Porsche puts new lustre on its longstanding 911 flagship, a supercar that can run down to the shops
The Cape Barren geese didn’t see which way the Porsche 911 Turbo went. With Mark Webber behind the wheel of Porsche’s latest and greatest supercar, the Siberia corner at the Phillip Island circuit — and the pair of fowl — were left behind without ruffling the feathers of any of the protagonists.
Webber’s credentials are honed by 12 years in Formula One racing and ongoing tests in his Porsche World Endurance Championship hybrid racer. The 911 Turbo’s legacy as Porsche’s road-going flagship stretches back to 1974.
In concert, they’re a wickedly aligned duet, laying down an automotive soundtrack of tyre howl and engine snarl that evokes a primal response.
Front-seat audience members smile or sicken, depending on their constitution, as Webber plies his trade.
His inputs to wheel and pedals are measured and minute, a constant series of compensations for tyre grip, centripetal force and track camber. They’re done with a nonchalance that comes from thousands of hours earning a living against the fastest racers
on the planet … but it is not entirely Webber’s doing.
Ultimately the driver is only as good as the car lets him be and Carsguide has driven the Turbo and Turbo S models around the same course only hours earlier. It makes us look good — but so it should, at $359,800 (or $441,300 for the S). At this price I don’t want a car to drive itself but I do want it to forgive me for driving poorly. And it does.
All-wheel drive, all-wheel steer underpinnings and a bi-turbo 3.8-litre (383kW/660Nm) flat six engine. Porsche claims a 0-100km/h time of 3.2 seconds for the Turbo, which will account for 80 per cent of sales.
To achieve that, owners will have to ante up an extra $9680 for the Sport Chrono package. Its overboost function adds 29kW/50Nm when in the Sports Plus engine map mode.
Helping keep the extra power on the ground are active engine mounts, active stabiliser bars and active suspension damping.
The Turbo S adds more grunt — 412kW/700Nm — and active roll bars, 20-inch alloys, LED headlamps and carbon ceramic brakes, for a 0-100km/h time of 3.1 seconds.
Overseas testers have found those figures conservative, with both variants claimed to have clocked sub-3.0-second times. Launch control means it is reproducible at will in the S; Turbo buyers can join the contest providing they option the Sports Chrono pack.
And unlike many makers, Porsche is confident its launch control won’t damage the car, encouraging journalists to repeatedly test the system during the car’s local debut at Phillip Island.
A US magazine took it further and successfully launched the Turbo 61 times in succession.
A hydraulically triggered centre diff ensures faster power transfer between front and rear axles and torque vectoring control ensures all that power is transferred to the tarmac.
Under way, the rear-wheel steering turns up to 2.8 degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels up to 50km/h to improve low-speed agility.
At 80km/h and up, the rear rubber turns in the same direction as the front to bolster high-speed stability.
It’s been done before but not as efficiently and effectively as the Porsche program.
This is one of the key differences to the previous 911 Turbo and helps explain why this car is — staggeringly — a much more competent supercar on the track.
The Turbo isn’t all that far down the Phillip Island front straight before it passes the point at which German rivals have hit their electronic cut-out.
Hitting the anchors at 275km/h heading into turn one is a jaw-dropping experience, both for the ferocity of the retardation and the Porsche’s ability to compensate for the driver not having the car dead straight before diving on the picks. Try doing that in most cars and both vehicle and driver’s underwear will need a wash.
Simply put, on track the Turbo is awesome, the S is sublime. It sits flatter and grips with more tenacity but the track — specifically a high-speed circuit like the Island — is one of the very few places that difference can be felt. So Carsguide would save the $80,000 and buy the regular model.
Regular is another misnomer. This is a supercar in every sense of the word yet it can double as an urban runabout. And that’s a trick very few supercars, including obvious rivals in the McLaren MP4 12C and Lamborghini Gallardo, can achieve.
Go easy on the throttle and keep the electronics in tame mode and this is a tractable, low-speed cruiser that deals with bumps and humps without damaging spines and has enough cargo space to toss in a couple of bags for the weekend.
Press a couple of buttons and find the right piece of road and few cars can rival the Turbo’s potent mix of outright pace and cornering prowess.
The Turbo is the legendary leader of the 911 pack. The myth and mystique that surround the model is unmatched — drive the new series Turbo for a taste of the reality. Its engineering excellence can be felt with every turn of the steering wheel and application of the pedals.
When you’re this close to perfection, there isn’t a lot of room to move. That’s a large part of the 911’s allure and it is a car that has to be driven to be genuinely appreciated.