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6 Days, 2,200 kilometres, 1 Purpose - Drive.

Drive Of The Year 2019 - PCM & PCS, Traversing Peninsular Malaysia.

Like the countless and amazing bio-diversity of Southeast Asia, Malaysia have some of the nicest scenic roads in this part of the world - a result of the country's bio-diversity itself. Coastal asphalt lined up against the backdrop of glistening turquoise waters, hilly B roads which runs deep into the green tropical lushness of the rainforests and heritage towns, small rural villages abuzz with activities reminding us of how it used to be - these were just some of the mental visualisation which crossed my mind when presented with the pitch one late February evening over WhatsApp. And if that wasn't enough to entice, the icing on the cake was to journey the entire 2,200 kilometres of Peninsular Malaysia in 2 Porsches courtesy of Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP), together with an entourage of 42 other Porsche owners from Porsche Club Malaysia (PCM) and Porsche Club Singapore (PCS). On these reasons alone, who could've justified themselves not participating in an automotive soul feast like this? This PCM/PCS Drive Of The Year (DOTY) 2019 collaboration was made possible with the coming together of PCM, PCS, SDAP, Shell Malaysia, Enya Mareine and ODR WrapXpert. 

Porsche Centre Sungai Besi - Seremban R&R (Shell) - Machap R&R (Shell) - RWB Factory, Johor - Shell Station Taman Perling, Johor - Puteri Harbour, Johor - 365 km

Day 1, which was on Sunday, began with freshly brewed coffee and the local breakfast of choice, nasi lemak bungkus, courtesy of Porsche Centre Sungai Besi, as new and also familiar faces with their Porsches arrived. Within minutes, Porsche Centre Sungai Besi was like an assortment of M&Ms that very morning.

In the interim before the main drive briefing, Winston and Jessica briefed us on what the 4 media representatives will be driving throughout the journey. On a rotational basis, the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo and the Porsche Cayenne both in Rhodium Silver were the vehicles of SDAP's choice. After a brief understanding and arrangement with my fellow media colleagues, Amirul and myself were to have the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo for the first half of the week, swapping with the Porsche Cayenne at the second half of the week. All these time, we were constantly reminded to drive at our own pace, and not to bother pushing our cars in keeping up with the GT cars and 911s.

Dato' Derrick Lim, President of PCM, together with the PCM DOTY 2019 organising committee consisting of Chace Leow, Harvey Lim, Jason Low and Yvonne Oon, soon enough gave a drive briefing to participants before the photo session and official flag-off.

The Panamera 4 Sport Turismo and the Cayenne were to be in Group D, but we pushed out later, separated from the convoy, and this was because there was a last minute request from a prospect to view/drive the Porsche Cayenne. In total, we pushed out about half an hour later, but we have managed to catch up with the main convoy at the Seremban R&R Shell refuel stop, closing the gap. We were told that we arrived not long after the main convoy arrived (I shall keep mum over our travel speeds). Here, we were warmly greeted by Shell Malaysia's management team - En. Shairan Huzani Husain, Managing Director of Shell Malaysia Trading Sdn. Bhd. and Ms. Chung Ai Kee, Head of Retail Marketing of Shell Malaysia Trading Sdn. Bhd. Being one of the main sponsors for this DOTY, we were provided for generously with fuel and refreshments throughout the journey. 

This Day 1 leg of the 2,200 kms journey, which clocked in a total of 365 kms was to me, a "normal" drive. Nothing out of the ordinary for which the Sports Wagon's 3.0-litre V6 turbocharged power-plant couldn't take on driving along southbound on the North-South Expressway. There were however one or two other German instigators though who underestimated this huge looking soccer mom's wagon and whom later regretted cowering away with their tails between their legs. Even in auto mode, the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo still pulls away smoothly and effortlessly thanks to the pairing of the power-plant with the 8 speed PDK gearbox. 

After what seemed slightly below 3/4 tank, we found ourselves once again at a Shell refuelling stop at Machap R&R. Fuel consumption in my opinion was on average with paper figures hovering around 7.6 to 7.5 litres per 100 kms combined considering the amount of "fun" factor involved when the pedal is to the metal. Also, the big fuel tank capacity (90 litres) might have a role to play psychologically – in most cars, the reading would be below the half tank mark by now. Here at Machap R&R after refuelling, I took the opportunity to swap places with Amirul, as it was his time to take the reins in getting us to the RWB factory, 80 kms from where we were, further ending Day 1's journey at Puteri Harbour close to 7pm. 

