Porsche’s Atlanta Track Doubles Down on Physical Experience Even Amid Digital Renaissance – GlobalAtlanta

The Taycan is Porsche’s all-electric, four-door sports car. Photo: Trevor Williams

Experiencing “Launch Control” behind the wheel of a Porsche requires suspending everything you’ve learned about driving. But then again, the German sports car innovator has never shied from reorienting drivers’ expectations.  

On a clear November day, this reporter embarked on a 90-minute driving course at the Porsche Experience Center to learn how to handle a few of these fine-tuned machines, all in the name of what the company calls “driver development.”  

In theory, anyone enrolling in the $550 course can bring their own car to the track, which opened in 2015 next to the company’s North American headquarters by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It quickly became evident that Porsche’s expert driving instructors could help anyone (in any vehicle) with cornering, understanding weight balance based on engine placement or developing a field of vision that anticipates the next bend in the road.  

After a few minutes in a Porsche, though, one begins to wonder why anyone would ever want to do this in a different car — and maybe that’s the point.  

We started in the 911 Carrera S, a purist’s Porsche sports car boasting a six-cylinder engine, classic silhouette and a $117,000 starting price tag. In addition to motoring along the outer handling circuit, we slalomed through tight curves, experienced a kick-plate that throws the back wheels in one of two directions, and swerved along a frictionless circle designed to help the driver understand the way the car distributes its weight between front and back wheels.  

An unexpected feature, at least for this novice, was Launch Control. In this mode (which seems chiefly made for showing off) the driver starts from a dead stop and catapults into high speeds almost immediately. (The Carrera S is said to reach 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds.)  

To those conditioned for caution, the process feels counterintuitive, especially when asked to use two feet on the pedals with an automatic transmission. Following the instructor’s advice, I placed the left foot on the brake — usually a no-no — and floored it with the right. As if charging up, the car stayed put until the brake was released, slingshotting it down the straightaway and bringing into play the car’s massive brakes for an abrupt stop. 

As exhilarating as it was in the 911, Launch Mode took on another dimension in the Taycan, the all-electric car the company has been promoting heavily this year, including at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. With a heavy electric battery that provides 225 miles of range, the four-door sedan weighs 50 percent more than the 911 Carrera. But in launch mode, it reaches more than 400 horsepower and is quick off the starting line.  

When preparing for launch, the instructor advised me to place my head all the way back onto the headrest, lest the G-force do the job for me. I’d been told that electrics had quicker initial acceleration than their internal combustion counterparts; this was my first rodeo with an EV, but the experience proved everyone right.  

Given its weight and length, the Taycan was a bit less spritely than the 911, but it was clearly all Porsche. The performance felt different yet familiar after the first 45 minutes with the 911. The future-facing Taycan, built for the everyday commuter, didn’t completely depart from the 911, so obviously made for the enthusiast and linked to the brand’s storied past. 

Test Track Extension Announced

The existing Porsche Experience Center test track in Atlanta.

Demonstrating the power and panache of Porsche’s vehicles is one reason the company is now doubling down on the experiential aspect of its airport-adjacent complex, even as it aims to bring the car-buying process in the U.S. firmly into the digital age. 

By 2023, the company will build an extension nearly doubling the size of its test track on a broader 33-acre development next to the existing 27-acre complex, bringing the total space occupied to 60 acres. The new site will also include a Porsche Classic Restoration Center, a parking deck and the brand’s first standalone service center, which opened in July.  

The track extension will boast new elements to challenge drivers, including a 1.3-mile handling circuit with features designed after iconic roads around the world. Three new driving modules include a low-friction 60-meter asphalt circle, an ice-hill with an incline and a 555-foot-long “dynamics area” to test a diverse array of techniques.  

“The physical connection a driver enjoys with our sports cars is core to the Porsche brand, which is why we’re expanding this option even as we and our dealers invest in new digital touchpoints for customers. The two worlds — digital and real — complement each other,” said Kjell Gruner, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, in the December news release announcing the expansion.  

Mr. Gruner, who became CEO In November 2020, has kept up efforts to help Porsche dealers expand digital shopping options, In March 2020, the company sped up the deployment of an online sales portal aimed at helping customers avoid in-person contact during the pandemic. Home delivery was offered as an option for the first time. In August 2020, expanded its Porsche Finder platform, giving prospective buyers one place to find new Porsche inventory online. Previously, the platform had focused only on used Porsches.  

In 2021, Porsche delivered a record 300,000 vehicles worldwide, including more than 41,000 Taycans, doubling the prior-year total. China was the largest single market for Porsches in general, and the Macan and Cayenne SUVs, accounted for more than half of sales around the world. 

The U.S., meanwhile, was the fastest-growing market, posting 22 percent growth to 70,025 vehicles, another annual record. Taycan sales more than doubled to 9,419, while the Cayenne and Macan made up more than 42,000 purchases.  

In Europe, more than 40 percent of Porsche deliveries were either plug-in hybrids or electric sports cars, which executives took as a sign that the pivot toward electrification is paying off.  

See more from the driving experience with the Taycan and other Porsches below: 

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Source: https://www.globalatlanta.com/porsches-atlanta-track-doubles-down-on-physical-experience-even-amid-digital-renaissance/

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