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Friday, October 07, 2022

Living the dream with Porsche Drive

Last year, we reported on a new — well, more of an evolving, really — trend in the car-sharing world: the advent of car subscription services. The specifics vary, but the basis is the same: pay a fee, take home a car for any number of days or weeks, bring it back, take home another.

One of the leaders in this game is Porsche with the Porsche Drive program.

For an in-depth look at how it works, you can have a look at the earlier article but here’s the basics: essentially, you pay a set-up fee and sign up for one of two programs: the monthly Multi-Vehicle program or the longer term Single-Vehicle Subscription that asks you keep a vehicle for from one to three months. The former, meanwhile, allows you to swap more often; once a month, once a week, twice a week. You could be in a 911 on Tuesday, swap it for a Cayenne for a weekend with the family and drive off in a Boxster the following Monday. There are also two levels within the Multi-Car subscription that provide access to different sets of cars: the lower “Launch” level provides access to vehicles like the 718 Boxster sports car or Macan crossover, while the higher “Accelerate” level provides access to the Panamera or flagship 911. There’s even the option to drive the all-new Taycan EV, if that’s more your speed.

It sounds almost unbelievable, doesn’t it? Maybe so, but having tried it on for size myself, I can assure you that it’s all the way believable.

What’s really interesting, however, is how simple it is to operate. You download an app – just like Uber – build a profile and you’re off. You open it up and right there in front of you is a list of cars, looking all pretty and hi-def and all you have to do is select one and choose your dates. It couldn’t be any simpler and it’s almost unfathomable that this even exists.

The thing of Porsche Drive, however, is that more than just being a way of getting people behind the wheel of a number of Porsche models, it aims to offer a completely VIP experience; a concierge delivers and drops off cars, they are professionally detailed inside and out every booking (COVID is a part of it, but Porsche assures that it would be like this even in normal times) and niceties like bottled water are left in the cars upon pickup.

It gets better. In Vancouver (the program also runs in Toronto as well as parts of the US, Japan and Europe), there’s an option to have your vehicle arrive in a clear display trailer, like you might see pulling up to any number of car shows or auctions . For me, the way my loaner 911 Cabrio came down that lift just up the block from my house? Pretty special feeling; Needless to say, I had to field quite a number of questions after that.

Once done, I was free to hop in and drive – pretty much as far as I wanted. You are limited to 2,500 km per month with the program, and if you know anything about your average Canadian driver that’s more than enough. With Porsche Drive, then, you’re unlikely to run into a mileage issue because while you can drive these German beauties wherever you want, I hesitate to believe subscribers will be spending much time grinding through rush hour in one. These are driving machines – and, let’s be honest, image machines – so you’ll want to take a drive up a windy road, wind in your hair or perhaps to the (now that they’re slowly opening) theatre, date on your arm.

Me? It was all about the former, zipping up my favorite mountain road outside of Vancouver, BC with 440-plus hp under my right foot. That’s the ticket.

Which is great but what I really wondered was what the client base was. Who was doing this?

“The (Porsche Drive) program is unique in that it really opens the door for people who are new to the brand,” said Adam Wong, Operations Supervisor at Porsche Drive. “They’re new to the Porsche brand and they always talk about driving a Porsche, or maybe they’ve dreamed of it. And now that this program’s available, they can do that.”

Thing is, it’s not inexpensive ($3,450 will get you one month of the Launch subscription, while $4,550 will get you a month of the Accelerate subscription) and in fact, many of those opting for the more expensive plan could likely afford a Porsche of their own. Turns out, according to Wong, they can and often already have, but are waiting on delivery. Whilst they wait, they grab a Porsche Drive subscription and treat themselves to a little appetizer before the main course arrives.

That’s Porsche’s line, anyway, and while most definitely true, I see it a different way. Having had the fortune to experience many of the Porsche experiences the manufacturer offers throughout the year – weekend-long events that have you driving the vehicles on everything from snow-covered racetracks to guided tours through various parts of the country – Porsche Drive could provide an interesting alternative. Often, these weekend-long events make for great Father’s/Mother’s Day gifts or birthday gifts. Porsche Drive hasn’t changed that, but what if you decided to hook up a Multi-Vehicle subscription as a gift instead? You can be locked in for as little as a single month at a time, so why not have your loved one try it out for a weekend? The price is roughly the same as many of the Porsche Experiences and that way, they can take that 911 wherever they want and maybe bring you (or a friend) along for a ride. In fact, Porsche says that during the height of the pandemic, many took their holiday allotment and put it towards Porsche Drive instead.

That’s where this program really comes into focus: it’s a taste of the good life in an almost completely unencumbered, unsupervised and – above all – unscripted manner. After all, it’s not every day you get to show up for your tee time in a 911, right?

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