The Porsche 911 Experience

BY Azfar Hashim

We drove some of Porsche’s finest around the Sepang International Circuit, after months of admiring it from photos

Photos by Azfar Hashim and Porsche Asia Pacific

“Porsche” and “911” are usually the first words that come to mind when the conversation about sportscar pops up. Which is nothing to be surprised about as, generations after generations, it has proven itself to be very desirable to the point that every man must have, at one point, had a poster of a Porsche 911 hanging on their bedroom wall before.

And for the lucky ones who are fortunate enough to be able to afford one, they would surely attest to the car’s reliability; this is on top of just how lovely this German coupe is to drive, be it on a wide and open stretch or tight, twisty roads. Due to those traits, the 911 had also been awarded countless of times.

Even for yours truly here, the Porsche 911 is a dream car for him. In fact, being able to experience the 996 and 991 generation 911 models before this was a great privilege; so much so, the day to strike it big at the local lottery is being highly anticipated.

Although it is hard to say whether that day would actually come, being invited to experience three different variants of the latest 911 on a racing track is an opportunity not to be missed.

On the kind invitation of Porsche Asia Pacific and local Porsche dealer, Stuttgart Auto Pte Ltd, this writer recently spent a day at the renown Sepang International Circuit across the Causeway with the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, 911 Turbo S and 911 GT3.

The Drive

The first car to go into the track was the 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. Powering this car is a 3.8-litre 6-cylinder Boxer engine that is paired to Porsche’s 7-speed PDK automatic transmission. Equipped with an all-wheel drive system (hence the ‘4S’) as standard, it produces a total of 400 bhp and 440 Nm of torque. The century sprint is dispatched in 4.5 seconds and it has a top speed of 294 km/h.

One would usually visualize a cabriolet - or also affectionately known as ‘soft-top’ in this case - as a boulevard cruiser with no potential in terms of power and handling. However, Porsche defied that school of thought with this particular 911.

It feels lively and properly fast when you give the accelerator a hard jab, with a wondrous exhaust note to give you additional shrill factor. The car was never caught struggling to maintain its pace on the straight section of the track. Steering response is also spot-on, and you can drive closer to the edge by braking late into a corner; a little tail shaking, and it dips beautifully into the right turn.

However there is one Achilles heel though. Throttle response while exiting a corner seems a little laggy; you increase pressure on the right paddle expecting instantaneous power delivery, but it takes a few noticeable seconds before the power actually kicks in. In a real racing situation, that would mean allowance for a competitor to overtake and leave you in a trail of smoke.

That said, this particular 911 looks uber sexy when the roof is hidden. It manages to look balanced and sultry, and there is nothing to fault it in any way.

With that done, the next weapon of choice was the 911 GT3. Here is a little interesting fact though: to most car enthusiasts, this is the model that brings you to motoring nirvana. It is the best road-legal race prepared car that money can buy, getting to own one can be described as ‘heaven on earth’ — a statement that must be agreed with.

Powering it is a 3.8-litre 6-cylinder Boxer engine, and mated to the 7-speed PDK automatic ‘box, has a potent power output of 475 bhp and 440 Nm of torque. A car prepared for nothing else but performance, it needs only 3.5 seconds to get from standstill to 100 km/h with a top speed of 315 km/h.

The GT3 sits closer to the ground and is significantly stiffer than the Cabriolet from earlier, on top of which is also endowed with a beautifully weighted steering wheel that really makes you feel as one with the car.

And boy does it live up to its reputation. It gobbles up the tarmac so fast it may come across as intimidating for the first timer; this car does not get you from point A to point B, it catapults you instead. Surprisingly though besides just going fast, stopping power is equally impressive; despite being ‘abused’ round after round around Sepang, braking ability remains trusty and assuring, which also allows you to brake really late while approaching a corner. In a racing environment, that would give you an advantage over the next competitor.

The GT3 is so satisfying you can never get enough of driving it.

The last car for the day is the 911 Turbo S. The fastest 911 in the entire range, power output is a scary 560 bhp with torque a mind-numbing 700 Nm. It is also capable of taking only 3.1 seconds to get you from 0 — 100 km/h (faster than the time you take to sneeze), before maxing out at 318 km/h.

Like a curious little child, this writer actually did attempt to breach the 300 km/h mark along the Sepang track’s straight sections; trying his best, it was near impossible as, most times, the brains would be telling the right foot to hit the brakes. Simply put, my nerves could not match this car’s full capability.

That aside, after driving it around the track a few more times, it must be pointed out that the Turbo S can be quite a handful to manage; there is just too much power for the chassis to handle and even with all the electronic nannies that comes standard, you would still feel the rear twitching and threatening to kick out and bring you to a spin. It’s fast yes, but not that enjoyable.

After all that sweat from the hard driving and getting to know each car’s weakness, potential and capability, this writer deduced that the 911 GT3 is the best driver’s car money can buy; it is, truly, the have-it-all car.