930 v 991 Turbo S Ex­clu­sive

Turbo tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced in­com­pre­hen­si­bly in four decades. We drive two spe­cial 911 Tur­bos at op­po­site ends of Porsche devel­op­ment

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by neill Wat­son Pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris Wall­bank

Two truly golden 911s do bat­tle as Porsche’s first Turbo is thrust against its modern ri­val

Sec­ond gear, just be­fore the apex of the tightly ra­diused cor­ner. Squeeze the power and wait for the 930 Turbo to spin up and de­liver boost. 2,500rpm and noth­ing is hap­pen­ing. 3,000rpm and still noth­ing of significance. In fact, it’s feel­ing like a slightly flat, nor­mally as­pi­rated Porsche. Three-and-a-half grand and fi­nally we’re feel­ing a shove be­tween the shoul­der blades, the boost gauge be­low the rev counter now stir­ring. Sud­denly that softly sprung rear is squat­ting down and the nose is lift­ing, and we’re be­ing pushed hard at the hori­zon. The revs rise at a dis­pro­por­tion­ate rate to what was hap­pen­ing a sec­ond ago and I’m ready­ing for that long-throw 915 shift across the gate and into third gear, hop­ing that I can shift it briskly enough that the en­gine doesn’t fall off boost.

Ahead of us there’s a vivid, gold 991 Turbo S Ex­clu­sive Edi­tion that only sec­onds ago was fill­ing our wind­screen and has now al­most van­ished over the hori­zon. The 930 Turbo, now on boost in third gear, is cov­er­ing the ground rapidly, yet there’s just so much dis­tance to make up. An aw­ful lot has hap­pened in Porsche tech­nol­ogy in the last 40 or so years… and not only in tur­bocharg­ing tech­nol­ogy. In fact, today is prov­ing to be such an ed­u­ca­tion and re­minder of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ment that it’s go­ing to take some time to gather my thoughts.

Th­ese two Porsche 911 Tur­bos are both ut­terly beau­ti­ful. The fact that they both hap­pen to be shades of gold that re­flect the pre­vail­ing fash­ions at the time of their pro­duc­tion is a happy co­in­ci­dence that makes for an at­trac­tive pho­to­shoot here in North Wales. They are both equally stun­ning to be­hold, and of course both are rear-en­gined. How­ever, beyond that the dif­fer­ences are so stark that they pro­vide prob­a­bly the most graphic il­lus­tra­tion pos­si­ble of how the Porsche 911 ethos of Dar­winian evo­lu­tion has brought us to what is prob­a­bly the pin­na­cle of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine tech­nol­ogy today, with­out the ad­di­tion of hy­brid power. We have here the be­gin­ning of the Porsche Turbo and quite pos­si­bly the end, to­gether on the de­mand­ing roads of the Evo Tri­an­gle.

I’ve driven the 991-gen­er­a­tion Turbo be­fore, so its per­for­mance is noth­ing new to me. It’s fair to say that I am a de­voted fan of the 911 Turbo as a road car. I fully ac­cept the argument that the GT3 line has a pu­rity of throt­tle re­sponse that is lin­ear and tele­pathic, yet there’s some­thing about the ef­fort­less, dev­as­tat­ing over­tak­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the 911 Tur­bos of each re­spec­tive gen­er­a­tion that has given me many happy mem­o­ries over my years of 911 driv­ing. Most en­thu­si­asts would ad­mit that if there were only one Porsche to drive ev­ery sin­gle day for the rest of their life, it would prob­a­bly be a 911 Turbo.

It’s for the best that I’m driv­ing the 930 Turbo first. At least that way it stands a chance to im­press with that charis­matic, early gen­er­a­tion power de­liv­ery. The nicely ad­justed 915 shift has only four gears, and I’m re­minded as a for­mer 1979 Turbo owner just how of­ten you use first gear around the town. Those junc­tions where you may nor­mally dip the clutch a lit­tle and keep it rolling in sec­ond gear need a slow, de­lib­er­ate shift down to first that ide­ally re­quires a lit­tle heel toe and tim­ing to achieve smoothly; you’re us­ing first as an ac­tual gear here, rather than some­thing you select once sta­tion­ary. Leav­ing it in sec­ond can strand you mid-junc­tion in a black hole of per­for­mance that can be a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing if you’re not care­ful.

The steer­ing is unas­sisted and heavy, weight­ing up in the tra­di­tional 911 way as soon as the cor­ners be­come sig­nif­i­cant. It’s not dif­fi­cult – un­less you’re try­ing a three-point turn in a side street – but it’s heavy nonethe­less and gives your wrists a work­out, with the steer­ing wheel do­ing its unique 911 feed­back dance over road im­per­fec­tions. The ride is cer­tainly firmer that a stan­dard 911, though it’s far from hard.

