Driven: Porsche’s lusty new 911 Turbo
By: Denis Droppa in Paderborn, Germany
Launched almost exactly 50 years to the month after the first-generation Porsche 911 was unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt motor show in September 1963, the latest and greatest version of the iconic sports car – the 911 Turbo – has hit the streets.
For humans, turning 50 can be a fraught affair with the onset of the dreaded middle-age spread and constantly mislaying one’s bifocals. For the 911 Turbo, it’s more a case of middle-age cred. What is arguably the world’s most well-rounded sports car, the new generation 911 Turbo is faster and fitter than ever, with a two second per lap improvement around the Nurburgring racetrack.
Stuttgart’s street missile is available in two flavours, both of which will be launched in South Africa in October: the standard 911 Turbo, and the 911 Turbo S with added power and racetrack-attacking ability.
The key figures for the “basic” 911 Turbo are a 3.8-litre flat-six biturbo engine which fires 383kW and 660Nm (710Nm with overboost) to both axles via all-wheel drive and a seven-speed Porsche Duppelkuplung transmission (PDK to you and me). Thus endowed, the rear-engined sports car is capable of a 315km/h top speed and a 3.4 second 0-100km/h sprint (3.2 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono package) according to factory figures.
The 911 Turbo S gets 0.2 bar of additional boost pressure to hike outputs to 412kW and 700Nm (750Nm with overboost), presenting the driver with 318km/h ability and a claimed 0-100 sprint of just 3.1 seconds.
The transmission and all-wheel drive system of the two cars are mechanically identical and both come with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with electronically controlled dampers, as well as a controlled rear-locking diff with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus. The S version gets additional stopping power via ceramic brakes and the body-roll-defeating PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control).
With a longer wheelbase, wider track and lower centre of gravity than the outgoing 997-generation turbos, the new Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S also introduce two new laptime-enhancing features: a variable front spoiler (which is a world first) and rear-wheel steering.
At speed the front spoiler lip, along with the movable boot spoiler which is a carry-over from the previous generation, both extend to increase downforce by up to 132kg at a speed of 300km/h. When crawling along or entering driveways, however, the front spoiler retracts to give the sports car better ground clearance.
The rear-wheel-steering system turns the back tyres opposite to the fronts to reduce the turning circle at looking-for-parking speeds; while at higher speeds they turn parallel with the fronts for improved stability in fast direction-changes.
Though based on the 911 Carrera 4, the two 911 Turbo models are recognisable by their puffed-out wheel arches along with distinctive front lights and bumpers.
Filling those arches are 20” mags (with centre wheel nuts for the Turbo S) which have grown from the 19s used in the previous-generation turbo 911s.
The 911 may not have the glamorous styling of a Ferrari or a Lambo, but when it comes to the business of driving, the rear-engined German has its mojo going and needn’t stand aside for any car.
Last weekend Porsche hosted the car’s media launch at the new Bilster Berg circuit near Paderborn in Germany, a roller coaster of a test track with tricky complexes and major elevation changes, where I put the 911 Turbo S through its paces.
En route there along public roads, the car displayed the impressively civilised road manners of 911 renown, with a comfortable everyday-commuting ride quality quite out of synch with the concept of a red-blooded track car.
But once on that track it didn’t take more than a few corners to reconfirm what a supreme driver’s car this is, and why the new 911 Turbo S snipped two seconds off its already very agile predecessor’s Nurburgring laptime.
The car’s grown in size but mass is unchanged due to some lightweight materials being used. The iconic solid feel hasn’t been affected and the 911 still feels like it’s machined from a block of steel.
The acceleration’s lusty and lag-free, and that PDK transmission’s a perfect match with its rapid-fire shifts. Good news is that there’s a lusty howl to match the violence of the thrust, compared to the rather vapid-sounding previous-generation turbos.
The all-wheel drive Porsche clings to the road with Pratley-like intensity, and when you eventually find the adhesion limits the tail breaks traction gradually, not in a sudden throw-you-off-the-road way. The steering weighting is darn-near perfect and the big ceramic brakes bite like bull terriers to wipe off speed fade-free for lap after lap.
It all makes it a forgiving sports car that flatters an average driver and still thrills a competent one.
Yup, 50 years is a good vintage for the 911. The legend grows.