Bur­nish­ing point

Porsche puts new lus­tre on its long­stand­ing 911 flag­ship, a su­per­car that can run down to the shops

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

THE MAE­STRO

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.

THE ME­CHAN­I­CALS

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 MUG

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.

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