Wednesday, May 22, 2024

[Event] Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles

 On Saturday my wife and I flew down to LA for a date with the PEC Los Angeles.

Some background - my wife recently said that she wanted to "learn to drift." This caught me by surprise, as she has never expressed interest in any HPDE or driving schools before issuing this proclamation out of the blue. Keen not to let the moment slip by, I booked a 90-minute driving experience in his-and-hers GTS 4.0s.

This was my first time at the PEC Los Angeles, but I've been to the PEC Atlanta. In 2022 I went with my dad and we tooled around in 911 Carreras. I had a great time, you can read about that here on the blog.

The PEC LA facility is in Carson, where the 405 and 110 intersect. In more casual terms, it's across the highway from where they park the Goodyear blimp. The complex is composed of a purpose-built handling circuit, enclosing a series of driving modules and exercise areas. Inside the main building there is a delivery center, some simulators, a restaurant and coffee bar, a well-stocked gift shop, and a motorsport service center. You'll find some fantastic Porsches in the lobby area, and the only thing between the lobby and the motorsport lifts is a large glass wall.

We arrived early to soak in the atmosphere and get into the spirit (and take photos, and buy tchotchkes). My wife started to get a bit jittery as our start time approached. I did as well, no matter how many driving schools or track days I do, I always feel those butterflies. I told her what I tell other friends before their first driving event like this: we're here to have fun! If you feel uncomfortable, if you're not having fun, that's a sign to make a change and get things back on your terms. Especially in an event like this, where there are a variety of different cars and drivers sharing space, do your own thing and focus on enjoying yourself and learning some new things. Trust the instructor and pick up some new skills in a safe environment.

The great thing about the PEC experiences is that you have 90 minutes, and you're welcome to use them however you like. There is no classroom time. You meet your instructor, they ask about your past experience and what you'd like to accomplish during your session, and then they tailor the 90 minutes to you. Want to do 0-100 runs for 90 minutes? Go for it. Not interested in the low-friction handling course at all? Skip it. In my wife's case, she simply told her instructor that she wanted to slide around, and drive properly fast for the first time in a safe non-street setting. He made sure that she got her fill of the four different low-friction modules.

Here are our steeds for the day - two 718 GTS 4.0s. My wife got the yellow car, which made her easy to spot while I rotated through the other modules. Primarily, it was easy to spot her lazily pirouetting over on the ice hill module while I was on the handling course. Just like she wanted! My car was black, a strange spec. Brown leather interior with the steering column casing in leather, Burmeister, no smoker's package, standard silver trim, multi-function wheel. I have no idea what seats were in the car, I am a bucket man so I can't tell the normal/sport seats apart at a glance (or a sit). The car had something like 1900 miles on it, hardly broken in.

My main goal visiting this time was pretty simple: I wanted to drive "my car" at speed. I specifically wanted to experience driving a mid-engined platform at full pace. I've driven most other drivetrain configurations quickly but this was an unmarked space on my bingo card.

My instructor Greg and I started on the autocross exercise, where I got a feel for the car and he got a feel for my skill level. I found the PDK quite remarkable across the day, super-capable and overall a very different dynamic experience than the 6-speed manual. I tried launch control in one of my autocross runs and wow, quite the kick in the back. Not something I'd want to do on my own clutch, but impressive. We rotated next to the kick plate, one of my favorites from my trip to the PEC Atlanta. After getting the hang of the quick catch, Greg issued more elaborate challenges for me - first he asked me to try to keep the car at a consistent angle post-catch and walk it down the kick plate in a straight line, but holding the angle. Second, he challenged me to catch the car, hold that angle, then swing it the other way through a full 360-degree sweep and exit the far side of the wet area straight-on. I had a lot of fun with this one, on my first attempt I hit the plate a bit quickly and couldn't complete the rotation before running out of wet area; on the second attempt I nailed it and felt like a proper LA stunt driver. We rolled on to the wet skidpad where I kinda-sorta got the hang of things, holding the car in a controlled slide for 1/2 to 3/4 of a revolution. We tried the "ice hill," which I don't remember for Atlanta, but didn't spend too much time there.

While my wife spent most of her time on the low-traction exercises, I was keen to spend time lapping the handling circuit. With 45 minutes elapsed, Greg and I swapped seats and he drove a couple of sighting laps around the handling circuit. This is essentially a track in ~1/2-scale, large enough to provide thrills but small enough to keep speeds "down," though we were definitely moving. I love ride-alongs with skilled drivers and Greg really put on a clinic, I was impressed by his smoothness/throttle application and how much grip the car could deliver. We pulled back in to the pit and swapped seats again.

My impressions of the GTS: phenomenal. The chassis is so balanced, so confidence-inspiring, and so flattering to drive. I came up to speed and felt comfortable so quickly. The motor sounds fantastic and pulls well on the track, where it can live in its 5-8k RPM happy place, helped along by the telepathic PDK. Not once did I think about shifting - the car was simply in the right gear at all times, snapping off shifts with no interruption in power delivery or disruption to the balance of the car. Greg had to goad me on to find the limit of the brakes, far beyond what I expected, providing so much power before finally invoking ABS. We were really scooting on the handling circuit - there were GT3s out there with us, and the GTS held its own. A mildly amusing anecdote: I encountered my first ever Macan EV by... overtaking it on track. There was a press car with Met Gala decals circulating among the students.

