The Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S start at supercar prices, but do they deliver supercar performance?
The 991-series 911 range continues to fill out, though it’s the release of the latest Porsche 911 Turbo that brings us into the serious end of business with the renowned German sports car.
The latest-generation Porsche 911 Turbo and the more potent Porsche 911 Turbo S have arrived in Australia to turn up the wick against all-wheel-drive supercar rivals.
With the more motorsport-oriented GT3 that was due to launch simultaneously delayed by a recall, it left us to explore the flat-out abilities of the more road-focused Turbo at the Phillip Island Grand Prix racetrack.
For the average enthusiast it may be hard to spot the Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S for what they are: legitimate supercars.
They still share that same basic shape with all 991 911s that again has an unsurprising resemblance to its previous six generations. No quarrels from us. In the flesh, it’s a work of German beauty, with every line and curve designed and engineered to serve a purpose. It looks similar because that’s what Porsche believes is the best shape in the world for the type of car.
The Porsche 911 Turbo models add their own trademark visual characteristics, of course, such as the spoiler and wide-tracked body – especially at the rear – to accentuate the all-wheel drive approach.
The 911 Turbo and Turbo S models are also uprated with bigger wheels (20-inch for Turbo and 21-inch for Turbo S) and bigger brakes (380mm for Turbo while the Turbo S gets ceramic composite brakes measuring 410mm at the front and 390mm at the rear).
For a more detailed look at all the specifications and figures, read our Porsche 911 Turbo & Turbo S technical guide.Priced at $359,800 for the Turbo and $441,300 for the Turbo S, the pinnacle of 911s doesn’t come cheap. However, it does bring more creature comforts than the GT3 that’s essentially a race car for the road.
Power comes from a turbocharged 3.8-litre six-cylinder engine – which is basically the same as the previous-generation (997) models – but with the 991 power lifts yet again to 383kW (up 15kW) in the Turbo and 412kW (up 22kW) in the Turbo S. Torque also increases - 660Nm (up 10Nm) for the Turbo, and 710Nm (up 10Nm) for the Turbo S.
They all go to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s no manual option, though that’s a bigger deal in the upcoming GT3 in our view. In the Turbo and Turbo S, the sophisticated ‘PDK’ is unbelievably quick at zipping through the gears – and instantly obeying manual shift commands if the driver uses the paddleshift levers.
Porsche also offers an overboost function when you tick the SportChrono package ($9680 for Turbo, standard on Turbo S), which increases torque momentarily to 750Nm.
It’s unlikely any sane person would spend close to $400,000 on a 911 Turbo and not tick the SportChrono package as it improves 0-100km/h acceleration times from 3.4 to 3.2 seconds (and makes it faster than the previous-generation 911 Turbo S). The new Turbo S does the dash in 3.1 seconds.
No doubt Nissan GT-R fans will now chime in to point out even the Turbo S can’t match the Japanese supercar’s 2.7 second claimed acceleration time, but although that’s a valid point, let me tell you why it’s entirely irrelevant.
Phillip Island is a proper, fast and rather technical racetrack. It’s the sort of place where there’s no such thing as a small ‘off’.
Having raced here in Nissan GT-Rs, Audi R8s (V8 and V10+) and plenty of other cars, it’s perhaps the best way to assess how a sports car will go at the limit and how much of that is the car and how much of it is the driver.
And you don’t need to further than Turn One, the fastest corner at the Island, to appreciate differences.
After barrelling down the main straight at 256km/h – or 270km/h if you’re a just-retired F1 driver such as Mark Webber, who took us for a spirited hot lap prior later – you jump on the anchors and casually nudge the Porsche 911 Turbo towards the apex at a speed that would make many a car understeer towards impending doom.
The 911’s rear-wheel steering jumps in as well, providing more turn-in that helps the German sports car overcome the sensation that the backend is sliding out to encourage you to carry even more speed.
The full-electric steering system won’t give you the kind of feedback you’d get from a Lotus, and purists will also continue to complain about this and the lack of a manual gearbox (purists would also complain that the typewriter had a more tactile feel than a modern keyboard). But Porsche has moved on, and we’re going to do the same – the fact is that this is still great steering.
And where the Nissan GT-R feels heavy, cumbersome and robot-like, the 911 Turbo is better at making the driver part of the experience rather than just a real-life extension of Gran Turismo 6.
The art of driving the all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Turbo hasn’t changed: brake late into a corner, keep the brake pedal half pressed as you turn in, release it gradually mid-corner and squeeze on the right pedal for maximum exit speed. It will still understeer like any 911 , though, if you get too greedy with your pace.
You might, in those brief instances of euphoria, forget the amazing engineering job that has gone into the 911 Turbo – be it the full front and rear active aero that works automatically to provide more downforce (aerodynamic grip) at both ends, the enormous complexity of the car’s computers that’ll let you have heaps of fun but stop you right before you make a complete fool of yourself (though you can turn them off entirely if you’re feeling like an F1 driver), or one of the other thousand little things that only Germans could pay such close attention to.
That’s certainly true of the interior. Step inside and the Porsche 911 Turbo presents an elegant and practical interior. Like all Porsche models, the 911 Turbo’s cabin is a pleasant place to be, with excellent fit and finish and a fantastic tactile sensation that lifts the cabin ambience well above its rivals.
Is it any more special than a 911 Carrera S’s interior? Perhaps not to the extent of its price gap but it’s still something special. The biggest bugbear is the location of the infotainment screen that sits a bit low in the centre stack.
Should you go with the Turbo or Turbo S? Well, Porsche expects the majority of buyers to pick the lesser-powered version - and there’s extra sense to that when you consider the $81,500 will almost get you a Porsche Macan SUV to also pop in your garage.
We’ve yet to take the new Turbo onto the road, but if it’s like its predecessors you won’t need the Macan to have a Porsche that is useable anywhere and in any weather conditions. The Porsche 911 Turbo is unlikely to be as involving to drive as the GT3 when it comes out, but it will play the role of brilliant everyday supercar.