Fortunately, our drive is fun. While others have tried to penetrate the Outback with everything from camels to canoes (an 1844 expedition in search of an inland sea), our rides are prototypes of the Porsche Cayenne. We're with the engineers charged with making sure that, while this vehicle is a true SUV, with all the off-pavement abilities needed to survive the Outback. It also needs to excel, accelerate, stop, and turn on pavement like a Porsche.
We're on the Ultimate Car Guy's Adventure Tour. "People pay for visiting such places, and they would pay to drive such a nice car," says Juergen Kern, a more than 20-year Porsche veteran and co-leader of this test team. "We really do enjoy this job."
What's not to like? Kern enjoys his job, but Michael Pfeifer is the proverbial kid in the candy store. He remembers the day he first heard a neighbor's 911. "I want to drive a Porsche," Pfeifer told his mother. "You are a crazy boy," his mother replied.
Crazy boy has grown up to become a Porsche engineer developing Porsche Stability Management for the Cayenne, a complicated task because the technology must interface with center differentials and adjustable air suspension and work on and off pavement. We're well into the second day of our drive when Pfeifer casually announces that, "we're going to do a lane change."
"Usually we do this on the test track at Weissach," he adds, explaining that, "it's not good to do on the normal road." A normal road has normal traffic. In the Outback, normal traffic is an oncoming vehicle maybe once every half hour.
Still, that oncoming traffic might be a "road train," an Australian aberration that has one semi-tractor pulling as many as four trailers. All the vehicles in our caravan have two-way radios, and Pfeifer checks with the lead car to make sure the road is clear. Then, without relaxing the pressure his right foot applies to the gas pedal, he turns our Cayenne abruptly into the adjacent lane and darts back to our original lane. Immediately he repeats the process. Everything and everyone stay nicely composed.