Eventually, my exploration of the Cayman's impressive braking capability resulted in a slightly long pedal and greasy tires. Greg told me to park up in the paddock area to take a mental break and let the car cool down. The front brakes smoked while we sat at rest... yeah, I think I'd have to upgrade brakes if I used my car in this way. We went out for another session and then it was all over.

I knew that I'd had a great time, but that was never in doubt. Did my wife like it? Yes! She had a great time - she loved the ice hill exercise and the experience checked the boxes for her intro-to-drifting desires. Most importantly, she said she'd like to come again some time. :)

We wound down with some cool drinks at the cafe and made one more walk around the facility. Some lucky customer had just taken deliver of their heritage livery GT3RS and there was a great customer Dakar on hand as well.

I'm not sure if I've seen this many GT3RSs in a single place, including the factory during our delivery experience. I thought these were rare!

One more fun spot: there is a 992 Turbo parked out front of the facility, it looks fairly standard but there is something not quite stock in the passenger footwell.

This concludes the report from the PEC Los Angeles. If you've ever been curious, I can't recommend it enough. While it's not inexpensive, I think it is a fantastic value when you compare it to a track day. Here's a quick napkin calculation: I typically track my Focus RS at Laguna Seca. Ballpark $350 just to get on track, then I spend roughly $250 for single-day insurance, then I'm paying for my own consumables and wear and tear. I'm probably getting about 100 minutes of driving across 5x 20-minute sessions for $600+. The GTS cost $750 for 90 minutes of driving, in their cars with their consumables, including the $50 extra I paid to drop the liability from 20k to 2.5k if an accident were to occur. I'm also receiving high-quality in-car instruction for the entire time! Not to mention I'm in a Cayman instead of a Focus.

Thanks for reading along. It's a good thing I don't live local or I'd be here once a month.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

[Cayman] European Delivery


In November I took delivery of my Cayman GTS from the factory in Zuffenhausen. Buying a Porsche and experiencing European Delivery have been dreams of mine for many years - at least since I first drove a Cayman in 2016 - and the experience did not disappoint. I’d like to post my trip report here and share some tips if you are also planning an off-season ED, or if you plan to visit the same areas.

Full ED photo album: European Delivery

Porsche + BMW + Mercedes museum photo album: European Delivery museums

Trip overview

Leg 1 (with my wife)

11/19 - Arrive in Frankfurt, tourist day, jet-lag adjustment

11/20 - Sightseeing in Heidelberg, continue on to Stuttgart

11/21 - Mercedes and Porsche museums, dinner at Christophorus

11/22 - Pick up day, first drive to Baden-Baden

11/23 - Driving tour of the Black Forest

11/24 - Scenic route through Black Forest, arrive in Basel for dinner + visit with friends

11/25 - Basel to Vevey - pick up my dad, dinner + visit with friends

Leg 2 (wife flies home, continue with dad)

11/26 - Vevey to Interlaken to Schwyz

11/27 - Schwyz to Liechtenstein to Füssen

11/28 - Füssen to Salzburg (snow day)

11/29 - Salzburg touring + driving loop, Rossfeld Panoramastrasse

11/30 - Salzburg to Munich, BMW Musuem + Welt

11/31 - Munich to Stuttgart, car return

12/1 - Fly out of Frankfurt


Early in 2023 I placed a deposit with my local Porsche dealer and got in line for a GTS. In July I received an allocation, and told my sales associate that I was 100% interested in ED if it was at all possible. Within two weeks I locked my configuration, we had a build completion date (mid October), and I selected November 22nd for delivery in Zuffenhausen. With the dates set, I started one of my favorite activities: road trip planning.

I love road trips and writing about them. Based on my vacation time available, this was a tight 10-day driving itinerary, so nailing down the route and planning ahead were key for a smooth trip. The main challenges of a late-November ED: unpredictable weather and road conditions; lack of familiarity with most of the route; break-in restrictions; and driving my nice, shiny new car through it all. Not to mention balancing driving time against having an enjoyable vacation (especially for my co-drivers). Oh, and I also had to return the car to the factory since I rented winter tires.

I studied the route options, looking through Porsche and BMW forums, and plotted a route that ran from Stuttgart west to the Black Forest, south to Switzerland, east through Bavaria to Salzburg, and then ultimately back toward Stuttgart via Munich. At a different time of the year I’d have gone directly south over the alps and classic mountain passes to Como, but I knew this would probably not be possible in late November. It was more of a Christmas Market kind of trip, and we (mostly) stayed at low elevation.

(General route overview, can only place so many waypoints in a single Google map)

Ultimately this was a fairly aggressive itinerary, covering a lot of ground, with a different hotel almost every night. I aimed for around 4-5 hours of driving per day, broken into morning and afternoon sessions of roughly equal length. We stretched our legs over a lunch break and took a moment to sight-see. One of the biggest challenges of the trip was the 4:30p sunset time. I wanted to avoid being on a small or less-traveled road after the sun went down and the temperature dropped below freezing - definitely something you want to keep in mind if you plan a winter ED.

For break-in, I followed the “Preuninger method” because there was no way I was going to spend the entire trip under 4000 RPM. I avoided short trips, always letting the car come completely up to temperature, and stayed off the autobahns to avoid constant-RPM running in those early miles.

Days 1-2: pre-delivery; Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Stuttgart

The trip began on Saturday 11/18, when my wife and I flew from San Francisco to Frankfurt, landing on Sunday. We spent that first day adjusting to the jet lag and getting our bearings, mostly walking around Frankfurt. I particularly enjoyed the river-side promenade, which reminded me of the Esplanade along the Charles river in Boston. I had my first of many (delicious) schnitzels at Schwarzer Stern.

