Heading toward Atlanta and already picked up your rental car from the new rental car facility? Love cars and looking for an activity that can only happen a few places in the world? There's a desirable destination literally in the shadows of the airport, the Porsche Driver Experience Center Atlanta.
What does having Porsche's U.S. headquarters in Atlanta mean? For starters, it means that there's not only the headquarters facility but also a test track and museum. Visiting the center does require a bit of advance planning, as some activities do sell out and the facility does have a security detail that checks IDs upon entering. The security guard may even subtlely mock your Hyundai Elantra rental car.
Porsche USA is headquartered adjacent to the airport, under one of the flight paths.
How to Get In
The only way to get into the Porsche Driver Experience Center is to make a RSVP for an Experience. The Center is open Tuesdays through Saturday and reservations/payment must be made in advance. While the facility is the working headquarters of Porsche USA, the company also receives at least $10 from each individual who decides to visit. The price of admission can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to just $10 for an unguided tour.
Vehicle Delivery: The most expensive option, customers who buy a new Porsche can take delivery at the U.S. headquarters.
Track Time: Much less costly, drivers can spend anywhere from $350 (718 Boxster) to $1,000 (GT) for a 1.5-hour drive on the test track with a professional driving coach.
Museum: Just want to see an array of Porsches, from classic to modern, including race vehicles and one-off prototypes? Unguided tours and museum admission starts at just $10 but is also included in the more expensive experiences.
After Entering the Facility
Upon entry, security will give you a badge and a visitor pretty much has free reign to the public (non-employee) areas of the building. Head towards the track and one will pass the Porsche store and see the coffee shop (main level) as well as the fine-dining restaurant. The coffee shop and restaurant both have wide views of the test track as well as numerous Delta jets.
The coffee shop provides views of the test track and airport operations.
The halls of the main level are filled with racing vehicles, customer-owned display vehicles, as well as vehicles that visitors can sit in and experience.
This Hertz-sponsored GT racer shows that rental car companies do good work!
While some of the current production models introduce visitors to the concept of sticker shock at a quarter million dollars (pre-tax, of course).
A car that costs three times as much as my home!
Spending time on the simulators, I selected the 911 Turbo at Monza and the 918 Spyder at Nurburgring. The simulators, which are right by the human performance gym for racers, are relatively authentic. Drivers select a car and track with the handling characteristics of that car built in. The stated goals of the simulators are:
1.Circuit memorization: Remembering the configuration, determining braking and accelerations points
2.Control concepts: Lift-throttle over-steer, balancing the chassis thru throttle, trail-braking, weight transfer, and brake balance
3.Setup and tweaking techniques: Spring rates, fast and slow bump/rebound, toe-in, downforce vs drag
4.Strengthening racing capability and concentration levels: Overall race strategy and changes to strategy on the run, pit timing, fuel loads, overtaking points, drafting, late braking, defensive driving, improving qualification times and analyzing telemetry to find more speed
My lap times showed that I knew the Nurburgring course far better than Monza (the staff's recommendation) and was able to compensate for the 918 Spyder's characteristics that truly punish aggressive straight-line braking. My performance on the Monza course could only be described as dreadful.
A Final Walk through the Museum
On the two levels below the main level are the cars in the Porsche museum. My favorite part of the museum? The step-by-step display of how a Porsche badge is created.
Like the vehicles, the badges are made by hand in Germany.
Professor Porsche once desired that his engineers build him a Porsche vehicle that would be sufficient to carry his family. The result was effectively a station wagon, the 1987 928 Studie H 50.
While Professor Porsche was the boss, we'll admit "mistakes were made"
Are there any other gems in the museum? Of course! With a simple $10 fee (for the non-guided tour), a car-enthusiast could easily spend a couple hours on the Porsche campus, away from the notorious Atlanta traffic.
The Porsche Driver Experience Center Atlanta is located at 1 Porsche Drive, Atlanta, Georgia, 30354 and is open Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday).
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