YONGIN, Gyeonggi Province ― For German sports car maker Porsche, the current big sellers are the hulking Cayenne sport-utility vehicle and the four-door Panamera sedan. As part of its latest push into the soaring SUV market, it has also recently launched the Macan crossover.
But Porsche remains the world’s most iconic sports car company, and to this day continues to send reminders to customers that they too may want a taste of the “Porsche DNA” by sampling all its speed demons the way they are meant to be driven.
The 60-year-old Porsche World Roadshow started this year’s program in Korea last week. According to Porsche Korea, the program was fully booked long before the kick-off event on June 10.
“It’s a rare opportunity to experience all the Porsches on the market in the span of a few hours,” said Porsche Korea CEO Kim Geun-tak. “Of course, it is also a great marketing tool to sell more cars.”
|Porsche Korea CEO Kim Geun-tak|
According to Porsche Korea, after a previous event held in April 2012, its car sales increased some 11 percent from 128 to 142 in May.
Five of the company’s 300 or so racing instructors are currently here to help test the 22 Porsches on the market, and during the 10-day event, some 400 participants ― sports car novices and aficionados alike ― are expected to get a taste of the cars’ racing and handling prowess.
Ahead of the show, dozens of Korean journalists were invited to attend an exclusive event on June 11 at the recently revamped Everland Speedway in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The speedway is affectionately nicknamed the “Lee Kun-hee track” after its owner, the chairman of Samsung and a well-known car buff.
During the three handling sessions, participants could get behind the wheel of every Porsche model ranging from the “big boys” such as the Cayenne, Panamera and Macan to the two-door speedsters the 911 and Cayman.
Competition was particularly heated among the journalists to occupy the 911 GT3, the high-performance version of the iconic 911, whose Korean launch is planned for later this year.
The “monster car” comes equipped with a standard 3.8-liter, 475-horsepower engine. Its can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in just 3.5 seconds.
|Porsche cars are test-driven on the Everland Speedway in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. (Porsche Korea)|
Some Porsche purists may have been unhappy with the elimination of the manual option. But for average drivers like me, the enhanced dual-clutch PDK gearbox for the GT3 was a confidence booster on this challenging racetrack.
Thanks to the new PDK, the GT3 weighs less and shifts faster than the Carrera. The car moved far more quickly than I expected but I stepped down on the brakes around the turns without fear of going into a skid.
Not surprisingly, the dynamics of the Macan S were also excellent for a high crossover on the curvy racetrack. The Sport mode proved fun and agile.
The new crossover, based on the Audi Q5, features a 340-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, 7-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic engine. It takes only 5 seconds for the car to reach 100 kilometers hour.
The 911 Carrera 4 and Cabriolet were abused repeatedly for acceleration and braking tests, particularly of their Launch Control.
Instructors had drivers press on the brake pedal with their left foot while revving to the red line with the right. When the brakes were released, the car exploded with almost overwhelming force.
There was also a slalom contest on a short round course in the Boxter S, a smaller but powerful Porsche whose midship engine proportion allows for a perfect center of gravity.
The car was also a “dream car” for Kim, the Korean chief of Porsche, whose commuting limo in Seoul is the four-door Panamera luxury sedan.
At the end of the day, there was a random “Taxi lap,” and I was lucky to ride shotgun in the GT3 as a German instructor did laps around the track.
For many of us who are not ready financially ― or psychologically, for that matter ― to buy a 100 million won ($98,200) Porsche, the Porsche World Roadshow, with its participation fee of 500,000 won, is a more affordable way to spend a day with those pricy toys and follow our gut instinct.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)