Porsche 911 Turbo on test: it's all about the capital T
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Porsche 911 Turbo
- Outrageously fast
- So easy to drive
- Still very involving
- Outrageously expensive
- Absurd option prices
- Flimsy drive-mode dial
You can’t really delve into the new Porsche 911 Turbo without talking Taycan Turbo.
Porsche has lots of experience with plug-in technology and its pure-electric Taycan Turbo is a dual-motor masterpiece. It feels like a proper Porsche and being a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), it has instant torque that gives surreal acceleration: 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds for the Taycan Turbo and 2.8sec if you step up to the Turbo S.
So Porsche is future-focused on BEVs; but the 911 is still an icon for the company. It’s existed in its own idiosyncratic form for nearly 60 years and it’ll almost certainly be the last to be electrified.
So for now, the 911 Turbo is proof that internal combustion can answer back. The 992-generation 911 Turbo is not just quicker than the Taycan Turbo, it’s as fast as the flagship Taycan Turbo S: 2.8sec to 100km/h.
Spend another $62k for the new-generation 911 Turbo S and it gains 51kW/50Nm, dropping 0.1sec from the 100km/h sprint to beat its BEV namesake. Crazy money, but what price prominence?
Granted, this is all seeming quite contrived. There’s a carefully thought-out pecking order that’s been executed with exquisite engineering.
Speaking of contrived, the Taycan and 911 have another thing in common: that head-scratching “Turbo” naming convention. Electric cars don’t have turbos of course, but the badge hardly makes any more sense on the petrol model because virtually every current 911 is turbocharged anyway, save the new-gen GT3 revealed this week.
Porsche can explain: “The Turbo has become the synonym for the top-of-the-range model in the same way as Sellotape stands for sticky tape or Kleenex for tissues. A Porsche Turbo is so much more than a model variant though: it is a principle... a Turbo is the high flyer in its segment.”
Yes, so like “turbo” sunglasses from the 911’s 1980s heyday and “turbo” hair dryers (actually, that one does make sense), the badge is more metaphor than mechanical identification. Although it’s actually still lower-case as it appears on the car. This is so annoying.
The new 911 Turbo has that powered-up twin-turbo flat six, all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer, adaptive suspension and active aerodynamics front (a small bib spoiler) and rear (the obligatory whale tail). It’s also luxurious and astonishingly comfortable… given the performance potential.
Ah yes, that. The numbers might be the same as the Taycan Turbo S but the execution isn’t. In a BEV there’s instant torque, while the Taycan’s 800-volt power system means extremely fast responses from traction control and the like. In short, it just slaps you into the seatback and goes at warp speed straight away.
The 911 Turbo is crammed with high-tech too of course, but you have the howl of that boxer-six behind you, absolutely brutal gearchanges from the eight-speed PDK and if it’s a little damp, expect all four wheels to be spinning as you power down the road.
But all of that is optional. The Turbo has never been pitched as the ultimate driver’s choice in the 911 lineup, but it has always been the one that blends extreme performance with everyday usability. In normal mode, it’s an adept cruising machine and actually pretty quiet. It will still pile on the speed with remarkably little effort (peak torque is at just 2250rpm), but you can easily leave the drama aside if you wish.
You have to twist the rotary drive-mode dial around to Sport or Sport Plus to truly rouse the Turbo. When you do, the exhaust clears its throat and it’s obvious that it’s all on.
In max-attack mode, this Turbo retains an entertainingly edgy character. You can really feel the interaction between powertrain, chassis and whatever you choose to do with the steering wheel. There’s an enormous reserve of traction and grip, but the genius of the car is that it reminds you it’s not limitless. And when you’ve overstretched yourself, the brakes are phenomenal. How do we know? None of your business.
The cabin is premium-car comfortable. This is a supercar that you can actually see out of, digital instrumentation has given Porsche the ability to clean up the controls while still keeping some retro touches and it’s still pretty practical: 128 litres storage space in the “frunk” and another 264l in the back if you fold the rear seats down. Which are pretty useless otherwise.
Can this car do no wrong? As always with Porsche, the main offence is to your wallet. It’s expensive to buy, which is no surprise. But then the option prices must surely start to irk. Our car’s Crayon paint colour is stunning, but it’s an extra $5320. Want the mirrors the same hue? Another $1050. And $3340 for adaptive cruise (like you get for free on a Toyota Yaris) seems absurd. Basically, a few nice detail tweaks bump the price of our test car up $37,180 to $382,890.
And coming back to Taycan, the elephant in the room is the vast amount of fossil fuel the 911 Turbo can drink. At one stage we were averaging 27l/100km. It settled to 18l/100km, but you can’t help thinking about the Taycan’s relatively guilt-free go-fast potential.
But do people who buy these cars would really are about any of the above? Probably not when they have the means to enjoy the fastest, most accomplished model in the 46-year history of a true automotive icon.
PORSCHE 911 TURBO
ENGINE: 3.7-litre twin-turbo horizontally opposed six
GEARBOX: 8-speed automated dual-clutch transmission (PDK), AWD
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 2.8sec, 0-200km/h 9.7sec
PRICE: $345,800 ($382,890 as tested).