Just come back from Finland where I spent a few days learning how to get the most from a four-wheel drive car.
Which might sounds like an easy thing to do, but as I discovered, requires a re-boot of the old brain.
Porsche runs a series of driver-training courses (available to anyone, not just owners), including three levels for ice and snow driving – Camp4, 4S and Ice Force. And it was the latter that I joined; driving three different Panamera models, each with spiked tyres, on a huge lake near Ivalo.
The two-wheel drive Panamera was predictably entertaining, but not hugely quick, even with the spikes. To get an idea of how much traction you get with four spiked driven wheels - above about 30mph, you could actually feel the extra performance of the Turbo Panamera over the 4S. And that’s on ice.
But as impressively quick as the four-wheel drive cars were, initially I struggled to get on with them. With rear-wheel drive you know where you are, turn-in, get on the power, oversteer, corrective lock, balance it on the throttle. Done.
Not so with four-wheel drive, which goes something like this. Turn-in, power, neutral steering, more power. By which point the car can be in a huge slide, and it is here that you need to re-learn what to do with the steering.
At first I was to keen to apply opposite lock, which as it turns out is the wrong thing to do. Instead you need to apply a little positive lock, little being the key word, and keep your toe-in.
This redistributes more power to the rear and gets the car closer to the apex. Too close and you simply reduce the steering angle. Unless you’ve entirely messed it up, you shouldn’t need to apply armfuls of corrective lock.
Compared to 2wd, the workload for the driver is much less, with smaller steering angles and less throttle modulation (although bigger throttle openings). But the mental effort required to drive a 4wd car quickly is arguably higher and more difficult to master.
If you fancy trying this for yourself, the Porsche courses range form £3,900-£5,500. Which is a lot. But you get three solid days of driving (plus one travel day). It is one car between two, and that includes flights and accommodation. It is also cheaper than experimenting in a snowed over car park could prove if you get it wrong.
We’ll have a video ready later this week.