Driving Tips – Why Learning to Drive a Porsche 911 Takes a Little Time

Some people look at me in a very strange manner when the subject of Porsche 911 driving techniques are mentioned. There’s actually a very large slice of people out there who just don’t ‘get it’. I know good drivers, experienced people, who’ve driven Porsche 911′s and simply don’t like them, cannot see what all the fuss is about. “Engine’s in the wrong bloody place, I prefer my Ferrari any day…” I sympathise and try and explain, reminded of my own first Porsche 911 experience. Then right after that, I’m asked for my own Porsche 911 driving tips.

I am, of course, accused of bias as I write for Porsche titles, most notably Total 911 magazine, dedicated to covering in depth all manner of facets of the car that is generally considered to have the engine in the wrong place. However, I have a confession to make.

I fact, I didn’t like the Porsche 911 the first time I drove one, either.

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Way back in my previous life, I was a senior salesman at a Toyota dealership. I took a Porsche 911 Super Sport as a trade-in against, of all things, a Landcruiser. The 80 Series Landcruiser was big news back then, the massive 4.2 turbo diesel and cavernous carrying capacity meant that we were selling every single one we could get. The Impact Bumper Porsche 911 was a rather unusual trade in, I had to concede. I delivered the Landcruiser in January on a horrid wet day, sleet and rain outside, but still looking forward to my first ever shot in the Nautic blue car with the wide arches and rain pouring down off it’s teatray wing. It was a car I’d admired for years, like many I had the black Porsche 911 Turbo poster on my bedroom wall.

I jumped into the 911 thinking, “This’ll be good…” I fumble with the seats, find a decent position that will do for now but still felt odd, my feet seemingly off to one side. I managed to get past that old style Porsche immobiliser after a couple of tries and fired it into life. By now, the windscreen is well and truly fogged up. Heater and demist… Erm…

The dash layout of an aircooled Porsche 911 looks like someone just sprayed it with adhesive, threw switches at the panel and where they stuck they stayed. Ergenomics were not a strong point. I found a switch under the dash, that must be it. Wrong answer as the electric sunroof opens, letting all the rain in.

This is not funny, FFS. Close it up and keep fumbling with the sliders and find the rotary fan heater speed thingy between the seats before giving up and using the back of my hand to wipe the screen and trundling off through the industrial estate and onto the main road. There’s no power assistance, but steering feels light, but the bloody three spoke wheel won’t stop moving in my hands, squirming and wriggling ever so slightly. Holding it more firmly just seems to make it worse. Sodding thing, stop it.. We hit standing water and it makes a dive for the road edge as the kerbside wheel aquaplanes. And it’s fogging up again.

This is shit. Where’s the Porsche 911 magic? What about that great handling and traction? I complete my drive, happy just to get back to the showroom in one piece.

The following day dawns to bright sunshine and I have to deliver the Porsche to the trader who’d underwritten the deal. The sun is shining, blue skies, fluffy clouds. And as I drive down my favourite winding A Road to York, a strange thing happens. I seem to find it much easier and less alien today. The steering isn’t fighting me, I’m relaxing my shoulders and now I find that actually, that steering wheel is simply chatting away to the palms of my hands, telling me what’s happening at the front tyres in a way I’d never felt before. A lovely set of my favourite fast bends gets me driving the car harder and harder through the corners, in slow, fast out, slingshotting out and down the straights, the corners of my mouth turning ever upwards until I arrive with a big grin. Now I get it….

I’ve often heard that you need to drive a 911 more than once and that the first time you just don’t ‘get it’. Once you’ve developed the 911 feel, though, it never leaves you. Even after a longer period between drives, it only takes me a few hundred metres for that smile to come back.

Indeed, to learn a few really simple Porsche 911 driving tips, learn from one of the masters. This article about Vic Elford and his Porsche 911 driving technique os well worth a read.

Since that sunny day, I’ve been a fully fledged Porsche 911 evangelist, writing and photographing Porsches across Europe for magazines and motorsport teams. If you haven’t driven a Porsche 911 yet, start the process today and go find one. But if you jump out with a frown, don’t just walk away. Just like the first time you rode a bicycle, you probably won’t get it first go.

Have a break, get back in and prepare to become one of the converted. Your life will not be the same.

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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