Leav­ing the streets of Ch­ester be­hind, it’s time to bring my­self up to speed on the early 911 Turbo power de­liv­ery. Cruis­ing on dual car­riage­ways the long gear­ing makes for a rel­a­tively re­laxed cruise, though if you’re at 70mph in fourth gear don’t ex­pect sig­nif­i­cant ac­cel­er­a­tion with­out a down­shift. Turn­ing off the mo­tor­way to find the un­du­lat­ing A and B roads of North Wales, I’m re­minded just how tricky it can be to make fast progress in an early 930 Turbo. In 1977 this was a ground­break­ing car and, driven in the con­text of its time, its power ad­van­tage is mas­sive. There is, how­ever, a tech­nique to get­ting the op­ti­mum per­for­mance from a four-speed 930 that can some­times prove elu­sive. When you have a power­band that re­ally only starts at 3,500rpm you could do with more op­tions in the gear­box than the four tall ra­tios you’re given by Porsche. The story at the time was that the five-speed gear­box sim­ply couldn’t take the torque, so the four-speed was the only op­tion. So in many cor­ners you’re cre­at­ing a bal­anc­ing act that mixes a com­bi­na­tion of gear ra­tio, rpm and, cru­cially, boost.

Any open, medium-speed cor­ner can of­fer the tough­est choices. Take sec­ond: the rpm will be higher, right there where the boost be­gins. And be­cause throt­tle po­si­tion isn’t al­ways an in­di­ca­tion of power de­liv­ery, you’re con­stantly feel­ing for the boost com­ing in, feath­er­ing the throt­tle at the on­set of that hiss as the turbo lag means you’re al­ways try­ing to pre­dict that sweet spot. Get it right and the 930 comes whistling and bark­ing out of the cor­ner, its rear squat­ting like a power lifter, front wheels feel­ing as if they’re only just touch­ing the road. Get it wrong and you will be pun­ished with ei­ther early mid­corner un­der­steer as the front reaches for the sky, mean­ing a lift-off right when you re­ally, re­ally don’t want to, or those rel­a­tively mod­est rear tyres will break trac­tion and then over­steer as they light up. In this in­stance you’ll need a quick pair of hands.

In­deed there are a great many things that are ei­ther miss­ing en­tirely from the 1977 car or that have ad­vanced so far as to be al­most beyond com­pre­hen­sion. It takes a drive in the 991 Turbo S Ex­clu­sive Edi­tion to bring that point fully home. Take the key as an il­lus­tra­tion. The 930 Turbo key is just that: a key. It could al­most be from any lock, any­where. Never mind a car. The only clue is the beau­ti­fully weath­ered Porsche key fob. The Ex­clu­sive, mean­while, has an exquisitely crafted item. It’s colour-keyed to the car’s hue and re­tracts snugly into its own leather garage when not in use. It’s a qual­ity item that re­in­forces in your mind that your de­ci­sion to spend £185,000 was the cor­rect one. It barely re­sem­bles a key.

The ‘key’ clunks home into the socket as the car takes hold of it and comes to life. While this car is bristling with tech­nol­ogy, I ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that you start it with a sim­ple turn of a key. No

Ital­ian su­per­car cer­e­monies of lift­ing up flaps to dra­mat­i­cally thumb a big red ‘start’ but­ton. I take a mo­ment to find a com­fort­able seat­ing po­si­tion. For me, steer­ing wheel reach and sup­port un­der my thighs is a prob­lem with older 911s. My gi­raffe-like body shape doesn’t lend it­self to a non-ad­justable steer­ing wheel. In the Ex­clu­sive, 18-way ad­justable elec­tric sports seats, heated and ven­ti­lated, com­bined with a seam­less elec­tric steer­ing ad­just­ment for tilt and rake, makes me com­fort­able. The re­as­sur­ing sup­port un­der my legs and the nicely placed wheel con­firms I could prob­a­bly drive the length of Europe in this, all in one hit.

The steer­ing wheel it­self does far more than just turn the front wheels in today’s cars. In the same way that a he­li­copter pi­lot’s es­sen­tial con­trols are placed close by his fin­gers and thumbs, once moving in a

991 Turbo there should be lit­tle rea­son to move your hands from the steer­ing wheel for the en­tire length of the jour­ney, such is the in­te­gra­tion.

