Earlier this month the folks at Porsche hosted a winter driving school at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont.
Apparently they figured sub-zero nighttime temperatures and treacherous road conditions are ideal for showing off the stability management technology in their 911, Panamera and Cayenne variants. They were right: The snow-covered 18 holes of bunkers and straights made for a deliciously snarly winter track.
Porsche provided 911 S and 4S coupes, ski-racked Panameras and Cayenne diesels (30 miles to the gallon!) during the weekend. Each came equipped with Porsche Stability Management, which maintains stability by continuously monitoring the direction, velocity and acceleration of the car. If the car begins to oversteer or understeer, the system applies braking on individual wheels to restore stability. Translation: It finds the wheel or wheel with the most traction and applies power there.
Similar schools are held each year in Finland, Italy, China and Switzerland–often Porsche dealers invite VIPS to join them on the luxurious trips free of charge. The idea is to entice multiple purchases–the old free sample trick for those who haven’t bought, and a chance for the others to try different models.
In Vermont, roughly half of the attendees already owned a Porsche car, while the other half were like one attendee named Nick: rabid enthusiasts of varying Porsche experience.
“This is the first time I’ve ever driven a 911–I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as what I’ve imagined,” Nick said, grinning ear to ear. He had just finished testing an electric blue Carrera 4S.
As a child, Nick sent fan letters to all his favorite automakers–Aston Martin, Ferrari, General Motors, etc–and the only executive who responded was Porsche CEO Detlev von Platen. (Aston Martin sent back a non-sequitur form letter denying a request for funds.)
Von Platen, on the other hand, sent Nick a handwritten thank-you note and enclosed some Porsche swag as well. It made all the difference.
“After that letter, Porsche became my favorite,” Nick said. “When I have the money I will be a Porsche customer for life.”
That’s the other bonus to hosting driving schools like this–they dispel the myth that bigger is better when it comes to winter roads.
“You can absolutely drive a sports car like a Porsche on the snow and ice,” lead instructor Cass Whitehead said. He had just demonstrated how to control slides on an ice block the size of a basketball court in the center of the track. “The car is the tool – you just have to know how to use it.”
A lightweight car is supremely manageable if it’s got on winter tires and anti-slip systems like brake differential. The main thing is to keep your hands smooth and look toward where you want to go, not where the car is going. Throttle control–knowing when to let off or apply the gas–is crucial.
“Driving a big SUV or truck just means you’ve got a bigger mass going in one direction,” Whitehead said. He may be a little biased–he is on Porsche payroll–but it’s tough to argue with physics.
Watch the video above for more. In the meantime, here’s a quick primer:
Oversteer Why It Happens: Excessive throttle, Improper braking, Mismatched downshifting
How To Fix It: Gently squeeze the throttle to move forward.
Understeer Why It Happens: Improper weight management between the front and rear of the car, Excessive speed on corner entry, Abrupt or early throttle, Over braking
How To Fix It: Keep you hands smooth, ease off the brake and reduce your steering angle until the car settles.