Porsche's $100M Experience Center gets real
As the automotive industry continues to shift its focus towards autonomous vehicle technology, Porsche is doubling down on the emotional connection between human and machine. Investing nearly $100 million into a one-of-a-kind driving experience center in Atlanta, Georgia, Porsche has proved to U.S. consumers that its reputation for building some of the finest sports cars and SUVs on the market isn't just idle boasting. Porsche's commitment to reigniting our love affair with cars doesn't stop there, either, as a second experience center located in greater Los Angeles will open its doors in mid-2016.
What is it?
The experience center is place where Porsche customers and driving enthusiasts can test their skills on six distinct driving modules. Non-Porsche owners are greeted with a fleet of 77 vehicles, including models like the Boxster S, Cayman GTS, Porsche 911 Turbo and GT3, Panamera GTS, and Cayenne Diesel, among others. We recently traveled to Atlanta for a brief run-through of each driving discipline.
Though it may come as a surprise, Porsche's experience center does not feature a traditional racetrack, but rather a 1.6-mile road course designed to simulate winding public roads - sans the potholes and debris, of course. While hardcore purists might be disappointed with this decision, the circuit still incorporates proper curbing and is wide enough to yield a race line. Most importantly, the layout's "mountain road" feel is far less intimidating to less experienced drivers than a full-fledged racetrack. On the flip side, seasoned track rats can use this lower-consequence environment to hone their braking, turn-in, and throttle control skills.
Currently the only one of its kind in the America, the kick plate tests vehicle control skills when encountering a skid or spin. The unit is a flush-mounted, hydraulically actuated plate situated ahead of a wet epoxy surface. As a vehicle travels over the plate at approximately 20-25 mph, sensors move the plate left or right to imitate an unexpected slide that might occur during inclement weather conditions. The plate's intensity and direction is controlled via an iPad app.
Whether you're an average driver or experienced racer with exceptional car control skills, the kick plate is undoubtedly the most valuable and consistently challenging tasks at the Porsche Experience Center.
The off-road track incorporates 21 separate obstacles to test a driver's left-foot braking technique, low-speed throttle modulation, and situational awareness. From a branding standpoint, obviously, the layout highlights the Cayenne's off-road prowess and safety technology.
The most conventional segment of the facility, the dynamics area is essentially a skid pad for testing 0-60 mph and 60-0 mph performance as well as rapid changes of direction through a high-speed slalom course.
Think of the low-friction circle as a vehicular ice-skating rink. The polished and wetted concrete circle lets drivers test their drifting, recovery, and overall car control skills in a low-speed, open setting.
The low-friction handling area consists of a dry, polished concrete road course with a series of tight corners and on-and-off camber corners.