Dr Wolfgang Hatz, boss of Porsche’s R&D edifice confirmed what we’d all feared last week: that from 2016 all Porsche 911 models bar the extreme GT3 versions will use turbocharged engines. It simply follows an industry-wide move to forced induction that makes me wish I’d bought shares in a turbocharger company five years ago. In the most part I’m a supporter of forced induction on everyday cars, but I have my reservations about its seep into the Porsche 911 range.
“I have no ideological problem with Porsche turbocharging the 911 whatsoever, but it does pose some interesting questions”
For me the base 911 has always been a high-rpm machine, and to celebrate this fact in the modern era you have to abandon all air-cooled-is-best nonsense and admit that since Porsche water-cooled the rear-engined machine, it really found an appetite for revs. With those revs came more intake sound, more excitement and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of connection with that strange chassis layout that was almost instinctive.
So I have no ideological problem with Porsche turbocharging the 911 whatsoever, but it does pose some interesting questions. The most pressing of which is surely: if they’re all going to be turbocharged, what will they call the Turbo in future? If you’re in the marketing department at Zuffenhausen, that must currently be causing a few headaches.
The practical concerns are this – the 911’s chassis is for many people a marvel of engineering over basic physics, but we don’t all subscribe to that analysis. Yes, it does at times require a different driving style, but once you’ve factored in modern rubber and the knowledge Porsche has accrued over the years, it almost doesn’t matter – with one proviso: so long as it’s normally aspirated.
Such is the breadth of the 911 range we don’t need to imagine what a turbocharged 2WD 911 might be like, we just have to remember how a 997 GT2 behaved on a cold, wet December morning. It was a handful.
Yes, the new Carrera will doubtless be a low-pressure-turbo dream that will give hardly any impression of being force-fed, but the boost will have to make itself felt at some point, and I think it might have a more corrupting influence on the 911’s key dynamic characteristics than on other sports cars.
In the mid ’90s, Porsche felt the performance of its 911 Turbo had reached a point where 4WD needed to be mandatory, and that position has never changed. A base turbo 911 for 2016 will surely have around 380hp, so does Porsche keep offering a 2WD version, or will they all need to be 4WD from 2016 onwards? It’ll be shame if you can’t buy a base 2WD 911 with a manual gearbox – a real shame.
“It’ll be shame if you can’t buy a base 2WD 911 with a manual gearbox – a real shame… just makes me think we might need to alter the criteria for judging what progress actually is”
I’m certain Porsche will find a way around the loss of induction noise, and the throttle response will be sublime for a turbo, but sitting here right now I feel a little depressed. At the end of 2011 the Carrera was a small, normally-aspirated sports car with hydraulic power steering. Just five years later it will be a much bigger car with electric steering and a turbocharger. I have no doubt it will be faster, more efficient and more comfortable – all of which fall under the heading of ‘progress’. But that just makes me think we might need to alter the criteria for judging what progress actually is.
I’m open-minded on all-turbo 911s for now, but have a lurking sense of unease.