Heavy hitters face-off at the Porsche Experience Center.
Porsche wants to get people driving. Whether you’re a returning customer or just an automotive enthusiast, the German carmaker now has more ways than ever to get you behind the wheel. Previously, this required dropping a large sum of cash for one of the brand’s seemingly infinite flavors of 911. Now there’s an opportunity to drive a Porsche without buying a car at all.
The kind folks at Porsche recently invited me to their Los Angeles Porsche Experience Center to try out one of their various programs. It pits the latest 911 Turbo S against the Taycan Turbo across multiple exercises and even a high-speed road course. With expert instructors, some of which are actual racing drivers, guiding the way, I had a whole afternoon of putting my skills to the test while learning some new tricks along the way.
Once it was time to begin my drive, my instructor waited at a predetermined staging area where he asked me various questions about my driving history and skill level. After a quick chat about how comfortable I felt driving quickly, we made our way out to one of the dozens of Taycan Turbo’s parked at charging stations near the track. Before beginning the drive, we went over proper seating positions and how to get comfortable in the car.
The first stage was a small autocross course where I was able to test out the Taycan Turbo’s launch control and low-speed cornering abilities. As I ran the course multiple times, my instructor allowed me to pick up the pace progressively. This exercise emphasizes nailing the braking zone without triggering ABS, keeping the car perfectly under control.
Next up, we made our way to the skidpad, my favorite. I had never drifted a Taycan Turbo before, and the wet surface made it quite simple. My instructor slid the car multiple times to show me the amount of throttle and steering input needed to catch and maintain a smooth slide. Once it was my turn to get in the hot seat, I had to forget a lot of what I knew about sliding a car. The Taycan behaves so differently with power going instantly to all wheels that it needs little steering input. The entire slide is controlled with your right foot. While I never managed to match my instructor’s silky smooth slides, I made decent progress before heading on to the next exercise.
Up until this point, many of the exercises had been about handling and car control, which could come in handy in the real world but are used mainly on a track. However, the following exercise had a direct real-world application. It simulates a hydroplaning incident with a slick surface covered in running water. However, a large metal plate on the floor swings the rear wheels left or right without warning to unsettle the car, sending the Taycan Turbo and its 5,100-lb curb weight sideways through the course. The goal was simple: catch the slide and keep the vehicle going straight.
During my first run in the Taycan Turbo, my instructor kept traction and stability control, making it easier to catch the slide. With an entry speed of around 20 mph, the exercise simulates a loss of control at 70 mph. However, thanks to some quick hand movement, I could catch the slide repeatedly. With stability control off and a higher entry speed, I managed to do a complete 360-degree spin in the large EV.
Once I had finished spinning in circles, my instructor suggested we hit the high-speed circuit. I sat in the passenger seat the first time around as my instructor coached me through the various corners citing proper entry speed and braking points. Up until this point, I had driven both the normal Taycan and the Taycan Cross Turismo a bunch on public roads, but never on a track. After a quick lesson, I got back in the driver’s seat with my instructor guiding me while riding shotgun. Like with the autocross course, each lap saw us picking up the pace progressively until I felt we got moving. One of the best parts of the program was how well it adapted to your driving level, only giving you enough pace to push yourself without getting dangerous.
911 Turbo S
After many hot laps in the Taycan Turbo, it was time to switch back to internal combustion with the 911 Turbo S. I had very high hopes for this car, especially after driving it in Techart GT Street R form a few months ago. Like with the Taycan Turbo, we ran through multiple exercises, the first of which was the hydroplaning course.
Like the Taycan Turbo, the 911 Turbo S sends power to all four wheels. However, its weight distribution and center of gravity are different, with the 911 having the weight of its engine behind the rear axle. I thought this would make it more difficult to control on the slick surface, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Even with stability control completely disengaged, the Turbo S was easy to correct from a slide, even at higher speeds. Unlike the Taycan, I never managed to lose the Turbo S’ tail fully.
While we skipped the skidpad, we went straight into the high-speed circuit. However, this time my instructor wasn’t with me in the car. Instead, he jumped into the Taycan Turbo to do some hot laps in a lead/follow configuration. As with everything else we worked on, our overall speed increased progressively. However, since I had learned the course by this point, we could increase the pace quite quickly.
Jumping from a Taycan Turbo to a 911 Turbo S reveals just how much I missed the sound of an engine behind me. While we weren’t going drastically faster, the 911’s induction and turbo noise really made the experience. However, I was simultaneously impressed with the Taycan Turbo ahead of me. Regardless of how hard I pushed, my instructor and the large EV kept getting away from me. However, after many hot laps and a cool-down run around the track, it was time to hand over the keys and end the day.
My entire time at the Porsche Experience center lasted around two hours, with one and a half of those spent driving on track and through the various exercises. The base price for that experience was $855, excluding taxes. However, plenty of other experiences are available, such as 911 Turbo vs. 911 GT3 for $1,175 or 911 GT3 vs. Cayman GT4 for $1,250.
One of the things I loved most about this program was how open it is to everyone, regardless of skill level. It takes very high-performance vehicles and exposes you to them in a safe and controlled environment where you can test their full capabilities with professional instruction. Additionally, the experience center offers much more than just these drives. If you buy a brand-new Porsche, regardless of price, you can take delivery of it at the center and drive an equivalent car on the track. This way, you get to learn the limitations of your car before ever hitting the road.
While I wished I had more time with the cars, I felt like I got tremendous value out of the experience. You get to drive the vehicles with a professional instructor, and you also get multiple courses designed to test your driving skills, all bundled into one afternoon. If it were my money, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.