7 Min read – For son’s 21st birthday, a lot of debate went into how we might celebrate the big milestone. Over the years of birthday celebrations, we’ve covered an array of classic birthday fun: bounce houses, laser tag, bowling, paintball, theme parks etc… However, with my newly minted adult, this was going to be our first adults doing adult stuff together. A memorable pick was critical! Sure, heading off to Vegas made the list of possibilities. But, something more unique was called for. (side note, we did head to Vegas a few months later. Dollars changed hands, a little hungover at breakfast etc…. Yep, Vegas.) That’s why we settled on the Porsche Driving Experience.
Porsche Driving Experience – Update 1/21/21
Since we’ve written this article, the Porsche Driving Experience has adapted it policies to address COVID concerns. Going forward, in order to have a memorable & safer experience:
- Each guest is required to have a temperature scan
- Masks & social distancing are required everywhere on the facility
- Non-driving guests are limited to two persons per driver
- All cars and facilities are deep cleaned before and after each experience, using high heat steam and sanitizers
- Rather than having your instructor in the car with you the experience will move to a “lead-follow” format.
- Your instructor will be in a separate car, will communicate via a radio & will demonstrate the skills in his car. Then you’ll try the skill
- Car seats, steering wheels & stick shifts are safety wrapped before each driver
- In accordance with local regulations, indoor dining in LA is closed for now. Food and drinks are still available to go
“Life itself is a race, marked by a start, and a finish. It is what we learn during the race, and how we apply it, that determines whether our participation has had particular value. If we learn each success, and each failure, and improve ourselves through this process, then at the end, we have fulfilled our potential and performed well.” – Ferdinand Porsche
“I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself.”
A rich history of Auto design…
From its roots in the 1930’s the Porsche family have created arguably the greatest sports cars in the world. Today, few, if any automobile manufacturers can match the design, performance and rich engineering features of a Porsche.
Now owned by Volkswagen Group, Porsche continues to innovate and lead the way in the sports car market. Thanks to the Porsche Driving Experience, you don’t need to be a Porsche owner to appreciate just how cool these cars really are!
Sports Car Driving School with Porsche
The Porsche Driving Experience , with locations in Los Angeles, Ca Atlanta, Ga & Birmingham, AL, is beautifully choreographed. Its a mix of customer service, test driving, racing, driving skills development & museum tour. And, if you choose, a great post experience meal to celebrate afterwards.
We checked into Porsche Experience Center LA about 45 minutes prior to starting our program. The receptionist greeted us with our badge & lanyard, encouraging us to wander the facility while we waited. There’s a lot to explore within the contemporary two story facility, including:
Heritage Gallery – From Classic 50’s Porsche convertibles to Formula 1 Race cars, the center houses an incredible collection of mint condition Porsches.
Porsche Motorsports North America – The LA center is home to the Porsche Motorsports North America Team. Anytime Porsche is racing in North America, the cars, drivers and team come to LA to tune, test and prepare. Behind a wall of glass, you can watch as mechanics & engineers work to prepare for an upcoming event.
The Simulator Lab – The Simulator lab allows you to choose between a number of race cars and tracks and race in a very realistic, virtual experience. You can add this to your Porsche experience or make this your experience.
You can grab a quick snack on the 1st floor or you can make a reservation for a fine dining experience at Restaurant 917. 917, located on the 2nd floor, overlooks the entire driving park. It’s a great way to wrap up the days activities. Or, for members of your group to grab a glass of wine, and watch others take on the course.
Each participant in the driving experience is assigned a personal driving coach. With in depth knowledge of the car, the track and racing, your coach accompanies you on your experience. This insures it’s exciting, informative & safe. My instructor was a professional drift driver (think Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift). He tailored the experience right to the edge of my abilities. You can also dig down into as much detail about the car and racing as you choose.
I’m someone who isn’t especially clear what all the buttons do in my own car. But it was fascinating to dive into many of the amazing things a Porsche is engineered to do.
Surprisingly, a porsche is perhaps one of the safest cars on the road, loaded with features to protect the driver, when an adverse situation arises. Also, many of the techniques you’ll learn on the track can be applied to your everyday driving. Even if your car was designed for mere mortals, like mine!
You can pre-select from the entire Porsche line for your experience. From the classic 911’s to the Porsche Cayenne SUV or GT3’s, you have options. The cars are in new condition, with the added bonus that they are maintained by the Porsche Motorsports Team mechanics (same crew that maintains Porsche Race team cars).
We each selected the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, with automatic transmission. While manual transmissions are available, it was recommended that, with all the new skills acquisition on the track, the automatic provides one less thing to think about.
The cost of the experience varies with your car selection. A rocket like the 540HP, 911 GT3, with racing tires will command a higher price than a stock 911. With clear guidance from my instructor & then the opportunity to apply the skills on the track, it really makes you appreciate how richly engineered a Porsche is. It also REALLY makes you want to own a Porsche!
The Track…Adult Fun Park
The Track, divided into 8 circuits, is the perfect playground for the perfect toy. Each circuit provides a different challenge/skill for you to try.
While a few of the circuits are designed to show off the raw power of a Porsche, most of the circuits highlight useful driving techniques for issue avoidance… as well as how well a Porsche handles adverse conditions.
Only one car at a time is allowed on each circuit, so in a sense the track is exclusively yours to experiment. Your Instructor walks you through the skill then explains how the car is designed to address the circuit. Next he demonstrates the skill, then turns over the wheel.
While I certainly didn’t exhibit the precision of my instructor, it was amazing how quickly you can get the hang of each maneuver. Also, if your more an an off roader enthusiast, you can elect to do the Cayenne off-road experience. The off road course sits in the middle of the track.
My two favorite circuits:
The Ice Hill
a 7% grade, downhill section of the track that gradually turns to right. The entire section is coated in a slick plastic material & then its lightly sprayed with water. It’s ICY SLIPPERY!
Using the proper techniques and the 911’s icy conditions mode, you can make the turn. But not before I slid off the track several times! Not to worry as there’s plenty of room to spin off into oblivion, before gently coming to a stop.
Acceleration Straight Away
For this one the car is set to “Launch Mode”
This involves stepping on the brake with your left foot & simultaneously stepping on the gas with your right foot. When the car shows 6500 RPM’s, remove your foot from the brake. ZOOM!! When you hit around 125 MPH, you take your hands off the wheel and CRUSH the brake. It really quickly comes to a stop… without so much as a skid. Did I mention well engineered car?
It’s not lost on me that each circuit is perfectly designed to show off just what a Porsche can do, under a variety of conditions making it the ideal marketing tool. Still, the Porsche driving experience is really impressive and we learned a great deal. Putting ourselves (& especially our son) behind the wheel of an amazing car, with expert instruction, in an environment where you push the envelope a little, made for an exhilarating, memorable day.