kph in 3.7 seconds while the Carrera 4S, in 3.6 seconds. When our car had reached a straight and narrow course, I watched as the car before me slowed down to almost a complete stop before it propelled forward with a loud roar. In what felt like only a second had passed, the car was the size of a tiny dot on the horizon — I followed suit. In my head, I must have had my eyes shut tight when I pressed the accelerator down full-force. I’m glad I didn’t (for obvious reasons, of course), but also because of the feeling of exhilaration that engulfed me after I came to realise what I had just accomplished. 

After an exhilarating 3-hour drive, we took our first pit stop. The convoy of Porsche cars pulled up at Brick Bay Wines, where we stopped for lunch in The Glass House Kitchen, which is situated within the grounds of the winery. 

PorscheA rainbow presented itself as the convoy sliced pass the last stretch of the road.
A rainbow presented itself as the convoy sliced pass the last stretch of the road.

The day’s driving route was perfectly planned to showcase the car’s capability as a flexible supercars that would seamlessly take to the racing tracks as well as cruise the city roads. The drive, from Auckland out to the country roads, was to drive (pun intended) home that point. 

All too soon, it was time to make our way back to the starting point. This time, my co-driver and I agreed to go at an easy pace, so that we could take in more of what the countryside has to offer, and also because I was reluctant to part with the car. Fortunately, the weather was perfect with only a couple of light drizzles along the way, but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to test out the wet mode. As the country roads melted past our view, a magnificent rainbow shone bright and clear just ahead of us. 

I’ve been told that the way to tell how good a car is from another, is from the way it makes you feel behind the wheel — and from how I’m still feeling as I’m writing this (two weeks since the trip), I finally understand why people own luxury cars.