At the recent Porsche World Roadshow Malaysia 2021, the German marque put to the test some of its latest releases on the snaking asphalt of the Sepang International Circuit. With perfectly tarred surfaces, no oncoming traffic to worry about and zero distractions, a motorsport circuit cannot assure an objective review of these cars in real-life situations, but it does provide a taste of what the drive experience is like. None warranted any complaints — it is Porsche we are talking about, after all — but each model has a distinct personality of its own.
New kid on the block: 911 GT3
In 1999, Porsche introduced the first GT3 derivative of its 911 as a homologation model for the FIA GT3 cup. More than two decades and seven editions later, the all-new 911 GT3 transfers pure racing technology into a production model more systematically than ever before, resulting in a brilliant driving machine that is exciting, precise and offers high performance — perfect for the circuit and balanced for everyday use.
The latest in a long line of pure driving machines, the appeal of the all-new 911 GT3 lies in the sum of its characteristics — a naturally aspirated 4.0li six-cylinder engine that develops 375kW and 470Nm of maximum torque, a double-wishbone front suspension layout taken from the Le Mans-winning 911 RSR race car and GT3-specific aesthetic options available as part of the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur range. The new 911 GT3 is capable of a top speed of 320kph, making it considerably faster than its predecessor. In addition, enthusiasts can configure the car with a six-speed manual GT sports gearbox, or opt for the GT3 Touring Package at no additional cost.
For anyone already in the market for a 911, this car is not a hard sell at all. Once ensconced in the drivers’ seat, you can quickly see how the cabin and cockpit express the model’s racing genes. We like the GT3-specific instrument cluster, which features a central rev counter, which goes up to 10,000rpm, flanked by two high-resolution 7in displays and a new track screen that provides the driver with a wide selection of racing information. It takes to normal driving with relative ease; so, if you need to do a quick grocery run, it will accommodate, but this car is really meant for long drives, smooth highways and some generous pedal-to-the-metal action.
In terms of aesthetic, exposed carbon-fibre panels, darkened LED matrix headlight bases and matching rear lights endow the car with a sporty touch, while optional painted wheel rims allow owners to enhance the visual impact of the black alloy wheels. Inside, equipment details such as the dials for the rev counter and Sport Chrono stopwatch, seatbelts and trim can be customised to almost any colour of choice, while the “Paint to Sample” programme for exterior personalisation gives owners a choice of 105 classic shades from the marque’s past catalogue.
Electric avenue: Taycan Turbo
It is not new, but the Taycan remains the subject of most interest in Porsche cars at the moment, owing to its all-electric power train. Resembling an elongated, four-door version of the 911, its aesthetic is highly futuristic — typical of what you might expect of an electric car — with smooth, sleek lines that extend from the front, down the sides and at the rear. Inside, the dashboard is adapted from the 911 and features a free-standing 16.9in curved instrument cluster, while a central 10.9in infotainment display forms an integrated glass band. The car is nice and low, and battery recesses in the rear footwell ensure supreme comfort for backseat passengers. Interiors are made from innovative recycled materials that underscore the sustainable concept of the electric sports car, and they are also manufactured in a carbon dioxide-neutral production facility.
The Taycan is powered by a 93.4kWh lithium-ion battery between the two axles, each with a motor attached, four-wheel steering and a rear-mounted, two-speed gearbox allowing the car to reach its accelerative potential from take-off. The flagship Taycan Turbo S can generate up to 560kW (761PS) of power in combination with Launch Control, which we experienced with the guidance of an instructor — hit the accelerator in full, and the car achieves the 0-100kph run in a stomach-churning 2.8 seconds.
But how many people really need a rocket launcher on a normal day? Not us, so we enjoyed a casual, 150kph drive on the circuit to get a feel of the drive experience. It is beyond reproach on any account, easily manoeuvrable, supremely comfortable and instinctively delivers power when it is needed most. We cannot help but go back to the Launch Control feat when considering this car, because, having sampled such displays before, we must highlight the effortless, elegant manner in which the Taycan achieves this — acceleration was a matter-of-fact, flawless connection between Pirelli and pavement, the car squatting ever so slightly, catapulting forward. Oh yes, please.
Off-road star: Cayenne
For all its elegance, the Cayenne has off-roading capabilities one might never associate with a car of that size or stature. The only time we spent outside of the comforts of the circuit was at a small off-road area with rough terrain you would ordinarily not bring this car to if you could help it. And, yet, the Cayenne seemed to be completely unperturbed, taking on steep descents, gravity-defying tilts and rocky pathways like it was second nature.
In fact, the Cayenne has surprisingly good ground clearance when the suspension is jacked up to its maximum (a full 268mm versus a Range Rover’s 300mm, for example), and driver aids make this an extremely capable machine when the going gets rough. Although typically seen as a luxury-focused mall crawler, a closer look at the original model’s specifications reveals it is far more rugged and capable than its traditional suburban environment would indicate — this car was built for the outback. The Cayenne comes in six specifications, including a hybrid version, and all are equally equipped to go off the beaten path in style.
This is especially true when you consider the personalisation options available through the Exclusive Manufaktur Package, which include tinted headlights and taillights, a sport exhaust system and “Porsche” logo LED door projectors. You can also match your Cayenne with a fully customisable Porsche Design Chronograph, right down to the colour of the ring on the dial, the design of the hands and even a personal engraving. Does this have a bearing on the driving experience of the Cayenne? Not quite, but it does make the prospect of owning one that much more attractive.
It is understandable if this car has not been on anyone’s “a Porsche I want to own” list in the past, but its versatility makes it truly appealing for families with a penchant for more than just urban mobility. Its function-oriented greenhouse and low windowline (ideal for device-free entertainment for kids) also makes the Cayenne the undisputed king of family cars. That it can more than hold its own on the dirt track is pretty impressive too.
Natural chemistry: Macan GTS
If the Cayenne is the Porsche that plays by the rules and the reliable older sibling that remains infallible, then the Macan is the mischievous little sister that is more than ready to break ranks. Powerful, slick and athletic, it is easy to establish a chemistry with the Macan and, it must be said, it was really hard to give up once our laps on the circuit were complete.
Replacing the outgoing Macan Turbo, the Macan GTS is powered by a twin turbocharged 2.9L V6 engine that delivers 324kW of torque, capable of doing the 0-100kph sprint in 4½ seconds. Its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive push the GTS into the “genuinely fun” category of driving and, one can imagine, feels as composed on a racetrack as on the street.
The Advanced Cockpit ensures a modern control concept that is typical of Porsche, and especially notable are the revised steering wheel options for perfect control and tactility. It allows for manual shifting via gearshift paddles, and there is a nice weight to the steering that provides the driver with a comforting sense of control while ensuring maximum manoeuvrability. The circuit’s famous Hermann Tilke-designed hairpin curve is sharper than most urban roads, for sure, but for a climb on the slinky pathways leading up to the highlands, this car would do quite nicely.
The Macan benefits from technology updates, such as a 10.9in touch screen and standard wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as upgrades to its Bose and Burmester audio systems. Porsche’s sporting heritage comes through in the cockpit while staying on a par with the carmaker’s contemporary styling, from the digital instrument panel to the touch-sensitive centre-console controls.
Bespoke to the GTS are 21in wheels, eight-way electronically adjustable GTS-embossed sports seats, badging for the instruments and adaptive air suspension for the chassis. The boot is average for a mid-size SUV, but not vast, at 488L. The same goes for the rear seats, which are neither cramped nor genuinely spacious by class standards. This car is not about the interiors, but the driving experience. And, boy, does it get full marks on that account.
This article first appeared on Dec 20, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.