First Drive Review
VEHICLE TYPE: rear-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe or convertible
BASE PRICE: $160,050–$171,150
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 232 cu in, 3800 cc
Power (SAE net): 530 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 516 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual
Wheelbase: 92.5 in Length: 175.2 in
Width: 72.9 in Height: 51.2 in
Curb weight: 3550–3700 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 2.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 10.9 sec
Top speed (drag limited): 195 mph
EPA city/highway driving: 16–17/24–25 mpg
With 500 hp, the Porsche 911 Turbo is not exactly anemic. But Porsche has never seemed to like the concept of enough, so the company has rolled out the 530-hp Turbo S. We’re not complaining.
Five years after the last, 996-based 911 Turbo S, Porsche is resurrecting the model as a flagship for the 911 range, at least until an updated GT2 arrives later this year. Unlike that car or the naturally aspirated GT3, the Turbo S is actually quite luxurious. It offers all the comfort features of the regular Turbo, to which it adds its own special leather upholstery. We were more interested, however, in changes to the hardware. All the goodies we recommend you choose on the regular Turbo are standard here: the dynamic engine mounts, Porsche’s brake-based torque-vectoring system, ceramic brakes, and the Sport Chrono package, which also nets you launch control. Porsche has included a beefed-up version of the ultra-quick PDK (dual-clutch transmission) with new, proper shift paddles. The six-speed manual that’s standard on the Turbo is not available here.
Traditionalists undoubtedly will be saddened by the lack of a third pedal, but it’s a logical decision in the quest for maximum performance. The PDK’s extra weight and parasitic losses from its wet clutches are compensated for by its quick shifts. Acceleration figures from PDK-equipped models have proven to be superior to those achieved with a traditional manual gearbox. In Germany, logic usually wins.
(Even) More Power
The Turbo S’s 530 hp are available between 6250 and 6750 rpm. The added power is achieved through different intake-valve timing and increased turbo boost pressure. Maximum torque is rated at 516 lb-ft, which happens between 2100 and 4250 rpm. The Turbo S torque figure can be matched by the regular Turbo, but only when that car is equipped with the Sport Chrono package; it allows for a short overboost for up to 10 seconds, increasing boost from 11.6 psi to 14.5. The latter is the standard pressure on the S.
We can assure you the changes are effective. Throttle response is even quicker, and the engine pulls more strongly at high rpm. It is also louder, which underscores the nature of this beast. The altogether slight but noticeable performance gain translates into hard numbers. Porsche says 60 mph comes in 3.1 seconds for the coupe and 3.2 seconds in the cabriolet, 0.1 second quicker than its estimations for the respective versions of the regular Turbo. We’ve already clocked a Turbo coupe sprinting to 60 mph in a downright blistering 2.9 seconds, so it seems Porsche is being its usual underestimating self. We figure the S will match our 0-to-60 time for the Turbo and improve by about 0.1 second in the quarter-mile, to 10.9 seconds. Top speed of the Turbo S increases from a claimed 194 mph to 195. As far as straight-line acceleration is concerned, the Turbo S provides one of the grand experiences in motoring today, and to say it pulls hard would be an epic understatement. The base model is sometimes eerily quiet, but the S never conceals its nature. Ever.
Beating the Odds against Physics
We were just as impressed by the S’s capabilities during cornering, aided by the new Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system. The 996 and the 997 displayed a hint of understeer when initiating a turn on slippery surfaces. The torque-vectoring system, which applies the brake on the inside rear wheel, eliminates the minor push entirely. The car gets slightly modified front-suspension geometry, giving it more precise steering feel and making the 911 Turbo S seem almost like a mid-engine car. Porsche says lap times on the Nürburgring have improved from 7:39 for the regular Turbo to 7:37. We have no reason to doubt this claim. Speaking of speed and racetracks, quick pit-stop wheel changes are facilitated by the central-locking “RS Spyder” wheels.
Although a mid-engine car is by design dynamically superior to a rear-engine car in most disciplines, the traction of the all-wheel-drive Turbo S, which stands on 235/35ZR-19 front and 305/30ZR-19 rear Bridgestone Potenzas, is simply unbelievable. It’s further enhanced by the dynamic engine mounts, which create a firm link between engine and body as needed. But we’d still probably prefer some of its mid-engine competitors at high triple-digit speeds, where the 911 requires keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
Porsche says 30 to 40 percent of Turbo customers upgrade their cars with the aggressive carbon-ceramic brakes. Fade and wear are greatly reduced versus cast-iron rotors. We like the fact that the carbon setup is included on this model. Its hard-biting response fits the sharpened character of the Turbo S and gives a feeling of absolute control.
Sport Plus More Sport
The Sport Chrono package has really grown on us, managing to change the personality of the car at the press of a button. In sport mode, the chassis is stiffened by way of the active suspension, the PDK shifts later and more rapidly, and the stability-control system intervenes later. Throttle response is quickened, the engine computer switches to a hard rev limiter, and the traction-management system sends more power to the rear. Sport provides a noticeable difference from the standard program, which upshifts very early and generally does a great job camouflaging this car’s wickedly aggressive character.
But to unleash the Turbo S’s full potential, you need to hit the “sport plus” button. It’s the ultimate escalation. The PDK gives up trying to “learn” your driving style, instead shifting late and hard. Seventh gear, which exists solely for fuel economy, is abandoned entirely, and the engine is recalibrated with more aggressive response from the variable turbocharger’s dynamic blades. The ride stiffens considerably in sport plus mode, and you notice every bump, but the car feels positively glued to the asphalt. This program is so extreme that many drivers probably would get weary if they couldn’t switch it off. But it is awesome.
The new Turbo S’s competitors include the Audi R8 V-10, the Ferrari 458 Italia, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. And, of course, Porsche’s own 911 Turbo, which the Turbo S will exceed in price by about $26,500 in coupe and convertible forms. As you start adding options to a regular Turbo, the Turbo S quickly starts making sense. “It’s really quite a bargain,” said a Porsche spokesman. That’s definitely one way to look at it.