How to Get the Most Out of a Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 is the most iconic sportscar on the market today, give or take a Ford Mustang or two. Last year Porsche sold 32,000 of them worldwide, up 4 percent from the previous year and contributing more than 14 percent of total Porsche sales.
It’s now in its seventh generation, even tighter with the road, faster and more dynamic than the one that debuted in 1963. Nothing I could write about the 2017 version here would surprise or shock the myriad 911 devotees who follow it obsessively, whether from behind the wheel or while ogling the Porsche poster lining their bedroom. This is the one cool enough for Steve McQueen (or was it vice-versa?). It's one of the winningest cars in history, dominating race tracks for decades from Daytona to Le Mans. You know this car.
Still, there are a few things one can do to maximize any driving experience, and with the latest 911 rolling out to dealerships soon, they bear repeating. I also want an excuse to ramble on about how this car somehow conjures feelings that you don’t get in any other vehicle—even exemplary competitors. If you want to feel that elusive X-factor everyone talks about, drive a 911. It’s more than the sum of its parts. Once you drive it, everything else will feel like tap water: flat.
Learn How to Really Drive It
Porsche offers a host of driving schools and training academies for owners and enthusiasts alike. They span from Atlanta to Leipzig, Germany. Here’s one of the best:
- What: Master RSR Porsche Leipzig driving school
- Where: Leipzig, Germany
- Which cars: Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and 911 GT3 RS
- When: Aug. 26, 27
- How Much: €10,500 ($10,978), plus €300 for passenger
Joining a track club isn’t cheap, but it does offer the chance to push your car to the very edge of physics. The 911 Carrera I drove comes with Porsche’s unique flat-six twin turbocharged 370-horsepower engine. It has 331 pounds-feet of torque. (Or so they say.) How do you really know? It would be a shame not to put those numbers to the test. At places such as Monticello Motor Club and the Thermal Club, you can test its abilities in safe, controlled environments devoid of traffic congestion and cops. Here are the details.
- What: 4.1 miles of smooth, race-grade asphalt and 450 feet of elevation change two hours from Manhattan
- Where: Monticello, N.Y.
- Which car: Bring your own, or use one from the club fleet
- When: Year-round
- How much: $130,000 for Gold Lifetime Membership, plus annual dues of $13,100
- What: A 2.034-mile asphalt road course, a quarter-mile concrete drag strip, and a 8/10-mile Kart Track
- Where: Jupiter, Fla.
- Which car: Your own
- When: Year-round
- How much: Pricing on request
The Thermal Club
- What: Five-mile course for amateur and professional racers with on-site villas and a tiny village near Joshua Tree, Calif.
- Where: Thermal, Calif.
- Which cars: Bring your own, or use one from a fleet of Porsches, BMWs, and an Aston Martin
- When: Year-round
- How much: $85,000 per individual, or $200,000 for a corporate membership. Annual dues range from $14,000 to $56,000, depending on the type of membership. If you want to buy or build a villa, lots of land start at $600,000 and go to $2 million.
Drive It in the Snow
Say the word “sports car,” and an ice-covered lake isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s a reason Porsche makes ski racks: 911s are fantastic in the snow, especially the AWD variety. The key is to know how to drive them properly in such situations. Porsche can help you. The Porsche Driving Experience takes drivers to the Arctic Circle in Levi, Finland, where the Camp4, Camp4S, Ice-Force, and Ice-ForceS courses teach accurate braking, evasive maneuvers, inclement-weather handling, and controlled drifts over the frozen terrain. (Can’t get to Finland? There are also winter-driving courses in Switzerland, Canada, Italy, and China.) Prices range from €3990 to €6.990,00; courses run from January through March.
Feed It Good Fuel
The 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera gets 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It requires premium fuel. If you own a Porsche, you should know this; as the old adage goes, “The best way to learn about a Porsche is to own a Porsche.”
Here’s a very simplified explanation: Premium gas can be compressed at a different rate than regular gas without igniting. High-performance engines are designed for that compression rate, which enables them to accelerate faster. In most cases, buying premium gas is a waste of money, but with a sports car such as the 911, it's what the engine needs to perform at its best. (Zero to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds, with a 182-mph top speed, on the one I drove.) Here, low-octane fuel results in poor efficiency, slower sprint times, and a compromised engine, especially if it’s turbocharged.
“The fuel's lower octane can result in elevated exhaust-gas temperatures and possible knocking, both of which can adversely affect the engine's health in the long run,” Edmunds analysts wrote in their annual octane report. “Running regular-grade fuel in a car that requires premium might sound like a good way to shave a car's running costs, but the short-term savings won't come close to offsetting the cost of repairs to a damaged engine.”
Duh. When you’re paying $111,070 on a car like the one I drove, it’s worth spending the additional couple thou on, say, rims, seats, badging, brakes. This isn’t a license to go nuts or embarrass yourself. But do spring for the sport exhaust ($2,950); 20-inch Carrera S wheels ($1,580); platinum satin rims ($1,210); and leather interior ($3,850). And other things along those lines. There are plenty of people driving 911s around the hood. Make sure yours reflects y.o.u. Here are some great examples. Be inspired. Now go!
Get the Manual
This should go without saying. I know it’s hard. And, look, the manual is slower and less fuel-efficient than the PDK. But on the bright side, at $89,400 vs. $92,600 for the paddle-shifting PDK automatic, it’s also less expensive. I was given the PDK version of the 2017 911 I drove the other day; it was the only one available in the press fleet at the time, and it was as smooth as butter. But the other 911s I’ve driven with the manual offer the kind of driving engagement with the machine and contact with the road that haunts every little boy’s dreams. If you want instant credibility with any Porsche lover—if you want to get the most out of the beautiful machine you covet—buy the manual. You really have no choice.