Who wishes to spend a weekend in Atlanta at the Porsche Experience Center and drive some of Porsches best? I see the odd hand go up, OK.
I was one of those who were on the fence but if your lovely wife makes it a birthday present you can’t say no. And after thinking about it for a bit, I got excited.
Now the difficult part started. Which segments to pick? GT Academy, Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, 911 Turbo vs 911 GT3, 911 Turbo, The New 911 GT3, 2 vs 4, Mid vs Rear Engine, 911 Carrera GTS, 911 Targa 4 GTS, 911 Carrera S, 911 Carrera 4S, 911 Targa 4S, 911 Carrera T Master the Manual, 718 Boxster GTS, Macan Turbo, 718 Cayman GTS, Cayenne Off-Road.
Each segment is 1.5h – 2h long and ranges from $350 to $900 (US).
After looking at all the options, I went with Mid vs Rear Engine and Cayenne Off-Road.
Hotel room and fights had been booked and on Wednesday, Oct. 24 we left for Atlanta. The flights were all on time and later in the evening we picked up our Kia Soul rental and settled in our hotel room.
I had booked my first session for Thursday morning. The sessions are held, rain or shine. The weather in Atlanta was overcast and around 13Cº, but no rain, which was good for the Mid vs Rear Engine segment I picked.
We arrived 30 minutes before the appointment and we got a visitor passes at the gatehouse. We parked our Kia and looked around. 15 older Porsche cars were lined up in front of the building. So we went inside, more old Porsches, the whole building was packed with P-Cars from 1951 to 2018.
After been greeted at the front desk we got directed to the Driving Experience Desk. We ask why all those cars are here and we were told that on Saturday is RM Sotheby’s Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction. Great timing.
9:00 am approached quickly and Justin, my instructor introduced himself and outline what we will do for the next hour and a half. I started out with the mid engine Porsche, a red Boxster GTS. After an overview of the car I took control and we left the staging area.
The test track has several different components, such as Dynamics Area, Handling Circuit, Low-Friction Circle, Low-Friction Handling Circuit, Kick Plate, Off Road Circuit.
I started out with the Kick Plate, followed by the Low-Friction Circle, Dynamics Area and the Low-Friction Handling Circuit. At those stations you do things, which in real life can cause an accident. Spinning 720º on an icy road for example. But after a couple tries you start controlling the car, and YOU tell the car where to go. Launch control is another thing, not really practical but fun. Once the infield activities were completed I went on the 1.6 km long Handling Circuit and put in some quick laps. The Boxster is a nimble car, but now it was time to try the new 911S. We went through the same exercises with the 911. I have to say the 911 is more fun. After a couple laps Justin said “you’re are quick”. However after 20 minutes on the Handling Circuit my stomach let me know I should slow it down and return to the staging area. Sabine used the opportunity and got a couple demonstration laps with Justin. After we chatted with Justin a little bit and he told us that he is a stunt drive instructor and he was stunt double in various recent movies. So, for Mid vs Rear Engine, Rear engine wins.
Than we met with Mark Harston, Porsche Club North America Manager for Porsche Cars North America. He gave us a private tour of the building and then he surprised me with a late Birthday present from Porsche North America. A Porsche Book ‘ 33 Years of Porsche Rennsport and Development, a Basecap and for the webmaster a Porsche wireless computer mouse. What a nice gesture, I was speechless.
Now it was time for lunch and thankfully my stomach had settled from the morning’s discomfort. The 356 is a premier dining experience with great food with a view overlooking the Handling Circuit and the court yard.
After having refueled, we had a chance to look at all the Porsches displayed (have a look at the photos). The two top models were a 1985 Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar and the 2018 Porsche 911 (993) Turbo Classic Series “Project Gold”. Both cars alone brought a combined US$8.3million dollars at the auction on Saturday. A significant sum of the 2018 Porsche 993 will go towards the Ferry Porsche Foundation. But if your wallet was not that deep, the two 944’s went for under $30,000 each. One could also bid on Porsche memorabilia. I did, but my limit was just half of the winning bid.
RM Sotheby’s celebrated 70 years of Porsche on Saturday with the company’s single-marque Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction at the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta (PECATL), also the home of Porsche Cars North America. RM Sotheby’s achieved $25.8 million in total sales, with 92 percent of all lots finding new homes.
On day 3, we caught up on some sleep since our official tour did not start till 11am. Two local PCA members were our tour guides and they were very knowable. We talked with one of them after the tour and made a new friend. For lunch we picked the Carrera Cafe at the Center.
At 2:00 pm it was our turn with the Cayenne. Oh yeah, it had rained all morning but stopped just before we went out, again with Justin as our instructor. For the session we had two Cayenne’s, one 2016 model (with the same option our cayenne has) and a brand new 2019 model. Sabine was able to join us at the off-road part in the back seat. The off-road course has some interesting features , starting with the 50% incline followed by one with 70% and what goes up has to come down (70%). 45 degree sideways. I have to say, I am amazed what the Cayenne can do, a true off-road vehicle. Sabine was speechless!!!. After the off-road section I went back on the road course in the 2019 Cayenne. We did the same features from the day before, launch control, skit plate etc. but I was eager to get on the track. The new Cayenne was a base model and the track was still a bit damp. But the SUV drove like it was on rails. Several 911’s on the track where actually road blocks. Justin said ” I have never seen a Cayenne pushing 911’s around on this track”. What a blast.
I was still smiling when we met with Klaus Zellmer for a few minutes, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. Than we spotted Caren Cooper, PCA president. She took the time and we had a good conversation for an hour. She introduced us to Craig Kugler, Region Finance Chair and we chatted some more.
We ended this great day with a dinner at Krog Street Market, a destination for Atlanta’s intown culture.
Day 4 was sightseeing day and Sabine’s Birthday. Coca-Cola, Olympic Park, First Time ever Waffle House and a quilt store for Sabine.
Day 5 was a travel back day.