On Monday we caught the train from Frankfurt down to Heidelberg, which was quite charming, and had a great funicular (we never pass up a funicular). The weather on both days was brisk but bright and clear, with the trees in full fall foliage.

In the afternoon we continued on, riding the train to Stuttgart. We walked around the center of town a bit and visited the Porsche “driven by dreams” brand store, which had an S/T on display - the first of many we’d see over the next few days. After dinner we settled in to our room at the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin hotel.

Day 3: Stuttgart museums

Note: posts are restricted to 20 images, so these are just my selections from my museum photos. You can find all of them here: European Delivery museums

Tuesday was our museum day. We started at Mercedes, which was excellently presented. The exhibits did a nice job telling the story of the company in the context of local and global events happening at the same time, and had discrete areas of focus (technology, safety, alternate fuels, racing, etc). As someone focused more on the sports car side of things, I found their motorsport collection, which was undergoing maintenance, a bit thin. I was particularly surprised that Lewis Hamilton, who has brought glory to the Mercedes name for multiple years on the race track, was not really featured at all. I thought we might be able to find a museum more to my tastes on the other side of town.

We caught the S train to Porscheplatz and I took in the modern home of Porsche for the first time. With delivery scheduled for the following morning this was like Christmas Eve for me. We explored the museum collection and perused the museum shop for a couple of hours, then made our way upstairs for an excellent pre-delivery dinner at Christophorus. The food and service were excellent and it set the stage for the start of my Porsche ownership experience.

Day 4: delivery day, Baden-Baden

My wife and I enjoyed a second excellent Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin breakfast and made our way to Porsche Werke 4 for our delivery. Out of an abundance of caution and enthusiasm we arrived slightly early - by about 35 minutes, at 7:25a. Oops. This gave us plenty of time to peruse the outrageous collection of GT cars available for purchase or staged for delivery. Among them - a Spyder RS, S/T, Dakar, and every flavor of GT3 and GT4RS.

At 8am we met Julian, who led us to the delivery garage where a Cayman-shaped silhouette waited under a sheet. Nine months after submitting my build and placing a deposit, it was finally time to see my car!

I had to laugh when Julian activated a purpose-built sheet-pulling machine to slide the cover off perfectly evenly, and at just the right speed. It was a special moment to finally see the car, which to this point I’d only known as a set of renders and some sales paperwork. I’d put together my interior with a certain flavor in mind but not seen all of the elements together until this moment, and the complete package exceeded my expectations. Shark blue is a brilliant color and I'm really happy that I brought it into the interior!

Photo credit: Porsche

The only thing I didn’t care for - the winter wheels. I’d hoped for the slightly more sporty-looking 19” winter wheel set but I received the 18” set. Oh well! It’ll just make it that much more exciting when I get the car with my actual wheels when it lands in California (GTS wheels in platinum).

Julian talked me through the car, which really didn’t take long, as the 718 has a straightforward interior and infotainment system. I had time for a few initial photos before we loaded up for our first drive, back to the museum for our factory tour. There we met Ferdinand, who led our small group - ourselves and one other American couple taking delivery of their Macan GTS - around the plant. We started in the upholstery shop, which made me appreciate going for the full leather option, before visiting the engine line. After a quick check to make sure no prototypes were being built, we made our way to the 911 final assembly line.

I wish I could show you photos from this part, but they were strictly verboten. It was really special to see all of these flavors of 911 converging and following one after the other. As the body shell of an S/T floated overhead, identifiable by the Shade Green Metallic paint and cut-out front fenders, a yellow GT3RS came down the line, followed by a GTS Targa, with a white Dakar behind it. To see the wheels of these cars lined up next to each other, waiting for install, was to see how versatile the 911 platform is. Steamroller GT3RS centerlock semi-slicks contrasting with the enormous (like, truly enormous) knobby-yet-soft-compound Dakar tires. What a treat.

Ferdinand finally managed to drag us out of there and drop us off at the VIP restaurant / casino. This gave us essentially the inverse view we had for our Christophorus dinner the evening before, looking down at the roundabout and the museum. Again the food was delicious. The end of lunch was the end of our delivery experience, and it was time for the first drive.

Route map: click

For these particularly critical break-in miles I mapped out a windy route through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden and kept my right foot in check. As any new Porsche owner can attest this is easier said than done. The drive really came into its own once we made it past Calw, where the trees tightened up and we laced through the big wind turbines.

We intercepted the famous B500, or Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (Black Forest Road) and headed north. Here I stopped for the first of many turnout photo shoots of the trip and had a chance to step back and soak in my new car. Shark blue is striking, so saturated especially in the foggy fall landscape.

Daylight dwindling, snow flurries falling, we pressed on to Baden-Baden. As we pulled up to our hotel a group of young carspotters ran up and asked me to rev it. (I don’t speak German, but no translation was needed) Unfortunately I had to let them down easy, but I took it as a sign that I had purchased a pretty good car. I recommend Roomers, they seem to be partnered up with Porsche in some form and their underground parking garage is spacious. My wife and I walked through town and visited the Friedrichsbad Roman bath house for a novel bathing experience - coed and fully nude! Enjoyable on a cold winter night but I think the facilities could use a bit of a refurb.

End-of-day mileage: 179 km / 111 mi

Day 5: Black Forest loop

Route map: click

On Thanksgiving day we set out on a touring loop of the Black Forest. You may notice in the route maps that we did a bit of a jog just south of Baden-Baden; this was to avoid a road construction closure on B500 near Sand. The detour took us down Sandstrasse through the town of Sickerwald, an excellent road and a scenic little town. If you’re in this area, even if the B500 is open, consider this little side-track for a fun zip.

