17
Jan-2017

Gorges du Verdon in a Porsche 718 Cayman

After a failed sunrise drive up to the summit of Mont Ventoux it was time to do a change of plans. My first idea was to stay a night in the area (because two sunrise drives are better than one, right?). However because the road was closed I decided to start the drive back instead through Verdon Natural Regional Park. See how far I get before I get too tired to continue, then look up some hotel in the area.

Well, I did not get tired it seems like. Trip computer shows a day with 716.8 km spent in the driver’s seat of a Porsche 718 Cayman. About 12 hours, although that also includes some time when the car was turned on but stationary (photo shoots) I suppose. Yes mother, I did take breaks too. Forgive me Porsche for being unable to stop driving your cars. Hopefully you take it as what it is intended to be – a compliment – and not as an attempt to try to suck the spirit out of your cars. I can confirm the car was fantastic from about four in the morning to late afternoon. So fantastic I did not want to get out of it. I am telling you that you have done a good job.

Driving these distances might seem absurd to some people but I have done this kind of driving a lot, and that is probably why I find it hard to take anyone else than the dog with me on my trips. There are few people out there who would want to spend that many hours in a car, but driving to me is like an addiction. Sometimes you need to learn to stop in time, especially on long highway drives where it is too easy to lose focus if you are just on a long straight for hours. But if you are on curvy roads where you get to enjoy the car, and what you do is really driving and not cruising, it is just the best feeling in the world. “Just a little more, then I go home…”

You forget about the time when you are having fun.

Porsche 718 Cayman - Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

I have been to Verdon Natural Regional Park, the location of Gorges du Verdon, before. In 2014 for a work trip, and once to test another route. There are several good roads in this area – D952 and D957 are both great driving roads. D71 has incredible views from the top, but the road is almost one lane from start to finish, so if you drive it on a busy day it is difficult to avoid a few “my heart just skipped a few beats that was close”- moments. An early summer morning? Probably stunning.

Porsche 718 Cayman - Gorges du Verdon

Born in 1997, le Verdon Natural Regional Park protects and enhances 180 000 ha near the river from Saint-André-les-Alpes to Vinon-sur-Verdon. Astride both the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Var, this is a land of contrasts. From the calm horizontal expanse of the Valensole plateau you go to the abrupt vertical cliffs of the famous Gorges, and the peaceful stretches of the great lakes of Castillon, Sainte-Croix, Esparron, Quinson, where the Alps begin.Les Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

This day I took D6 and D952 in to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, also known as one of the “most beautiful villages in France”, where I stopped for a break. It is a one-way road through this small commune with about 700 residents, and you can enter with any type of car. The parking you find up there (right after the village to the right) is also supercar friendly but not that big, so it might be a challenge to find a free parking space during peak season. From there I continued on D952 up to the road that runs along the gorge. There is a stunning view down from up there, although I think this landscape is a lot more beautiful with more vibrant colours summertime – or with snow. The upside about driving it low season is that the roads have a lot less traffic – road is narrow, so you appreciate it more if it is empty. The downside is that it is so quiet that the mountain goats think they own the road, and you would not want to hit one of those…

Verdon mountain goats

 

The reason for wanting to return to Verdon for a drive was that I wanted to see if there would be snow late December – a yellow Porsche 718 Cayman in winter landscape would just work. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse official movie, that you can watch above, is filmed there. Breathtaking. I was hoping to see Verdon looking similar to this, and to have at least a little snow up there. I do not know what time of the year the Bugatti video was filmed, but either late December is too early, or the weather has just been exceptionally warm this year. Tempted to return next month for a new try…

This drive was a day when I woke up before sunrise and I got back home when the sun was going down. A good car to me is one you can sometimes do these extreme days with. One that is reliable enough to take you through the day even if you are running it almost non-stop. One that is fun enough that even after more than ten hours behind the steering wheel you still enjoy those last curves en route to your final destination – because you would not want to miss out. And one that despite the fact you spent 12 hours in it the day before you can not resist it the next day, and take it out for another drive. Because you enjoy being in it.

Because good cars never make you want to stop driving.

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  • Love your posts and photos. Makes me want to go out and drive. All day road trips with amazing cars and scenery are what it is all about. Most people don’t seem to understand that. Tho I tend to leave the dog(s) home… :) One of these days I will get to Europe for a road trip, though California isn’t bad either.

