2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S Review; 3.8-litre, flat-six cylinder, twin turbocharged, seven-speed dual clutch transmission
Since its launch in 1975, Porsche 911 Turbo has always been the fastest, most luxurious 911 available and, against all the odds, the model is still with us 35 years on, albeit in a form unrecognisable from the original except three things: the overall silhouette of its roofline, the location of its engine and its cylinder count. There’s no doubting the 911’s ability to thrill, scare and reward in equal measure and the new generation Turbo S moves the game on once again.
Actually, let’s take a minute to go through a few on-paper statistics for the Turbo S and, while we do so, bear in mind that Porsche always underplays its official figures by a good ten percent. 0-100km/h is dealt with in 3.3 seconds (that’s faster even than the new GT2 RS). Top speed is 315km/h. Fuel consumption is as low as 8.1L/100km and CO2 emissions are an impressive 268g/km.
So, at the very least, the Turbo S will crack 100km/h in 2.9 seconds and punch through the 320km/h barrier without breaking a sweat. In the UK, Porsche’s official acceleration figures have already been demolished on independent tests and it’s safe to say that the next generation Turbo models will push the performance envelope beyond what any of us thought possible.
Porsche has decided to endow the 911 Turbo S with such astonishing performance in order to take on the plethora of tuning companies that have been tweaking these cars for years, often with catastrophic results. Yet any time I’ve driven a 911 Turbo, the last thing on my mind has been that it needs more power. As the ultimate all-weather, all-round supercar, it has no peers but it needs big roads to exploit even a fraction of its performance potential. So I’m pointing the new S in the direction of the Scottish Highlands, where there are empty, fast roads, stunning scenery and traffic cops are thin on the ground.
I live on the edge of a fairly large town so before I reach the motorway that will take me all the way to Scotland, I pilot the Turbo S through a sprawling urban maze and you know what? It’s as easy as a Ford Focus. There’s no manual gearbox available with the S because Porsche says nine out of 10 Turbos are specced with its seven-speed dual clutch PDK tranny. For town driving it’s best left to its own devices in Auto mode and everything is child’s play. Reaching the motorway, I prepare myself for a first taste of Turbo S thrust. With very little traffic around, I gently feather the throttle and BAM! In an instant, I’m doing twice the legal limit. It’s such an instantaneous gathering of momentum that it takes my breath away – time to back off in the name of licence preservation.
It strikes me that there’s really no such thing as a ‘real’ 911 anymore. So many variants, so many different characters that there really is something for everyone. From the purity and simplicity of the bog-standard (but entirely brilliant) 3.6-litre Carrera, to the raw excitement of the GT3 and the frankly mental GT2. The Turbo, though, is quite possibly the world’s greatest GT car and is entirely different from the rest of the 911 range. It’s perfect for long journeys as it’s comfortable, quiet, immensely capable and safe. Only this particular S isn’t comfortable.
You see, the S – apart from being more powerful than the Turbo – has basically every conceivable Turbo extra thrown at it as standard. And it actually looks like good value when you compare the kit with what you’d spend by going mad speccing up a normal Turbo. Extras fitted to this test car are the GT Silver paint, grey seat belts (!) an Aero Kit with its GT3-esque rear spoiler, and, laughably, given how expensive the car is, the rear wiper. One of the ‘no-cost extras’ is the fitment of Sports Bucket seats and my car has been cursed with them. They’re carbon-fibre backed, which no doubt saves a kilo or two, but they’re only adjustable for rake so hardly ideal for long trips like this. After only an hour I’ve had enough.
Strangely, after an hour, something else happens. The PDK transmission decides it wants to jump from seventh at cruising speed into fourth. The revs shoot up and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. Knocking the selector into manual, I’m able to get it into sixth and keep it there, but no seventh. And any time I put it back into Auto it goes straight for fourth gear again. So I stop at a service area, switch off and leave it for 10 minutes. Like a crashed laptop, it starts up again and behaves itself this time, but it’s still a matter of concern that the system is obviously prone to the occasional glitch.
For the next 1000km the Turbo S doesn’t miss a beat. I can’t think of any other car that can cover ground as efficiently as this. It’s not far off Veyron performance in terms of acceleration yet it’s approachable, usable and, err, a bit dull. The biggest problem is that you can’t really hear anything from that magnificent engine. My neighbour has a 1989 model 911 Turbo and he parked it up next to this one only yesterday. It sounded absolutely brilliant – this one sounded like a vacuum cleaner in comparison. That’s progress for you, eh?
The other issue is that, while the engine is mute, the roar from the tyres on anything but billiard-table-smooth roads is quite inexcusable. But I forget these niggles once I reach the Highlands heading for Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. For this car’s ability to chew up the longest, toughest roads and spit them out of its dual exhaust pipes never fails to have me reeling in shock and utter joy. You know in Star Wars when Han Solo puts the Millennium Falcon into Hyperdrive and the universe becomes a blur? That’s what this car feels like every single time I floor the throttle.
It shrinks continents, this thing. It goes around corners as though they’re not there thanks to four-wheel drive and Porsche’s new Torque Vectoring system (you can now add PTV to the ever growing list of automotive acronyms) which apportions torque to whatever wheel has the most grip. It shrugs off any challenge you throw its way with a ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ sneer. It’s is an absolutely epic machine.
Any car that can reach the speeds a Turbo S is capable of needs some serious stopping power and here, all-round carbon ceramic brakes (PCCB) are fitted as standard. They do a brilliant job of wiping off huge dollops of speed and rearranging my internal organs whenever I stamp on them but they don’t half squeal, which is a bit embarrassing to be honest.
Reaching my destination, it’s time to bed down for the night before an early morning return. But, as I drift off to sleep, there’s only one thing on my mind: the drive back. I can live with the pain caused by the driver’s seat because, every time I open the taps, this car delivers a hit like nothing else this side of a jet fighter. Granted, a GT3 will give a more pure, traditional 911 experience, but if you want the very best GT car in the world today, look no further. Just make sure you get yours with normal seats and, if you don’t already have one, get yourself the best lawyer in town. You’ll be needing his services before long, you have been warned.