At first, I thought the assignment was a joke. Fly to Miami for three days to test drive three Porsche vehicles? I was sceptical.
For one, it’s not my usual news beat, especially as someone who, if not for the diagrams under the hood, may put coolant where the windshield wiper fluid should go.
And two, I had just done a story on a family in central Trinidad who could not afford to send their child to secondary school.
Was I really going to jump into a convertible then try to convince a country struggling to buy food that this is the right car for them? But I’ve built a career on saying yes and taking chances plus it would be nice to swap South Quay with South Beach for a couple of days. So, a few weeks later there I was at the Porsche headquarters in Brickell Miami, chanting internally what would be my companion mantra for the entire trip, “remember they drive on the other side of the roadway.”
Up first was the Porsche Taycan GTS. A fully electric “frozen blue” sports car which I was warned about by the Porsche specialists in El Socorro, Trinidad, “Akash, that car is a monster, take your time with it, the speed could be intimidating.” But it wasn’t the speed that almost outdid me; it was manoeuvring out of the parkade in Miami.
“Just watch the right side of the car, because I think you just touched the rim coming out,” warned my fellow Trinidadian traveller and car aficionado Narend Sooknarine. From there onto the freeway, it was smooth sailing. Was it as fast as they warned? Yes. Did I “mash down” as some would say here to test its maximum speed? No. Given that the cost of this vehicle starts around $1 million and this thing goes from 0-60mph in just three seconds, I took my time. For me the name of the game was caution and more importantly, ‘don’t bounce the people thing.’ Part of me hated that I was counting down the time to hand over the Taycan’s keys.
The Porsche Macan felt more like home. It is almost like a regular sports utility vehicle (SUV), if that SUV’s starting costs is $750,000 and up. Given its safety features and user interface, if it fell within my price range, I’d buy one. High enough to avoid serious pothole damage, and sleek enough to turn heads.
But it was their flagship car, the 911 which won me over. Bright blue, low and rugged. It did not purr like the fully electric Taycan but it commanded a presence on the Tamiami Trail; 473 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque would do that. Think about reaching 120mph in just about seven seconds. And for $1.6 million it better. But again, typical Akash, there I was in the only convertible in the trio and I kept the top up while I cruised down the freeway. My reason, I didn’t want to ‘interfere’ too much.
The entire experience lasted about 24 hours. From Miami to Naples and then Naples back to Miami. Probably one of the greatest feelings of the entire trip was handing over the keys to the vehicles knowing that Guardian Media Ltd would not be charged for any scratches or dents. But in retrospect that may have been the easy part of the journey. The hard part is writing about it.
How do I make this experience relatable to a population where a large segment is struggling to make ends meet? I could appeal to the environmentally conscious and speak about Porsche’s intention to become carbon-neutral by 2030 or the German auto manufacturer’s production of eFuels from hydrogen and carbon dioxide using wind energy. Something they’re already doing with their competitive racing models.
But it took me driving my second hand 2012 Subaru Impreza down the Eastern Main Road several days later to finally get it. I’ll probably never again drive a Porsche, far less in a foreign country. Porsche taught me a lesson. Seize the moments, say yes and enjoy the experience.
And while you can contact the Porsche dealership in El Socorro for a test drive, chances are owning one may not fit into your lifestyle. But try it, sit in one, “mash down” within reason and take yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t be like me, the guy who focused too much on the ‘what can go wrong?’ rather than enjoying the ride in the best thing I’ll probably ever drive.