We had mixed conditions through the Nationalpark Schwartzwald (Black Forest National Park), with light rain and pervasive fog, so the first leg of the journey was a bit muted and spent mostly behind a French-plated Fiat Panda. We made our first stop in Wolfach, a quiet town with one main block of shops and attractions.

From there we continued south, stopping at (one of) the house(s) of cuckoo clocks, where the proprietor had a large photograph framed and prominently displayed marking Nicholas Cage’s one-time visit and clock purchase.

In a tragic turn of events, we arrived at the world’s largest cuckoo clock at 1:02pm, and consequently saw nothing at all. We drove on.

Our southbound leg concluded in Triberg. We had ambitions to hike the waterfalls and continue even further to Ravenna Gorge, but it was bitterly cold and we decided that it would be more prudent to turn back. We had little daylight left, and it was opening day for the Christmas market in Baden-Baden, which we didn’t want to miss. We decided to save the gorge for a future, possibly warmer trip.

Small parking stalls, but mercifully low curbs in Triberg. Got away with this one

I opted for a more direct route back - it’s the more western leg in the map above - and it was awful. I toggled “avoid highways” on Google maps on account of break-in, but I warn you that “avoid highways” does not equal “nice back roads.” Google took us on a convoluted series of small-town surface roads, and we essentially ran parallel to the highway the entire way back, trudging through every small town during rush hour. I do not recommend this, in retrospect we should have simply backtracked on our outbound leg and aimed for B500. Please learn from my mistake.

Back in Baden-Baden I filled the fuel tank for the first time. I was surprised when I did not see 98 octane at the Shell station, so the car got 100. Our two other fuel stops on the trip were also at Shell, also 100. Reviewing the photos I’m not actually sure what currency was being used so I just did what I do in California these days - swipe the card and fill the tank and try not to think about it.

We finished the night with a lovely visit to the Baden-Baden Christmas market - complete with glühwein and commemorative mugs. We saw a few other markets along the trip but this was the best - it felt the most authentic and cozy, the turnout was strong on account of opening day, and the first one always feels special. We finished out the day with “Thanksgiving dinner” at Rizzi. There was no turkey on the menu so it was schnitzel again.

End-of-day mileage: 410 km / 255 mi

Day 6: through the Black Forest into Switzerland

Route map: click

We checked out of Baden-Baden on Friday morning and started our journey toward Switzerland. I zoned out on the way out of town and picked up a nice photo souvenir of myself and my wife going 61 in a 50, I look forward to receiving it in a couple of months. To cheer myself up I took a couple photos in Sickerwald.

We followed B500 south again, but this time split off and took a road that Google maps calls K5370. While foggy, the road was unoccupied, smooth, and a lot of fun. It dumped us onto a road for which Google has no name, but where we found the Klosterruine Allerheiligen, a ruined abbey. The weather cleared and we followed this amazing road south to Oppenau, picking up L94 through to Zell. I highly recommend these roads, they lace through the mountains, through the small German towns, and they are wonderful to drive. They must be popular because we saw quite a few signs in the towns asking motorcyclists to please STFU.

We landed in Freiburg for a very brief scenic stop and bite to eat.

We left Freiburg and caught Schauislandstrasse to Todtnau. I must also recommend this fabulous road, though it was starting to snow a bit and get dark, which kept speeds in check. We intercepted 317 and followed it south all the way to Basel. After picking up a Swiss toll tag at the border, we meandered into central Basel to check out their Christmas market. Driving into the center of town at 5pm on a Friday was not the wisest choice of the trip, but we did eventually make it through in one piece. We carried on a bit further and arrived at my friend’s house, where we enjoyed some amazing raclette and stayed up late chatting.

End-of-day mileage: 659 km / 409 mi

Day 7: friends, touge, fondue

In 2018 I was sitting in a pizza bar in Turin, eating my lonely man’s work trip meal, when the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He'd noticed my phone lock screen, which was undoubtedly a photo of one of my cars, so we started chatting. We talked through the meal and exchanged car stories, and eventually phone numbers. I went home to California and he went home to Switzerland. But over the next few years we stayed in touch, exchanging text messages and car photos every few months.

In early 2022 I received a surprise message: he was coming to the US for work, and he had talked his boss into letting him “swing by California” (coming from Switzerland to the American midwest), and would I want to see him? Of course I said yes, and during his 23-hour stay I led a whirlwind tour of San Francisco car culture. I took him to my local Cars and Coffee and we drove all of my cars. I handed him the keys to my M3 and he ripped through my local mountain roads (84 > Pescadero > PCH for the bay area folks). It was an outrageous good time, and an amazing thing to happen four years after that chance meeting in Italy.

Naturally when I decided to pick up my car in Stuttgart, I knew we needed to come to Basel and see him. He graciously hosted me and my wife, and put his family wagon out in the street so the Cayman could sleep inside the garage, next to his hot hatch.

As mentioned we shared raclette and stories of the trip on Friday night. On Saturday we woke up because he wanted to return the favor and take me on his local Swiss “touge” for some fun driving. We set out in his GR Yaris and he shared his alpine stomping grounds.

