The Road To Per­fec­tion

Whether in ex­treme cli­mates across the world or trav­el­ling be­tween Weis­sach and Lud­wigs­burg, new Porsche ve­hi­cles cover many mil­lions of kilo­me­tres be­fore pro­duc­tion starts

Golf Asia - - LUXE AUTOS -

When Porsche em­ploy­ees from the Qual­ity/test­ing De­part­ment pack their suit­cases, they are head­ing some­where where it’s go­ing to be painful at best and the con­di­tions have to be ex­treme. Ex­treme heat, from dry con­di­tions to trop­i­cal hu­mid­ity. Ex­treme cold, from bit­ing con­di­tions to per­va­sive damp, and all con­ceiv­able tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents and air mois­ture lev­els in be­tween. And for th­ese test drives, roads are not nec­es­sar­ily a given. Ul­ti­mately, the ve­hi­cles need to be put through their paces be­fore they go into se­ries pro­duc­tion so that no de­fects sub­se­quently come to light.

One of the testers is Alex Ernst, Head of Sports Car Test­ing. "Ev­ery pro­to­type ex­pe­ri­ences each sea­son twice,” he ex­plains. The ve­hi­cles, which are pre­pared in the Weis­sach workshops in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the rel­e­vant de­part­ments, un­dergo thor­ough test­ing dur­ing their first tour through the cli­mate zones. Round two of the round-the-world trip is about en­sur­ing that "ev­ery­thing works per­fectly", as Ernst ex­plains. Then, it is usu­ally just a mat­ter of clar­i­fy­ing de­tails be­fore se­ries pro­duc­tion starts. To kick things off, the test drivers load up an en­tire jumbo jet, with 911s next to Panam­eras, Boxsters and Cayennes. As a rule, there are ten ve­hi­cles per se­ries on board.

Teams of 20 to 25 em­ploy­ees per se­ries, taken from all devel­op­ment de­part­ments, travel on be­hind, to­gether with the project man­agers. Once on the ground, the

ve­hi­cles cover around 800 kilo­me­tres each day, over two and a half weeks, mak­ing for an endurance test for man and ma­chine.

The daily rou­tine is well struc­tured, wake up at six, per­haps some form of ex­er­cise, break­fast at seven and leave at eight. Then, in the evening, ev­ery­one heads back to the ho­tel for a re­view meet­ing, which can last for hours. "The meet­ings with the en­tire team in one room are es­sen­tial. This is where the most pro­duc­tive de­ci­sions are taken," em­pha­sises Ernst. Do the drivers' im­pres­sions tally? How do par­tic­u­lar drivers as­sess the tyres' rolling char­ac­ter­is­tics? The hard­ness of the chas­sis? Is ev­ery­one hear­ing the same noises? Is the seat shape com­fort­able for all body shapes, even over long periods? For the last three days, the devel­op­ment team, in­clud­ing Chief Devel­op­ment Of­fi­cer Michael Steiner, has come along for the ride to ex­change views with the team.

In­ci­den­tally, pre­par­ing for a trip like this isn't just about the ve­hi­cles. The ho­tels, for ex­am­ple, are se­lected ac­cord­ing to a par­tic­u­lar cri­te­rion, "They are not al­lowed to dis­close that we are among their guests," em­pha­sises Ernst. He is also

re­spon­si­ble for "dis­guise and se­crecy". This in­cludes, among other things, neu­tral cloth­ing, no Porsche lo­gos grace the car testers' clothes. Dis­guis­ing the ve­hi­cles is a more dif­fi­cult task. Dis­creet un­der­ground park­ing spa­ces are of­ten scarce, es­pe­cially in the desert re­gions of the USA. In such cases, the ve­hi­cles are cov­ered with grey tar­pau­lin. The same ap­plies if the ve­hi­cles start to at­tract too much at­ten­tion for what­ever rea­son.

There's just one thing miss­ing, "An anti-cycli­cal win­ter," ex­plains Ernst. If it's sum­mer in the north­ern hemi­sphere, win­ter will of­fi­cially dom­i­nate the south­ern hemi­sphere. But this sim­ply doesn't com­pare with the frost of North­ern Canada or Fin­land. "We were in Chile," re­ports Ernst. "Al­though our peo­ple were frozen from the cold wind, the ve­hi­cles were not fazed by tem­per­a­tures of six de­grees be­low zero." The warm sea­son makes things much eas­ier for the testers. Just like the North Amer­i­can sum­mer, the South African sum­mer de­liv­ers ex­actly what it prom­ises: heat. And ex­treme heat at that.

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