Wheels: A Father, a Son and the Porsche They Went In On Together

Wheels: A Father, a Son and the Porsche They Went In On Together

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With the car listed at about $65,000, my checking account pointed to never. But when my gear-head son mentioned he was also in the market for a new car, I realized I could afford the Porsche if he went in with me — and if we leased the vehicle, rather than bought it.

At the Porsche delivery center, buyers can get a feel for their new car in a loaner.

Credit
Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

So I suggested we go halfsies, splitting the $1,200-a-month lease, and the insurance, while agreeing to joint custody between our homes in Connecticut and Michigan. For his 25th birthday, I told him I’d pay his expenses if he joined me at the track.

I would get my aspirational car in my 60s; Sam in his 20s. How cool was that?

Sam and I have always been joined at the fender. I have often given him my hand-me-downs, including a 1974 Jensen-Healey and a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 230E that actually had a stick shift (it was from Spain). We call each other just to talk about cars and email photos of alluring ones we’ve seen on the street.

The Cayman ownership felt like a natural evolution. And so far, at least, it has indeed been a satisfying father-son experience, including when we sat in the dealership debating which options to add. (He insisted on the macho Sport Exhaust. Being reverse-gear challenged, I opted for the backup radar.)

Porsche, like BMW, has long had a European delivery program, allowing buyers to pick up their cars from the factory in Germany. But in 1999, BMW added the American version, enabling buyers to pick up their vehicles at the company’s complex in Spartanburg, S.C. Porsche added its program here in April.

“The European delivery has been popular over the years, and we wanted to expand the program with an offering based at our new and unique Porsche driving experience centers,” said Andre Oosthuizen, a Porsche vice president for marketing.

He said the company planned to eventually extend the program to Los Angeles.

Neither company lets you put your actual new car on the track. Instead, they lend you a similar model to put through its paces.

Video

Conquering the Kick Plate

With some advice from a pro, our reporter does his best to navigate a simulation of hydroplaning in a Porsche Cayman GTS.


By JAMES SCHEMBARI on Publish Date October 20, 2016.


by Dustin chambers for The New York Times.

Watch in Times Video »

Porsche’s 1.6-mile track is next to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. In fact, it’s next to Runway 8L-26R, and planes fly low right over the track as you drive and they prepare to land. Being surrounded by all that engine noise is exhilarating.

Taking delivery of your car is very white glove. The delivery center manager, Ray Shaffer, leads you into the delivery room, where the keys are on a table and the car is under wraps. Then it’s onto the track for about 90 minutes of instruction.

The track has six modules, including a handling course, kick plate and off-road course.

Porsche put me in a 2016 Cayman GTS, and it was thrilling to take what was, in essence, my car through the handling course and, after a few tries, to get the car to hug the curves at high speed.

Later, I got to experience the car’s acceleration when the instructor taught me how to use its launch control. Think popping the clutch and burning rubber, but with a high-tech automatic transmission.

My day began to deflate, though, when the instructor directed me to the kick plate for skid instruction — and what turned out to be many rounds of humiliation.

I’ve never been adept on skid pads, and this exercise was particularly tricky. As I drove onto the plate, it hydraulically shoved me and the car into a skid. You do not know in advance whether you will slide to the right or to the left. As in real life, you have to react instantly, steering aggressively into the skid, then bringing the wheel back to the center position.

Sam Schembari in the passenger’s seat of a Porsche 911. He and his father are sharing a 2016 Cayman S.

Credit
Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Time and again I reacted instantly in the wrong direction and spun out, providing lots of entertainment for visitors who were watching on a balcony overlooking the track. (You can watch the accompanying video, but please keep your comments to yourself.)

Finally, on my eighth attempt, I nailed it. I will point out that my instructor, Trevor Andrusko, said it was more difficult in a midengine car like the Cayman than in other types of vehicles. Not that I’m using that as an excuse or anything.

I learned later that Sam, in the midengine 718 Boxster, got it on his first try — and was happy to tell me about it. There are limits to father and son harmony.

Mr. Shaffer told me that I was not the first parent to participate in the program with an offspring. A father and son from New Jersey picked up a 2016 Cayman GT4 in July. And in August, a father and daughter came from Detroit to get a Cayman GT4.

I see why BMW and Porsche offer these delivery experiences. Buying a new car, no matter the model, is exciting enough. But actually going to the headquarters of the brand and putting a car on the track is unbeatable.

For those who have the time, money and passion for the brand, these trips are an option that go way beyond heated seats.

And if you can, bring your child.

Correction: October 24, 2016
A subheading with an article on the Automobiles page on Friday about a father and son who leased a Porsche together misstated the pair’s geographic proximity. James Schembari, the father, lives in Connecticut and his son Sam lives in Michigan. They are not “in different time zones.” A picture caption with the article also misstated, in some editions, the two men’s reason for traveling to Porsche’s American headquarters in Atlanta. They were there to take the racing training that the company offers to new Porsche owners and lessees, not to take delivery of their car.

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