In a world of McLarens, Ferraris and Porsche’s own 918 supercar, it’s easy to forget about the shock and awe that the Porsche 911 Turbo was once capable of inducing. The original, usable supercar was once considered to be almost antisocially fast. Is it wrong to assume that it’s been left behind in a power war that continues to be fought between German, British, Italian and Swedish supercars?
Well, yes. Wrong because, in new and improved Turbo S form it now offers 580 horsepower, has four-wheel drive, a super-fast shifting 7-speed PDK gearbox and weighs only 1,600kg. And to help visualise how that all feels when you really need to get a move-on, we’re sat at the bottom of the acceleration straight on Porsche’s dedicated track that’s part of its Silverstone Experience centre. We’re about to “launch” the Turbo S.
To try and get it off the line as fast as is possible – which can be a tricky experience in many cars, where you’re managing clutch bite point, wheel spin and trying not to bog down – in the new Turbo S with launch control it’s disturbingly easy.
We roll up to the line, twist the (new for this generation) drive mode wheel on the steering wheel round to “S+”, then turn PSM (the stability and traction control systems) off, followed by doing the only unusual thing in the entire process: planting our left foot hard on the brake (for those of you wondering, that’s the foot you don’t normally use for the brake). Foot firmly pressed, now it’s time to floor the accelerator with our right foot. The revs jump to between 5-6,000rpm and the display in the instrument cluster lights up “launch control ready”.
What happens next, even if you’re used to driving fast cars, our brain kind of struggles to process. In a good way. With the revs blaring away at 6,000rpm, and launch control flashing, we move our left foot off the brake as sharply as possible. And despite knowing what’s coming, we’re never quite prepared for the violence of the jolt up the backside the new 911 exerts as it immediately seems to hook-up all four wheels, and hurls itself down the race track.
We tend to avoid clichés on Pocket-Lint, but for once, lets use one — it feels like you’ve just been shunted from behind by a fast-moving express train. Literally holding on to the steering wheel trying to keep the thing in a straight line, as the PDK gearbox smashes its way through the gears and rips through the 62mph standard acceleration test in 2.8-seconds. About a second later, the number on the speed reads 95mph as we cross the white line on the race track and realise we’re now worryingly close to the cones that mark the end of the acceleration straight. Steve from Porsche who has been sat alongside us the whole time (and is clearly amused at the slow stream of expletives coming from our mouth), yells “brake!”.
Putting all the force we can into the middle pedal, we trigger that familiar pulse of the ABS system, as the 911 Turbo S’s carbon ceramic brakes haul us back to zero in a way that’s literally more breath-taking than the acceleration we’ve just experienced. As we come to a half, we’re literally suspended in mid-air, the seat-belt holding us in like we’re on some kind of space simulator guinea pig. Cartoon-like, we come to a halt, hang in the air for what must be a millisecond, before physics catches up and we rebound into the seat.
A look in the rear view mirrors, and the line we crossed at 95mph looks just a few dozen feet away. A piece of potentially useless advice? If you’re following a 911 with carbon brakes and it decides to do an emergency stop, we suggest you’ll be in trouble — because it can probably stop quicker than the car you’re driving. The things laughs in the face of highway code stopping distances.
The joy of the Turbo S is that all of this would be of little use if the car felt fragile. But unlike some supercar brands we could name that explicitly told us not to launch-control test its cars for fear of them breaking, we repeat this experience four times in a row in the Turbo S. Then drive it round the track for several laps, going as fast as we dare.
Nor would it be much use if the Turbo S was an uncontrolled monster out on the public road. But later on in the day, a 45-minute solo strop on the roads around Silverstone reveals the Turbo S excels for the reasons people have always liked 911 Turbos. It’s happy to potter along at 30mph, it’s comfortable and reasonably quiet at a 70mph cruise, and as long as you don’t get one in “speed yellow” most other road users won’t look at you twice. And thanks to the four-wheel drive system, come rain (and even snow) the Turbo S is not going to try and throw you in a ditch.
There are two problems though.
The first is resisting the urge to dip into that obviously huge reserve of power out on the road. As our acceleration test showed, a two or three second stab of full throttle is enough to have your license taken away. Best to make do with the insane overtaking capability, aided and abetted by the Sport Response function – simply hit the button in the centre of the steering wheel mounted drive mode selector and the Turbo S grants you 20-seconds of optimum power functionality, selecting the lowest gear possible and flicking all the systems into sport plus for immediate, ultra response.
The second issue, which is nit-picking, is that at times the Turbo S feels like it’s doing all the work. It’s true to say this isn’t the most involving 911 as far as driver experience goes. For that, you might want to try a GT3. But the Turbo has perhaps never been the purist’s 911, and given the choice the 911 range provides, we think it’s well judged. Plus, you could hardly call it boring.
On board, a new infotainment system – including a capacitive touchscreen, new mapping technologies which include Google Earth and Streetview, and a new suite of connected services, including Porsche Apps – is something we’ll cover in greater depth in the future 911 review. But it’s responsive and easy-to-use, and certainly brings the Turbo S up on par with other supercars as far as on-board technology is concerned.
At £145,773/$218,660 you’d probably argue that it well should, too. But while the price in isolation seems steep, compared to the supercar competition to which it must be compared, the Turbo S is competitively priced. For nearly £20k/$30k less, £126,925/$190,388 buys you the standard Turbo – which is hardly short on poke, with 540bhp and hitting 0-62 in 3-seconds dead.
But it’s not quite as rabid as theTurbo S – and given our launch control experience, if you’re after the ultimate, usable, fastest car in the real-world supercar, then we’d take the full-fat TurboS 911 experience every time.