Porsche Experience Nova Scotia is a Drive to Remember
Embarking on an East Coast adventure in a Porsche 911
There’s no place like home.
Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world are right at our doorstep. You don’t have to look too far. Living in a big city like Toronto lurching through a sea of endless brake lights makes it easy to fall out of love with driving. For most commuters, the driverless car can’t come soon enough.
A two-hour flight from YYZ will get you to Halifax: A vibrant, youthful city of 400,000 obsessed with art, music, and history, home to numerous museums and galleries. It would serve as the starting point of a tour closely following the stunning coastlines surrounding Nova Scotia. We would discover some of the best driving roads in the province and possibly the country.
I was a guest of Porsche Canada, invited to take part in the Porsche Travel Experience, a three-day adventure on Canada’s east coast spent behind the wheel of the legendary 911. For a car enthusiast, it doesn’t get much better.
Our group consisted mainly of Porsche owners and a handful of journalists. One was there because he figured three days with a 911 on back roads was a much better way to get a feel for the car than a typical dealer test drive. I tend to agree with that logic.
Split into pairs we were handed the keys to a brand new Porsche that we would take turns driving. There were six cars separated into two groups each led by an instructor car. Half of them were the 911 Carrera S in Racing Yellow, the other half the Carrera GTS in Graphite Blue. The instructors were also in 911s, white with racing stripes.
A rolling parade of Porsches causing severe bouts of whiplash everywhere we went.
Two-way radios in every car ensured we were in constant communication should one of us make a wrong turn or get cut off by traffic.
Heading west our first stop on the tour was the small fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, home to the famous Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. Busier than usual, finding parking for eight Porsches amongst the lumbering tour buses proved a bit of a challenge. The cars drew a crowd of tourists away from the idyllic rocky bluffs snapping photos and selfies of the cars with outstretched tablets and phones.
We didn’t stay long. My driving partner and I were happy to get back in the car and head out again.
Our trip would consist of quick stops and driver changes in charming villages and towns along the Atlantic Ocean. Like Lunenburg where we stayed for lunch at a family-owned bakery and noshed on steamy bowls of seafood chowder and freshly baked pull apart bread.
From Lunenburg we would drive north and then east along the north coast toward Cape Breton Island. On this quest for driving roads, the Cape holds one of the best. The Cabot trail is a 300 km ribbon of tarmac that follows the rugged coastline of the Atlantic and winds its way through the Boreal forest of the Cape Breton Highlands. Autumn colours paint everything in brilliant shades of crimson and orange.
The 911s never faltered. There are few cars out there as direct, or as connected to the road as a 911. You feel every bump, every crevice, and every seam through the seat of your pants. There is more noise in here than in typical cars, but it feels intentional. Unfiltered. Car and driver form an instant bond.
You don’t drive a 911, you wear it like Iron Man’s suit. It becomes an extension of your limbs.
All of the cars on the trip were equipped with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (PDK) and while I would have preferred a car with 3 pedals this transmission is one of the best. It shifts so fast the tach needle can barely keep up. It is also one of the few cars with an automatic that compels me to use the shift paddles that respond instantly to my inputs.
The sonorous flat 6 displaces just 3 litres but turbocharging helps it produce 450 hp in GTS form. The Carrera S is slightly detuned at 420 hp but doesn’t feel any slower. Both pull strongly to their 7500 rpm redline making wonderful noises along the way. Between 2500 and 3500 rpm an induction howl that sounds like a wounded bear behind your shoulder can make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention.
A super stiff tightly sprung chassis never once feels overpowered. While we obviously couldn’t explore the limits on public roads, even lower speed driving gives a brilliant preview of the preternatural capabilities of the 911.
Sections of the Cabot trail wound through forests of Spruce and Ash. Some were an endless series of downhill switchbacks connected by short straights hugging sheer red cliffs. Just about the perfect place for these cars. Rain soaked roads had little effect on the tenacious grip of the Michelins goading us to push ourselves further than we thought possible. You can feel the 50 years of refinement, tweaking, and tinkering that has shaped the 911 into a near-perfect product, that also proved to be quite practical for light travel.
The front boot space easily held two of our carry-on bags and the vestigial rear seats made for quite a capacious cargo hold, even more with them folded down.
Driving was the main focus of this adventure, at least it was mine, but some of the planned eateries and overnight stops were absolutely epic.
Somewhere in between Mabou and Inverness we stopped at the Glenora Distillery makers of North America’s first single-malt whiskey inspired by Scottish distillers but unique to Cape Breton. Like something out of a Tolkien novel set in front of a wall of fall colours this place was straight out of a fairy tale. We had lunch at the pub serving hearty local fare accompanied by live music with a folky east coast vibe that really set the mood.
Overnight haunts included the fabulous Fox Harb’r resort in Wallace set amongst perfectly manicured grounds, an award-winning golf course, and unobstructed views of the Northumberland Strait.
People waved at us as we drove by. A lot. Big smiles planted on their faces. Something I don’t experience in a car often. This made me smile. More than I already was. Locals were full of questions and in general admiration of these cars. Seeing eight of them lined up is a rare occurrence anywhere outside of a car show and cellphone cameras were out in force.
Just a part of the experience I guess. Makes you feel a bit like a celebrity if only for a moment.
Cape Breton is a place that feels good for the soul. This is one of the most beautiful drives on earth and a place every Canadian needs to see.
Being a Porsche owner is not a pre-requisite to taking part in the Porsche Travel Experience or any one of the other experiences offered by the company. The Nova Scotia experience can accommodate 20 guests and is priced at $3749 plus tax and includes meals and accommodations. It also includes expert guidance by certified instructors that will help shape anyone into a better driver and also gain a newfound appreciation for just how good the 911 really is.
Some of the other programs Porsche offers include a track experience, an off-road experience, and an ice experience all using the latest and greatest Porsche cars and the same expert guidance and tutelage.
Detailed information on the dates, locations, schedules, and pricing of all the different experiences can be found on their website.
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