Puteri Harbour, Johor - Shell Station Jemaluang, Johor - Kuala Rompin, Pahang - Shell Station Balok, Pahang - Shell Station Bukit Besi, Terengganu - Tanjung Jara, Terengganu - 509 km

Day 1 ended late for me (03:00) and Day 2 started early (07:00) no thanks to an unrelated assignment I had due. Day 2 was also the longest leg of the entire journey, covering a total of 509 kms. I was rather afraid sleepiness and tiredness would kick in full swing during this leg, hence Amirul took the wheel during the first half of the leg. It actually turned out to be the right decision as an urgent call came in just before midday requiring me to work on the laptop whilst on the go. 

Perhaps it was the drive adrenaline pumping being amidst Stuttgart's finest, or perhaps it was the comfort levels of the Panamera 4 Sport Turimo, which made driving a tireless affair the day before. Regardless, I was actually alert and fresh and was rather surprised (however this did not stop me from fiddling with the massage functions which did provide further muscle relief). Day 2 was the day where coastal B roads were used mostly, and I was expecting a drive filled with body rolls from the huge Panamera. Truth be told, I was expecting the aftermath of motion sickness, more so when that urgent call came in right after the Shell Station refuelling stop at Mersing, which had required me to work on a laptop – in a car – on B roads – with Amirul's "spirited" driving to keep in convoy, occasionally pressing the Sport Response button (not that it was actually required). 38 kms after, upon reaching Kuala Rompin for lunch, I was amazed and surprised even, that I did not felt dizzy or even throw up after that episode. This was an actual testament to the ride quality of the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, which was undoubtedly composed, yet barely bone-breaking stiff. The engineers at Porsche deserve a thumb's up. 

After lunch, I decided to drive the Kuala Rompin to Bukit Besi, Terengganu leg totalling 258 kms. That feeling when work is finally delivered, it was a blissful feeling of freedom and my decision to drive the remaining B roads - that was a conscious decision to amplify that feeling of freedom. Short twist and turns, long sweeping turns, uphill and downhill the Panamera 4 Sports Turismo traversed these roads gliding through gracefully with ease like a ballet dancer would on a dance floor. At times, it was surreal to have a 2 tonne vehicle move like it did. It was the culmination of German engineering and technology – the all wheel drive system, the PDK, the brakes, the engine all working in unison to provide this driving thrill. Power delivery from the 3.0 V6 turbocharged engine was instant, yet smooth dishing out the 330 hp and 450 Nm of torque as though it was a naturally aspirated vehicle. Downshifts and upshifts were instantaneous, popping away at every gear change amplified by the sports exhaust. This makes for easy overtaking manoeuvres further keeping up with the convoy consisting of 718 Cayman, 911 Turbos as well as a 911 (997.1) GT3 RS amongst others. As they say, you don't have to go all out testing on the roads – and what has been described and felt so far, was only in Sports mode. Yes, I didn't even have to switch to the ultimate Sports + mode to have fun. The experience is one to remember for the many years to come. Poised and precise – these are the two words which best describes the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. It is an all rounder – suited for city, highways and B roads. Now I can only wonder what the Panamera Turbo feels like. 

From Bukit Besi in Terengganu, Amirul took over the wheel for the remaining 35 kms to Tanjung Jara Resort. An interesting point to note was that we had the Cayenne close in the rear view mirror all the way from the start, occasionally being ahead of us. This stirred our curiosity the entire drive since Day 1, a curiosity that was satiated the very next day. 

Tanjung Jara, Terengganu - Shell Station Marang, Terengganu - Shell Station Jerteh, Terengganu - Granny's Restaurant Jerteh, Terengganu - Belum Rainforest Gerik, Perak - 356 km

Day 3 of the DOTY took us on more B road routes, and this time around, smoother roads – roads less travelled, leading deep into areas rural enough to have animal crossing sign boards every half a kilometre. Today Amirul and myself swapped the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo for the Cayenne – base model. I took to the wheel first covering the leg from Tanjung Jara Resort Terengganu to the Shell Station in Jerteh, which spans 183 kms. In the beginning, we cruised through towns by South China Sea, taking our time to savour the scenic moments. This included the view from behind the Panamera, which truth be told, is rather nice and it definitely grows on you. This brought me back to the design era of the Porsche 928, which I found out was the predecessor to the Panamera range. This was an era that I grew up with having Martini Racing 928s as toys. 

Occasionally, during this stretch of road, there were short sprints in overtaking slow traffic on dual direction roads. Save for the lack of grunting coming from the Cayenne's exhaust, this mammoth of an SUV (in the eyes of the general population) is actually under-rated. Power delivery is from the Cayenne is almost similar to that of the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, instant and smooth with 340 hp and 450 Nm of maximum torque, and what that meant was that this mammoth moves like the wind. It was no wonder that we kept seeing this Rhodium Silver Cayenne in the rear view mirror of the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. Though a mammoth, we have also found that the Cayenne wasn't clumsy, and again, credits goes out to its adaptive air suspension taking us through corners and turns precisely and with ease. Actually with its weight and high centre of gravity being a SUV, the Cayenne surprisingly felt more planted and stiffer when going into corners compared to the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. Such are the wonders of Stuttgart's "magical" designers and engineers. 

