Porsche has stated in no uncertain terms that it wants to grow its sales volume. Porsche feels it has a perception issue -- it thinks consumers view its cars as expensive and impractical. Like other automakers, it realizes that one of the best ways to help change peoples minds is to get butts in seats, and that is just what the 2011 Porsche Sport Drive event does.
Porsche is traveling around the country hosting an event dubbed the 2011 Porsche Sport Drive in various cities. It is billed as an "unforgettable experience," and an "unrivaled opportunity." Those are some large claims from a marketing department.
While this is a consumer-oriented event, we were invited out to partake in the fun and receive first hand experience as to what the event is all about in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Upon pulling up to the event we noticed a mix of high-end luxury vehicles ranging from a Lamborghini Gallardo and Porsche Boxster to a Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi RS4. Clearly Porsche is targeting what it feels is its prime demographic.
As we walked to the registration tent we noticed Porsche had vehicles on display staged in various ways showing off how versatile a Porsche can be. A Cayenne was hooked to a dual-axle trailer, and a Carrera had both a baby seat in the rear and a car-top carrier on the roof.
During check-in the group organizers split people into four groups designated by colored dots. After everyone was checked in, we were welcomed and the team for Porsche asked a few questions to gather some information on the group. We were informed that we would be learning from Porsche Sport Driving School Instructors throughout the various stations.
Once registration and the welcome speech were over, we were dismissed to our first station, the autocross. Porsche had brought two base Boxsters for this station and each was equipped with the PDK transmission. One of the Boxsters was barely broken in with nearly 700 miles on the odometer while the other had over 2,000 miles on it. Porsche representatives explained to the group that the Boxster with more miles would be slightly quicker, and they wanted us to see the difference between a vehicle that was broken in and one that wasn't.
We drove both the Boxsters through the autocross and were able to notice a slight difference in speed, but they were both quick. More important was how balanced and controlled each felt. Porsche was making a point to show that even a base model Boxster is a blast to drive due to the mid-engine set-up and balanced chassis.
In talking with some of the other group members, we learned that most of them had never autocrossed before. Many people in our group enjoyed this station and were highly impressed with the Boxster's driving performance.
Next we headed over to the wet skid pad. Porsche had a base Carrera on hand to demonstrate Porsche Stability Management (PSM). We were to go around a circle of cones and tip into the throttle near the double cones.
The first two times around the circle we had PSM on, and it quickly attempted to reign in the Carrera as it lost traction and spun out. We ended up spinning 180 degrees before coming to a stop. When performing the same exact maneuver with PSM off, the Carrera spun 360 degrees twice before coming to a stop.
As each participant stepped out of the Carrera, their faces told it all. If they didn't understand what stability control did before, they certainly did after.
The third station was a mini road course, which had both the Carrera and Panamera 4 awaiting our arrival. We were first assigned a white Carrera with the PDK transmission. The base Carrera was quick and we really liked the metal paddles which were attached to the steering column (the correct way to offer paddles).
During the second session around the road course we found ourselves behind the wheel of a burgundy Panamera 4. We wondered how the big, heavy sedan would handle the road course with a V-6 and all-wheel drive. While not as quick as the other Porsches we had been driving all day, the Panamera 4 hustled around the track faster than you might expect. The steering was lighter than the Carrera and less responsive. Even with the air suspension in Sport Plus mode, body roll was present, but it was predictable.
After each group had been to all three stations the Porsche team gathered us back into the tent and served lunch and ice cream. While we were eating they thanked us for coming out to spend the morning with them. To finish things off they asked a few trivia questions and gave away some prizes.
We spoke with a few of the consumers who attended the event and they said the experience was fun and informative. It seems the major take away for this group was what PSM does to save your butt in an emergency situation.
While we aren't sure this event sold any cars that day, it probably helped keep current Porsche owners wanting more, and maybe pushed potential owners closer to buying a new Porsche.