By on September 10, 2021

Bradley Iger

While Audi, Mercedes-AMG, and other luxury automakers hold performance driving programs at various race tracks across the U.S. and abroad, years ago Porsche decided to take a different tack. Now operating in seven different locations around the world, its Porsche Experience Centers are basically automotive playgrounds that showcase the brand’s performance heritage and contemporary racing efforts while also providing a facility for customers to build out custom specifications in the Personal Design Studio. The most interesting feature of the PECs, though, is the Driver Development Tracks. These purpose-built proving grounds allow drivers to put the capabilities of Porsche’s various vehicles to the test – whether that’s the at-limit handling of a Cayman or the off-road prowess of a Cayenne.

The Los Angeles location is Porsche’s newest PEC U.S. facility, offering 53 acres of various “modules” that are designed to put PEC’s fleet (which encompasses Porsche’s entire production lineup) through their paces. Would-be participants can choose from a variety of different programs that range from car control basics to advanced, multi-day Academy schools that focus on racing techniques.

When Porsche offered me a chance to run a 2021 911 Turbo S through the gamut at PEC and then subject a 2021 Taycan Turbo S to the same series of tests, it struck me as a rare opportunity to not only get an objective comparison between traditional ICE sports car performance and its EV counterpart in the same context, but also a better understanding of how the performance philosophies differ within the same brand. And it also, you know, sounded like a hell of a lot of fun.

Bradley Iger

Speed The Conventional Way

Upon my arrival at PEC, I was greeted by Hunter Feldman, a Porsche driving coach and my automotive Sherpa for the day, who explained that we’d be starting off with the 911.

Motivated by a 640-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.7-liter flat-six that catapults it from a standstill to 60 mph in just over 2 seconds on the way to a low 10-second quarter-mile, the all-wheel-drive Turbo S currently sits at the top of the 992-generation 911 range. But before we’d put its quickness to the test, Feldman directed me to wheel the 911 over to the Low Friction Circle module.

Essentially a skidpad with a polished concrete surface, it’s constantly sprayed with recycled water from built-in sprinklers in order to make it easy to break traction so drivers can work on their car-control skills. Feldman instructed me to click the drive mode knob on the steering wheel over to Sport Plus but to leave PSM (Porsche’s version of traction and stability control) on. The combination ensures that the engine and eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox are responsive to inputs while also leaving the electronic nannies on high alert.

Bradley Iger

The result is understeer on demand, of course. Feldman wants to make sure I know what to do when the front end wants to push wide, and simply easing off the throttle is enough to bring the 911 back in line. Soon after, he buzzed me on the radio and told me to hold down the PSM button for 5 seconds. A short press will put Porsche Stability Management in Sport mode, where it’s still partially active, but a long press turns PSM off.

With PSM off, it was up to me to make the 911 dance. Feldman noted that since the 911 Turbo S is all-wheel drive, it behaves differently than a rear-wheel-drive car when coaxed into oversteer, and your inputs need to change, too. To illustrate this, he headed out onto the skidpad in a 911 Turbo S of his own and pitched it into a drift. After counter-steering his way around the skidpad for a rotation or two, he carefully brought the car completely sideways, straightened the front wheels out, and used nothing but throttle and brake inputs to keep the car sliding around the pad.

Bradley Iger

My attempts were not as elegant. A quick stab of the throttle was enough to get the back end to kick out, but maintaining that power slide was an entirely different matter. With 640 horsepower at your right foot’s command, it’s incredibly easy to overdo it, and the AWD system requires some mental recalibration when comes to your inputs. The bigger takeaway, though, is that drifting is not about reacting – it’s about planning ahead.

After finishing up at the Low Friction Circle, we headed over to the aptly named Acceleration Straight. It’s more than just a mile-long stretch of tarmac, though; at the end of it there’s a high-grip, 33-percent banked loop which was designed to replicate the Carousel at the famed Nurburgring road course in Germany. Minus the graffiti, of course.

There were two starting lines – one for Feldman, and one for me about 100 yards behind. Over the radio, he walked me through engaging the 911’s launch control. Unlike some manufacturers, Porsche has made the process incredibly straightforward: Put the car in Sport or Sport Plus mode, press the brake pedal down, and with the brake still held, press and hold down the throttle.

Porsche

Once the engine spooled up, Feldman counted down from three. On “GO” I side-stepped the brake pedal and the 911 leapt off the line without a hint of turbo lag. We reached nearly 140 mph before scrubbing off speed for the Carousel, where 60 mph seemed to be the sweet spot to keep the car firmly pinned to the tarmac. It’s the kind of exercise that begs you to brake later and carry more speed into the sweeper with each repetition, but it wasn’t long before Feldman indicated that it was time to head over to the main attraction.

