Our drive today is anything but routine or mundane.
In honour of completing our second anniversary with our 2017 Porsche 911 991.2 long-term test car, and recognizing the end of the 991 era as the age of the new 992 dawns, we’re taking our 991.2 on an epic road trip from the Los Angeles area, up the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur and back down to L.A.
And, what better place than California, to tie in some ecological analysis? We’re driving up the coast in the car’s most eco-friendly drive mode and then returning in Sport mode, all while marveling at the best of California’s coastal beauty.
Instead, we crafted a fourth, longer and more southerly alternative. Why? Significantly more of our DIY route was new to both of us than any of Google’s suggestions. Moreover, we set aside five days for the drive, and we wanted to use all five!
Route as Planned
If you’re looking for a memorable lunch in the Pismo Beach area, consider Ventana Grill. It’s Latin-inspired options and fresh seafood are quite good, and the setting atop a coastal bluff is tough to beat.
Miles and miles and MILES of coastal land surrounded by mountains, bluffs, wildflowers and heavenly beauty. And nobody’s there… am I missing something? Anyone looking for an idyllic setting for a vacation home, who can work remotely, or who’s willing to commute should seriously scout out the area between Cambria and Ragged Point. William Randolph Hearst had the right idea (See Hearst Castle).
Old Cambria is a great spot to stop for a quick snack and stroll. The small town is right off the highway and has some serious charm, not to mention a couple of good coffee shops.
The aptly-named destination is worth a stop. At the quaint fuel station there, venture a few hundred yards along a well-marked trail and you’ll witness waves breaking on sheer cliffs of red rock capped with wildflowers and majestic cypress trees. Really, the whole surrounding area, including the twisting coastal roads to the north and the south, is spectacular.
Light Station & Marine Life
Along Highway 1 (State Route 1?) there are dozens of scenic overlook stops. We were drawn to one at sunset because of its proximity to the stunning, historic Piedras Blancas Light Station. As a bonus, the whole beach was covered in a blanket of lazy, loafing lards: elephant seals.
Many are familiar with Morro Bay. Fewer have heard of the nearby town of Los Osos. Despite its name (Spanish for “the bears”), which the town received in the late 1760s because of an abundance of bears spotted in the area, the bear threat today is nil – no one has seen a bear there in over a hundred years. The small town of about fourteen-thousand has a killer sushi spot, Kuma, where we stopped for dinner.
We have to about-face pre-maturely because the coastal road to Big Sur’s iconic bridge (link) is closed. This stretch has had a rough go over the past few years as result of mud slides. Not long ago, the bridge was completely washed away.
Luckily, in a Porsche 911, just about any drive is exciting. Spectacular scenery is a bonus, and challenging roads are a double-bonus. This route has it all, and, even after thirteen hours of driving, we want more!
Where the car really shines, however, is in the balance it achieves between power, responsiveness and handling. The rear-axle steering offers stability at high speeds and maneuverability at low. Like a Swiss watch, each component of the car plays its part in perfect symphony (harmony?) to deliver precision, stability and control, even as g-forces increase.
The interior is leather in Graphite Blue and Chalk, which includes deviated stitching in Chalk. For a sportier feel, we selected the multifunctional, heated steering wheel in carbon fiber, as well as interior trim in carbon fiber. We also upgraded the instrument cluster and Sport Chrono clock dials so that they’re all white. The interior roof liner comes in a rich matching Graphite Blue Alcantara.
Although the sports exhaust package doesn’t produce a drastically different sound compared to the standard package, the centrally-mounted twin tailpipes are very sporty. And the optional fuel cap with aluminum look and finish definitely elevates refueling.
Interestingly, in the 991.1, it was difficult to tell whether the spoiler was up from the cabin looking through the rear-view mirror. In the 991.2, it noticeably emerges into view, which is cool.
The car is extremely comfortable for any car, let-alone a sports car, at least the front two seats. The back two seats are good for storage or people you hate. We’ve got 14-way Power Sport Seats with memory, which are heated and ventilated. Toggling between drive modes stiffens or softens suspension noticeably, and the ride is especially hard when you set the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control activated.
Our minor nitpick has to do with exhaust volume. Yes, we’ve entered the eco-friendly age of the turbo. And, we love just about everything about the 991.2’s twin turbo: no lag, terrific, uniform power delivery, better fuel economy. The one downside: the 991.2’s roar is less throaty, guttural, aggressive and loud than its predecessor’s. The trend toward turbo hasn’t dashed all hope in this department, however. We recently reviewed a 991.2 GTS Cabriolet, one step up Porsche’s performance ladder from the C4S, and that car sounded properly angry, especially under decent acceleration. So, perhaps Porsche will apply its magic to “lesser” 911s in future generations similar to what it has done on the 991.2 GTS. Or, maybe environmental regulations will ultimately squelch the scream of the sports car for good. We look forward to hearing how the new generation 992 compares.
Although driving style is, undoubtedly, the largest contributor to fuel efficiency, it turns out that driving mode also contributes. Trying my best to match driving style between our trips up and down the coast, and, assuming the average elevation change is about the same in each direction, the difference in fuel economy between Sport and Normal is about 9%. Stated otherwise, on the long drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, we pay a 9% fuel premium to drive in Sport mode. The fuel-savings features of normal mode, including a less sensitive throttle, shorter periods in lower gears at higher rpm, and the engine auto-start/stop function add up. In Normal mode, the 991.2 also enters a ‘coast mode’ when the circumstances are optimal, disengaging the engine from the wheels and dropping RPM. We average 9.5 l/100 km (24.8 mpg) on our drive up the coast, and 10.3 l/100km (22.8 mpg) on the way back down.
The Bottom Line
Two years in and our 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 991.2 still grips us at every corner and thrills us through each acceleration. Aside from minor reliability issue with the AC, the car is solid, dependable, and an instrument of balance and precision. We have no fears continuing to take it on road trips, even to the most remote corners of the world and on the most challenging roads.
It’s hard for us to imagine how the 911 can get any better. Yet, somehow, with each iteration of the 911, Porsche seems to improve on near-perfection. We can’t wait to experience what’s coming next…
Photographs and Videos © Copyright TrackWorthy Group Ltd. 2018