Forget Covid-19, the Porsche World Road Show must go on... all the way to New Zealand
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People can’t travel too much during a global pandemic. But cars can.
So Porsche has seen no reason to stop its World Road Show (PWRS) from continuing a global tour, including far-flung places like New Zealand.
In fact, this year’s Kiwi visit from the PWRS was the first since 2016 and the timing was ideal for a variety of reasons.
It’s become evident that the kind of people who buy premium cars are not stopping and in fact are spending even more on them, because international travel is off the table. It’s a phenomenon that’s happening right across the Kiwi automotive industry, so it’s a good time to remind them about the Porsche range. On a racetrack.
The second is that this is a crucial transitional time for Porsche, as it launches its first-ever pure-electric sports car, the Taycan.
Having Taycan on the fleet was really the catalyst, says Porsche NZ general manager Greg Clarke: “This was the biggest [PWRS] fleet we’ve ever had, but the key reason we were so keen to get it out this time was that it now contains the Taycan.”
Showing what the BEV can do on track is a big marketing opportunity. And there’s no better way to do it than with cars from the factory.
Porsche head office has dedicated WRS fleets: one right-hand drive, one left, that are shipped around smaller markets (mostly ones that don’t have Porsche driving schools) to give customers, and more importantly potential customers, the proper factory-backed experience.
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The fleet landed in NZ comprised 26 cars and you’ll notice they are pretty bright. That’s another good thing about having factory supplied machines: you get cars that look great on track, in outrageous hues that would be something close to sale-proof in our market. Why are Kiwis so scared of anything beyond white, silver and black?
The cars come complete with a shipping container of point-of-sale material, including instructions on how to pack and unpack the whole lot with millimetric precision. It’s very… Porsche.
So nothing is done by halves. Porsche NZ even got ChargeNet on board to install two 300kW Hyper Chargers at Hampton Downs to keep the six Taycans juiced up during the event.
Around 400 people go through the NZ iteration of PWRS, 40 at a time. There are five modules, with the track activities grouped by car type (sports cars, sedans/SUVs, Taycan), slalom/braking with the Cayman/911 (including the Turbo S!) and a bit of off-tarmac work in SUVs for good measure.
The day usually ends with hot laps, passengering with Porsche’s instructors. Which seems a good time to tell you that the event has support from Michelin, which supplied 300 tyres to use during the Kiwi event.
It’s also a good time to give big ups to the team from Kiwi driver-training company Downforce. This year’s NZ PWRS was the first run anywhere in the world without Porsche factory instructors calling the shots on track (that Covid-19 thing again). The Downforce team got the training and thumbs-up to run the event solo. Praise from Porsche head office does not come easy.
And yes, we did get to play Porsche customer for a couple of hours, with an abridged track experience based around three cars that we hadn’t driven before: the Cayman GTS 4.0, Panamera GTS and the 4S version of the Taycan.
The Taycan is a remarkable machine and no argument from us that’s it’s a proper Porsche, but it’s also a car with we’re reasonably familiar with now. We know how good it is from an enthusiast point of view.
It’s fair to say that through the eyes of motoring journalists (which are quite similar to the eyes of children), the petrol Porsches still provided the biggest surprises on the day.
The Cayman was always going to be a drivers’ favourite, of course: 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engine, and manual transmission with rev-matching function.
We spent a bit of time in the Cayman GT4 last year and theoretically the GTS should be a lot less car: it’s $41,000 cheaper for a start, at $170,000. And yes, the GT4 is technically better on track because it revs higher, has better aero and boasts lots of racing car bits in its suspension.
But more fun? Don’t know about that. The GTS has the same engine, skinnier tyres (which should be a minus but it’s actually a plus) and was an absolute delight around the Hampton Downs International Circuit.
The $274,300 Panamera GTS was a surprise simply because a massive luxury sedan shouldn’t sound as good and be as dynamically adept as this on a circuit. Yes, you feel the weight, but the twin-turbo V8 is epic and the clever AWD plays tricks with your mind in tight corners.
“Our” Taycan came in $203,900 4S specification – a bit disadvantaged on track compared with the raging Panamera GTS, because it’s a level down in performance from the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S models we’re more familiar with (yes, those were on the PWRS roster for the proper participants as well).
Even in this more “everyday” 4S trim, the Taycan is deeply impressive on track. There’s the whoosh of instant BEV torque, a great combination of acceleration and powertrain character from the two-speed transmission on the rear axle, and a very low centre of gravity helping you carve up the corners.
Porsche NZ reckons there were more than a few BEV-sceptics who showed up at PWRS and left Taycan converts. Yes, of course they would say that; but it’s hard to imagine feeling otherwise after a silent attack on Hampton Downs with a Taycan.