Porsche’s Epic Canada 150 Tour

It could very well have been the opening chapter of an Agatha Christie novel. Sitting around the long dinner table at the grand old Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, NB, there was the doctor and his wife from Winnipeg, the quiet bespectacled chap from China, a wealthy widow, an Australian couple, a Finnish photographer, and a pair of dashing race car drivers. Throw in an auto journalist or two and you have the makings for an excellent whodunit.

Spoiler: nobody got murdered. Although a number of scallops gave their lives and there was serious damage inflicted upon the Algonquin’s wine inventory that evening.

Welcome to the fifth night of the Porsche Tour Canada 150, wherein this motley crew of moneyed Porsche enthusiasts, along with a tidy group of support personnel (and a rotating pair of “embedded” journalists) were travelling from Toronto to the eastern reaches of our country with a mission to experience a slice of Canadian culture and clip a few apexes – all within the legal speed limits (cough…). Kilometres covered: 2,960. Provinces traversed: five. Painful puns exchanged on the radios: Too many to count. (More on that later).

Participants paid $11,995 for the 10-day trek, and for that Porsche Canada provided a bevy of red 2017 911 Carrera 4S Coupes and enough premium fuel to keep them humming and barking. Palates would sample exquisite cuisine and heads would rest in the finest hotels.

Ultimately though, it was all about the driving. I’ll confess, I was slightly concerned about being thrown in with a bunch of rich Porsche snobs. That proved to be far from the case. Camaraderie, enthusiasm, and wacky humour ruled, and I was welcomed into the bosom of this peripatetic posse with open arms.

Some were experienced Porsche Tour participants, while others were newbies. This was the fifth tour for Perth residents Mike and Sue – notable previous outings being in Romania, Southern France, and Southern Germany. They have a new 911 Turbo in their garage, and Mike races his own Radical at a local track. So yes, serious car nuts.

Similar story with Paz and Lisa from Winnipeg. They’ve got a 911 Turbo S Cabriolet (with paint-to-sample finish), and this is their fourth Porsche Tour. Sonny is from China, but just moved to Seattle with his wife and daughter. He had a Cayenne at home, but is waiting to see how things pan out in the US before he buys a 911, as a “reward”, he tells me.

My first driving partner was Joanne from Ontario’s Huron Shore. She’s relatively new to the brand, but you just gotta love her shopping mojo. After looking at a Lexus, she waltzed into a Porsche dealership, spied a red Boxster S with PDK and black wheels and bought it without even a taking a test drive. Joanne subsequently picked up a Macan for winter duty.

Our steed for this journey is the 2017 Porsche Carrera 4S Coupe with seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, starting at $131,560. Its rear-mounted 3.0L twin-turbo flat-six makes a fire-breathing 420 horsepower and 368 lb-ft, and with power going to all four corners it will blast through the 100 km/h mark in a seriously quick 3.8 seconds. That’s with the optional $2,380 Sport Chrono Package that bestows launch control and more aggressive Sport+ drive mode. Pretty much a necessity in my opinion, along with the optional $3,370 Sport Exhaust that made the arrival of our Porsche parade all the more spectacular for the countless gawkers caught unawares. So many slack jaws, beaming smiles, and thumbs up. About the only casualty was the poor dude in New Brunswick who actually fell off his bike when he saw us coming. He did manage to save his Tim Hortons coffee though. So Canadian.

As there was a lot of ground to cover, extended highway slogs made up a good chunk of the Porsche Tour Canada 150. But thanks to the in-car walkie-talkies, it never got particularly boring. Instructors (and seriously accomplished racers) Zack Robichon and Jonathan Urlin had done their homework, playing the part of informative tour guides. And Paz, the Winnipeg doctor, raised (or lowered) the bar with his quick and painful puns. This had us all scrambling for witty ripostes.

While passing by the McCain family’s hometown in New Brunswick (the clan famous for frozen French fries), Paz announced:

“One of the McCain brothers was a friar. Known as Chip Monk.”

And then it started:

“He just peeled that one off.”

“I’ve got my eye on you.”

“Good one, spud.”

“Idaho what they’re talking about.”

The 911 C4S proved to be a serious weapon for cross-country travel. It will absolutely devour the twisty bits while putting you right at the pointy end of the driving experience. Lean into it, and the 911 wraps itself around you and calls for more. Yet as a highway cruiser, its new-for-2017 3.0L 420 hp turbo flat-six and revised suspension give it grand touring poise and an incredibly relaxed turn of speed. Beware, the 911 disguises its highway velocities like never before. Keep one eye on that big digital speedo.

My last night with this crew was in Charlottetown, PEI. Following a guided walking tour (there were also tours in Ottawa and Quebec City) we convened for dinner at Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar where the word that PEI beef is now the best in Canada was confirmed.

Does this sound all very decadent? Of course it does. These Porsche Tours are pricey affairs that cater to a select few who blend their enthusiasm for the Porsche brand with a taste for adventure. Okay, extremely pampered adventure. I sat with Porsche Canada CEO Alex Pollich at dinner, and we noted how there’s a level playing field when it comes to Porsche people. It’s an organic, uniting passion that seems to transcend all perceived barriers. Alex said, “I don’t think we could do this kind of thing with any other brand.”

Earlier, I said it was all about the driving. Now I’m thinking it’s about the people.