It's like a museum, racetrack, and amusement park rolled into one.
Porsche ownership is one of life's great pleasures, but with the company's least expensive model starting at over $52,000, it's a joy few will ever experience. What's a car enthusiast to do if they don't have the deep pockets required to park a brand-new Porsche in the driveway? Check out the Porsche Experience Center, of course! Located in Atlanta and Los Angeles, the Experience Centers let car lovers live out their wildest Porsche fantasies. Think of it like Disney World, but for Porsche fanatics.
CarBuzz recently had the chance to visit the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, which plays a dual function as the automaker's US headquarters. This 27.7-acre, $100 million temple of speed contains a heritage car gallery, restoration workshop, driving simulator lab, two restaurants, and most importantly, a 1.6-mile driver development track. If you are shopping for the perfect Father's Day gift, have a long layover in Atlanta, or simply love Porsche cars, we suggest checking it out, you won't be disappointed.
The Experience Center's crown jewel is the one-mile handling course, designed to copy a winding back road with undulations. It's no Nurburgring, but the track will turn you into a better driver. Various driving experiences are available packaged in 90-minute sessions, each one including one-on-one instruction from a professional driver. It may not sound like a long stint, but in just a single session, the instructors can massively improve your skills such as apex cornering, proper braking, accelerator control, and more.
In addition to the handling course, the Experience Center boasts several unique driving modules to hone your driving skills. The Kick Plate was our favorite; it's a hydraulically actuated plate mounted on a wet epoxy surface, which randomly tosses the car left or right to simulate a loss of control. This teaches drivers to catch the car if they lose control in inclement weather. The Low-Friction Circle offers similar sideways fun, with a massive concrete area with sprinklers to let attendees drift the car without fear of crashing.
Porsche operates a 77-vehicle fleet at the Experience Center Atlanta, meaning there's a perfect car for everyone. If Porsche sells a car in 2021, chances are you can drive it at the experience center. Options range from a humble Macan up to the 911 GT3 RS with nearly everything in between. Attendees can book a single vehicle for a 90-minute session or split that time between two vehicles in a bundle. These let drivers feel the distinct differences present in Porsche's lineup. Some examples include the Mid vs. Rear Engine (718 Cayman and 911), 911 Turbo vs. 911 GT3, Two-Wheel-Drive vs. All-Wheel-Drive, and Taycan Turbo vs. 911 Turbo Experiences.
During every session, attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Dynamics Area, where they will navigate their car through a slalom and test the launch control. Drivers who don't love high speeds may prefer the off-road experience available in the Cayenne. This course offers a hill climb and a 45-degree vertical descent challenge, showing off the Cayenne's surprisingly impressive off-road chops.
A theme park offers attractions adults will enjoy with their children, and in the same manner, the Experience Center contains fun activities for the kids and family to enjoy while mom or dad is out on the track. This facility serves as a Porsche Classic Factory Restoration Workshop, meaning there are always cool vintage cars lying around. There's even a dedicated Heritage Gallery featuring legendary models from Porsche's illustrious history (modern and historic).
The kids may not be able to drive one of the cars out on the track, but the center also houses a simulator lab with upgraded VR experiences, available at any age so long as you meet the height requirement. After a day of fun, stop by one of the two restaurants; the Carrera Cafe offers light bites such as sandwiches and coffee, while Restaurant 356 is a sit-down fine-dining experience. We didn't have a chance to sample Restaurant 356, but the roast beef sandwich at the Carrera Cafe was delicious. Before it's time to leave, the Porsche Driver's Selection Store offers high-quality souvenirs such as hats, shirts, and other merchandise.
Though it's far more cost-effective than buying a brand-new Porsche, a trip to the experience center is still a special event. Prices for the 90-minute driving experiences start at $435 for a Macan S or $450 for a 718 Cayman. The cost goes well up from there, exceeding $2,000 for the four-hour "Accelerated Experience" with video recording and data analysis. The Mid vs. Rear Engine Experience for $750 is the best bang-for-your-buck, in our opinion, splitting a 90-minute session between a 911 Carrera S and a 718 Cayman.
If these prices are outside your budget, Porsche has some less expensive options as well. Demonstration laps from the passenger seat are available starting at only $85 for a Taycan or 911 and topping out at $125 for a GT3 RS. The simulator experience costs $40 for a 30-minute session or $75 for a full hour, and facility tours are available for just $10-$16 or $85 for a VIP tour with a demonstration lap included.
During our time at the Experience Center, we had the chance to sample two 90-minute driving experiences. Our first stint was in a 2021 Porsche 718 Spyder, equipped with the PDK transmission. We loved the 718's mid-engined balance and the soulful 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six producing 414 horsepower. It was an approachable start to our day, which later included a few much quicker Porsche models.
We jumped into a Python Green 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S, the company's quickest model at just 2.3 seconds to 60 mph. The Turbo S felt like a supersonic jet compared to the Spyder, which by comparison felt like a propeller plane. We have seldom felt acceleration like this from a gas-powered car, even in the supercar realm. Though the 911 would crush the 718 around a track, we still enjoyed the lightweight and natural feel in the Spyder.
We split our second 90-minute session between the 911 Turbo S and the 2021 Porsche Taycan Turbo S. The Taycan boasts even more power than the 911, though it weighs considerably more. Driving these two cars back-to-back was eye-opening. The Taycan proves how far electric performance has come while revealing how much weight plays a role in performance. It may have more juice than the 911, but managing its weight around the corners proved trickier. The Taycan Turbo S no slouch on the track, and Porsche says it will match a 718 GT4 around most circuits.
If you can splurge for the $825 Taycan Turbo vs 911 Turbo Experience, we think it is the best option on a universally delicious menu.