Road Tripping a Sports Car?
When I was younger, I’d read in car magazines about how uncomfortable sports cars and supercars can be on a road trip. As I have gotten older it’s made more and more sense. In fact, a couple of years ago I made the 1500-mile roundtrip from Orem, UT to my hometown of Tucson, AZ in my stock 2013 Subaru BRZ and it was a miserable experience. By the time I had reached Flagstaff, I was uncomfortable, primarily because of the seats and somewhat harsh ride of the car. Being 6’3” and all leg gives me some travel challenges as it is but I find that my thighs rub the side bolsters in many cars and that gets uncomfortable over time. When I bought my 2000 Porsche 911, I was curious to see what a more refined car, albeit 20 years old, would be like on the same trip. So, I packed up the car, grabbed the dog (Otis), and off we went.
But first, let’s talk about the car. In July of 2018, I bought a high miles Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Millennium Edition. The Millennium Edition cars are quite rare with only 911 built (I wonder where they got that number from…), mine is number 196. They all were painted a unique Violet Chromaflair that usually looks black but depending on the light it can also look a deep purple, green, or even brown and was only available on this special edition. The interior is bathed in a lovely “Natural Brown” leather everywhere and features some wood trim pieces on the doors, shift knob, parking brake, and steering wheel, most of which I have replaced with black and the edition came with most of the available options as standard. The car had 146,000 miles on it at the time of purchase and needed some worn out bits replaced but the drivetrain was in great, working order. And before you ask, the IMS bearing is the original. The struts were shot so they were replaced with some fairly stiff H&R RSS Clubsport coilovers. Other basic mods include a K&N cold air intake and Fabspeed muffler bypass pipes (muffler deletes), a combination that gives the car the induction noise you expect from a 911 and a loud shriek when you put your foot down. Power comes from a 3.4L flat 6 and was rated at 301 hp but with my mild mods should bump it up to somewhere between 320-340 if you believe the claims and it is put to the ground through a 6-speed manual and all-wheel drive. At some point in its life, the GT3 aerokit was installed and I have 996.1 GT3 wheels on the car which means I regularly get asked if it is a GT3 and I’m ok with that.
It was the middle of February and knowing that I’d be driving to warmer weather, I took the Nokian Hakkapeliitta winter tires off and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on and we set off the next morning. The first stretch of the drive was pretty uneventful and just cruising down I15. It isn’t until we took the exit for SR20 that things get interesting. It is a 20-mile mountain pass that connects I15 and US89. The car performs admirably. With Otis in the car I don’t go too nuts through here but the twists and turns of the road offer a much-needed break from the long straights of the freeway.
Following US89 somewhere between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ the odometer passes over 170,000 miles and continues to climb. At this point, it is warm enough that I have the sunroof full open and the windows cracked. The exhaust drone isn’t nearly as bad as I would have expected, although I may have a higher tolerance to it than most. Otis goes back and forth between sitting on the passenger seat, laying on my lap, or being a typical dog and hanging his head out of the window. By the time I roll into Phoenix, my butt is starting to feel it but surprisingly, the car has been far more comfortable than I imagined it would be given the loud exhaust and stiff suspension. The only thing that has actually made it uncomfortable is having Otis on my lap for extended periods of time. He only weighs about 19lbs but the way he lays on me gets old. Fortunately, we miss most of rush hour traffic in Phoenix and we make it on through to Tucson as the sun is setting averaging 24 mpg on the drive down. Not bad for a sports car.
The whole point of this trip was to visit family and friends but to also show off the car that most of them had only seen pictures of on social media. I let my dad drive it and afterwards he said, “I could get used to that.” My 14-year-old sister and I went on a dinner date to In N Out in the car. But the best moment of the trip is one I will never forget. My grandfather had been battling cancer for quite a while at this point and he wasn’t doing too good. It was he who gave me my first camera so many years ago, he who gave me my first DSLR and without his and my grandmother’s support, I wouldn’t be in a position where I can write this for the world to see. I took him for a ride in the car. He had never been in something this fast before and he was completely blown away by it. My mom and grandmother said they hadn’t seen him smile like that in a very long time. He sadly passed away a few weeks later.
Driving the car around my hometown was an interesting experience. The temperatures were perfect for windows down, sunroof open motoring but it was actually here that the car truly felt rough for the first time. The roads around Tucson aren’t the greatest, being full of tar snakes, cracks, and bumps that really jar the car around. It’s also a town that doesn’t see a lot of high-end cars around, sure, they are there, but they are a rare sight, so the car gets a lot of looks! Before Otis and I headed home, we stopped in Phoenix to catch a Spring Training game and to visit a fellow Porsche friend.
The trip home was mostly uneventful. The dog and I stopped at the Wahweap Overlook at Lake Powell. I have never seen the car look so green before! Perhaps the red rock of the area contributed to that. We carried on and less than an hour later had a run in with Utah Highway Patrol. I can’t seem to make this drive without getting pulled over somewhere between Flagstaff, AZ and Beaver, UT. The result was an 11 over speeding ticket. The officer was friendly, liked the car, liked the dog, he just didn’t like my speed. We took it easy the rest of the journey home. Even as we went back through SR20 but that was mostly because the temps had dropped to 21º F and I’m on summer rubber. Even so, watching the sunset through that area of the world was beautiful.
A few hours later and my butt is getting sore again but we make it home averaging a decent 22.9 mpg for the entire trip. I am truly amazed at the versatility of this car even with the modifications I have done to the car. Despite its loud and stiff ride, there was at no point of the trip that I was truly uncomfortable. So, road tripping a borderline supercar? In this case, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was led to believe.