Turbo – it’s a word that carries a sense of reverence whenever it sits on the shapely derriere of a Porsche – and in the case of the 2021 911 Porsche Turbo, it also asks a question that relates to another letter.
Do you really ‘need’ an ‘S’… ?
The new Porsche Turbo is everything we have come to expect from Porsche where the 911 is concerned. Polished, powerful, ridiculously fast, comfortable, usable and practical beyond what you should ever expect of a sports car this rapid. I’ve driven the Turbo S too, most recently in convertible form, and while more is indeed, well, more, it’s difficult to formulate a case for it.
Then again, when you’re at this level of the performance and pricing ladder, do you really need to formulate an argument for any car? Probably not. If you've got the money and you want it, buy it.
All the boring stuff is a given with any 911 in 2021. You know the deal. Yes, it’s practical, yes you can live with it day-to-day. Yes, it has Apple CarPlay that works. Yes, it’s built like a tank and likely to be reliable when it’s 30 years old.
The new Turbo is many things then, one of which is as powerful as the old Turbo S. And that car was no slouch. Which brings me back to my original question.
Is the Turbo all the Porsche you ever need? We will do our best – largely on track – to find out.
Our pricing and specification guide explains the details, and as tested here, the 911 Turbo starts from $396,500 before on-road costs. Nearly 80 grand less than its nastier sibling, the Turbo S, in other words. Lot of money for one letter isn’t it?
|2021 Porsche 911 Turbo|
|Engine||3.8-litre twin-turbocharged petrol flat-six|
|Power and torque||427kW @6500rpm, 750Nm @ 2250–4500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed PDK (dual-clutch automatic)|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||11.3L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||NA|
|Boot volume||128L (Front)|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Untested|
|Main competitors||Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan, McLaren 720S|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$396,500|
Let’s concentrate on that phat rump, sans ‘S’ badge first, then.
The 3.8-litre (3745cc to be exact) powerhouse that lurks beneath it, packs a 427kW/750Nm upper cut, resulting in a 0-100km/h thrash that takes a scant 0.1-second longer than the Turbo S. Yep, this Turbo is not slow. It is, with no hint of silliness, a stupidly fast sports car.
The power is prodigious, but the torque is most felt through the seat of the pants – 750Nm is the same output as a Ferrari 812 Superfast, if you don’t mind – and it’s a giant slab that you feel almost straight off idle when you nail the throttle.
The result is a tidal wave of relentless acceleration, that never seems to end. 0-100km/h is gone in 2.8 seconds, and it feels that quick when you unleash it using launch control. The savagery of the AWD getaway blurs your vision the first few times you do it until you get used to it, and it keeps piling on speed until you run out of road. Our track run, which is hardly a 10/10ths exhibition of the Turbo’s outer limits on my part, sees 250km/h into the braking zone at the end of the straight at South Australia's The Bend.
The 3.8-litre flat-six continues Porsche’s long run of evolution and power extraction from a seemingly compromised design, certainly in terms of where the engine is positioned. And yet, the 911 keeps getting better with every update. It’s a marvel of modern engineering nous and execution.
While the Turbo loses some of the sorcery from the Turbo S beneath the skin – like active anti-roll bars and exotic carbon ceramic brakes – the sensational eight-speed PDK remains. The Turbo might be AWD, but it feels very much like a RWD car without the tail-happy silliness, and rear-wheel steering makes a massive difference at speed on the track. Few, if any, performance cars at this level are as easy to drive quickly.
The Turbo’s cabin is somehow both true to Porsche tradition and a significant leap forward. The Taycan has probably played a hefty role in the improvements to the 911’s technicality, with features like the digital driver’s gauges, the infotainment and switchgear, as well as the clinical nature of the shifter and console all bringing a level of class to a cabin that has a lot to live up to. Less is more in terms of usable controls and functionality, and the 911’s cabin is an easy place to settle into for a long haul.
The single, central analogue dial ahead of the driver is a classy touch, retaining some of the old world charm the 911 has become synonymous with, but the customisable displays around it bring a sense of the future to the present.
The paddle-shifters are beautifully positioned, but something we hardly ever use, such is the precision of the PDK when left to its own devices. I've seen criticism of their feel, and that they don't match the premium surrounds of the rest of the cabin, but I didn't sense that. The 10.9-inch screen is tactile, responsive, and clear and doesn't look out of place centred in the dash fascia.
