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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