Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The origins of the 911 Turbo can be traced all the way back to the late 1960s, when Dr Ferdinand Piech designed a racing car that was just a bit too good. Indeed so good was the 917 that the people who controlled sports car racing decided to outlaw it, mandating a 3-litre engine capacity for the 1972 season. So Porsche decided instead to race in the Can-Am series in North America, the only problem being it needed a lot more power to be competitive. Porsche briefly flirted with, and even built, a monstrous 7.2-litre flat 16 engine before discovering it was far simpler just to turbocharge the one they already had. Two things then happened: first, the 917 became even more dominant in Can-Am than it had been in sports cars; second, Porsche learned so much about the then still dark art of turbocharging that by 1974 it had a 911 Turbo road car ready for sale. It wasn’t quite the first turbocharged road car – Chevrolet had tried it 10 years earlier – but it was the first to meet with sufficient success to endure through successive generations to the point where today even the standard 911 Turbo has over double the power of the original.
To be honest, the styling changes for this latest generation of 911 Turbo – the second of the current ‘991’ series, are enough only to give you a chance of telling it from its predecessor. There are new bumpers and lights, wheels and inlets in both the nose the rear spoiler. Inside you’ll notice most that, in common with lesser 911s, Porsche finally has an infotainment system worthy of the brand.
What the 911 Turbo and its Turbo S sister do not have is the all-new flat-six motor developed for the Carrera and Carrera S. A super high output version of that latest powerplant is being developed but we’ll need to wait three years for the next all-new 911 Turbo to see it. Instead it has the old engine, tickled up by 20bhp to 540bhp or 580bhp depending on whether you buy the normal Turbo or the S model.
It would be extraordinary in a stripped out, pared-to-the-bone racetrack refugee. In this quiet, civilized, fully equipped executive express the way it explodes away from rest is nothing less than bewildering. Porsche’s official claim for the Turbo S is a 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds, which is just 0.1sec slower than the 918 hypercar. Except that if you talk to Porsche, you’ll be told that in the right conditions and on a decent surface, it will do 2.6 seconds time after time, which just happens to be precisely half the time required by the original 911 Turbo in 1974. And while part of this is a result of four-wheel drive, instant shifting and launch control, such is the acceleration even when traction is no longer required that it turns the car into one of the most devastating overtaking devices ever conceived, reducing your time exposed to danger on the wrong side of the road to a mere fraction of what most normal fast cars can achieve.
For all its outrageous pace, this is far from the most fun 911 you can buy. If you want a serious driving machine, spend the money on a track-tuned GT3 RS. Indeed I’d argue that the lighter, narrower, better sounding Carrera S is a more classically entertaining device, not to mention a handy £60,000 cheaper.
So buy the Turbo or, in the case of two-thirds of UK 911 Turbo buyers, Turbo S because you are a man or woman who needs to cover vast distances at implausible speeds and wants to do so in something attractive, superbly responsive yet with the ride and refinement of a car you not only could use every day, but would choose to. For, while this may be the most extreme 911 in terms of both power and price, its positioning in the range is that of all round superhero, the car that can, whatever the circumstances. On road or racetrack, in heavy rain or bright sunshine, for a short blast or a long haul, the Turbo is the 911 that delivers, and these latest modifications change that not at all. The brief appears to be have been the same, but more so. And, as ever, the 911 Turbo has delivered.
Price tag of our car £145,773 (Porsche 911 Turbo S)