Marie Kondo has a lot to answer for right now. The Japanese celebrity minimalist has single-handedly caused a 38 per cent rise in St Vincent De Paul charity bin donations thanks to her new Netflix show ‘Tidying Up’, but in making the act of ‘throwing out your junk’ fashionable Kondo has actually tapped into a movement in the zeitgeist that is doing good things for motoring enthusiasts.
In the past few years, global economists and futurists have noted that consumers are increasingly favouring an ‘experience economy’. Part of that ‘do more and buy less’ ethos, not unlike Kondo’s method, the movement is a natural 21st-century shift from the service economy of the ‘80s and’90s. Rather than have someone else do the work for them, the modern consumer is now obsessed with not only having their pizza, but feeling something about it too.
On a grander scale, this interest in experiences explains a rise in “Instagram-worthy” selling points, be that in a restaurant or at a festival, or the rise things like escape rooms and virtual reality installations. It’s going to Japan and checking into a hotel manned entirely by robots, it’s a San Francisco museum just for ice cream, and it’s getting behind the wheel of a modern poster-car and pummelling someone else’s tyres for a day– instead of pummelling your own. Naturally, car manufacturers now want a piece of the bucket-list-as-a-commodity pie.
Of course drive days are nothing new, but the huge scope of choices and the integrated lifestyle element; AKA the new experience certainly is. Think of it like this: you want to do a track day... but what if you could do that and have a massage, helicopter ride and celebrity chef-prepared dinner too? What if your drive day was set in a beautiful location only known to a few, or held at one of the country’s most premium motorsport parks in a one-on-one session with the best racing drivers in the country? Want to know more about the tech, safety and capability of your car? Forget a dealership test drive when the alternative is to learn about your latest purchase while wearing an open-faced helmet and hurtling down a straight usually reserved for a supercar.
“The one area that is really important to us, is for customers to really know what their car can do,” comments Jerry Stamoulis, Mercedes-Benz Head of Media Relations and Product Communications
“The benefit of them understanding the vehicle’s safety and technologyincreases their driving experience. Sometimes when you purchase a vehicle, there isn’t enough time during the sales process to run through everything. So, often, when we have these customers coming to our events, they will discover things they never knew their cars could do – so the actual ownership experience improves.”
Stamoulis says the demand for drive days is on the up, partly down to an increase in sales for the German brand, but also because customers – especially those buying top-dog AMG vehicles – are increasingly interested in lifestyle experiences that revolve around their car of choice, be it a lunch at the Bathurst 12 Hour or watching the Australian Grand Prix.
If current market trends and our increasing obsession with experiences are anything to go by, our appetite for drive events will only get bigger and that puts the pressure on them to get even better. A handy bonus of all this is that more accessible driver programs should make for safer drivers on the road – not to mention a healthy ego-boost for those taking part via their social media feeds. Because, pics or it didn’t happen, right?
Curious? We’ve already talked about The Bend’s brilliant new drive experience program, so here are more of the best drive days and experiences worth signing up for or adding to your next milestone wish list. And the only thing you’ll need to hide from the Marie Kondos of the world, will be a branded lanyard (or seven).
BMW Driving Experience Courses
What: Offering something for every level of driver, including half-days for those wanting to toe-dip, these Phillip Island-held track days offer the chance to take some of BMW’s most fun cars, including the M2 (the jury’s still out if an M2 Competition will join field), the M240i, M3, M4 and MINI JCW for a slam down Gardner straight, while learning the fine art of cornering, oversteer and understeer control, high-speed braking, driving physics (advanced course only), or simply finessing your power slide on a skid pan. Plus, if you know Phillip Island, then you know it’s a track like no other.
Price: $650-$2200, book here or through a BMW dealer.
Porsche Driving School
What: From mastering the track with meticulous accuracy to high-performance blasts at the wheel of a 911 GT3, through to learning proper racecraft in a 911 GT3 Cup Car, this Mount Cotton-based driving school is arguably one of the best in the country. This will also give prospective Porsche buyers (or existing owners) a taste of the range, with Cayman, Cayman S, Boxster, Boxster S, 911 Carrera, 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet, 911 Carrera 4 GTS, Panamera 4S, Cayenne GTS, Macan Turbo all in the mix. And for those real adrenaline junkies, Mount Cotton kindly throws in some resident marsupials that reside in the centre of the track, just to make sure you’ve brought your A-game.
Price: $1,595 - $6,820, book here or through a Porsche dealer.
Audi Driving Experience
What: When it comes to cool track days, Audi offers many trim levels – from basic track day courses (including female-only driving experiences) to more advanced training up to Audi Sport Pro Driving and Race Driving Experiences. To get to the latter, you have to complete the former. But if a one-hit experience is more your speed, consider jumping on one of the Audi Ice Driving Experiences. One of these might take you to the alps of Austria or ice-covered fields of Sweden, but they’ll certainly push your skills to the limit, with a promise of some schnapps, a spa or a Swedish massage at the end - not to mention a European trip of a lifetime.
Price: $999- $6,500+, book here or through an Audi dealer
Aston Martin Art of Living Experience
What: If you’ve been watching WhichCarTV, you will soon be able to witness some of the scenes from Aston Martin’s On Ice experiences - a multiple-day snow driving course that takes place each year in New Zealand and Japan. But that’s just scratching the surface of the pinch-me experiences offered by the Brits. Wryly named the “Art of Living” program, Aston Martin’s hyper-luxurious offerings are more of a holiday, and combine incredible fuel-injected opportunities with a lifestyle element to help you wind down from all that adrenaline. Choices include an annual pilgrimage to Monaco for a race weekend with the Red Bull Racing team or hitting the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to a seven-step Nürburgring training programme that can’t be equalled by Gran Turismo. Granted, many are exclusive to customers, but not all.
Price: P.O.A, book here or through an Aston Martin dealer.
Mercedes-Benz First Gear
What: Mercedes-Benz offers some pretty impressive experiences, including track days and the prestigious AMG Driving Academy, an invitation-only event that travels around the world to tear up snow and bitumen. However, one of the more unique drive days Merc offers is its First Gear program, made specifically for young drivers (and you don’t have to be a customer). This half-day event uses models from across Mercedes-Benz’s sprawling range, including a mammoth, 18-tonne Actros truck, and aims to teach young drivers things like risk-avoidance, emergency procedures, braking techniques, vehicle physics and how to handle critical situations – there’s even an element on a skid pan that focuses on loss of control. Essential skills laced with a bit of luxe fun.
Price: $350, book here or through a Mercedes-Benz dealer.
Drift Cadet Drift School
What: So you think you can dance? Melbourne drift school Drift Cadet offers basic to advanced lessons in slides. The courses are held at Winton Motor Raceway’s skidpan and are a half-day intensive lesson that include things like clutch-kicks, handbrake action, donuts and figure eights, through to advanced motorkhana skills; all performed like a smoky ballet in a Toyota 86.
Price: $599, book here.
Jaguar Track Experience
What: Complimentary for new Jaguar owners, but also open to anyone, Jaguar’s Track Experiences take place in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and offer a chance to really hear that bellowing F-Type sing. Also featuring other models from Jaguar’s latest range, this day focuses on track and real-life skills – giving you one-on-one tuition from highly skilled drivers on corning, braking points and how to get the most out of the British carmaker’s highest-performance vehicles.
Price: $495, book here or through a Jaguar dealer.