PEC’s Handling Circuit is a tight, technical 1.3-mile track with a solid variety of different corner types and elevation changes. The 911 Turbo S’s biggest strength may be its straight-line oomph, but it still feels right at home on a road course. Thanks to a relatively small footprint and excellent outward visibility it’s easy to place the car right where you want it when setting up for a turn, and the front end provides plenty of warning as you approach the limits of grip. There’s a brutal amount of power on tap, but all-wheel drive makes it manageable, and the gearbox logic is also so dialed in that I didn’t even bother messing with the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Feldman kept us in a lead-follow format, and along the way he kept tabs on my technique, calling out sections where I could brake later, turn in sooner, or clean up my line to get more out of the car. Despite the sheer breadth of performance capability it offers, the 911 Turbo S felt approachable even in its most aggressive drive modes, and it never did anything that caught me by surprise. Even if the 911 is considered the “old guard” technologically, there’s a reason why it remains a sports car benchmark.

Porsche

Electrifying The Grid

After our stint on the road course with the 911 concluded, we headed back to the pits to have a go in the Taycan Turbo S. Don’t let the number of doors fool you – this thing can dance. Out on the Low Friction Circle the additional weight of the 5,100-pound EV is evident, particularly during the understeer exercises, but so is the power. With all of the electronic assistance turned off the 750 hp Taycan Turbo S will partake in sideway antics just like 911 does, but keeping it on the intended line requires an even more precise interplay between steering and throttle inputs when there’s 774 pound-feet of torque always at the ready.

Given that, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the Acceleration Straight really puts the Taycan’s biggest strength on display. Launch Control is called up in exactly the same manner as it is in the 911, and even though I braced for the thrust that would ensue, it still slammed my skull into the headrest the first time I pinned the go pedal. It’s a few tenths behind the 911 in the sprint to 60 mph (and on the top end – we were on the brakes for the Carousel just before hitting 130 mph), but the initial 0-30 mph dash actually feels more urgent. Importantly, the Taycan is also willing to do launch control starts repeatedly and without additional preparation, and the same can’t be said for some other high-performance EVs.

Porsche

While it’s not as eager to change direction as the 911 out on the road course, the low center of gravity provided by the battery pack makes the Taycan more nimble and rewarding to throw around than you might expect it to be. The air suspension does a remarkable job of corralling body motions to provide flat cornering while remaining compliant enough to absorb mid-corner bumps without any drama, and the beefy front brakes (which feature massive 10-piston calipers) are definitively up to the task. It all equates to a car that’s genuinely entertaining to drive hard, and not just in a straight line.

Bradley Iger

As I pulled the EV back into the staging area after my program concluded, I took note of the 911 GT3s and 718 Cayman GT4s that sat there patiently waiting for their next thrashing. It’s hard to ignore the feeling that their days are numbered, and the anxiety it triggers in me makes me wonder if I’m part of the old guard, too. It’s going to take more than instant torque to get me to forget about the extra 1,500 pounds – or the sound of a flat-six at wide-open throttle, for that matter. Still, if the Taycan Turbo S is a harbinger of what lies ahead, maybe the future won’t be so bad after all.

[Images © 2021 Bradley Iger/TTAC, Porsche]

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22 Comments on “Piloting Stuttgart’s Latest And Greatest At The Porsche Experience Center...”


  • avatar
    slavuta

    I will repeat myself… But in this new woke age, when statues of Gen Lee being pulled off… how is it possible that we still permit having “Porsche” around?

    Porsche, member of Nazi party and SS

    Received nazi awards
    – German National Prize for Art and Science (1938)
    – SS-Ehrenring
    – War Merit Cross
    – Wilhelm Exner Medal, 1936

    And besides, he was a personal friend of Hitler, and used slave labor in his factories.

    I want to top it of with a little fact that Hitler himself laid first brick into the new VW factory.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Mr. Porsche is long dead. Are you suggesting the company be shut down?
      Your commentaries are provocative and unproductive. Get a life, man. It’s short, and you come off as very unhappy and bitter. Take a walk, have some good coffee, and try to smile. Life is not a constant political battle. You’ll end up on your death bed wondering why you wasted so many hours tilting against windmills.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      …and Boeing made the planes that killed upwards of a million innocent Japanese civilians, and dropped the first and only nuclear weapons ever used in anger.