All of th­ese things are, of course, very nice ad­vance­ments in er­gonomics. How­ever, the proof of the quan­tum leap in tech­nol­ogy is in the drive. Rolling for­ward from our photo lo­ca­tion, the 991’s twin tur­bos are in­stantly re­spon­sive. Just mo­ments in first, then a tele­pathic flick of your right fin­gers

on the PDK pad­dle and sec­ond is de­liv­ered in­stan­ta­neously, far faster than any hu­man could man­age. The car is now talk­ing to the dampers, the en­gine and the gear­box. As the revs climb there’s ab­so­lutely no lag, sim­ply a re­lent­less, non-stop lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion that shrinks the road ahead of you. The en­gine note hard­ens to a bark that makes it clear that this is def­i­nitely a 911 and there’s a fast, jet-like in­take howl as the en­gine’s de­mand for ever more air ramps up. The bru­tal­ity of the en­gine’s power de­liv­ery means that – for the first time ever – I am con­fronted with a car that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t want as a man­ual shift… the choice of seven PDK gears seam­lessly fires home and the end of the straight is reached. The car­bon brakes bite hard and you re­alise that ac­tu­ally, af­ter the thigh-pump­ing push to stop the 930 Turbo and load the front end up to turn in, we ac­tu­ally need to change down and drive up to the cor­ner. Re­cal­i­bra­tion of brak­ing dis­tance com­plete, we press on over the un­du­lat­ing Welsh roads.

The more you drive the 991 Turbo S Ex­clu­sive Edi­tion the more you be­come part of the car, in an al­most cy­ber­netic way. Straights are dis­pensed with as the en­gine and gear­box com­bi­na­tion work har­mo­niously. As for the car­bon brakes? If you have the confidence to be com­fort­able brak­ing with your left foot from high speed there is a won­der­fully tac­tile and pre­cise way that you can en­joy bring­ing the speed down mas­sively, yet then del­i­cately carry that brake into the cor­ner en­try to nail down the front and then gently blend it with a throt­tle pickup that makes the tran­si­tion be­tween the two seam­less and ever-so sat­is­fy­ing.

There’s no wait­ing for the front end to com­press be­fore brak­ing hard, no con­cern about brak­ing hard over those small bumps into a cor­ner, nor having to think about the qual­ity of your next down­shift. No mo­men­tary con­cern about how the dampers are go­ing to re­act as the weight comes back onto the springs af­ter go­ing light over that last crest.

And yet, un­like other ‘su­per­car’ types, there’s never a sug­ges­tion that the car is tak­ing over and do­ing ev­ery­thing for you. To­gether you’re a part­ner­ship that wishes to cover the en­tire length of a coun­try, ide­ally with­out us­ing mo­tor­ways, in one hit.

So has the Turbo driv­ing experience changed over the years? Yes. Mas­sively. Does this mean that the

991 Turbo S Ex­clu­sive Edi­tion isn’t re­ally a 911 any more? Far from it. De­spite its ap­par­ent phys­i­cal size it ac­tu­ally oc­cu­pies a sim­i­lar-sized foot­print to the 930 Turbo. And de­spite the modern tech­nol­ogy di­alling ev­ery­thing in and op­ti­mis­ing the car con­tin­u­ally, there’s no mis­tak­ing where the en­gine is po­si­tioned. You are cer­tainly still driv­ing a 911 Turbo. That Porsche skill at ad­vanc­ing the tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing the car easy to drive and also re­tain­ing the feel and chal­lenge of the orig­i­nal 911, is a truly re­mark­able feat for the 991.

Each car holds true to the sil­hou­ette of the Turbo shape. The wide rear arches of the 1977 car are in­stantly recog­nis­able from posters on bed­room walls the world over, yet the modern, aero­dy­namic, CAD and wind tun­nel-de­signed 991 Turbo Ex­clu­sive shape still holds true to the Turbo genre, still sport­ing rear arches that are un­mis­tak­ably ‘Porsche Turbo’. The rear wing is more sub­dued today, though the 991 Turbo Ex­clu­sive is vis­ually more flam­boy­ant in other ar­eas.

It’s also true that each Turbo still holds firm to the orig­i­nal ethos: to de­liver a Grand Tour­ing per­for­mance that en­ables the driver to cover ground ef­fort­lessly and be the most com­plete all rounder in the Porsche 911 prod­uct line-up of the time.

Had I driven the 991 Turbo Ex­clu­sive in iso­la­tion I would doubt­less have been im­pressed by its in­domitable ca­pa­bil­i­ties. By having the 930 here as a coun­ter­point it ham­mers home per­fectly just how far we have ad­vanced in the 40 years since the 930

Turbo was un­veiled. Those in­ter­ven­ing years have given that con­tin­u­ous devel­op­ment curve which means that we very of­ten take for granted the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of modern per­for­mance cars. To drive th­ese two cars on the same roads on the day is a stag­ger­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

The 930 Turbo should be proud to sit along­side its de­scen­dent for the pho­to­shoot. It laid the foun­da­tions and blazed the trail, cre­at­ing what was a rel­a­tively blunt weapon that grad­u­ally evolved into the pre­ci­sion in­stru­ment that is the 991 Turbo S

Ex­clu­sive. It’s been a re­mark­able jour­ney.

“There’s ab­so­lutely no lag, sim­ply a re­lent­less, non-stop lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion that shrinks the road ahead of you”

thanks The 930 in our pic­tures is for sale at Tech9. For more in­for­ma­tion visit tech9.ms or call +44 (0) 151 425 5911. Thanks to Howard from the CHC part­ner­ship for use of the 991

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