Finland is one of those special places on Earth that exhibits the power, beauty and brutality of nature. It is a harsh environment to inhabit, even if only for a few days. For half the year the thermometer mercury will not reach 0° celsius and the chilly winds have had temperatures bottom out as low as -40°C. Sounds pleasant right? I shrouded myself in the thickest, furriest coat I could find jumped on a Finnair flight to Helsinki. I emerged at the other end looking like a tanned Hagrid that had shrunk in the wash. The bitter cold bit me as I got off the comfortable A350 and climbed into a worryingly small Jet complete with plush leather seats branded with Porsche headrest covers – swanky. Destination, Kittilä in the most northern region of Finland, Lapland.
It would be fickle to say that I had drawn the short straw on being sent up here, it was a very exciting prospect and upon arrival I was frozen like a pre-christmas turkey but was taken aback by the pure white snow that continued on as far as the eye could see. Enough of nature watch, I was up here to drive some cars – Porsches from the Macan and Cayenne range to be exact. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was a remarkable experience and one that prompted me to write this list of five reasons why you NEED to drive a Porsche in Lapland on the Porsche Winter Driving Experience. You do not need to be a member of the press or even a Porsche driver to attend the event, you really can drive a Porsche in Lapland!
1. Finland will blow your mind
Helsinki is starting to buzz with foreign tourists flocking from around the globe to enjoy the modern Finnish lifestyle in the country’s capital city. To see the real Finland you have to travel away from cities and out to the wild and wilderness where the most life you will observe is the odd moose and a few locals in wooden huts. The darkness in winter is disorienting as the sun never really rises but its glow illuminates the sky in a gorgeous orange for three hours before you are plunged into darkness again. The beauty of the soft light on the snow is something you will never forget. Park a couple of Porsches in front of the horizon and the sight you’re presented with is worthy of an oil painting.
2. Porsche SUVs will make light work of the conditions
Here comes the good stuff. Porsche currently builds two SUVs, both very different but both fantastic in equal measure. I drove two whilst in Finland, both are the most expensive and powerful models of their respective families – the Cayenne Turbo S and Macan Turbo with the all new Performance Package.
Powering the 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is a tweaked 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine delivering 570 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Consequently, the Turbo S will sprint to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds compared to the 4.5 seconds of the previous model. The car’s top speed sits at 284 km/h. The Performance Package applied to the Macan Turbo lifts performance to very impressive levels. Power from the 3.6-litre bi-turbo V6 increase by 40bhp. That means peak power is now 440hp, while torque has increased by 50Nm to 600Nm. The extra grunt is produced through an ECU tweak rather than any fancy mechanical changes, so the effective seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and four-wheel drive system remain untouched. 0-100 km/h is over in a very respectable 4.4 seconds.
Such figures are all good and well but on the ice they are, to an extent, rendered irrelevant. This game is all about traction. The cars were fitted with standard winter tires and it was nothing short of jaw dropping how both the cars coped on the slippery surfaces. Under braking, ascending gradients and navigating bends at speed were all done with superb confidence and stability. On a number of occasions I felt as if I was driving on tarmac, not sheets of ice. It is incredible how far all-wheel-drive systems and winter tires have progressed from just a few years ago. Of course, apply oodles of throttle on power will overcome traction, but both cars systems are immediately on hand to correct gigantic tank slappers – at no point did I feel I was not in control.
3. You can release your inner child
Driving on the road is always a joy, but you are always pinned down by speed limits and obstacles that do not allow you to exploit the most in a car. Conveniently Porsche had taken control of a vast frozen lake so I could try and use all of the power and grunt of the Macans and Cayennes I was piloting.
If, like me, you love driving and feel frustrated by traffic jams and city driving, you have to experience driving on a frozen lake at least one in your life. It is liberating, the freedom is almost endless and you WILL leave the ice with a huge smile and a stomach aching from the laughter. You really can release your inner child!
4. You’ll learn about car control
Aside from having a laugh, there is a lot to learn from driving on snowy roads and frozen lakes. Everything happens in slow motion and every driver input in exaggerated. You learn to feel the balance of the car and how you need to consider which axle is baring the weight of the car when entering a corner. On the frozen lake, getting the balance of inputs right will make you feel like a hero as you drift a huge SUV through a never ending figures of eight. Get it wrong and you’ll be spinning for hours to the end. Either way, you will learn and have fun.
5. You can eat Rudolphs cousin and ride Husky sleighs
You may drive for hours on end and never see a fellow motorist around Lapland but there are dozen of exciting and unforgettable experiences to indulge in when you want to do something a little more traditional than crossing snow and ice from the comfort of a Porsche. When in Lapland I could not turn down the opportunities to jump on a snowmobile that packed just under 200 horsepower and weighed just half a tonne! Once the sun set I swapped horsepower for husky power as I was pulled across the ice on the back of my sleigh but six enthusiastic dogs. After an exhausting day I settled into a traditional cozy wooden hut that was kept warm with a crackling fire that doubled as the cooking apparatus that barbecued the reindeer meat that was served for dinner. Experiences that were just as memorable as the drive across Lapland.