I was blown away by the traction, torque, and capability of the GR Yaris. This car is forbidden fruit for us Americans, so when he offered the keys, I took him up on it. My daily driver is a Ford Focus RS so I enjoy a turbo AWD hatch. The GR felt quicker and more nimble, with great torque, a really nice shifter, and powerful brakes. Sorry Americans, it really is great :-/ maybe in 25 years or so.

We swapped the GR for the GTS and went back out. I handed over the keys and my friend had his first-ever Porsche experience. I had to apologize to his wife when we got back because he was so smitten with the GTS, even with the 5000rpm break-in limit. Much the same way that I drove my friend’s GT4 in 2016 and it set me on the path to my car, I felt like I was passing the torch and setting my friend on his way. He spent the rest of the day sending me Porsche listings.

Photo credit: SK

This is what this car thing is all about - the connections you make and the amazing places it can take you. I never would have imagined in 2018 that five years later, me and this stranger eating pizza would be tearing around some Swiss back roads in amazing sports cars. A highlight of the trip!

As much as we’d have liked to stay, we were expected elsewhere, so my wife and I bid adieu and drove west to Vevey. There we picked up my father and initiated the co-driver swap, marking the midway point of the trip. I dropped my wife off at the hotel then retrieved my dad, who had flown in to Geneva, from the train station. We stayed at Le Mirador, with stunning views of lake Geneva and the French alps.

We stashed the GTS, now properly filthy, in the covered parking garage. It made a friend.

We found a friend as well. My parents lived nearby when I was very young, and we shared a fondue dinner with one of my dad’s best friends, who he had not seen in years. After two consecutive dinners of molten cheese we retired for the evening, and I prepared for the next leg of the trip with my dad.

End-of-day mileage: 879 km / 546 mi

Day 8: Jaun Pass, Interlaken, Schwyz

Route map: click

It was still dark when the alarm went off on Sunday morning. My wife and I had the highway to ourselves all the way to the Geneva airport, where I dropped her off for an early return flight to California. I took the opportunity to fill up with another tank of Shell’s finest, then returned to the hotel for breakfast with dad before the day’s drive.

In 2018 my wife and I spent a week driving around Switzerland in a little BMW 118d, and our itinerary brought us through Vevey and the middle of the country. For this reason I decided to minimize the Swiss leg of our trip and focus on getting over to Bavaria. Keen to avoid freeways and boring roads, I let Google maps be my guide, and from the warmth and comfort of my house in California, plotted a route over the Jaun Pass. This looks like a fun, windy road!

It started well - a bit of traffic, bright skies, a beautiful clear valley. Dad and I chatted. I didn't really notice the gradual elevation gain. A few cars turned off here and there, traffic thinned out. We fell into the shade of the mountains on either side. Patches of slush started to appear on the road, between our tire tracks.

The climb got a little bit steeper. Where the road was shaded, we had to put all four tires on snow, just for a moment. Things started to get a little quiet in the car. Suddenly there was no one else on the road but a Subaru wagon, and two dummies in a bright blue Porsche behind them.

Before I could say, “should we turn around?” we were on the snow. Originally from the American south, I’m not an experienced snow driver, though I am fairly practiced with low-grip conditions thanks to a couple of driving schools. The back slid a bit as I put on throttle through the uphill esses, trying to keep our forward momentum and feeling somehow that we would be safer if we were within sight of the Subaru, so the driver would notice us lazily sliding off the road. We passed people with skis. One of them threw up a gesture, I don’t know if it was one of encouragement or consternation. Mercifully shortly after that we crested the Jaun Pass. We crawled downhill through the snow-covered switchbacks, pulling over just once to catch my breath and grab the photo above. Look ma, no guardrails!

As we came down the hill, the road surface returned, and the mood in the car lightened. I stopped in the slush for… you guessed it, some more photos to capture the moment. I love this photo I got of my dad.

We pressed on to our mid-day checkpoint, Interlaken, along dry and beautiful roads.

In town, we ate a bite of Indian (my wife and I did the same last time, so I decided to make it a two-instance Interlaken tradition) and wandered over to the main green space - you know, the one by the Hooters. This must be the world's most beautiful Hooters restaurant.

The view is stunning (the mountains, not Hooters) and you can watch people glide in, land, and jump right into a van to do it again.

Our next mini-leg took us along Brienzersee.

We parked in Lucerne and stretched our legs, took in the sights, and had dinner. I did my best tripod impression and tried to stay very still for some low-light photos.

From Lucerne it was a short trip to Schwyz, and our final night in Switzerland.

End-of-day mileage: 1,299 km / 807 mi

Day 9: Liechtenstein, Austria, Füssen

Route map: click

Schwyz has a nice church in the center of town with a loud, well-exercised bell. For no reason at all we woke up early on Monday.

The weather was not great on this day, something like 50F, mostly overcast. We set out north from Schwyz, bound for Liechtenstein. The morning route was nothing to write home about, with the exception of a twisty bit as we got closer to Liechtenstein. I pulled over to document the fine crust of dirt and salt accumulating on the GTS. Only time will tell if the floor mats can be salvaged, or if I'll need a new set.

I didn’t have my eye on anything particular in Liechtenstein, but I figured I was this close, why not check it out? We stopped in Vaduz, paid 3 euro for a commemorative passport stamp, and enjoyed an efficient (schnitzel) lunch with all the businessmen at New Castle restaurant.

I don’t know anyone that’s been to Liechtenstein, or really talks about it, and now I understand why. There just isn’t much to it. It was like most of the Swiss and German towns we drove through, though seemingly populated solely by business people. I did enjoy seeing their unique license plates. My recommendation: stop by if you’re curious and already in the area, otherwise, you don’t need to make an effort to see it.

