Langkawi’s main road runs a circular route around the island and it’s not a dull one. It takes you uphill, through blind corners, and steep foggy turns. It is nearly deserted if not for a few motorcycles and the occasional appearance of monkeys and snakes. The scenery is beautiful with the breathtaking Gunung Raya, the highest mountain in Langkawi, the stretches of white sand beaches, the natural streams flowing throughout the scenic Datai Golf Club, and the photographic lighthouse on Pantai Cenang, among others.
For professional race car drivers and true motoring enthusiasts, this is a terrain of driving dreams. For us, a bunch of ladies at the wheel of Porsche cars who had to tackle nearly 200 kilometers of not just easy straights but also bends and blind crests amid drizzle and haze with mere city driving skills under our belts, this dream could have also been our worst nightmare. Of course our Porsche trainers and driving coaches made sure we had the experience of a lifetime—similar to what happens at Porsche Owners Club members’ track days and leisure trips the world over—and immersed us in a crash course on Porsche driving.
Over a dozen models were part of the fleet of this “Driving Dreams with Porsche” event. We put a white 911 Targa 4, a carmine red 911 Carrera GTS, a sapphire blue metallic Cayman GTS, a white Panamera S, and a black Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid to the test in a gripping eight-hour journey, which included stops along some of the island’s famous spots. Porsche also lent us Leica T System cameras for the duration of the event to capture our best driving moments as well as the views of Langkawi and put them online using the camera’s Wi-Fi function.
The Langkawi route featuring sharp bends
It only took 10 minutes before we got the hang of right-hand driving, which the 911 Targa 4, the first vehicle in our lineup, made manageable and simple. The coupé provided grip, traction, and light steering, thanks to its all-wheel-drive setup and responsive brakes that allowed us to maneuver on bends accurately and quickly. Being so close to the ground and having a driver’s seat that comfortably envelops our body, the Targa made us feel one with the car, sometimes enough to let us feel rough road bumps and all given its stiff suspension, but which nevertheless helped a lot in quick overtakes and roundabouts even when we opted to go top down.
The difference was immediately apparent when we took on our second 911, the Carrera GTS. This was definitely a man’s car, for the lack of a better term, and because well, most of the girls preferred the lighter models. Its handling was heavier but it was truly more powerful than the rest in the fleet. It can accelerate from zero to 100kph in just four seconds, but the most we could test the car’s performance was when we had to overtake four speeding vehicles to rejoin the convoy with the rest of the team. Pulling into sport mode, the momentum thrust us against our seat and had the Carrera speeding up with that wonderful race car rumble. When we took it on a slippery surface uphill, the grip and balance were still clearly evident, despite having the weight distribution of a typical rear-engine car, which makes this new Carrera better than its predecessors.
911 Carrera GTS and Boxster GTS at the Datai Golf Club
The Cayman GTS, on the other hand, sat somewhere in between the Targa’s handling and excellent steering and the Carrera’s sportiness and power. With its engine set in the middle of the car, its handling felt lighter, more responsive, more balanced, and appropriate for city driving. And unlike the Targa, the Cayman seemed to tackle road bumps and slippery mud better as our driving felt smoother and more in control throughout our trip up the mountain peak.
Moving into Porsche’s sedan, the Panamera S, was a different story. It’s a luxury sedan with Porsche’s sporty DNA. The drive was remarkably smooth yet snappy, and it allowed us to fling forward on a long stretch with its body hunkering down and its grip becoming firmer as we managed a sharp bend. This four-door four-seater luxury saloon is spacious, too, putting as much a premium on passenger comfort as driver pleasure. Its bucket seats were made for lounging. Positioned as low as the ones in front, the individual rear seats (separated by a center console) are adjustable and offer generous legroom.
Top models lined up at the beach
The final car in our lineup was the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid. Our dream model, it was the vehicle most suited to us, according to the initial test we took before the event. This SUV is the latest in Porsche’s plug-in hybrids, a greener version of its predecessor, and takes less than four hours to fully charge. Its introduction last year made Porsche the leading manufacturer of plug-in hybrids. While driving downhill on electric power, we were able to take it up to around 100kph (the maximum electric power speed is 125kph before the engine fires up and switches to hybrid or sport mode). It’s the perfect eco-friendly SUV for city driving— comfortable, beautiful, and responsive. It may not sound and move like a traditional Porsche at its greenest—it’s most quiet when completely on E-Power—but when we went into Sport mode, its gas engine revved to life and we were convinced it can also take us on long drives out of town; it is, after all, still a powerful 4x4. If the future’s going to be dominated by electric cars, Porsche for sure will lead the way.
The Cayenne S E-Hybrid
And what of the future? “Intelligent performance has been the driving force for Porsche to develop our cars with focus in addressing mobility and connectivity topics,” said Martin Limpert, managing director of Porsche Asia Pacific, who was with us throughout the drive. “Evidently Porsche is working on this with the first battery-powered four-seat concept car, the Mission E, with over 600 horsepower, over 500-kilometer driving range, and around 15 minutes charging time to reach an 80 percent charge of electrical energy. The future is a dream,” said Limpert. “The great thing is we can make it happen.”
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