wheels Petrolhead survival guide!

TURBO Special

WORDS CAMERON KIRBY, TRENT GIUN CO & TONY O’KANE

GLOBAL PANDEMICS REALLY CAN PUT THE BRAKES ON THINGS MOTORING ENTHUSIASTS LOVE. BUT BEING STUCK IN ISOLATION DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A COMPLETE PASSION KILLER. JUST FOLLOW SOME FRIENDL Y ADVICE…

WHAT WAS I expecting of this newgeneration 911 Turbo? I had just blasted up the Angeles Crest Highway and arrived at a turnout in a Porsche 992 Carrera 4S, grinning and giggling the whole way up.

Climbing into the Turbo S, I was anticipating that same C4S hand-in-glove experience. They’re both 911s, after all. But with 147 extra kilowatts, the Turbo provides an added urgency that simply erases straights. And there’s so much more to a Turbo S than mere squirt-betweencorners acceleration. It’s as if during its development, the Turbo spent time with the team in Flacht before being released to the wild. I wasn’t expecting that.

Flacht is the state-of-the-art motorsport complex adjacent to the main Porsche development centre in Weissach. It’s where every Porsche race car is born, and also where the hardcore, lightweight, track-intended versions of the 911, the GT2 RS and GT3 RS, are conceived.

My instincts turn out to be correct. Frank-Steffen Walliser, who was responsible for GT racing at Porsche, became head of the 911 and 718 model lines in 2019. In an interview, Walliser explained the balancing act and ultimate priority of the 911 Turbo: “Day-to-day usability, for sure. This quality distinguishes the 911 Turbo from all other high-performance sports cars. At the same time – and this was the second development goal – it has to render you speechless from time to time.” Mission accomplished, Herr Doktor Walliser.

Sitting behind the wheel of the all-new 911 Turbo S, there’s no way to suspect what potentialities lay ahead. Aside from the animated “Turbo S” greeting in the centre ring of the familiar five-ring instrument cluster (two of which are obscured, in a rare ergonomic gaffe), it’s “just” a 911. There’s the same Sport Chrono clock/timer atop the dash, same sharp and responsive touchscreen interface with its handy thumb perch (carbonfibre, in this case), the same knurled tab of a shifter.

Twist the starter, located to the left of the steering wheel, and you’re greeted with a deep exhaust note. “Well, that does sound pretty purposeful,” I think – especially through the optional sports exhaust system. After selecting Sport Plus, I look both ways, eased onto the highway ahead, and nail it.

My brain is still back at the turnout when I arrive at the first corner a few hundred metres down the road. David Byrne spoke to me. “Well, how did I get here?” Indeed, speechless.

Besides the explosive and uncharacteristically linear power, it’s thrilling to finally hear the turbos in the Turbo – hissing in fury as the wastegates dump the compressed air it cannot use with that wonderful, racy woochz-ch-ch-ch.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s 800Nm available between 2500-4000rpm, and there are no longer overboost conditions required to get a full serving of it. The utter lack of turbo lag, according to Walliser, is due to “wastegate control, chargeair cooling, turbocharger dimensioning, and VTG [Porsche’s unique] variable turbine geometry”. Porsche has also made the exhaust plumbing symmetrical, so the twin turbos now spin in opposite directions.

No, this is no ordinary Turbo in the sense it once was. It’s alive like a GT car, and as with those, respect needs to be paid. It’s the type of acceleration that forces a driver to keep his eyes up, have a plan, and to drive with commitment because before you know it, you’re there.

Expecting a typically firm/short Porsche ceramic brake pedal, I’m surprised to discover a fairly soft/long one. This makes it far easier to detect impending ABS interventions and, once acclimatised, I can reach threshold braking precisely and repeatedly. I can also modulate the pedal without guessing where or when the ABS might kick in. Nice.

I also wasn’t expecting such a friction-free steering system – which I always prefer to heavy. This particular car is also optioned with Power Steering Plus, which uses software to reduce steering effort at lower speeds, and I can feel every ripple and crack in the pavement through my fingertips.

Delightful and precise as ever. I never sense the rear-steer effects. The car feels nimble and alert. I can also sense the front tyres’ grip building and fading, and how the steering gets light when the weight shifts to the rear – just like the first time I drove a 911 nearly 30 years ago, before power steering, much less electric-assisted power steering. “They’ve nailed it!” I think. Clearly, there’s ample institutional memory and pride at Porsche when it comes to steering.

And the grip, my word, does it have grip with its staggered but ‘mere’ Pirelli P Zero NA1 tires (that suffix means purposebuilt for Porsche). They measure 255/35 ZR20 up front and 315/30 ZR21 out back. I rarely see the tell-tale blink of the stability-control or traction-control despite travelling what must have been (remember, “eyes up”) a +30km/h delta in the same corners as I had just driven in the Carrera 4S.

It must seem like such a cop-out and a cliché to read “the best 911 Turbo ever”. But when Porsche remasters what was pretty much a masterpiece, and truly an everyday supercar, there’s hardly anything else to say.

Walliser and his crew have improved every aspect of the car where one wouldn’t think it possible. It has more power that’s more accessible and tractable. As for brake feel and modulation, I’m searching my memory for another car as good as the 911 Turbo S and am coming up short. We haven’t even discussed in detail the newly available active suspension (PASM) that makes this one of the plushest-riding 911s. Or how, when combined with the standard dynamic chassis control (PDCC), the Turbo S maintains that poise even when pushed to its limits.

With so many systems firing away like the proverbial ghost in the machine, it would be an easy temptation to simply build a clinical car that essentially drives itself – something so competently quick, yet devoid of the thrill and joy of driving.

But not Porsche. The 2021 911 Turbo S is alive, eager, and hungry. It needs its driver, rewards its driver, and it bonds with its driver. Supercars don’t usually do that. They’re usually binary: they’re sexy putt-putting around town, then hair-on-fire affairs in the hills. No, the new 911 Turbo is a partner from the first corner until you pull in your driveway. This is the car you marry, though it’ll be a long engagement. You can order yours now, but it won’t arrive at dealerships until later this year.

THE STATS

Model Porsche 911 Turbo S

Engine 3745cc flat-6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo

Max power 478kW @ 6750rpm

Max torque 800Nm @ 2500-4000rpm

Transmission eight-speed dual-clutch

Kerb weight 1640kg

0-100km/h 2.7sec (claimed)

Economy 11.5L/100km

Price $473,900

On sale September

IN FOCUS

Worth the weight?

THE SCALES DON'T LIE

Weight has increased by 40kg over the 991 Turbo, but 992 Turbo’s chassis is far stiffer, something especially felt in the Cabriolet version. Should you wish to claw some of that adipose back, an optional Lightweight Package is due available. This amps up the volume while paring 30kg from the kerb weight. You get bucket front seats and the rear seats are binned, as is some of the sound insulation. Also featured is lightweight glass, sport suspension and a lighter exhaust. Less weight, more Flacht. , sport suspension and a lighter exhaust. Less weight, more Flacht.