The track is where we sort out the contenders from the pretenders, so to speak, and it’s where we can really sample what the 911 Turbo is really capable of. Not only are we about to unleash 427kW on the sensational The Bend circuit, but we’re doing so chasing a few drivers who know a thing or two about fast track cars.
Pilots Luke Youlden, Chris Pither and Karl Reindler are familiar to fans of V8 Supercars (I don't care what the governing body calls them, they are V8 Supercars.) while young gun Garnet Patterson plies his trade in LMP GT cars and still can’t believe this is my first visit to The Bend.
Needless to say, two things are about to happen. I’m going to learn a hell of a lot, and the boys have no danger of me catching them. There are many things I’m thankful for in this job, and one of them is the opportunity to spend time with drivers of this calibre learning, watching, improving, and finding out how talented they really are.
The Bend is a Euro-style circuit that is as good as any in Australia, fast and flowing, almost perfectly suited to a car like the 911 Turbo. Corner speed and hitting the apex is the key, and the fastest way around a lap won’t have drivers sawing at the wheel and making rash moves. There are some tricky double apexes, and the reward is an undeniable illustration of just how fast the 911 Turbo is. Youlden has set an outright lap record here in the Brabham BT50, so we're in good hands.
The grip from the Turbo is, as you’d expect, sensational. The forgiving way in which the Turbo soaks up a late brake application, tardy or imprecise turn in, or excess enthusiasm with the throttle pedal on corner exit, belies its precision in the right hands. I can’t think of a car that is easier to drive fast than a 911 Turbo or Turbo S.
The power delivery that we mentioned in launch control terms remains a powerful force when you introduce corners. The flat-six surges hard, and continues to roar to redline, relentlessly, smoothly, effortlessly. Lap after lap, you ride the wave of torque, rejoicing in the wailing exhaust note and raw nature of the feedback the car is giving you. The throttle, the brakes, the steering, the chassis, it’s all so connected, so responsive, so sharp.
There’s no hint of lag, and Garnet is hustling the 911 Turbo S pace car in front of us, calmly offering guidance through the two-way. 'On the brakes now, hold the line, turn in, look for the apex, eyes up to where you’re going, squeeze on the throttle, full throttle now, use all the track, look ahead to the next corner, look for your braking marker.' If only I could have his voice in my head 24 hours a day, I could be an F1 world champion…
It takes a lap or two, to align your brain and your senses, with what the Turbo is capable of; for you to find that its outer edges are so far beyond your capability, that you can just settle in and concentrate on driving as fast as possible. The relentless way it piles on speed is utterly addictive, and corners are almost a hindrance. Then again, they do offer the chance to feel the brutality of the acceleration again.
You can probably find a hint of understeer, like any AWD platform, but you’d need to go so far past stupid to find it; consider it a non-issue. And if you do stand on the throttle too early, the rear-wheel steering makes correcting a slide ridiculously easy. Makes you look like you know what you’re doing too, as an added bonus.
The steering, as ever, is a highlight. Firm at speed, responsive, and direct, Porsche continues to deliver power steering that is the gold standard by which all others should be judged. The quality of the steering at low speed on the road, is matched by its precision and dependability at speed on track. Never is the old adage 'it goes where you point it' more accurate than from behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 – Turbo or otherwise.
There’s no doubt, even with the privilege we have to test all and sundry on road and track that the Porsche 911 Turbo is fast – brutally so. It’s one of the fastest cars we’ve ever settled into. It's effortless sure, but that doesn't detract from how outrageously fast it is when you unleash its capability on a racetrack.
Despite that brutality and the sheer violence of what it is capable of though, it remains liveable, benign and well-mannered around town. I'm well aware of the fanfare that follows GT2 and GT3-badged 911s but unless you're at the track every other day, a Turbo or Turbo S is the smart choice. Ballistic on track, no compromise day-to-day. It doesn't get much better than that.
So no, you don’t ‘need’ a Turbo S. In the same way that you don’t ‘need’ a hamburger for lunch. You want one though. And if you have the money, and you want a Turbo S, you’re going to buy one. And we’ll look on as you roll past with a hint of jealousy, because your 911 is as good a Porsche currently gets.
And, as I've stated on the site before, I'm no 911 fanboy by any means. But, you cannot ignore the engineering and the execution. And, the Turbo S is rightly at the top of that pile.
The Turbo, though, is an epic sports car, one that will have you looking for the long way home, every time you drive it.