The overnight fog rolls in and shrouds the top of the mountain from vision. The peak looms somewhere above, but somehow hidden from vision, it feels little more than just hypothetical. Yes, there is a top to this mountain, but likely it will never be found, and we can't certainly hope to get there in these stilted Porsche hatchbacks. Sitting down here, at the bottom, the idea of ascending such a road seems absurd to me. This is hallowed ground, where only monsters tread. The mountain would never deign to allow us an ascent in these, no matter the Porsche badge on the hood.
We cross under the entrance gate, flash our state park pass, and we're in. From the drivers seat, the feeling is unshakeable, like the Macan and I had fooled some unwitting bouncer into allowing us into the club with glaringly obvious false identification. This Macan is no hillclimb racer, and I no hillclimb driver. On annual pilgrimage to the mountain come some of the most roaringly insane cars ever built. Could we hope even to hold a candle?
We sit coddled in plush leather our hands warmed by heated steering wheels, as we view the world through a tall greenhouse and too much ground clearance. Pirelli Scorpion all-season tires are fitted, the satellite radio is playing smooth jazz for Chrissake. We're no racing special, we don't have wings and slicks, and I don't have pro-level driving ability. We do have the all-wheel drive and the turbos, though. All the Macan need do, however, was saunter up to the gate and flash its GTS name badge. From then onward, the mountain bowed and allowed us to go about our business.
Jeff Zwart on Point
Being led up Pikes Peak by Jeff Zwart is like learning to tickle the ivories from Chopin. The man knows the mountain, and the mountain the man. It's fair to say he knows a thing or two about Porsches, having owned and raced dozens of them. If there is anyone you want up ahead of you, on this mountain, to show you where to brake, turn-in and apex, it's Jeff. I'm positive that without Jeff, my lack of knowledge of the layout of the mountain will see me killed. Strike a match and light the fuse, we're about to go for a full-tilt run up the most famous hillclimb route in the world.
Non-Professional Driver on a Closed Course
When Porsche told us the road to the top of the mountain was closed off, we were buzzing with excitement. When we finally arrive at the mountain road and saw how steep and winding it was, the threat of death, and the finality that that entails, settled into our consciousness. As afraid as we are of falling to our death, we're equally afraid of bending any precious Porsche sheetmetal. "Just stay where Jeff tells you to go, and you'll be fine", that's the mantra. Repeat it over and over. Live it. Let it be your guide. Halfway up the hill, it's working. We're still alive, perhaps more alive than we've ever been.
The Macan's journey up Pikes Peak with us strapped aboard is much more rapid than we ever figured it might be. Jeff is probably dawdling in his 2002 class-winning GT2, but we're as near to flat-out as we can possibly be. As we rise higher and higher, we gain some confidence in both our talents and the Macan's. The Macan wears all-season tires because our route has us going through very cold and snowy locales today. The tires scream in protest with every corner up the hill. The AWD system definitely helps, and Porsche's PDK transmission takes any guesswork out of selecting the right gear for a corner. With some assistance from Jeff, we actually manage to turn in a respectable mid-14 minute run up the mountain. The park rangers usually tell people to allot an hour to get up the mountain, and we do it in a quarter of that time.
The Macan GTS features more turbo boost than the Macan S, and the lag is slightly more noticeable because of it. Granted, at the top of the mountain, we're running on significantly less power than you would see at sea level, but we never really feel like more is necessary. There's always plenty of acceleration under foot, and even on the all-seasons, the all-wheel drive's grip is impressive. The Porsche exhibits less body roll than expected, for sure less than the Macan S or Turbo we've driven previously, but still more than preferable to have on a fast run up that winding ribbon. We'd really love the ability to take this car back up the same road with stickier tires and the suspension an inch or so lower than stock. Maybe some day.
Coming back down the hill, the road is back open to the public, and we encounter a number of cyclists and the low speed limits of regular life on the mountain. This is a sobering experience, in which both Macan and man have been racing legends for a brief quarter of an hour, and then thrust into the workaday life of 25-mile per hour speed limits. And somehow that's the best way to explain the Macan GTS. In a pinch, this car will outperform a lot of sports cars at a lot of tracks or mountain passes, but can still handle everything else you throw at it, from the stereotyped soccer practice delivery to four-wheel left-foot-brake-induced drifts on your favorite dirt road. The Macan GTS allows you to be as much of a backroad bombing hero as you want to be.