Atlanta Porsche Experience Center gets new track, more features
A tip of the cap to whoever thought up the Porsche Experience Centers, represented in the U.S. by two separate locations—one in the Los Angeles area, in Carson, California, and the other essentially on the grounds of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, next to Porsche’s North America headquarters.
Both facilities are well worth a visit, especially if you are a Porschephile. Each has a test track on the grounds, with a fleet of vehicles available for ride and drives. Each has an on-site restaurant as well as a behind-the-scenes look at some vintage Porsches in the restoration shop.
But at the moment, the nod has to go to the Atlanta center, where the facility benefitted from recent a $50 million makeover of the headquarters property. Joining the existing track is a brand-new track, designed and built by Hermann Tilke Engineers & Architects, the firm responsible for more Formula 1 tracks, including Circuit of the Americas, than any other.
The Atlanta center has welcomed nearly 400,000 guests since opening in 2015 with its first track. The new West Track, which opened April 1, is adjacent to the original South Track; the two tracks can be run separately at the same time, or combined to create one track that’s more than 2.5 miles long. The new West Track includes elements inspired by some of the world’s most iconic race tracks, including the Carousel from the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, the Bus Stop from Daytona International Speedway’s road course and a mini Corkscrew from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with a rise of 30 feet and a drop of 25 feet through approaching and descending turns.
“This is a special moment for all of us. I’ve driven the new West Track and it’s awesome. It adds a new dimension to our sports car experience,” said Kjell Gruner, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, “I’m proud to be opening the new site, welcoming our guests and—once more—to be investing in the Atlanta area as we celebrate our 25th year in the city.”
In addition to the track, there are some new features of note on the property:
- Low-Friction Circle: A concrete circle, measuring over 196 feet in diameter, with various levels of grip and polish. It is soaked with water to test the driver’s car control while inducing both understeer and oversteer. An experienced driver can drift all the way around it.
- Ice Hill: A highly polished concrete surface with a bottom comparable to grippy 400 grit sandpaper, leading up an 8 percent slope. When computer-controlled water jets drown the hill, the surface goes slick as glass. You go down the hill, and if you can—it takes a deft touch on the accelerator in some vehicles—drive back up.
- Autocross: An expansive area of asphalt that can be flexibly configured in an effort to continue improvement of driving skill and technique. The area can be set up to navigate through slaloms, create acceleration and braking zones, or for a host of other options.
Inside the building itself there’s an ever-changing display of curated Porsches, simulator driving, tours, and a retail store. For body fuel, the Experience Center contains Restaurant 356 and a coffee shop, Carrera Café.
You must make reservations for track experiences (available here) but nearly every vehicle Porsche makes is available, including the Taycan and the 911 GT3. Depending on the program and the vehicles chosen, prices start at $450 and climb to $800 for the Taycan Immersion Experience, which includes 90 minutes of track time in the 750-horsepower sports car, plus a 30-minute technology presentation, and there is a similar GT3 experience for $1200. There are also half-day track sessions offered.
We drove everything. Our suggestion: Do what you can to get into the seat of the 911 GT3.
Of course, the whole point of the Experience Centers is to sell Porsches. “And we do,” said one of the instructors. “We had people come off the track and ask us for the address of the nearest dealer.”
I’ve never been a Porsche guy but a day at that playground would probably turn me into one.