THAT ELEGANT BONECRUSHER, THE PORSCHE 911, HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT NATURALLY ASPIRATED ENGINES, EXCEPT FOR ITS RANGE-TOPPING, RIP-ROARING TURBO MODEL.
But now that its entire range is turning to turbocharging, what happens to the car that’s no longer the odd one out?
Porsche, of course, says the 911 Turbo (and the even more outrageous Turbo S) still has a reason to exist, and that reason is power, or at least torque. The most you’ll get out of a Carrera S, even the new turbo ones, is 500Nm, but the Turbo S makes 750Nm.
That’s not a little bit more, that’s a mountain, and alongside a power figure of 427kW (or 397kW in the base Turbo, which makes do with 710Nm), all-wheel drive and a best 0-100km/h time of an astonishing 2.6 seconds, that puts the Turbo well and truly in supercar territory.
Which is an area Porsche has no intention of leaving.
Vehicle style: Two-door coupe
Turbo S $456,500
Turbo: 397kW/710Nm | 3.8 6cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Turbo S: 427kW/750Nm | 3.8 6cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel economy claimed: 9.1 l/100km
Basically, the Turbo and Turbo S sit at the very top of Porsche 911 world, at least when it comes to road-going versions, rather than roll-cage fighters like the hard-core GT3.
It’s a luxury car inside, and still rides with fabulous compliance, despite its Ferrari-harrying intentions. (A 488 GTB would lose to the Turbo S off the line, but would best it in the dash to 200km/h, at 8.3 seconds vs a mere 9.9 for the Porsche.)
This latest version gets upgraded engines, a new and improved all-wheel-drive system to get all that torque to the ground - which, incidentally, it does in spectacular fashion off the line - and a Sport Response Button attached to the steering wheel.
That button, instant viagra, allows you a 20-second period of "All Out Assault" for those times when you really need to blow someone’s doors off.
The typically plush Porsche interior gets sportier seats and a lovely-feeling Alcantara steering wheel in the Turbo – this is truly a classy place to find yourself in. Sadly, though, it’s not different enough from a normal 911 to feel perhaps as special as the price tag suggests it should.
Porsche has moved to a new touch-screen information system with this Series II update to the 991 iteration of the 911, and it’s fantastic. Just move your hand towards the screen and it senses ‘gestures’, coming alive just when you need it to.
It’s a fluid, high-resolution system and a leap ahead, particularly overseas where you can use features like Google Maps for your sat-nav.
In Australia, buyers will be able to use Apple CarPlay via the new system, but Android users don’t get the same functionality. That’s because Porsche’s research shows that 80 percent of its customers are also Apple users.
The front seats are super comfortable and equally capable of gripping you firmly on the race track or providing the right support for a rapid cross-country jaunt.
The rear seats, however, may as well be painted on. Apparently they’re mostly used for resting suit jackets on anyway.
ON THE ROAD
- Turbo: 397kW/710Nm 3.8 litre horizonally-opposed six-cylinder turbo petrol
- Turbo S: 427kW/750Nm 3.8 litre horizonally-opposed six-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Front MacPherson strut, rear multilink
- Brakes: Six piston aluminium monobloc fixed calipers, 410mm ventilated cross drilled front rotors, four piston aluminium monobloc fixed calipers, 390mm ventilated cross drilled rear rotors
- Steering: Electromechanical power assistance, turning circle: 10.6m
It's a wholly reasonable fear that a car like the 911 Turbo, and particularly the S, which we tried at the launch through Johannesburg’s mean and dangerous streets, would be too much for public roads.
Incredibly, however, it can be well-mannered and easy to drive, when you want it to. The trick is never to use more than one-tenth pressure on the throttle.
The temptation to do so will, of course, overcome you every now and then, and attempting a full Launch Start from a traffic light is something you simply have to try once.
The way the tyres rip into the surface and somehow shift that huge mountain of torque between them, and all that screaming power, for a carnival-ride take-off is both mind and body-boggling.