And with a blink of an eye, we have arrived at the Jerteh Shell Station for yet another refuel ling stop where Amirul then took to the wheel for the rest of the journey – stopping by for lunch at Granny's Restaurant where they served authentic local Terengganu food, before continuing to Belum Resort. Time passes on really quickly when there is fun and that was the case, where as a passenger I got to savour the scenic ambiance of greens while experiencing the thrill of spirited driving being ferried in the Cayenne. To keep up with a Cayenne is more technical compared to keeping up with a quick GT car – and that's where the joy and thrill lies. 

Belum Rainforest Gerik, Perak - Shell Station Gerik, Perak - Pengkalan Hulu, Perak - Shell Station Changlun, Kedah - Hai Thien Seafood Restaurant, Perlis - Gurun R&R (Shell) - Golden Sands Resort, Penang - 467 km

Day 4's highlight was the first leg of the drive, from Belum to Changlun. There was a last minute decision to swap driving partners, and I found myself back in the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo as a passenger being driven by Keshy. At one point, the most interesting event, was Group A passing by our convoy in the rural areas before Changlun. It was actually a perfect picture opportunity, but it was too quick and too sudden for me to have pulled out my camera. The leader of the pack in a GT2 RS was airborne with its rear right wheel in air and was followed closely by another GT2 RS no more than 3 feet apart – it was a moment similar to that of rally stages where cars goes airborne, except that in this case, it was a road/track car. This reminded me of the hardiness of Porsche vehicles versus certain marques noted for their "lady like mood swings". 

I took over the wheel of the Panamera after a heavy lunch at Hai Thien Seafood Restaurant by the sea in Perlis, where the journey to me was a "casual" highway run to Golden Sands Resort in Penang, arriving in the evening. 

Golden Sands Resort, Penang - Porsche Centre Penang - Porsche Pop Up Store Gurney Paragon, Penang - Golden Sands Resort, Penang - Balik Pulau, Penang - Golden Sands Resort, Penang - 124 km

Day 5 was more of a free and easy day where the 4 main activities which took place were the visit to Porsche Centre Penang, the visit to Porsche's First Pop Up Store in Gurney Paragon, Penang, our own photo shoot session with the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo and the Cayenne and the Porsche Club Gala Dinner during the night. 

The visit to Porsche Centre Penang was more of a wash down of the vehicles, preparing them for the photo shoot. It did take quite a while at the Centre as we did shoot away earlier than planned. We then headed to the Porsche Centre Pop Up Store in Gurney Paragon, and we were briefed that this is the first and a new initiative in making Porsche accessible within the city of George Town for greater customer convenience. With the aim to offer unparalleled level of customer experience, Porsche customers and enthusiasts will be able to savour extraordinary Porsche-related reading materials while sipping gourmet coffee, giving them luxurious comfort and modern conveniences during their visit. Here is also where test drives can be arranged from the comfort and convenience of the pop-up store through a prior appointment with Porsche Centre Penang. The Porsche Driver's Selection apparel and accessories are also available at the pop-up store, which further adds to the lifestyle aspect of the pop-up store. 

We had lunch at Gurney Paragon after the vi sit, further adjourning to Balik Pulau for the planned photo shoot that ended in the late evening. We then quickly freshened up after returning to attend the Porsche Club Malaysia & Porsche Club Singapore's DOTY 2019 Gala Dinner. With laughter, games, camaraderie and a surprise fireworks display, this marked a successful Drive Of The Year 2019. 

Golden Sands Resort, Penang - Taiping Lake Gardens, Perak - Tandoor Grill Ipoh, Perak - Porsche Centre Glenmarie - 385 km

The final day we started our journey early to have a final photo shoot with the cars in Taiping Lake Gardens. A random turn led us to an abandoned inn, which was the perfect setting for a photo shoot. We spent about half an hour getting our final shots before heading to Ipoh for lunch. The journey continued, and we were rather quick. Upon reaching what seemed to be the Selangor border, it started to pour. Both the Porsches were advantageous where the all wheel drive system provided for more surface traction. It was such sweet sorrow, upon handing the cars back. The Panamera 4 Sport Turismo has spurred on my curiosity towards the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. But suffice to say that I'd be contented with the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. And if ever funds starts flowing in a plenty, I wouldn't think twice. The Panamera 4 Sport Turismo starts from RM 990,000 with Standard Equipment, while the Cayenne starts from RM 795,000 with Standard Equipment.