Yes, You Can Live the Porsche Life: Learn to Drive on a Track with Confidence at the Porsche Experience Center

Our Group At The Porsche Experience Center

And, enjoy an amazing meal, amble around a world-class building and bond with your besties.

It’s that irresistible look on your friend’s face that gets you: Her eyes narrow, her smile widens and her skin is glowing. You can just feel her pulse race as she mulls over how to start. “Just tell me!” you want to scream.

And finally, she says it. “I drove a Porsche on the track. All afternoon. I drove faster than I’ve ever driven in my life, and I loved it!” Then she goes on, and your happiness for her turns to envy as she describes her day at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta.

“It’s in this amazing building, the one that was in the Avengers. There are historic Porsches, new 911s on display, a simulator experience so you can learn the track first. And then you go out to the track and there are a dozen cars—911 Carreras, 718 Caymans, Boxters. And a team of professional drivers to coach you on the track. You pick the one you want to drive, and they teach you how to drive like a pro. You will drive faster and better than you ever have before.”

OK, I’m sold. But then she says: “And we ended the day with dinner in Porsche’s restaurant. The food was so good I wanted to take the chef home with me.”

Now I’m extremely jealous. Wouldn’t you be?

Not Just a Track, But a Fully-Rounded World-Class Experience

Porsche poured more than a billion dollars into this facility, its biggest investment yet, to create the ultimate experience. Plus, they recently unveiled the West Track on April 1, a beautifully designed handling circuit that puts drivers to the test against tight turns and low-friction areas.

While the track is at its core, the Porsche Experience Center is the heart, soul and DNA of Porsche: Exacting standards, ideal experiences and automotive magic through the history that gave life to it. 

A visit to the Porsche Experience Center lets the soul of Porsche live in you, if only for the day. But you’ll be back. It’s infectious.

The Experience Center Sets the Stage for a Day with Porsche

The first thing we had to do was learn to properly pronounce the name Porsche. So we watched this video:

We started our visit at noon on a Wednesday, navigating to Porsche Drive, which sits at the north end of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Porsche Experience Center, which served as the Avengers headquarters in the hit movies, is iconic. Designed by HOK Architecture and Engineering (which is known for its design of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Neiman Marcus and the Dali Museum), it is modern and reflective of the soul of Porsche, in which function refines form.

This idea is seen in all Porsche’s models. You don’t just notice the family resemblance, but you can feel the DNA in each model’s shape and scope. Porsche’s sports cars are a glove that fits the driver and the road. Each shape and size is whittled down to just what is necessary. Interiors are refined to feel comfortable and confident. Even the engines are sized right for speed, handling and braking. This is what makes them a joy to drive.

The idea continues inside the Experience Center space, too. Once inside the modern, sleek glass-walled space, you’re greeted with a Porsche 911 on display as well as heritage and race models. You’re immediately drawn to what you came here for:

The South Track can be seen through the glass wall. You climb the stairs to the 356 Restaurant to see more of it. On the main floor, you’ll be lured to the Porsche Design store where you can buy performance driving gear, luggage and more. There’s also a coffee truck and an inviting seating area, and beyond this, the Center’s simulators and classrooms.

All Are Welcome, Not Just Porsche Owners

The Experience creates a full experience for a wide range of visitors: Those coming to see what Porsche is all about; business or social groups out for a day of fun and bonding; new Porsche owners who want to truly experience what their car is capable of – and how to master it in challenging situations.

Experience prices range from $365 to $975, depending on the model, or models, you want to drive and for how long.

We were the first and second group combined: there to learn more about Porsche but also, bonding over facing a new challenge: Learning to drive on a track.

Reason #1 to Be Confident: The Porsche Driver Development Track

Our hosts were clear from the moment we arrived; we would be driving on a driver development track, not a race track. We would build our skills, first on simulators ($35 per 30 minutes) and then on the track. We started with a ‘track talk’ that explained the track, the simulators, the rules, expectations and schedule of events.

