Major saloon / hatch based performance cars like the Golf R, Civic Type R, Evo’s and even the likes of AMG Mercedes and M Division BMW’s are all highly capable machines. However, they have to work with the major drawback of being based on what’s essentially practical family cars. The Porsche 911 is a bespoke machine designed to be optimized for speed. Everything else is secondary.
Before you start on Nurburgring lap times, I would like to remind you this, and yes I’m speaking on experience because I have driven a fair few laps on the Green Hell itself. Those laptimes are set by professional racing drivers in controlled conditions. It’s more of the case of can the car go around one particular circuit within a stipulated time. It doesn’t matter how it does it. That means the car’s been optimized to this specific 20.8km of tarmac. Malaysian road networks run a lot longer than that.
The 911 on the other hand, is designed to go fast, maybe not as fast as some of the above mentioned cars, but it’s much safer to approach its limits and it’s a far more rewarding experience. It was very obvious for us trying to follow a well driven 911 out here on real driving roads, in the real world. It is a true sports car. It’s no surprise then that the outright lap record of the Nurburgring Nordschleife still belongs to a Porsche…….
Footprint on Road
The first thing we noticed that was vastly different from other Route Hunter participants was the shear footprint it had on the road. The car weights in around 1450kg and runs on 235 section tyres in the front and proper, fat 295 section tyres in the rear. The rims were 19 inch in diameter. The car is 1.7 meters wide in the rear, and 4.4 meters in length. The relatively short length allows the car to switch directions very swiftly on Kelawang roads. In fact all we saw was gentle tap of the brake pedal at corner entry and the car disappears down the road after the apex.
By now, we have shown that the Porsche 911 not only has an unconventional footprint on the road, but its weight distribution and center of gravity works greatly to its advantage and its capable of cruising in and out of very tricky, double apex corners which Kelawang is famous for with absolute ease. There’s no form of strain on the car or the driver, you literally can coast at very high speeds, while other saloon / hatch based cars struggle and require lots of driver input. The midas touch that allowed such clean exit out of corners is the damping of the car. It was not overly stiff, with plenty of suspension stroke to handle the sudden mid corner dips, and yet enough to keep the car perfectly flat across the said tricky sections that left us trailing in our BMW.
The 997.2 Carrera S sports a direct injected, naturally aspirated 3.8 liter engine which pumps out 380bhp and 420Nm of torque. It’s coupled to a 7 speed PDK gearbox. The combination of the linear power delivery and the responsive gearbox allows the car to have the right type of momentum and can pull great strides with perfect ease. You can meter exactly how much power you want and when, and the powertrain responds. And of course, this is a car that’s been geared to almost 300kph, the implications of that was very obvious on the high speed sections of the Kelawang course, after we crossed the Negeri Sembilan boarder.
From an engineering point of view, the 3.8 liter engine at the back should be a massive disadvantage in terms of weight distribution. Yet, Porsche engineers have allowed the weight shift to work in tandem with the tyre contact patches to provide the best possible stability. What’s a rear biased car become perfectly balanced under braking when the weight shifts to the back to the front axle. Then all you have to do is accelerate and the weight of the engine ‘pushes’ the rear tyres down allowing maximum traction out from each corner. Since the engine is mounted low and the tyres make a delta-like profile, it’s pretty good at reeling in the rear weight bias, making full use of it in terms of corner exit traction.
There are two types of stability here, one is the vertical movements in corners, the second the turning moment that runs horizontally across the car. The Flat-6 boxer unit with dry sump lubrication allows it to be mounted low in the car. The footprint, as discussed earlier, is wider in the rear than the front, forming a delta-like shape. Coupled with the low profile of the vehicle, this car is not affected by sudden change of directions in the way a typical saloon would have to handle.
A Porsche Rumble in the Malaysian Jungle
We Route Hunters are no strangers to the road linking Pekan Batu 14 to Kuala Kelawang. It’s safe to say that we and a few other parties agree that it’s one of the best driving roads available for folks within the Klang Valley area.
While we are used to seeing souped up Honda’s, R3 Neo’s and even M Sport BMW’s follow our previous drives, we never had the honor of witnessing a blue blooded sports car on the Kelawang course. That was until now. The car in question was the Porsche 997.2 Carrera S PDK, and we were following it in an E90 BMW 320d M Sport. We got to witness what a well driven Porsche 911 looks like on a demanding road like the Kuala Kelawang course. This is where we received a 101 lesson on what separates a proper sports car from a jumped up saloon or hatch based performance vehicle, and this is what we observed.