WELLINGTON, Ont. – Canada’s vast geography and foreboding climate sometimes make me wonder why our ancestors thought it prudent to unite such a place under one flag – it seems like the ultimate cat-herding exercise that, frankly, most wouldn’t have the patience for.
That our forebears managed to make a go of it, to the point that we’re now commemorating Canada’s 150th year as a nation, is a testament to their original vision and, perhaps, our somber sense of duty to carry on despite the many obstacles and historical baggage our country has accumulated through generations.
Whether the path our nation has followed is the result of grand design or a series of intersecting circumstances – or likely both – we’ve inherited a pretty great country. It’s not anything close to perfect – many mistakes have been made, and the challenges that remain are both numerous and complex. But we tend to acknowledge our shortcomings and, with all things considered, Canada remains a good place to live, as the flood of immigrants who put everything on the line to come here prove year after year.
Among the many individuals and organizations that have chosen to honour Canada’s 150th year are auto manufacturers. Back in the spring, Mercedes-Benz organized a media tour that covered all ten provinces, and now another German carmaker is celebrating our nation.
Kicking off this past Sunday, and wrapping up early next week (Oct. 3), is Porsche Tour Canada 150, a 10-day, nine-night journey covering 2,960 kilometres and spanning five provinces on the road from Toronto to Halifax.
And the best part, of course, is every single kilometre travelled is behind the wheel of a 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.
Before delving into that, a bit about how the program works.
Interested parties register online through Porsche Driving Experience Canada, and pay a registration fee ($11,995 per person plus applicable taxes) to secure their spot. That figure covers the cost of all meals and hotels, plus daily activities and, most importantly, the fuel needed to drive a 911 halfway across Canada. The only significant expense that isn’t covered is airfare – participants are responsible for the additional cost of getting to and from the event.
Porsche Tour Canada 150 has eight spots total, six of which are occupied by participants who are traveling the full distance, along with two rotating media spots that have been set aside by Porsche. The four journalist legs are spaced throughout the trip, with most covering two cities along the route.
Earlier this week, I was on the kick-off leg from Toronto to Ottawa, which also included stops in Kingston and Price Edward County, a popular summer vacation spot along Lake Ontario.
While it didn’t seem like a particularly long distance, the two-day stint covered 690 kilometres and included a one-night stay at the Drake Devonshire in the small town of Wellington, Ontario, located roughly 103 kilometres west of Kingston.
Partnering up with a fellow journalist allows for both a good amount of seat time behind the wheel and time to recover, check email and just watch the changing landscape along the route. As great an idea as it may seem, doing all of the driving – even in a 911 – isn’t the best way to really experience this sort of journey.
Trust me, if you ever sign up for one of these programs, you’ll want to share driving duties. The point of events like Porsche Tour Canada 150, after all, isn’t just about driving the car – it’s also about experiencing and learning more about your surroundings, which includes local cuisine, culture and attractions. And, of course, getting to know your fellow travelers.
Our group was an eclectic one: in addition to myself and a fellow auto scribe from the Toronto area, there were two couples, one from Winnipeg and one from Perth, Australia, along with a couple of singles – a woman from western Ontario and a man who lives in Seattle, but is originally from China.
Most of the participants, aside from the other journo and myself, are Porsche owners – two 911 Turbos (coupe and cabriolet), a Boxster S and a Cayenne GTS are represented in our group.
Porsche has also enlisted a support team – two driving instructors, along with a photographer and a logistics person – to run the program, ensuring our group of red 911 Carrera 4Ss doesn’t get lost and that we stick to the schedule.
Although my time in the program was brief – two days, one night – it was memorable. The weather was ideal for driving – sunny, if a bit hot for late September (33-35C, 40C with humidity) – and our leg of the trip included a three-hour boat cruise through the 1,000 Islands on Lake Ontario between Kingston and Gananoque, and one night at the Drake Devonshire, a gem of a small-town, lakefront hotel.
Our group was the right size for fostering dialogue along the many rest stops for bathroom breaks, driver changes and during meals together. Despite being together for a less than 48 hours, I quite enjoyed hearing about the experiences and stories of other participants, especially those who have taken part in previous Porsche Driving Experience events around the world. The social aspect of the experience was almost as enjoyable as the driving. Almost.
Speaking of the car, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a few thoughts on the 2017 911 Carrera 4S before wrapping up.
You might be able to guess my thoughts, and I’m happy to confirm by saying the car is indeed magnificent – comfortable, well-equipped, smartly designed and engineered and, oh yes, faster than a bat out of hell.
Driving it was an exercise in great driving pleasure. I toggled the drive modes to get a sense of the car’s varying driving character, but having driven various 911s before, it only served to reinforce past impressions.
Whether it’s in comfort, sport or sport+, the 911 Carrera 4S is bound to please – it still sounds great (although different now, thanks to turbocharging), the PDK is a fantastic geabox in both manual and automatic modes, and 3.0L twin-turbo six delivers ample amounts of power throughout the rev range. There was no tracking on this program, but I’ve tracked the 911 Carrera 4S before, and it handles beautifully – planted, predictable and precise.
Oh, and the Porsche Sport Response Button (included with the Sport Chrono Package) is pure bliss. For those unaware, once this steering wheel-mounted button is pushed it provides maximum acceleration for 20 seconds. How it works, exactly, I’m not sure – think of it as a ‘push-to-pass’ button of sorts. I had the pleasure of sampling it to get around slower traffic, and it is exactly what one of our instructors called it – beast mode.
Those 20 seconds represented the only white-knuckle moment I experienced during the trip, however. Everything else was just pleasurable touring – a mix of great food, conversation and accommodations, with a slice of Canada serving as scenic backdrop.
A great road trip, in other words – Porsche style.
For more information on Porsche Driving Experiences, go to porsche.ca/pde.
BASIC SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Porsche Carrera 4S
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $126,100 / $159,210 (incl. $1,200 destination)
ENGINE: 3.0L twin-turbocharged Boxer 6-cylinder
HORSEPOWER / TORQUE: 420 hp @ 6,500 rpm / 368 lb-ft. @ 1,700 – 5,000 rpm
CONFIGURATION: rear engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed PDK automatic
0-100 KM/H: 4.0 seconds (3.8 w/ launch control)
TOP TRACK SPEED: 303 km/h
Photography by Lee Bailie