Automakers are increasingly latching on to performance driving schools to promote brand loyalty. In most cases, they’re free or heavily subsidized when you buy a car. You typically pay room and board, but the automaker provides the cars (and, more important, gas, tires, and brakes), the track, and a day or two of instruction. Most programs are geared toward beginners, so don’t expect to set lap records. What they do provide is an opportunity to explore the car’s limits — and your own.
The free school visited numerous racetracks in 2012, including Daytona International Speedway. Owners get to autocross and drive on a road course, sometimes with an instructor riding shotgun.
Most of the free, two-day course is dedicated to learning the basics — panic braking, heel-and-toe shifting, and the proper racing line. Owners can also opt for two days at the Bondurant school.
AMG Driving Academy
All AMG products
Like the cars themselves, this program is wonderfully over the top. Locations include Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park. The primary instruction car is the SLS AMG. One-day training is free for AMG owners, who can upgrade to more advanced courses.
One of the best manufacturer schools, with top-notch instruction and plenty of time to let loose at Barber Motorsports Park. Courses range from basic car control to 911 GT3 Cup car training. Porsche charges for the pleasure, but some dealers will include it (keep that in mind when you’re haggling).
Includes a morning of instruction and an afternoon of hot-lapping at Miller Motorsports Park. A discounted off-road course for owners of F-150 SVT Raptors will debut soon.
You’ll drift in a 1-series M and run laps in an M3 and an M5. One catch: BMW has stopped offering the school for free to owners because it has so many paying customers.