Guest blog – the Porsche Experience Centre

Total 911 reader Pietro Ranieri recalls his trip to the Porsche Experience Centre

I was invited to the Porsche experience centre at Silverstone a few weeks back by either OPC Swindon, or Silverstone, I can’t quite remember now, but nevertheless I jumped at the chance to spend the morning with a Gen II 997 Turbo. We were promised a number of experiences including Kickplate, launch control, handling circuit and driving on a low friction surface. As well as this, we also had the chance to be taken round the handling track in a Panamera and 4X4 track in a Cayenne.
As you can imagine the day is geared towards getting you to upgrade your existing 997 Gen I Turbo to a Gen II, and because of this the experience centre provided a number of 997 Gen II Turbos to drive. We got to sample the manual and PDK transmissions, as will as ceramic and steel brake options, as well as the coupe or convertible. There is also a range of interiors including some new GT seats which are rather nice.

So we jump in the cars and get straight into trying out launch control in a PDK car. Engage Sport Plus, left foot on brake, stamp on the accelerator to build the revs, left foot off brake and ‘scream if you want to go faster!!!!!!’. Like I said before I own a Gen I Turbo and I was shocked at the acceleration with launch control, it really did feel like the car was in a completely different league to my own. Outstanding. More impressive than the power, was the fact that Porsche claim you can engage the launch control as many times as you like for the life of the car and you will never need to change the clutch! That I really find impressive. On the 360 CS I had, 3 launch controlled starts and it was a trip to the garage for a new clutch.

Next was the handling circuit, as you would expect we hammered the cars round the circuit where they were trying to show us the difference/improvements in handling of the Gen II. It was great fun, but not being a racing driver and driving the car to its absolute limits…I was rather disappointed to find out that it felt more or less the same to me…not much of a review I know, but the truth all the same.

The following two activities I actually found really good fun and also quite useful as a driving experience, which were the low friction surface and the kick-plate. The low friction surface was a special hill that was coated in plastic and had water running down it. The idea is that the surface and the water create very low friction conditions so you can experience and learn to control sliding on surfaces like ice. As you drive down the hill you have to drive around two walls of water. Seems easy, but because you have virtually no grip you can’t really use the brakes so you have to use the steering and throttle to control the car. Once through the low friction surface hill and improvements in handling were made, it was then onto the kick-plate.

The kick-plate is a metal sheet in the road that you drive over at around 30 mph, as you drive over the metal sheet fires the rear end of the car either left or right and you have to control the car using all the controls to keep it in a straight line. This is great fun, but the principal is to simulate losing the back end of a 911 and learn how to control it. Obviously this is something you try to avoid in regular road driving, so not something many of us will have experienced.

What really made the driving day for me was the instructors. All racing drivers or advanced driving instructors, they really make a point of trying to improve your driving on the day, so as well as experiencing the new Gen II’s you also come away from the day having felt you have experienced actually learning to control the cars in difficult situations, something you would rarely experience in real life unless you were on the way to the ‘scene of the accident’ as Martin Brundle would say!

Porsche have made loads of improvements to the new Turbo, some you notice and some you don’t. Would I buy a new one? Well I think the answer is no. Whilst I would buy one in the normal cycle of a new car every two to three years budget depending, I certainly don’t feel the improvements are enough to move over immediately! Wouldn’t hurt Porsche to make the car look a little different either…

With thanks to Porsche Silverstone for a great day, they certainly know how to look after their customers.

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Comments (14)

  • Andrew

    Hi Phil, this is an interesting post. Having driven a lot of Porsches back to back, which would you say is the most fun? I have a 4S Targa now, and love the Turbo, but am really trying to decide if it is worth the leap.

  • Hi Andrew

    A tricky question to answer! All Porsches are fun but in all sorts of different ways.

    I’ve just been driving a bog-standard 997 3.6 Carrera and I can honestly say it was one of the best 911s I’ve experienced. With a refreshing lack of electronic aids it really felt like a back-to-basics 911.

    Of course, if you want all-out power, then the Turbo is the way to go. You’ll never tire of that surge of energy!

    Phil

  • Pietro

    Hi Andrew

    For what its worth I had a 997S a while back and it was awesome, although completely different to the 997 Turbo. I would say the 997S is a better day to day drive as you can really grab it by the scruff of the neck and drive it hard on back roads if you want. The Turbo is a completely different animal as the power is such that you have to be a lot more careful when driving it hard through back roads, you almost have a surplus of power!

    However for a long trip, for example through Europe, the Turbo is in a league of its own, effortless power mixed with comfort…you just want to keep going!

    Pietro

  • Andrew

    Thanks Phil! I suppose over time each 911 really developes a character of its own. I haven’t yet driven the Turbo, but can hardly wait. Enjoy yours!! 🙂

  • Pietro

    I’m sure OPC Swindon or Silverstone would oblige a test drive… Let me know if you need a contact to get organised.

    Pietro

  • Andrew

    Hey Pietro! Thanks to you too for all of the great info. Unfortunately, here in the states dealers are a lot more reluctant to let the Turbos out for a test drive. 🙁

  • Pietro

    Hi Andrew

    Must be easier for them to sell Turbos in the US then! 🙂

    P

  • Andrew

    Pietro, you know its interesting, they sell a lot of 997 Turbos, but on the flip side there is also a large inventory for sale, which makes me think a lot of people who buy these cars are incapable of harnessing the 480+ horespower.

  • I’m surprised they won’t give you as a test drive, as you already have a 997, you’re surely an obvious candidate for an upgrade to a Turbo.

  • Andrew

    You would think Phil. Especially since the Turbo I’m looking at is at the same dealer I bought my Targa. :/

  • Ash

    Very interesting article Pietro. Tell me, how much better is the 997 gen II Turbo compared to the 360CS then? Much, much better I’d assume!

  • Pietro

    Hi Ash

    I’d say they were both awesome cars, but the CS has to be the one I would go for cost aside, its the most entertaining but also the most impractical!

    P.

  • Salman

    Hi There,

    I’m thinking of going along to Silverstone to experience of their porsche experiences… I’m thinking of Trackcraft, Car Control or the Precision Course as I really can’t get the full enjoyment out of the car on the road.. Does anyone have any advice they could offer.. or should I just save my money and book in a track day after having done the most basic of these courses…?

    Thanks in advance!

    Kind Regards,

    Salman

  • pat conlon

    I have been quoted £57 for a set of front brake pads for my 1998 996 from the makers techstar, people say they are good pads other say go official at £272 what is best , value or genuine