Leaving Liechtenstein to the north, we crossed into Austria for the first time. I bought a toll tag, installed it nearly straight, filled the tank at the Shell station, and cracked a Red Bull. When in Rome!

Unfortunately the drive through Austria was quite poor - “avoid highways” backfired the same way that it did in the Black Forest, and we ended up puttering from roundabout to roundabout at 30-50 kph with the local traffic. Road quality and traffic improved once we crossed into Germany, but overall, Monday’s route was a bit of a dud. On the final stretch into Füssen the road was dry, open, and flowing, and we visited 7000 RPM for the first time. A bright spot in an otherwise forgettable day of driving.

Many pairs of my shoes have paid the ultimate price for a good photo

We arrived at a fairly empty Füssen, and from our hotel room at the Best Western Plus (quite nice, cozy bar and underground parking garage) we could make out Neuschwanstein castle. Late November really must be the off-season here as the town was basically dead. We enjoyed an excellent meal at Nashi and a night cap at the hotel bar before turning in for the night.

End-of-day mileage: 1,561 km / 970 mi

Day 10: snow day: Porsche Traumwerk, Red Bull Hangar-7

Route map: click

On Tuesday I’d planned to follow Porsche’s recommended Bavaria itinerary. From Füssen, we’d go through Oberammergau, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Tegernsee, and Prien am Chiemsee. The weather had other plans.

The day started with an expedition to Neuschwanstein castle in the rain. We parked at the bottom and hoofed it up the driveway for about 20 wet and cold minutes. Dad and I got close enough for the photo and then called it off, heading back down the hill.

Photo credit: CK

Just as we set off for our first checkpoint, the rain turned into big, wet snow. I drove on, but conditions deteriorated quickly and the snow began to accumulate on the road surface. Visibility was poor through the storm and it became clear that we were not going to have a fun day following the original itinerary. Even if the driving was safe, the sightseeing would be cold and compromised. We called an audible and reached into the contingency plans I’d scoped for just this kind of scenario. I broke off the planned route and started manuevering toward the autobahn.

In the middle of this detour, the Cayman rolled over a big milestone: 1000 miles, and the end of (my selected style of) break-in! I toggled through the vehicle settings to display everything in miles just for the photo. I’d like to tell you that we celebrated with a big 7800 RPM pull, but it just wasn’t a good idea in the conditions.

After an unending series of surface roads, we intercepted the A8 autobahn, still in mixed conditions. Here I saw the first unrestricted sign of my life - we zipped up to about 110 mph briefly, but spent more time around 130 kph with the flow of traffic. I had a scare when, at a standstill, a considerable amount of steam and smoke seemed to be billowing from the front of the car. No way it was the brakes - had we damaged a radiator? All gauges read normally… a puzzle. Take a moment and make your guess about the cause.

Figure it out?

Mystery solved. A buildup of snow and ice meeting a hot center radiator.

We reached our first snow-proof destination: the Hans-Peter Porsche Traumwerk. Hans-Peter is one of Ferry Porsche’s sons, and has amassed an enormous collection mostly of vintage toys, models, and especially trains. This impressive stand-alone museum hosts some permanent and rotating exhibits, including 1:1 Porsches. Among them a beautiful green 993 Turbo (with some rock chips!) and the strange deep-cut that is the 997 Turbo "Edition 918 Spyder," a car dedicated to a different car. That one has always made me scratch my head.

The real centerpiece of the museum has to be the enormous scale… country? Calling it a model train set doesn’t do it justice. According to the Porsche newsroom it is “a piece of Europe in miniature: Austria, Switzerland, and Germany.” Forty trains running on 1.7 miles of track. The controls system that runs it all is a masterpiece, and the projectors mounted from the ceiling continually cycle the whole thing through day and night, with all the miniatures lighting up and adapting to the conditions. Staggering!

The museum is not too far from Salzburg and I definitely recommend a visit if time permits. As a bonus, they have a well-stocked gift shop that has many of the same items from the Porsche museum and factory delivery store. And of course many scale models.

We carried on to our next weather-proof activity: Red Bull Hangar-7, located just outside of Salzburg, by the airport. There is no admission charge to come in and see an incredible display of race cars and aircraft from Red Bull’s fleet. My only gripe is that the place is lit like a nightclub - dark, with a few overhead lights occasionally cycling in psychedelic colors. Try to come while the sun is up, or find the light switch.

My favorite car on display: Sebastian Vettel’s Toro Rosso, winner of the 2008 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This is my favorite generation of F1 cars aesthetically, and tucked under the wing of a restored, highly polished DC-6B in Red Bull livery! Bonkers.

Like I said, very challenging lighting. There were some insane vehicles on display that simply couldn’t be photographed in the dark. Across the way we could see the actual active, working hangar with more of Red Bull’s fleet. I’m better at cars than planes, but I think I see at least a Corsair and P-51B Mustang in there.

This last photo perfectly captures the prevailing conditions towards the end of the trip. We drove into Salzburg, had dinner (yup, schnitzel), and turned in for the night.

End-of-day mileage: 1,789 km / 1112 mi

Day 11: Salzburg, driving loop, Rossfeld Panoramastrasse

Wednesday was our last day of sunny skies on the trip, and we took full advantage. Dad and I started with a walking tour of Salzburg old town.

The snow is quite pretty after it’s all migrated from the clouds to the ground. We saw the Mirabell gardens, old town, and Christmas market on our stroll. For lunch I knocked out the best schnitzel of the entire trip at the PitterKeller / PitterGarten restaurant, and we pulled the Cayman out of the garage for some exploring.

