Porsche staying power ensures anachronistic 911 lives in Turbo S guise
It may cost a whopping £155,000 these days but Iain Robertson defies you to nominate a more charismatic, or better built supercar than the remarkable 911 Turbo S, with its knee-trembling performance allied to anytime driveability and practicality.
From 356 to 911, a rear-engined sporting coupe has been central to the Porsche idyll throughout its history. Yet, it is a package that is faulted. While slinging an engine out back, even one as prodigious as the revvy flat-six installed in Porsche’s top-of-the-shop Turbo, is a recipe for dynamic disaster, a succession of model developments incorporating both mechanical and electronic taming tricks, has turned the mostly unruly 911 Turbo of the 1980s into a supernaturally capable hero today.
Its unmistakable profile, as low-slung as its stance dares, hefts the coupe (and its convertible sister) onto an iconic and ironic platform that remains unassailable. It is imperfect, yet that imperfection is its biggest selling trait. While today’s Turbo driver is unlikely to find himself disappearing backwards through hedgerows in a flurry of tortured wheelspin and discombobulated steering angles, an inherent fear of historical hysterics hangs in the ether, reinforced by the mythology of professional drivers reportedly finding themselves in unrecoverable situations.
Powering the beast is a hand-built 3.7-litre ‘boxer’ motor (horizontally opposed, twin banks of three cylinders each), boosted by twin turbochargers to deliver a monstrous 641bhp and 590lbs ft of torque. It emits CO2 at a rate of 271g/km and returns 23.5mpg on the Official Combined test cycle, which reinforces its overall efficiency. In a model as relatively light as the 911 (1,640kgs), this equates to a 0-60mph acceleration time of just 2.4s and a top speed of 205mph, driving through an 8-speed, twin-clutch, automated gearbox. When your beautician informs you that a skin peel might be opportune, just try a few stupidly rapid Turbo acceleration tests and save on the clinical treatment.
While the 911 Turbo has always been a wider bodied variant of the base Carrera that has invariably pursued greater stability, the latest version’s front track is a whopping 43mm wider than before, in a successful attempt to curb the plough-on understeer of the former model. Mind you, it was a contemptible driver that would dare to press on in a 911 Turbo; ‘asking for trouble’ might be a better descript. Yet, bravado is only a feint aspect of the driver showing no respect to the technological competence of this phenomenal machine.
No car has ever been as capable of providing a true ‘seat-of-the-pants’ feel and feedback. Mastery of its inherent failings is uncannily easy, as long as you can read the signs and avoid over-driving a 911 Turbo. In fact, allowing it to trammel over road surface imperfections is part of the magic and not in the least fearsome. The feedback to the driver’s fingertips is all but telepathic. Tactile, real and tangible, the car’s suspension and steering geometry informs perpetually at the helm. The key is never to grip tenaciously, as the car will perform that duty for the driver; let the steering wheel writhe. If the tail starts to wriggle, allow it and keep the boot ‘in’, as the 911 is so engagingly engineered, it will secure a safe escape route.
Interestingly, the Turbo is the first 911 that I have driven that does not suffer from what I term ‘nodding donkey syndrome’. One of the issues related to a 35:65 front-to-rear weight distribution lies in a potentially pendulous mass (mostly engine) extending beyond the rear axle-line. No matter how advanced have been the suspension developments, including rear-wheel-steer, the jounce of tail is equalled by bounce of snout. It has been a characteristic liked and loathed in equal measure by fans and critics and is part of the 911’s quirky signature.
Of course, the latest Turbo S is helped by its exceptional four-wheel drive system that provides traction and grip from the wide, ultra-low profile, superglue tyres like never before. Thanks to bags of punch, allied to minimal turbo-lag, applications of power lie totally within the grasp of the driver and maximal reliance on what works beneath. When you do hit paydirt, the accompanying soundtrack is Valhalla on an ‘11’ setting. It is musical, with a bass overtone and a blend of tinkling, hissing, popping and distant farting, topped off finally by a guttural and memorable bomb blast from the large oval, twin tailpipes. There is scarcely an automotive soundtrack like it.
Letting the Porsche Drive Control perform its sorcery on the suspension results in a supple ride comfort that is not customary on a supercar. It makes the potential rival Audi R8 feel overtly stiff, even arthritic, when muscling across typical British tarmac. Controlled, efficient and as tight as Phil Collins’ snare drum, the 911’s deportment is time-honoured and superb. Your granny could drive a Turbo S to the shops, without coming a cropper and therein lies the new car’s indomitable strength; it is so devoid of bad manners that it is practical for everyday use and there are very few supercars that can boast such a broad range of potential.
Its front vestigial boot (128-litres) is a support act to the carpeted space behind the front seats that is available, when the jump seats are flopped forwards (264-litres). This is a supercar that you can take on an extended holiday, without having to send on the luggage ahead. Its build quality is exemplary and the driving position legendary. There is an abundance of space and adjustability in the front seats that are bolstered to provide support and comfort. The dashboard and centre console will take some familiarisation but the dominant dial remains the rev-counter, flanked by minor instrumentation and a programmable screen for the sat-nav system.
Conclusion: There is zero argument. The latest Porsche 911 Turbo S is the finest example of supercar competence in the world. Simply immense, ten-pot calliper front brakes provide assured stopping power on a car that can flex between track and road driving with such nonchalance it leaves you speechless. Unashamedly, I adore it.