      Therefore, Japan should burn every Boeing product in its’ territory.

      Blah.
      Blah.
      Blah.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Where I work we still do not allow German vehicles as company cars. And until just under 10 years ago, those driving a German vehicle parked in the back lot, not in the front lot.

        I have no problems with those rules.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @Arthur:

          I’m Jewish, and I’m on my fourth German car (well, the first was by way of Pennsylvania, the third was by way of Hungary, and #2 and #4 hailed from Mexico). My family owned any number of German makes as well. I see why some won’t buy from them, but from my point of view, they got reduced to an ashheap after World War II and have made HUGE efforts to walk away from Nazism. In fact, the Nazi party and Holocaust denial are officially illegal there – and both are perfectly legal in the U.S.

          If they hadn’t made these efforts, I’d probably feel differently.

    • 0 avatar

      Nazis were the left wing progressive movement so they were probably the first Woke movement:

      “Deutschland Erwacht!” [Germany Wake Up].

    • 0 avatar
      Krivka

      What you say is true, but you conveniently left out the role of Henry Ford, Dow Chemical, Chase Manhattan Bank, GM, and Alcoa, and other companies who BELIEVED in fascism and actually supplied the Wehrmacht even after the war was declared. Henry and Adolph were fellow travelers.

      • 0 avatar

        Take any big corporation today – all support Woke regime and readily establish re-education classes for their employees to brainwash them for the same reasons why big corporations supported Nazis. And today’s Wokemen also hate Israel and Jews.

  • avatar
    RHD

    “years ago Porsche decided to take a different tact”

    A different tack, mate. Sailing term.
    Are the editors still out on strike?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    How does one get invited to one of these little soirees?

  • avatar
    haze3

    Porsche is a private corporation that provides employment and products of value for sale. At this point, it stands on its own merit, having long left behind the political views and practices of it’s founder. Are reparations justified? Quite possibly.

    A corporation, or a family or even a person, can grow and repair the errors of the past. A public statue is stuck in time and cannot.

    The Lee statue was a war memorial (heritage) but it was not humble. It was massive and fully intended to glorify a cause that killed many thousands of Americans in order to defend the right to permanently enslave many thousands more (hate). As it was in a public space, it is reasonable for the public (or their representatives) to decide its value and dispose of it as they will.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I did one of these at the Atlanta experience center. The one in Atlanta doesn’t have the long straight, otherwise it’s very similar.

    I drove a base Cayman, because I was interested in buying one. It’s a wonderful car, and now I really want to buy one. Of all the road cars I’ve ever driven, the Cayman changes directions better than anything else.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I attended the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta. We had German food in 356 restaurant. I experienced a 911 drive with an instructor (I don’t own Porsche), drank German beer, and walked through the museum. It was a fantastic experience.

    The one in Atlanta is next to airport, so every couple minutes we see a huge airplane take off next to where we were sitting at restaurant. You can’t hear those planes because of super double pane windows.

    If you love cars and you are at a location with one of these experience centers, book your time in advance. It is a fun family experience (minus driving part).

    Can not say enough good things about the one in Atlanta.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I`m Jewish and I am old enough to remember when many Jews would not touch a Ford thanks to Henry Ford and his forays into anti-semitism. Hank the Deuce made definitive steps away from all of that and it became acceptable to own one. Blaming the children for the sins of their fathers is a lousy way to go – and led the way for Hitler in the first place. I won`t buy a German car – but because of `Hitler`s Revenge` – German cars out of warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, former owner of an off-lease Audi that was out of warranty. Loved it dearly, but the butcher’s bill at 60,000 miles or so included $1800 for new water pumps, and $800 for a burned-out sunroof motor. If I hadn’t figured out how to fix the burned out HVAC actuator motors by myself, that would have been another $500 or so. And even after the water pumps were replaced, it still ate coolant and oil, which meant a) piston rings, b) head gaskets, or c) both. And this was on a meticulously maintained example with low miles.

      I got rid of it before the bills got really stupid.

      The car ran flawlessly until about 55,000 miles, so the solution is clear: lease your German car new and get rid of it before the problems start.

  • avatar
    craiger

    Different tact?

  • avatar
    texasjack

    Lets not forget Henry Ford was a nazi sympathizer.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Lemme see, TTAC used to have an editor who both owned and raced Porsches. He wrote about Porsche racing and Porsche owner ship. This is a write-up about a day of fellatio from a corporate PR flak. I doubt that Taycan will be driven over something as demanding as Jeep’s auto-show display/course.

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