Route map: link

Another time of the year we’d have gone south to Zell am See and the Glossglockner road, but the latter is closed for the season. I pieced together the route above using a suggested loop from the Porsche ROADS app. Leaving Salzburg, we followed 158 east, passing the Red Bull corporate campus, jogging a couple of times between the lakes, before hitting a gem of a road in route 153. We were flying by the seat of our pants, not sure what road conditions we would find, but on this whole loop the roads were clear.

I give top marks to 153 - smooth, flowing, with a variety of corners and speeds. This one will also be special to me because conditions were finally good enough to get my dad behind the wheel. I had feared that, given the forecast, his only experience would be slow and soggy, but on 153 he was able to push and enjoy the car. Another highlight of the trip!

153 teed off into 143, and we turned south. 143 was pretty but nothing special from behind the wheel. 166 between Hallstätter See and Gossau was another treat - twisty and technical, following a valley stream. There’s a short video of this section of the drive in the Flickr album.

I set my sights on some scenery to end the driving loop - the Rossfeld Panoramastrasse. It’s a toll / scenic road south of Salzburg, tucked on the German side of the border. The website said that it was open year-round so, even as the sun and temperature started to come down, I pressed on up and up and up the mountain. While I worried about the conditions, I had a feeling that we would find something special at the top.

Our perseverance was rewarded. There was more snow on the road than expected, and when we reached the upper parking area, it seemed that we’d gone far enough. I executed a little pirouette to get the GTS pointed downhill, and parked.

Not much to say. An incredibly special moment to share with my dad.

Photo credit: CK

I’ll remember this one for a long time.

Darkness started to set in, and I wanted to get down the hill while we still had some light. The car indicated 23F as we back-tracked down the hill and headed into Salzburg. We capped off our stay in Austria with a terrific Italian meal at Osteria Patricio Fellini.

End of day mileage: 1,995 km / 1,240 mi

Day 12: unrestricted autobahn run, BMW Welt

Route map: link

Thursday was cold and the forecast called for steady snow from about 10a. Dad and I loaded up the GTS and said farewell to Salzburg. We were stopped at the border checkpoint, where the nice young men with Heckler & Koch MP5s were interested to hear what we were doing with this bright blue car on strange license plates. After explaining European Delivery to their satisfaction (“YOU will ship this car? To America?”), the car was back on home soil.

Before leaving California, I looked up Porsche’s winter tires and checked the speed ratings. The Pirelli Sottozeros supplied in Porsche’s packages carry a V speed rating, good for 149 mph. The fastest I’ve ever driven was 145 mph in a Corvette, and I figured that these last couple highway stretches were my opportunity to set a new benchmark. The car would be broken in, the tires are capable, and we’d see sections of unrestricted autobahn.

The degrading weather had dampened my hopes and even as we set off from the German border, with grey clouds looming, I believed the opportunity would not come. It felt like a shame to come so far, get my own car on the autobahn, and not come home with a high score. What’s the first question you’ll get from anyone when they hear that you took delivery of your Porsche in Germany? “How fast did you go on the autobahn?”

Around 9:55a, we passed the unrestricted sign. Snow was not falling. Traffic was light. I hesitated for a moment - was I REALLY sure that was the unrestricted sign? Is 34F too cold to try this, even with a clear dry road surface? My thoughts were interrupted when a BMW 3 series wagon blasted by. I decided it was now or never. I dropped the Cayman into 3rd, moved into the left lane, and put my foot down. We picked up speed easily. Redline in third. Nearly all the way out in fourth. I think we just pipped into fifth but it all happened quickly. As the BMW began to come back towards us, I caught 240 kph in the cluster - just about 150 mph. We’d done it! I eased off and we settled back into the flow of traffic in the right lane. At 10a it started to snow, and did not stop for the rest of the trip.

Arriving in Munich, we put the GTS away with a friend, then made the pilgrimage to the home of BMW. My dad and I are long-time BMW owners, though I have recently exited the brand, selling my M3 to make the GTS possible. I saw the Welt delivery area for the first time - a cool setup! Perhaps Porsche buyers prefer privacy during delivery, but I think I prefer the BMW method, it feels like more of a celebration. Being honest, I always expected to do European Delivery with BMW. But during Covid they killed the program, and I can’t find a model in their lineup anymore that appeals to me. I thought I would be an M2 man, but then the new one came out, and it's just not for me.

We trekked over to the museum and enjoyed the selection of cars, motorcycles, engines, and memorabilia.

Dad found one he likes. Can you guess what model of BMW he owns? I’ve owned two 2002s, a nice original ‘71 Chamonix car, and a very ratty ‘73 tii in Ceylon. The Chamonix is dad’s now.

They also had Jon Bon Jovi’s 507.

I’m trimming a lot of photos to satisfy the per-post image limit, you can find the rest of the museum photos here if you are interested.

In the evening we went into central Munich for the Marienplatz Christmas market. After a cup of glühwein we set off in search of dinner. While wandering, we came across not one, but TWO snowy Caymans. Kudos to you mystery German owners!

We finished the day with dinner at Jin’s, where the food was excellent, but the service was very slow.