    Serious question now that you have had seat time behind both the 981gts and 718s. Preference? Just curious. I still love my 981S but test drove a 718 a few times now. Sadly neither time did the 718 have a sport exhaust, and while I felt the steering rack and power was really good the first time, I noticed it less the second. In addition I still prefer some of the styling and exhaust note of the 981 even the older navi vs. apple car play etc…

    Anyhow great photos… that first shot under the rock overhang is epic. You’re making me go update my blog retroactively now.

    • Sara Näse says:

      Thank you… That is good feedback, “makes me want to go out and drive”! ;-) I have never been to California! Want to combine California & Pikes Peak in one trip, problem is I have a route plan and it is ridiculous (…) so I do not even know if two weeks would be enough, haha. Have to see when there is time&money to do such long trip outside Europe, requires more planning and obviously a lot higher budget than what I spend on my trips in Europe :-)

      I prefer the 981 (S/GTS) over the 718. Mainly because of the sound, the 718 is nice to drive so it has nothing to do with that, and I personally have nothing against turbocharged engines either (but in Porsches naturally aspirated sadly often sounds better…). The sports exhaust improves the sound quite a lot on the 718, on standard non-S model at least, so if you did not drive & hear one with PSE yet you should. The 718 Boxster S I test drove did not have sport exhaust (but I think the S with sports exhaust will be the best combo – there is only a limited amount of sound you can pump out from this car, but S + PSE should deliver the highest volume, haha). But it’s not just the volume, again I went after this drive back to listen to the 981 GTS GoPro footage and I just like that sound more. I think the 718 is a little monotone, you know with the 981 things start to happen when you hit higher rpm:s but you reeally have to push the 718 quite a lot to get anything near that. In a few tunnels I was pleasantly surprised a few times, but that’s about it…

      It is such a good car to drive though, so for anyone who does not care about what the car sounds like and just cares about how it drives – 718 is a good buy I think (one of the best sports cars you can buy, same as it was with the 981 – in my opinion – and I have driven many Porsche rivals like Lotus, 4C etc and still think my personal favourites come from Porsche). Really convenient for daily use, really fun for mountain roads. Low end torque is great, with the 718 Boxster S that I drove in Finland I did not yet even notice all the potential this new engine has. But when you get up in the mountains you will feel the 718 goes quicker out of corners with less effort, and this was the non-S, so I imagine the S would be a bit better. Love the new headlights, and overall styling is great also. But damn it the sound… It would be a compromise to buy one, I would not get everything I am looking for in my dream car, and with this price tag I think I should get everything I want. I don’t think I can live without a good soundtrack, personally… I don’t like to keep the radio on ;-)

  • Deniss Fedotovs says:

    Love the first pic too. Looks like a roadtrip with more emotions after than text and pics :)

    • Sara Näse says:

      Thanks! :-) Did you spot the small one in the passenger side mirror… Haha ;-) Sadly this drive through Verdon was not as picture perfect as I would have hoped, cloudy weather…

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  • Replying to your comment about the “ridiculous” route planned for cali and pikes peak… would it by any chance in involve Big Sur, Yellow Stone National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon then the last part of route 66 back towards LA and maybe a divert to Joshua Tree National Park?

    • Sara Näse says:

      Ah, my map… 6,314 km it says and that would not be enough to cover the whole trip, because Google Maps does not let me add more stops so I use another software for planning (I have a lot more scenic mountain roads in a list, so the final route would definitely be longer…). I will add your stops and see what distance I end up with, lol… ;-) https://goo.gl/maps/FtEG3JAM35Q2

  • Ok then your 718 experience sounds similar to mine. I liked the torque and it really is a great car but not enough to offset the sound for me to make me switch. There’s something about the flat 6.

    Good luck on that US trip. I live here in San Francisco area and there’s tons of that I haven’t even done yet and want to. I would also suggest coming up Highway 1 and Big Sur between L.A. and Monterey on the way to S.F. Less about speed more about the ocean though. And stops in Utah at Zion National Park (still haven’t done that), or driving through Yosemite, etc… less Highway, more side roads. At least it is not raining here this coming weekend….

    • Sara Näse says:

      It would be cool to combine the US road trip with Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August… With the thought that if you pay for flight tickets there you might as well try to see as much as possible in one trip ;-) But Pikes Peak is a long drive from California, ah need to look at my map again and see if there is anything I can leave out haha… To make it a little shorter and a little more realistic.

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