The phrase “driving school” might conjure memories of long Saturdays spent in windowless classrooms as penance for speeding tickets. But there’s another type of driving school—the kind you actually want to attend. These teach car enthusiasts how to get the most out of their particular car, whether on the racetrack or the off-road trail. An added benefit: If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be an automotive journalist, most of these intensive courses provide experiences similar to those of a manufacturer’s new- model launch.
Here is a review of three driving schools:
Land Rover Experience Driving School
The company that single-handedly invented the luxury 4X4 has also perfected the luxury off-road experience. There’s no need to rough it when participating in one of Land Rover’s driving schools at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, Calif.; the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.; or the Fairmont Le Château Montebello near Montreal, Quebec. Between a round of golf and a massage, guests can hone their off-road skills with the guidance of Land Rover’s experienced staff. Prices start at $200 for a one-hour session with one driver and rise to $800 for an intensive six-hour session with up to three drivers.
For those who want a greater challenge, the manufacturer conducts occasional Land Rover Adventures in exotic locales like South Africa.
- Pro: Returning to a five-star resort at the end of a long day on the trail.
- Con: The relative brevity of the Experience courses doesn’t provide full 4X4 immersion.
Hummer Driving Academy
Located on 320 acres in northern Indiana, the Hummer Driving Academy offers one- to five-day sessions designed for the owners of H1, H2, and H3 models. The course—a collection of ruts, rocks, and inclines—features trails tailored to various skill levels. And with a student-teacher ratio of 2:1, even those who wouldn’t normally venture off-road can find their comfort zone. The sessions include classroom instruction on topics such as GPS usage and getting out of a sticky situation. Prices range from $2,250 to $5,250.
“I was able to experience firsthand what a 60-percent grade felt and looked like,” says Hummer H3 owner Michelle Royal, who attended the school. “I drove over boulders I never thought possible and trudged through mud and water without fear.”
If you can’t get to Indiana for the Academy, dealers around the country sponsor Hummer Happenings in morning and afternoon sessions. Almost nothing gives a Hummer owner more off-road credibility than driving home in a mud-splattered vehicle—and remember, it’s okay to wait a few days before washing it off.
- Pro: Learning exactly what you can achieve at the wheel of your Hummer.
- Con: Only owners can attend—they check VIN numbers—and you have to drive the model you own.
Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
Though Bondurant is best known for its racing instruction, the Phoenix, Ariz., company offers a variety of safety-oriented classes useful to everyone. The one-day Advanced Teenage Driving course, for instance, addresses everything new drivers should know, from skid control and accident avoidance to cornering and braking technique ($1,175). And, especially useful for those who spend time abroad, the four-day Executive Protection/Anti-Kidnapping course teaches critical maneuvers such as ramming and how to perform forward and reverse 180s ($5,925).
Of course, if you want to race, that’s still on the Bondurant menu. High-performance driving courses featuring Corvette Z06s and Cadillac CTS-Vs range in duration from one to three days and cost from $1,650 to $3,275.
- Pro: There’s something for everyone.
- Con: If you want to drive something exotic, you’ll have to look somewhere else—the Bondurant fleet is all-American.