Road Trip

Deliciously drivable Snake Pass is England's Hell's Canyon Road

Snake Pass is one of England's most beloved driving roads.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Britain's Snake Pass takes you though some of England's most scenic topography, curving in and out of the Derbyshire region of the Peak District. The weather there isn't always favorable - it's frequently closed due to snow or flooding - but when it's open, and you have the right car, it's a driver's dream.

The road has a rich history. It was opened as a toll road in the early 1800s and remained as such until the 1870s. It was the primary route between Sheffield and Manchester until the 1980s.

Porsche recently traced the route using its free-to-download Roads by Porsche app, which gives drivers the means of finding the best roads to travel. The route was recently voted onto the app by fans of the roadway.

Snake Pass Porche Cayman 718 Porsche recently test drove the road, which was added to its Roads app by fans.Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The preferred route starts east of Glossop, a town just outside of Manchester. All 11 miles of the path are in a national park. Fro Glossop, the roadway climbs into the Pennine Hills reaching 1,680 feet above sea level at the point the route passes Pennine Way. A public house, the Snake Pass Inn, sits nearby. The road passes just north of Kinder Scout, the highest point in England, and through the towns of Knowsley, St. Helens, and Warrington.

The winding scenic roads naturally draws comparisons to Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, which runs along the Oregon and Idaho boarder. The U.S. route offers some of the most breathtaking views roadway views you can get in the country, and provides plenty of technical driving opportunities.

Traversing Snake Pass is technically tough. There are plenty of hazardous bends and blind summits. Fog rolls in quickly at times. Cyclists, professional and far from it, compete for roadway.

Porsche Cayman 718 at Snake Pass

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

On the flip side, the road offers perhaps the best views of the Manchester area you'll ever see. The scenery goes from moorland to forest to flatland as well.

But, you won't be able to look long because of the road's perils.

Once through the forest, the road opens up again as you near Sheffield. Drystone walls feature while sheep politely munch their lunch nearby. The route draws to a close at Ladybower Reservoir at Ashopton but there's the option to continue. The A57 carries drivers on to Sheffield, dispersing them to the cities near and far via any number of more major motorways.

Or, you could turn around and traverse it once again. It's only 11 miles, after all.

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The Polaris Slingshot is one of the most unique vehicles on sale today.

Polaris

The Polaris Slingshot is an interesting beast. It is, by far, one of the most unique vehicles you can buy in the U.S. today, though depending on where you live, it may require a motorcycle license. However, in most states, you can buy and drive one just like a normal car, albeit one that should only be driven while wearing a full-face helmet.

I recently spent a week with a 2021 Polaris Slingshot R and came away from the experience more than a little conflicted. On one hand, it's too much for me on a personal level, as I think it's too wildly styled and costs too much money. On the other hand, it's impossible to ignore the charm of the thing. It's loud, too quick for its own good, and a totally crazy driving experience that lands somewhere between being a complete riot and terrifying, depending on how and where it's driven.


2021 Polaris Slingshot There's no ignoring this when it's next to you in traffic.Chris Teague


However, for many, the Slingshot remains a complete mystery, so here are three things you need to know.

It's Loud

No, I don't mean loud in the sense that you can hear it coming – though that's part of the deal, too. I mean loud in the visual sense. Like, 1990s ugly sweater loud. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the one thing that isn't up for debate is that the Slingshot is eye-catching. Add a couple of people wearing full-face helmets and it's nearly impossible to look away from the thing.

It's a Crazy Driving Experience

It's true that this isn't a motorcycle, but the way the Slingshot puts its passengers' rear ends just a couple of inches off the road surface and not all that far away from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine creates one lively experience. Every bump, crack, and sound can be felt and heard, though it's not unpleasant at all and adds to the experience. Couple that with the open-air driving experience and giant tires communicating it all into the steering wheel and the Slingshot is a wild ride.

It's Surprisingly Quick

I tested the Slingshot R, which is one of the flashier and more expensive models Polaris makes. Its in-house four-cylinder engine checks in at 2.0 liters and delivers 203 horsepower, 144 pound-feet of torque, and a whole lot of noise. The advertised 0-60 mph time for the R is 4.9 seconds, which is quicker than some sports sedans, though it feels much more violent and faster than that in person. The optional Autodrive five-speed gearbox is an automated manual, which means that it will shift itself when asked, but is happiest with the driver firing off shifts with the steering wheel-mounted paddles.



The Slingshot is one of the few vehicles that defies almost everything to be what it is. It doesn't make sense for people who want a motorcycle and it's not particularly appealing to someone wanting a convertible or roadster. You have to be in the market for a Slingshot to end up buying a Slingshot, and for those that are, they've never been better than they are now.

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Family driving

Can your family live with a convertible?

Convertibles are fun, but can your family handle the size and driving experience?

BMW

Testing convertibles is always great fun, but they sometimes show up when the weather isn't ideal. Here in Maine, our drop-top driving season is fleeting, which can make for a tricky time driving with the top down. This year, however, a 2021 BMW 430i Convertible showed up in early August and I had an entire week of sun to soak up in the open air. I have two children, however, and own a three-row SUV to haul them, their friends, and all the accompanying gear. Squeezing into a convertible is possible and even fun at times, but it got me thinking: Could a convertible be a car we could live with on a daily basis? The answer for me is no, but there's more to the story, and I'm certainly not ruling out a drop-top purchase for my family at some point in the future.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to me. Last year, I tested the BMW M850i Convertible, and while it was a blast, there was nothing about it that screamed "family car." This BMW is no different, but my younger daughter's shift to a booster seat from a full-size harness car seat made the back-seat fit for both of my kids much easier. Now, it's a little easier to see how the 430i Convertible could be a perfect weekend or summer car for a family that is already set with roomy daily drivers.

Here's how owning a convertible might play out for your family.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible The BMW 430i Convertible is premium, inside and out.BMW

Open-Top Fun – At a Cost

This BMW's price tag lands in the mid-$50,000 range with a few desirable options, which is about right for a premium brand convertible. There are much cheaper options to be had, however, in the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Both cars come in a convertible format and can be found for around half the price of the BMW. There are performance and luxury penalties when moving to the less expensive options, but for most people the draw of a convertible is the open-top experience itself. You don't absolutely need screaming performance or a top-notch interior to get the full convertible experience.

Good in Small Doses

My kids are over the moon about riding in a convertible for a while, and then spend the rest of the time complaining about noise, bugs, and wind. Rolling the side windows up helps, and models with a retractable rear windscreen are even better, but the reality is that some kids are not the best at dealing with outside-the-norm car experiences. More often than not, we'd end up driving for half an hour or so with the top down, a few more minutes with the windows up, and then the rest of the time with the top closed. That's no fun in a small car that feels even smaller with the top up.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible If your kids are like mine, the open-top experience comes with some tradeoffs.BMW

Weather Woes

I get that most of you don't live in Maine like I do, and that your spring, summer, and fall months extend longer throughout the year. You're able to enjoy the open-top driving experience more often than those of us in New England, but there will still be times that driving a convertible is less than enjoyable. If you live in Florida, for instance, how often are you going to want to drive with the top down when it's 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity under the bright sun? Even with the wind in your hair, that will get old. Keep this in mind if you're shopping for a convertible.

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