2020 Porsche Ice Experience: 443 Horsepower on Slick Ice

The Car Guide was recently invited to Circuit Mécaglisse about an hour north of Montreal to put the new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S and Carrera 4S to the test on an icy track.

As you may know, the sports-car manufacturer offers customers the opportunity to take part in advanced driving programs for all skill levels, from beginners (Ice Trial) to experienced drivers (Ice Force+).

Participants must complete and pass certain programs in order to advance to the next ones. For example, successful completion of the Ice Intro program is required to register to the more challenging Ice Experience.

At the time of writing, there were a few spots left for the Ice Trial ($2,895), Ice Intro ($5,695) and Ice Experience ($6,995) programs taking place in February. However, the more advanced Ice Force and Ice Force+ are sold out for 2020.

Photo: Porsche Canada

Weight Transfers

As mentioned above, we tested rear-wheel-drive 911 Carrera S and all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 S models. They were all riding on Nokian winter tires fitted with 1.5-mm studs.

Throughout the day, the Porsche instructors kept telling us that the key to maintain control on a slippery surface is to effectively handle weight transfers during acceleration, braking and cornering manoeuvres.

In low-grip conditions, drivers generally face one of two problems. Either the nose of the car continues to move forward instead of turning (understeer) or the tail starts to spin beyond the intended trajectory (oversteer). Both can happen on any road and lead to a crash if you don’t react properly.

Photo: Porsche Canada

Understeer

When a car seemingly refuses to steer, the front tires must regain traction for you to maintain control. Just release the throttle or apply the brakes, which will transfer weight to the front and give you the traction you want.

If the front wheels are dramatically angled, you need to straighten them out in order to lessen the constraints on the front axle. So, the next time you’re in a car that understeers, remember to avoid sharp steering manoeuvres if you want to get out of trouble as efficiently as possible.

Oversteer

When accelerating too hard or entering a slippery corner with too much speed, it is possible the car will spin around. The solution is countersteering.

By turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of where you want to go, the rear tires will regain traction and the car will quickly return to the intended trajectory. However, you must not completely let go of the throttle to avoid taking too much weight off the rear axle.

Under the guidance of the Porsche instructors, participants can correct their mistakes and hone their skills.

Driving a Porsche on Ice

I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. Of course, the more delicate of the two Porsche 911 models on hand was the standard Carrera S. It handled beautifully when all the electronic assist features were activated. However, as soon as stability control was turned off, the car became much more vulnerable to oversteer.

In situations where you start to go sideways, quick and calculated countersteering is vital to maintain control.

The Carrera 4S is an entirely different beast. While it retains a rear-wheel bias, this AWD model takes full advantage of the two extra drive wheels to make life easier for the driver. The car displayed impressive poise and serenity on slick ice and remained easy to control even when the nannies took a break. It proved a lot more forgiving, as well.

There is no doubt in my mind that a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S equipped with good winter tires can be driven and enjoyed 365 days a year in Canada.

Queens of Drifting

While learning to become a better, safer driver is nice, the Porsche Ice Experience is also an opportunity to have fun in a controlled environment. If you’d love to drift like a pro, there is nothing like slick ice to teach you how.

After hammering the throttle to induce a spin, you need to modulate the pedal and carefully turn the steering wheel in order to keep drifting without losing control.

As the car drifts, just turn the front wheels a little bit more in the direction of the turn to amp things up or in the other direction for the opposite effect. You need to steer sharply and go smooth on the gas. Also, keep your eyes on where you want to go at all times.

Drifting is not an easy task to master, but it provides some unique thrills. In a way, it’s a bit like a tightrope artist carefully balancing their body and keeping their eyes up as they walk back and forth.

One thing is for sure: after participating in the Porsche Ice Experience, you will feel much more comfortable behind the wheel whether you own a Porsche or not.

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