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25 Feb 2016

Porsche Experience Silverstone

991 Generation 2 Experience February 3 2016

Silverstone 991 Gen 2 Experience

Would you be prepared to come to the Silverstone Experience Centre to test the 991 Gen 2 cars?

Let me think about that for a moment – it might take me 2hrs and 4 mins if I leave immediately!

Three weeks later and I have the pleasure of my chauffeur, Albert Walsh, driving me down to the experience centre. Nonstop conversation slowed our progress as I competed with the satnav to get a few words in but still arriving well in time we managed an earlier driving slot and a later lunch.

Even after several visits to this Porsche facility I am still excited by being there, gone is the initial nervousness of feeling your way round, and it’s fun from the start.

Under the watchful eye of my instructor, Ben McLoughlin, I have three cars to test and first up is an Agate Grey Carrera S Cabriolet with ceramic brakes and rear wheel steering. This car had the very unusual feature of a manual gearbox and after several long minutes of learning that it is the same PDK double clutch system but with manual linkages we finally set off around the handling circuit.

The manual gearbox is a huge improvement to the Gen1 which felt quite agricultural in comparison, the gear changes are really smooth and surprisingly it is a real pleasure to drive.

On the handling circuit the new car has enough torque for 3rd gear to cater for the slower bends and the faster stretches with absolute ease. The S is incredibly quick and nimble with the rear wheel steering adding a little more precision to the driving lines and the ceramic brakes upping the already impressive stopping performance.

Onto the ‘Ice Hill’ and on this occasion the only way is up. In normal mode the slope presents no problem whatsoever and only the temptation of more throttle puts the car off course. A couple of flicks to the steering and the car comes back with ease. Sport mode sharpens your senses a little but even with no traction aids the level of grip is still good and only my over enthusiasm leads to a spin.

A couple of laps around the second circuit with 2nd gear a must through the bottom Z bends and it’s back to base for the second car.

No chance of losing this one in the car park. A Carrera 4S in stunning Miami Blue with PDK and no I don’t want to sit in the car talking about it, I just want to get out there and drive.

The 4S has a more solid feel to it with slightly heavier steering and better traction.

On the circuit it gives you more confidence especially when powering out of the damp curves with the PDK, in sport mode, doing a far better job of the gear changes than I could.

This was only my second time on the new part of the circuit and not being quite au fait with the correct lines, mixed with a bit too much enthusiasm, resulted in a few hairy moments.  Technology certainly prevented an introduction to the Armco.

The ‘Ice Hill’ was a piece of cake in the 4S and even without the aids it is still possible to gain speed up the hill whereas the 2wd tends to slow down as soon as any traction is lost.

The 4wd is more controllable but for normal conditions I still favour 2wd.

The third car was a white Carrera with 370bhp compared with 420bhp for the other 2 but this difference actually feels closer than the Gen 1 cars because of the increased torque. There is still a great deal of power and certainly more than adequate for most drivers. The difference between the Carrera and Carrera S was not really noticeable on the circuits.

The brakes on this model were standard and the high speed braking tests showed just how remarkable the stopping power is. Accelerating to 85mph on the strait up to the white marker lines and hitting the pedal hard brings the car to a halt in an impressively short distance.

Launch control has got to be seen to be believed. It goes against my respect for all things mechanical and can only be compared to Basil Fawlty beating the car with a branch. It is truly amazing that the cars can cope with it over and over again. I really don’t feel the need to try it on my own car.

The driving was over all too soon but at least there was the lunch to look forward to and Albert and I were intrigued by the ‘Harissa Spiced Lamb Shoulder’ with ‘Pink Fur Apple Potatoes’, ‘Red Cabbage and Mint Potatoes’. Coming from up north we half expected the spuds to be dressed in little pink fur jackets but alas the power of Google brought to light a typo error. The Pink Fir Apple is a potato with pink, knobbly skin and cream, waxy flesh introduced from France around 1850.

Many thanks to Porsche Cars and Porsche Club GB for inviting us along for this wonderful opportunity to drive the cars closer to their potential and to sample the delightful cuisine.  Also a big thanks to Ben for the Porsche education and driving tips.

For anyone who hasn’t been to the Experience Centre it must go on the ‘to do list’ even if you only accompany someone else and just take in the atmosphere.

My thoughts on the new 991 – absolutely brilliant.

Phil Graham

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