A friend’s friend came by the other day with his new car—a 2010 Panamera Turbo. This is the fastest of the new four-seaters that Porsche has just introduced, and I was invited to take a ride in it and then to try it out. I’ll describe what it was like in a second to fly in a car that can go 188 mph and reach 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. First get a sense of the sound right here:

Can you smell the burning rubber? Can you hear my heart racing and how hard I might have been breathing? Driving cars isn’t as strenuous as playing tennis or lifting weights, but it’s a sport that can really take your breath away.

Porsche Panamera Turbo

OK, so on a windy road near my house two weeks ago, where the curves are sharp enough to have signs ordering you to slow down to 30 mph, we drove over 60 in my new friend’s Panamera. It was beautiful. Handled so well. All the fast sport cars I have driven are classics from 1960 to 1988. This Porsche is a 2010 model that has all the latest technology. A dream. And not only do you have confidence that it won’t break down—a rarity in the old cars—you know it has many built in safety features designed to prevent you from killing yourself.

sleek lines for a four-passenger car

Then we stopped, and the driver told me I had to take the wheel. He wanted me to enjoy the experience. I hesitated. He insisted. I think I was nervous about damaging his car. I’m glad he pushed me. So we changed seats, and I drove those turns at 70 or 80. It was easy, a summer breeze. Our third friend was in the back seat being thrown left and right as I got the hang of it. I felt better that I wasn’t going to crash.

Finally I was told about Launch Control, a special feature that allows you the thrill of a superfast start: zero to 60 in just 3.8 seconds. 500 HP at 5500 rpm. It’s astonishing what a difference cutting two or three seconds to get to 60 can feel like. Yes, yes, I know. You’ve heard it all before. It’s like being on the nose of a rocket taking off, the tip of a bullet just fired, an amusement park ride that throws you backwards. In fact it reminded me as well of being on a swing when I was a kid, when you lean way back, close your eyes, and are pulled down towards the ground, while your stomach feels as though it stayed up in the sky. You’re not quite nauseous, but it’s scary, like you’re disoriented and in free fall, and about to die, but believing you could make it through to survival.

Of course you have to stay on the road the whole time, eyes wide open, picturing those guys in jet fighters who have their skin stretched back on their faces, feeling the force of all those gravity “G’s.” It was exhilarating. Thrilling. Seconds of fear and finality. I loved it. Both passengers did too, describing the same high, although each had been there before me. I sure appreciate my friend’s courage in letting me drive his car. Very generous.

[Check out this video to get a slight sense of what I experienced. (When you reach the screen this link takes you to, go down to the acceleration line (0-60), click on the link to the Sport Chrono Turbo Package, and then play the video starting at around 1:36)]

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