For some reason, Porsche invited me to Autobahn Country Club to play with some of their cars. Who was I to say no to such a kind offer?
The event was at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL last Thursday. A very cool place, although the surrounding area apparently carries 90% of the world’s truck traffic (and the roads reflect it).
I arrived about 8 am and met up with my buddy (they let me bring a guest). They had a bunch of cars on display, and some friendly (and knowledgable) folks there to greet us and talk about the cars (including a 911 GT2 RS Clubsport and Cayman GT4 Clubsport). They even had some nice-looking breakfast boxes, though I had already eaten.
They gave us a brief intro, and told us the plan was to drive the Panamera GTS and 911S on the track, then drive a Cayenne off-road, and finally a mini-rallycross course in a Macan S. Fun stuff!
First, we were issued helmets - the first time I’ve driven a car with a helmet on, TBH. The group was pretty small - I would say there was only about 10 drivers total, and we were split into 4 groups. My group consisted of me and my buddy for the whole event. We each jumped into our own Volcano Grey Panamera GTS with the Sport Chrono package for lead/follow.
The interior of the Panamera is gorgeous, and very comfortable. A bit cozy - snug, really for a car of that size. That’s a good thing to me, but drivers who are a little wide might be too snug. The one issue that I had was fiddling around with the seat to get comfortable with the helmet on. That was solely due to the helmet though. Other than getting comfortable, getting mirrors etc set up, and turning the knob to S, I didn’t pay much attention to the interior, really.
The V8 engine sounds fantastic - there’s a bit of meanness to it even at idle. We’ve got in-car radios to listen to the leader, we’re all good, and we’re off!
It’s a big car, easily north of 4,000 lb, but it doesn’t feel that way accelerating (instructor quoted 3.7 s from 0-60). Engine sounds great, seemingly zero turbo lag, and the PDK is in perfect sync. Braking is outstanding - curves are when you can feel that weight. The instructor has us follow his line, with cones on either side of the track to guide us on the proper line. He has us doing virtually all braking in a nearly straight line before entering corners. The car corners flat, and has a tremendous amount of grip in spite of the weight. We get 4 laps, each one a bit quicker as we build up confidence. That last part isn’t easy for me - - this is my first time *ever* on a track, and the car has so much capability. Plus there’s also the thought that you don’t want to be *that guy* who spins it or takes it off road (though Autobahn is well set up that you’d be hard pressed to do anything worse than a grass excursion).
OK, so after 4 laps in the Panamera, we park those and immediately jump over to a couple of red 911S’s — PDK, Sport Chrono. For whatever reason, it’s easier to get comfortable with the helmet in the 911. Perhaps just because I’ve gotten used to it.
And I thought that the GTS was capable. The 911 actually belongs here. Engine sounds fantastic (neither one sounds or feels like a turbo to me - and yes, that is absolutely a compliment). Ride is a lot firmer, yet bumps don’t feel harsh. This car is wayyyyy more capable than I am. It’s impossible for me to push the car that hard in 4 laps.
Maybe what blew me away more than the power or handling was the braking. It amazed me how late you could brake and still be in great shape to make the turn.
And the PDK makes me understand why people aren’t buying more 3-pedal cars. In sport mode, the transmission just did exactly what you would want it to do manually - but a hell of a lot faster. Nice pops on the downshifts, and always seemed to be in the gear you wanted it to be in. I was grateful for it, because I had enough to do without trying to heel and toe and match revs on an unfamiliar car.
I want this car.
This was a bit different, because I don’t think we exceeded 15 mph in the Cayenne. Again, it was lead/follow (everything was, with 1 way radios for them to give instructions), only this time we were driving through the woods. We put the cars into ‘mud’ mode which involved a few steps on the touchscreen menu - basically pumping up the air suspension to give us more ground clearance.
We went over rocks and stumps through a surprisingly tight course - it would have been easy to leave some paint on the trees. Crossed through a creek twice (another thing I’ve never done!) with steep approach and exits both times. Fun stuff, and it was neat to do that in a Porsche, but I prefer speed.
RallyX time! Parts of the course were deemed too muddy, so we had to go around a few spots in the grass. This put a damper on the fun, because you couldn’t really get a lot of momentum going. The fun bits were a ramp that you went up at ~25-30 MPH which immediately leveled off at the top - at least giving you the impression that you were airborne, though the landing was amazingly soft (thanks air suspension!), followed immediately by a sharp left-hand 180 in the dirt. I’ve done enough playing in the snow in my Pathfinder that I knew exactly what to do here - - I kept lagging further behind the instructor so I could take that as quickly as possible with a bit of Oppo. I could do that all day, too.
This was an insanely fun morning. The Porsche (and Autobahn CC) people were awesome - incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. The cars were awesome.
I first drove a couple of Porsches a few years ago, and fell in love with a 981 Boxster. This only reiterated my dream of trading the E46 for a Porsche one day.
On top of that, they have some other cool stuff available, too - I will likely get to do this before I buy a Porsche:
The instructors at Autobahn were all from the Porsche Track Experience Birmingham. They were great, and 911/10 would recommend. I didn’t realize that Porsche had 3 locations here in the US.
So, please go buy a Porsche and tell them that WilliamsSW sent you, so maybe they invite me again?