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Off to Langkawi, With Love from Porsche

We took on the long winding roads of Langkawi in Porsche's latest range of cars and marvelled at their driving capabilities

Off to Langkawi, with love from Porsche

We've arrived on the sunny island of Langkawi, Malaysia, all of us thankful that the haze, which had swept through much of the region, has cleared up in time for our Driving Dreams trip hosted by Porsche. With the warm sun shining down on us as we exit the airport terminal, we make our way to our rides — chauffeur-driven Porsches, naturally — that are awaiting to bring us to the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi.
First in the convoy is the 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet, which as it turns out, is owned by Martin Limpert, managing director of Porsche Asia Pacific, which was shipped out here for the trip. The next two are from the German marque's SUV range — the Macan Turbo and the Cayenne Diesel. I hop into the latter and take in the sights of Langkawi, while enjoying the comfy interiors of the Cayenne. We've been told to relax and enjoy being ferried about in these luxurious rides, because from tomorrow, we will get behind the wheel for some proper action.
That evening, we make our way on buggies to The Royal Suite, the resort's presidential suite, for dinner where three red Porsches — Cayenne, Panamera 4 and Cayman GTS — have been parked along the beach for us to admire while sipping on champagne. Still intent on fueling excitement after we adjourn indoors, representatives from the brand give us an introduction to the Porsche DNA and its future — the all-electric Mission E, a concept revealed at the recent Frankfurt motor show.
At this point, we are each handed an iPad for use throughout the trip. But first, we need to complete our first task on the device: Customise our very own dream Porsche and there'll be a surprise for us tomorrow. “Will we all get our dream car?” we all joke. Even though that's unlikely to happen, I can't help but get started on the assignment with excitement. What I really want is the powerful-and-sexy Porsche 918 Spyder. But alas, because it's a left-hand drive, it's not available here. Well, I guess I'll settle for the Cayman GTS — in my favourite shade of blue, of course. Dream car chosen, it's finally time for a sumptuous dinner.
The next morning, post-breakfast, we assemble for a photography workshop with Leica ambassador and photographer Richard Chen, who teaches us the ins and outs of using our very own Leica T — our companion on today's road trip. Putting what we learnt to the test, we each try our hands at photographing a fashion model as she struck poses with the Cayman GTS before heading out to our respective convoys.
My first ride is the Macan Turbo — the perfect car to warm up to the roads of Langkawi, in my opinion. This compact SUV is quintessentially Porsche, with its 3.6-L twin-turbo engines. Sturdy, yet agile, it gives me the confidence to floor the accelerator on the long stretches. Having been named after the Macan tiger in Indonesia, the car truly roars powerfully and commands a presence on the road. In fact, drivers in Langkawi are more than willing to move aside to let us pass. I guess they enjoy the visual spectacle of us revving on ahead.
It is when overtaking that I get to put the car to the test. I'm surprised by how quiet it is in the cabin as I hit the accelerator, yet the Macan propels forward quickly and robustly. The drive, as a whole, is so smooth that before long, I find myself hitting speeds I rarely ever get a chance to.
Communicating via walkie-talkies to keep updated on road conditions or how each driver is doing, our convoy of six drive on till we reach our destination, the lighthouse at Pantai Cenang. There, with our Leicas in hand, we turn photographers again, photographing the Cayman and Cayenne against the medieval-esque lighthouse and open water.
Ushered back to our convoys, I hop into my next car: The 911 Carrera GTS cabriolet — Limpert's personal ride.
And of course, when in a cabriolet, one needs to get in the whole wind-in-your-hair mood with the top open and the sun beating down. So I do just that. The Carrera doesn't disappoint. As one of the other female journalists puts it: “It's like the boyfriend car you just love.” Because it's a ride you love so much that you'll want to spend so much time with. This is the brand's iconic car so the power it delivers is what the Porsche DNA is all about. In normal driving mode, the smooth and robust pick-up of the car's turbocharged engines as I floor the accelerator tells other road users that I'm here. Its presence is unmistakable. And as I turn it up to Sports Plus mode, the car gets even more responsive and the engines revs louder, stronger.
This is easily my favourite car. The drive is too addictive. And as we approach our next destination at the Els Club Teluk Datai, I feel a tinge sad that my time in this sports convertible ends here.
After a delectable buffet spread at the golf club we're given an introduction to Singapore's Porsche Club by its president Daniel Chow. “It's a place where all Porsche owners come together,” he explains, adding that it's where old and new owners meet to socialise, go on drives and gain more knowledge about their cars. “We also give back to society,” he shares, citing an example of members delivering moon cakes to old folks' homes for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The club, he reveals, also works closely with Porsche Asia-Pacific on events, branding and the recruiting of new members. “It's where 95 percent of my friends are. If I didn't drive a Porsche, I'd lose all my friends,” he jests.
Heading back out on the road, I next put the Cayenne Diesel to the test.
I've driven my fair share of diesel-run variants and have often emerged disappointed by the significant drop in driving performance. And with it being bigger, heftier than the Macan, I jump to the conclusion that it probably wouldn't be as responsive or powerful. But I'm wrong.
Porsche didn't name this after the spicy pepper for nothing, because it packs quite a kick. As big as this car is (compared to the other models in the Porsche line-up), it feels lighter than the Macan and its handling is as smooth as the Targa 4 I drove earlier this year. The winding highways are no challenge to this very agile roadster, which grips the asphalt and keeps the car in position even along sharp turns. And even as rain starts to beat down, making the roads slick, the car hugs the road.
But with the heavy rains reducing visibility on the roads leading up to Gunung Raya (the highest point of Langkawi) to under 5m, our plans to push the cars' capabilities on hillier, windier roads are abandoned. For our safety, we instead make our way back to the golf club for the final car swap.
My last test-drive is the Panamera S E-Hybrid, the most eco-friendly car in the convoy. Of the other Porsche models I've driven, this one is, in my opinion, the least powerful, possibly due to the fact that it's a hybrid. The pick-up reaction of the saloon car is a little slower than even that of the Macan or Cayenne, though once it does react, it powers through impressively. That said, despite being a touch sluggish in comparison to its fully gas-driven siblings, it still has a better driving performance than other hybrids I've tried.
A downside to the trip is that we didn't get to give the Boxster GTS a go. Although one was part of the convoy, it had a rather large crack on its windshield from a flying stone chip just days before our arrival. So for safety purposes, the media isn't permitted to take the car out. But I'm told that the Boxster is a popular choice among ladies. Why? Because the mid-engine car comes equipped with two boot spaces — perfect for all that shopping loot, perhaps.
Arriving back at the Four Seasons, there's a surprise waiting for each of us in the driveway. An entire row of surprises, in fact. Remember our dream car selection from the night before? Yes, this is it. And I cannot contain my excitement as I hurry down the line of cars to find the one assigned to me.
And there it is, the Cayman GTS, in the exact blue I wanted, with my name emblazoned on the tag hung on the driver's door.
However, due to the less-than-cooperative weather, I'm unable to pit this 250kW beast with a 3.4-L engine against the curves and slopes of our island destination. I'm a little disappointed but, there's always next time to hear this baby roar.
With the day drawing to a close, so too does our driving experience. And we could not have ended on a better note than with dinner and fine whisky from The Balvenie collection.
As we head home the next morning, I'm still reeling from all the adrenaline. And yes, I do eventually get to drive the Cayman GTS. And it more than meets my expectations.
Watch the video of our trip to Langkawi with Porsche