“I needed the track talk. Naturally, I was excited, and in time, my excitement gave way to a case of nerves. The track talk helped to put that at ease and let me open up to the experience,” Erica Mueller said. Adeina Anderson really appreciated the simulators. Not just a video game, “I learned how to take corners and using the brake. I liked that we had a lengthy time to practice before we hit the track.”

Plus, expert coaches you can trust with your life

Once on the track, we were paired with a pro driver in the ‘right seat’ of each car. As we entered the driver area of the track we were greeted by a team of coaches and the day’s lineup of cars. Stacie Connerty appreciated the drive coaches because “I could ask all kinds of questions. He told me to listen to him and trust him. He was right.”

Our coaches took us through the different drive experiences including the 1.6 mile handling course, the skid pad, the Launch Control track and the kick plate, which ‘kicks’ the rear of the car into a spin as if you’ve hit ice. “I learned ways to improve my everyday driving skills, like getting out of a spin and driving better on windy roads,” Kim Smith said.

“I started out a bit cautiously, but my confidence and my speed increased quite quickly,” Jenn Mitchell said. Her confidence was built by being able to refine her skills, from handling slick pavement to recovering from unexpected conditions to mastering the curves and hitting maximum speed on the handling track.

Putting the pedal to the medal on the Launch Control track

One of the favorites of the day was the Launch Control track. This is where the 0-60 test would take place. Similar to a drag strip, we were coached to rev the engine, then release the brake and floor the accelerator, braking hard when instructed to.

“Launch Control pushed the boundaries for me. Pedal to the floor and awaiting the coach to say ‘brake?’ Yeah, it was hard at first to trust, but after that, my coach talked me through letting go and really going for it. I’m glad I did,” said Natalie Merola-Garcia. We could try Launch Control as many times as we wanted during our 1.5 hour drive experience, and I think more than a few of us *tried* it more than few times.

The Porsche Experience Center has an off-road course?

The other experience that amazed us was the off-road course. Yes, Porsche has an off-road course and cars that can climb it. We were ferried out to the off-road course in Macans. There, we transferred to Cayennes for the off-road course. And we were amazed.

The compact but complete course took us up a steep incline, then down an even steeper hill. We went across and around a 45-degree angle, through a half pipe and a 19” deep puddle. Just to show you what the Cayenne is capable of on a normal day, we also went over lots of gravely uneven surfaces.

“I was shocked at what the Cayenne is capable of!” Monica Siembieda said. We all were.

The Perfect End to the Perfect Day: Restaurant 356

Our group started the day at Porsche’s farm-to-table restaurant. And yes, starting your performance drive experience with a meal is just fine. It actually calms the butterflies in your stomach. But I can see the benefit in ending at 356, named for the first model built by Dr. Porsche and the one that started the company on its race-winning journey.

This modern, chic restaurant overlooks the track and offers a world-class menu, wines and cocktails. It’s a great way to let your adrenaline recede without having to leave the Porsche Experience Center, which you won’t want to do after spending the day there.

We started with salads and a choice of roasted chicken or salmon in an Instagram-worthy presentation. I had the roasted salmon en vierge, a savory lemon and olive oil broth that made the dish. I can still taste it! And, perfectly, the chef treated us to a selection of miniature two-bite desserts – just enough to finish the meal, not enough to weigh us down for the afternoon’s drive.

Pushing Your Boundaries Is a … Dream Day? Absolutely!

“After I got done driving on the track with my coach, I remember grinning and still giggling because it was awesome. I felt on top of the world – there is absolutely nothing like it,” Teia Collier said.

We couldn’t agree more. The experience gave us the confidence that even though we are not experienced performance drivers, we can master exacting cars like Porsche’s. “I was surprised how comfortably easy the 911 Carrera is to drive,” Autumn Murray said.

But the key to our confidence? Coaching. “The track talk gave me the surety that the process would be safe and fun, and it was,” said  Erica Mueller, one of our pregnant drivers.

You can see more of our exhilarating and empowering experience here, and how it let us live through the soul of Porsche, even if just for a day.

Disclosure: My friends and I were guests of the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, but all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss