In a few choice locations around the world, Porsche has built pilgrimage hubs for enthusiasts and Porsche ones in particular: the Porsche Experience Center. After making plans for a conference in Atlanta this week, I learned about the existence of one right next to the airport; how could I say no?
Folks ordering a new Porsche can have it delivered here, complete with track time.
Classic Center Workshop
If your wallet is a glutton for punishment, you can bring your classic Porsche to Atlanta, and they will restore it to OEM goodness. Visitors can take a peek at the action.
Heritage Center and Classic Gallery
In this section, you can see actual customers’ new Porsches awaiting delivery and old Porsches in line for restoration, as well as museum pieces from Porsche’s racing and street lines.
The other stuff
There’s also a gift shop with books, models, keychains, clothing, luggage, and the other stuff you would expect to find here. A Driving Simulator Center and mini-gym are also available.
But who cares about all that crap? You came for the track! And here it is.
I purchased a 90-minute session in a base Cayman. I didn’t really care about transmission; it ended up being manual. This ran $300 plus $50 to bring my liability from $10k to $2k in case of a wreck. (I didn’t wreck.) Session price goes up into the $800+ range for the more expensive cars.
Was this all worth $350? Hell yes, I say.
I asked, but my instructor did not allow me to record the session on video, so no Oppo love there and no going back to review. I’m going to suggest that they mount permanent cameras on their cars and offer it to guests; I would have paid maybe at least $100 more for good video of the session.
Around the perimeter is a narrow track with guardrails, including two long straights and a winding section, with a nice fast kink right before the big straight.
Hoses spray down this area, where a sliding section of road throws your back wheels to one side as you drive over.
Polished concrete and tight curves offer the chance to experiment with power oversteer and handling at the limit.
For all your classic 911's, and Cayennes.
Launch and threshold braking
One of the coolest things was turning on the accelerometer in the car and seeing my turning bias in the slalom: I was generating 0.1g more on left turns, because that side was closer to me. I was able to bring the delta down to 0.06g; max cornering on the slalom was somewhere around 1.1g
I picked the Cayman because it’s not a roadster (as my S2000), has similar weight but not hugely more power, and is mid-engine. If I were to get a Porsche and 993's never come down, it would probably be a Cayman. This was an outgoing 6-cylinder model; they had 718 Boxsters already, but the new Caymans had not been delivered yet. I test-drove a 2006 Cayman once on the street last year, for what that’s worth.
This car felt bigger than the S2000, and more isolated from the driver.
The clutch was easy to use but very light, and the shifter throws were precise, long, and a bit remote-feeling. Throttle also felt far away. I didn’t notice the steering at all, which makes me believe it’s very good, because poor steering feel usually bothers me - but I was distracted with everything else.
I took a number of laps learning the track, getting used to my instructor’s recommended line. Finally I started to get the flow of the car around the track, and it started to feel like flying instead of driving. I was able to push the car much harder in fast sections than I push my S2000, firstly because of the P-Zero tires as opposed to my all-seasons, and also because the Cayman has good stability control, while I have none. I really appreciated the opportunity to push the car hard in fast corners, which is quite a lot of the reason I invested all this money in the experience.
Back to the S2000
Walking down the block back from the airport, I saw my S2000 waiting for me. First impression: WOW it’s so shiny! I just washed it before leaving, and it looked really great. I ran an errand right away, and I must say: I have the right car. The S is more direct, more in your face, just more fun around town, not that this is news to anyone. If ever I do end up with a Porsche, I would want to get one that tilts toward that rawness, like a 911R (ha), or a GT4. It was so affirming to take that drive and love my car all over again. 💙
Now I just gotta get some decent frickin’ tires.