Porsche Opens New 'Experience Center' in Los Angeles
Love Porsches? Well, plan on booking a trip to Los Angeles as soon as possible.
The legendary German sports car maker is opening a brand new Experience Center in the heart of this California megalopolis. Equal parts racetrack, luxury retailer and playground, the facility will call Porsche faithful to worship like church bells on Sunday; it’s also certain to win legions of new converts to the religion of Zuffenhausenism.
Spread across 53 acres of land in the city of Carson, this venue took the company about two and a half years to construct at a cost of some $60-million. It includes a 50,000 square-foot building, more than four miles of test track and even a fine-dining restaurant.
Its central location ensures easy access to Los Angeles International Airport, downtown L.A. and practically every other corner of Southern California, a boon in this town scorned for its unbearable traffic.
L.A. is home to the second Porsche Experience Center in America, which is following closely behind the first one that opened in Atlanta early last year. The United States is the only country with two of these facilities, catering to strong Porsche demand in the land of liberty. Underscoring this fact, California accounts for 23 percent of all the vehicles Porsche sells in the U.S.
The first Experience Center was opened in Leipzig, Germany, 16 years ago, though a handful of others are found global locations including Silverstone, United Kingdom; Le Mans, France; and Shanghai, China.
The heart of Porsche’s latest Experience Center is the driver-development track, which provides an array of different conditions to challenge veteran racers or help novice motorists learn car control.
An ice hill simulates what it’s like driving down a slippery incline. Vehicles have no trouble getting sideways or spinning in circles if the driver isn’t careful. Similarly, the low-friction circle allows participants to practice their drifting, or at the very least feel what it’s like to lose control, but in a completely safe manner.
No track would be complete without a healthy straightaway and the one at Porsche’s newest Experience Center is nearly a mile long. Paralleling the 405 expressway, it allows you to get up to extra-legal speed in a hurry, all while making everyone stuck in traffic green with envy, then probably red with rage once the realize all the fun you’re having.
One of the more interesting vehicle-handling tests is the kick-plate, a sliding section of pavement that causes the rear of a vehicle to swing wildly out of control. On the soaking-wet surface that immediately follows, cars will slide everywhere. Appropriately, it’s designed to teach participants how to handle emergency situations and safely regain control.
There’s also a mild off-road circuit, which is perfect for evaluating the Cayenne SUV’s off-road prowess. With steep inclines, giant holes and even a teeter-totter, it shows how well this race-bred utility handles the rough stuff, not that anyone will ever take their Cayenne through the backwoods, but it’s fun nonetheless.
Porsche’s Experience Center is the perfect place to learn about and gain first-hand understanding of what this brand is all about. To visit, choose the vehicle you want to evaluate, then reserve a space online. You can test everything from a 718 Boxster, which runs from about $385 for 90 minutes of driving, to the vaunted 911 Turbo, which will set you back $950 for one and a half hours behind the wheel. Of course, you can also learn how to drive a manual transmission, take a Cayenne off road or compare one of the company’s rear-engine models to another with a mid-mounted powerplant. Naturally, pricing varies for these activities so check online for details.
Beyond track-day fun, L.A.’s installment of the Porsche Experience Center offers a lot more. There are business and conference spaces available for rent, there’s around 6,000 square feet of banquet space and even a driving-simulation lab.
In addition to all of this, there’s a Porsche Exclusive Design Studio, where buyers can work hand-in-glove with specialists to customize their new car. There’s also the Speedster Café, which serves Starbucks coffee and other light foods. Naturally, there’s a gift shop where you can get all manner of premium, Porsche-branded merchandise, from model cars to sunglasses.
But if all of this weren’t enough, the Porsche Experience Center in L.A. also offers fine dining. Restaurant 917 provides top-tier cuisine and an unobstructed view of the venue’s test tracks. Named after the first Porsche to triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it also looks like a winner.
Finally, this L.A. facility is also home to Porsche Motorsport North America. In the U.S. and Canada, it’s the only place authorized to sell, service and provide parts for the company’s racing vehicles, products like the Cayman GT4 Clubsport and 911 GT3 R.
The Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta welcomed some 36,000 visitors in its first year. However, the company is expecting 50,000 or more enthusiasts to pass through its brand-new L.A. location over the next 12 months. Given its prime location and all the amenities it offers, this may be a conservative figure.
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Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
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