End of day mileage: 2,154 km / 1,338 mi

Day 13-14: car return, departure

Route map: link

Friday was, for all intents and purposes, the end of the trip. Because I rented winter tires I had to return the car to Porsche Werkswagen, right back where the journey started. The drive from Munich to Stuttgart was dreary, 2.5 hours of this:

During pickup, I asked Julian if the car would be cleaned by the Porsche staff before they sent it off to the shipyard. I’m still not 100% clear, but I believe the answer is “no.” He recommended Blitz + Blank in Zuffenhausen, just around the corner from the Porsche campus.

I was keen to get the car clean for two main reasons: first, I needed to assess the condition and know exactly how it looked at hand-off; second, I really wanted to try to blast the wheel wells and underside to remove as much salt and crud as possible. Blitz and Blank was pretty good for the job, they have a machine system that does undercarriage blasting, but we didn’t have time to figure it out, and I didn’t know if it might damage the car. I’m not sure if it was even working. We used a wash bay and - detailers, cover your eyes - I used the scrubby brush. Yup, I used the public car wash brush. The horror! Not something I would ever do if I could avoid it, but the pressure wash just wasn’t cutting it, and the brush was soft and clean. Desperate times call for desperate measures! It cleaned up well.

It was still snowing, so we drove over to the Porsche museum underground lot. I used the microfiber towels I’d brought along to dry the car and looked it over very carefully. I took dozens of photos and some walk-around videos. In the end the car fared very well, with just a few very very small rock chips on the front fascia. Birthmarks!

We drove over to the Werkswagen and met up with Julian for the hand-off. Strangely, we conducted the entire hand-off outside, where this photo was taken, in the snow. Some feedback for Porsche: this was not a great experience. We exchanged and signed paperwork, he inspected the car, I rifled through the cabin to make sure I didn’t leave anything, we unloaded our luggage, all in the cold and snow. It felt rushed, and if I hadn’t done the garage inspection and photoshoot ahead of time, I’d have very little idea about the condition of the car on hand-off. Room for improvement on this experience. If you are returning your car here, I advise that you set aside time for a nice relaxed inspection before you bring the car back.

When they say that you need to take everything out of the car, they mean EVERYTHING. I asked Julian if I could leave the first aid kit and warning triangle. “They might make it, they might not.” Okay - so I took them with me. Budget some room in your suitcase for these items. The only thing I left in the car - an AirTag to track the car's shipping progress.

And with that - European Delivery was over! Dad and I returned to the museum, and went through it again since he hadn’t seen it the first time. We caught the train to the Frankfurt airport, and stayed at the Sheraton right in the terminal. Early Saturday morning, we flew home.

End of trip mileage: 2,396 km / 1,489 mi

Closing thoughts

Trip figures

Driving days: 10

Countries visited: 4

Christmas markets visited: 4

Kilometers covered: 2,396

Photos taken (DSLR): 1,998

Top speed: 240kph / 150mph

Speed camera tickets in the mail: 1 (that I am aware of :-O)

Schnitzels consumed: so many

I thought of some questions that might be helpful for those considering or planning a Euro Delivery.

  • Would I do it again?
    • Yes, absolutely. I’d do it every year if I could.
  • Would I do it again at this time of year?
    • Probably not, unless there was no other option. We had a great experience, but I can’t shake the feeling that we threaded the needle and got lucky with the weather and conditions. The trip would have been very different, and not as enjoyable, if we’d had the end-of-trip snow storms for the whole 10-day period. But if it’s no Euro Delivery vs. winter Euro Delivery - no hesitation, do it.
  • What would I do differently?
    • If possible, I would have taken more time for the trip. That wasn’t an option for me (I am three days negative on vacation, whoops), but I would make every effort to maximize time on the ground. With more time we could have done the same route but with just a bit less driving each day, a bit more time for activities outside of the car. A couple of the driving legs felt like a chore to get to the next hotel, the next checkpoint.
  • Best things I did in planning:
    • Thinking (and booking) ahead. Investing time up-front on the planning side made it easy to pivot when things didn’t quite shape up - when we were running behind schedule it was easy to know which checkpoint could be skipped, or where we could jump on a more direct route. When we had the ‘snow day,’ having Traumwerk and Hangar-7 lined up saved the day.
    • Checking open times. For example - the Mercedes and Porsche museums are closed on Mondays. If I hadn’t spotted that in the planning stage, we probably would have gotten to Stuttgart earlier and had a rude surprise.
  • Things I missed / wished I’d done while planning:
    • I wish I’d done a bit more legwork on the speed camera situation in each country. I am not trying to speed in villages, but in a powerful car it’s easy to drift from 50kph to 60kph without noticing and pick up a fine.
    • I wish I’d had a slightly better navigation setup figured out. I used Waze on an English road trip and it led us into disaster, so I prefer to use Google for navigation, but I needed Waze for the speed cameras. I’m still not really sure what the ideal setup would be with CarPlay. By the end I settled on Google navigation running in the foreground, with Waze running in the background, and audible alerts turned on for hazards. With this setup, Waze will interrupt your media and yell at you from behind Google Maps if something is coming up.
  • Preliminary impression of the car:
    • Amazing, everything I hoped for. The car feels immediately natural, the ergonomics are perfect, the way it drives feels so obvious. Why doesn’t everything just work like this? The motor is fantastic, the auto-blip downshifts won me over almost immediately. I love the spec I put together. I can’t wait to receive it in California and start racking up the miles.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. This trip was incredible, something that I will never forget. I cherish the time that I was able to spend with my wife and my dad sharing this adventure. I am thankful that Porsche offers this experience to American customers, especially now that BMW and Mercedes have stopped their programs. I am thankful that they build brilliant cars like this GTS.