I’m standing on the edge of Porsche Experience Center’s freshly built race track in Carson, California, just south of Los Angeles, on a brilliantly sunny fall morning. I’m wide-eyed, if a bit intimidated, as I survey the newly opened, 53-acre, $60 million facility. There are six flawlessly polished, idling Porsche 911s lined up in front of me, then six humming Boxsters parked in perfect parallel next to those, and a few Caymans, Macans, and Cayenne Turbos beyond that. They are all lying in wait for drivers, forming a ludicrously powerful Porsche rainbow of colors: Miami Blue, Lava Orange and Agate Gray. It’s dream-like. “Pick whichever one you want,” a driving instructor says as he approaches.
The next hour and a half mostly consists of me yelling exclamations from behind the wheel like a knock-off Jeremy Clarkson, while the instructor softly critiques my driving lines from the passenger seat. We storm the Experience Center’s one-mile circuit, which the company likens to a “country road,” though it features tight turns, banked corners and rolling undulations (German country is a bit different, I suppose).
We test the car’s launch control feature and climb into the triple-digits on the ¾-mile acceleration straight before eventually winding into an exact replica of the Nordschleife’s famous banking Carousel turn (yes, even with the bumps). We take on the kickplate exercise, in which a driver tries to recover after being spun out at random on a slick epoxy surface, and then a polished concrete circle meant to showcase the car’s effective oversteer. We prove the Macan’s worth on the off-road course too, handling some log obstacles and descending 48-degree hills with the aid of Porsche Hill Control. The whole thing is escapism at its finest, jolting you into a new reality with a four-wheeled beast at the center, demanding every ounce of your focus, energy, and adrenaline. This may not be Westworld, but for 90 minutes it felt close.
The company said they expect about 50,000 annual visitors to the Experience Center, and they expect them in about equal parts from three groups: corporate retreats, Porsche owners out for a drive, and prospective owners. A 90-minute session on the track can run from $385 to $950, depending on your choice of vehicle. The location is suitable, as Porsche head Klaus Zellmer said that California would represent Porsche’s fifth-largest market if it were a country, and a third of all 911s sold are in the US. “[The Porsche Experience Center] is a place for visitors to touch and feel the brand in all its facets,” said Zellmer. “The simplest, most credible, authentic way to do this is hand over the set of keys for a wonderful sports car and say trust it, drive it, enjoy it.”