THE JOURNEY BEGAN back in June of 2019, which seems like an eon ago, when the world was a very different place. I missed the boat when the first-gen 981 GT4 came out and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
As soon as the configurator went live and the order books opened for the new 718 GT4, I asked my good friend Joeie to introduce me to Johnny Lorenz at Porsche Centre Downtown Toronto, a Porsche brand ambassador who also happens to specialize in European deliveries. I submitted my initial configuration and placed a deposit to get in line. The wait began.
It wasn’t until the first week of March when my allocation was finally confirmed. I can’t remember how many decisions went through my head during the intervening nine months, trying to picture how each of my choices from the endless list of available options would turn out in real life. Had this dragged out any longer I probably would have gone insane; visiting the online configurator on a weekly basis for months can do that to you. Anyway, I submitted my third and final build with Johnny Lorenz. Ultimately, I marked Aug. 18 on my calendar.
Planning a trip during a pandemic is something I will never forget. Walking through an eerily empty Pearson airport was a stark reality check of the times we’re in. “You’re from Canada? Lucky you!” said the customs officer when we arrived. “You are one of only a handful of countries outside of the EU that’s allowed to enter.” He was in a good mood I guess, but I am truly grateful for being able to still realize this dream in the year 2020.
Fourteen months in the making, I was surprised that I was able to sleep at all that night. I woke up early in the morning on Aug. 18 and went out for a walk to reflect on the journey up to this point. Very soon we arrived at the Leipzig factory entrance and the iconic building known as “the Diamond” came into view straight ahead, with the factory test track over to the left looking majestic in the morning mist lit by the warm glow of the rising sun. This ought to raise any car enthusiast’s heart rate. The first activity for the day was the factory tour. We had to put our personal belongings in lockers since photos and videos are, understandably, strictly prohibited. As you’d expect, the factory tour was fascinating to say the least. It certainly adds to the appeal of the Porsche brand and gives you even more reasons to feel proud as an owner.
After the tour, it was track time! First, I took the passenger seat of a 718 Spyder to get familiarized with the track’s layout. The Leipzig test track is made up of famous corners from various iconic race tracks around the world. As a delivery customer, you don’t get to drive the full layout — they wouldn’t trust just anyone to tackle the notoriously difficult corkscrew from Laguna Seca, now would they? The layout has a bit of everything: a long straight followed by a high-speed corner (Parabolica, Monza), low-speed corners (Mobil 1 S, Nürburgring) and tight chicanes (the Bus Stop, Spa).
When I thought I braked a bit too late and maybe turned in with a bit too much speed into Parabolica, I was expecting understeer, but instead the Spyder just dived towards the apex, flat, without even a chirp from the Michelin Cup 2 tires.
A couple of sighting laps later, it was my turn at the wheel. I made sure I turned on the sports exhaust, switched the dampers to the stiffer setting, and activated the auto-blip feature to test it out. After just a couple of laps, as I gradually braked later and harder, increasing my corner entry speeds, it quickly became apparent that I had to recalibrate my senses as the car’s limits were way beyond my expectations. When I thought I braked a bit too late and maybe turned in with a bit too much speed into Parabolica, I was expecting understeer, but instead the Spyder just dived towards the apex, flat, without even a chirp from the Michelin Cup 2 tires. I lost count of how many laps I ended up doing as we had about as much time as we wanted on the track thanks to the small group size.
Next up we jumped into a Cayenne SUV and headed to the off-road testing area. Porsche’s Leipzig property has a vast expanse of land that was formerly military training grounds. It has since built all kinds of off-road terrains and obstacles for testing and customer showcase. I was pleasantly surprised by the Cayenne’s off-road capabilities, especially considering it was on regular all-season tires. It is a shame then, that most owners won’t even use 10 percent of it.
Once we returned to smooth tarmac and parked the Cayenne, it was finally time to meet my very own GT4. Up until this point I still wasn’t 100-percent sure on my colour combo. This was due to the fact that the vast majority of Chalk-coloured GT4s I’ve seen on the Internet opted for black wheels. I made a daring choice to go with Chalk and Satin Aurum. As it turned out, it looks stunning!
Before driving out to the exit, however, there was just one more thing you don’t want to miss — the obligatory photo of your car in front of “the Diamond.”
As soon as we got onto the Autobahn, the unrestricted sign appeared. I reminded myself that the engine had not yet been run-in, but the temptation was too much to bear. Fortunately, I could still go decently fast without asking too much from the GT4’s 4.0-litre flat-six. As such, literally within 10 minutes of leaving the factory in my brand-new Porsche, we were doing 200-KPH-plus.
There are many great reasons to sign up for European delivery, but for me the biggest reason was the opportunity to drive my very own Porsche on the Nürburgring, or more precisely, the Nordschleife. It is a bucket-list item for many car enthusiasts and a unicorn-level experience for someone not living in Europe.
With fresh oil in the engine and super-premium 102-RON petrol in the tank, the car was ready. For liability reasons, I was going to do only one lap in the GT4, so to get the most out of it I also needed to make sure I was ready. This was my third time here and I’ve also had hundreds of laps on my sim-racing rig at home, but in Nordschleife terms, I was still a newbie.
I rented a decently-fast Civic Type R, the current front-wheel-drive production-car track record holder, to gain additional seat time before my lap in the GT4. With helpful pointers from the instructor on the first lap and then a second lap on my own to etch it deeper into my memory, it was time to complete the pilgrimage.
With lap ticket in hand, I headed towards the toll gates, slowly navigating through the traffic cones that feed into the Döttinger Höhe straight. And then I pinned the throttle to the floor, the naturally aspirated engine screamed towards its 8,000-RPM redline, unleashing all 414 horsepower. I shifted into second, repeat, third, fourth. In my peripheral vision I think I saw 200 on the speedo before I lifted for Hohenrain. The car handled so brilliantly and intuitively that I quickly gained the confidence to push. For the next eight and a half minutes I was in automotive nirvana.
All the fuss about the exhaust not being loud enough due to the new gasoline particulate filter was dispelled. The GT4 is markedly louder than what I remember in the Spyder. Even the issue of the gearing being too long didn’t cross my mind once for the entire lap. There you have it, the only two complaints you may ever hear about the 718 GT4 were non-issues.
I’ve set a target Bridge-to-Gantry time for myself and, despite being very cautious around slower traffic, I was able to achieve my target time. Pilgrimage completed.
There was still the small matter of dropping off the car so that it could be shipped to Canada. It was fitting to take the GT4 back to its birthplace in Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart. With the engine fully run-in, I had to do the obligatory high-speed run on the Autobahn. With traffic, it wasn’t easy to find a clear stretch but eventually I managed to hit 272 KPH. A quick visit to the Porsche Museum and it was time to say “auf Wiedersehen!” It was a bittersweet farewell as I know full well that we don’t see such great driving roads, unrestricted highways, and famous race tracks in Canada. This is exactly what makes Porsche European delivery such an epic and must-do experience.
Arriving back to the eerily empty Pearson airport, the wait began. Again. </>
Story and photos by David Ip