Porsche only claims 2.9 seconds for the Turbo S’s 100km/h dash, because it says that time is easily achievable, even for numpty owners, but its own data has seen times as low as 2.6 seconds.
This is easy to believe, because it is a back-crackingly fast car.
The steering is also wonderful; perfectly weighted and hugely talkative in the Porsche style, while the gearbox - PDK only, sadly - produces gear shifts that are so fast and fluent as to be non-existent. There is simply no backing off of the accelerative rush between cogs.
To fully appreciate what the Turbo and S were born to do, however, you have to drive them on a track, and that was why we were in what even the locals refer to as South Africa’s Gangsta’s Para-dise.
Porsche had recently bought the local Kyalami circuit, a former F1 venue, and spent a fortune resurfacing and remodelling it.
Unfortunately, some of the locals who were charged with working on the drainage system fell asleep on the job, which meant that several hours after a morning downpour there were still rivers of water bubbling up out of drains and across more than half a dozen parts of the track, quite often mid-corner.
After some debate about calling the whole thing off, the Porsche folks decided that journalist’s lives are generally expendable anyway and sent us out.
On the plus side, we can report that Porsche’s Stability Management software is of the highest standard (it now includes a Sport Mode, which allows very keen drivers to slide the rear end around, we didn’t go near it), because it somehow kept us on the track despite repeated moments of bottom-puckering slippage.
Slippery track or no, we were never going to miss the opportunity to open the taps on these two cars, and the results were almost too intense to take in. Imagine a huge amount of data being poured into your brain simultaneously while your body is being heavily pummelled by a boxer.
The 911 Turbo gets you to corners, and down straights - going from 120km/h to 240km/h is as easy as exhaling vigorously - at such speeds that your body and brain don’t seem quite sure how to deal with it.
Fortunately, the brakes are of supercar standard as well, because you find yourself hauling up in a face-searing hurry for hairpins.
Out on the road, the Turbos are impressive, in that they seem to be cars you could live with every day, without killing yourself, but on the track they are weapons of the most explosive kind.
It’s easy to see why the company is sticking with the Turbo with a capital letter.
ANCAP Rating: The Porsche 911 range has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Six airbags (dual front, thorax, and head), stability, traction, and launch control, front seatbelts with load-limiting pretensioners, rear view camera,
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
You’re well and truly in Ferrari and Lamborghini territory - and Audi R8 land for that matter - once your price point gets this dizzy.
The Ferrari 488 GTB is a similar, albeit more visually arresting, proposition because it offers crazy turbocharged performance as well. To be fair, it actually feels more violent and exciting to drive.
Both the Lambo Huracan and the new R8 share the same, old-school naturally aspirated V10 engine, which makes them a very different kind of choice.
But again, both also have more head-turning visual appeal than the Turbo. Under all those wings and vents, it still looks a lot like a 911 to your average punter.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you absolutely “have to” have a Porsche, and you also “simply have to be” the fastest person on any given piece of road at any given time, then the 911 Turbo S is the car for you (if you’re willing to pay $70K more for those extra 30kW).
Yet it’s hard to imagine that anyone with $400k to spend wouldn’t be looking at other, more impressive-looking, and sounding, Italian supercars.
That’s not to take away from the engineering achievement that this Porsche represents. It is easy to drive on the road, it is comfortable and yet it offers life-changing, or shortening, performance when you want it.
It genuinely is a supercar you could drive every day, without complaint or discomfort. And that does make it unique.
In terms of speed, particularly off the line, there are very few things this side of a Bugatti Veyron that could touch it. Being a Porsche, it also steers and handles beautifully, almost perfectly, but it does miss out on some of the scary violence that a Ferrari or Lambo provides.
If you had enough cash for a whole collection of supercars, you’d have a 911 Turbo S in your quiver for sure, and on track days it would probably be your weapon of choice.
But if you were forced to choose just one supercar, the Porsche probably wouldn’t be it. It’s special no doubt, but it just doesn’t look as special, and amazing, as it is under the skin.
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