Ferocious. Meteoric. Docile, too, as well as accessible, practical. The new Porsche 911 Turbo S has a breadth of abilities as wide as its hips. I was handed the key fob to the flagship 911 to explore the Western Cape’s glorious roads for a full day and it’s an experience seared into memory. Here’s why.
BEFORE ABUSING MORE ADJECTIVES, WHAT’S THE TURBO S?
The flagship of the 911 range and the series-production model most synonymous with extreme performance and technology. A Turbo was first launched in 1975 in the guise of the 930 and, ever since, it’s become a giant-slayer, a supercar hunter clad in a modest suit. Just consider its claimed figures: a 0-100 km/h sprint in just 2.7 seconds (shaving 0.2 seconds from the 991.2 Turbo S’ time); 0-200 km/h in 8.9 seconds; 330 km/h top-end. Few supercars can match its performance (hell, some hypercars can’t) and, yet, it’s as easy to drive to the shops and back as an entry-level 718 Cayman.
Slung out back is an engine that traces it roots to the 3.0-litre flat-six, twin-turbo from the Carrera S but an increase in the bore size to 102 mm boosts its displacement to 3.8 litres. There’s a new charge-air cooling system, while the air-intake unit features four (instead of the 991.2’s two) air intakes. The pair of turbos are new, too, boasting bigger turbine and compressor wheels. These updates unleash 478 kW at 6 750 r/min and 800 Nm of torque from 2 500-4 000 r/min. The all-wheel-drive system’s front-axle transmission can transmit up to 500 Nm to the road for optimum traction (especially in wet conditions, sadly present during my entire drive). There’s a new eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission with a shorter first gear for speedier off-the-line acceleration and a taller final-drive ratio to lower revs and improve fuel consumption. Its changes are also snappier in sport+ and manual modes.
Right, how does it all feel? The last time I proclaimed a vehicle the quickest one I had ever driven, it was the electric Porsche Taycan Turbo S (interestingly, barely any more expensive than the 911 Turbo S). The response from the Taycan’s 560 kW electric drivetrain is instant. Up to 60-80 km/h, it has the 911 Turbo S beat. However, once the latter has left the start line (which it does cleanly thanks to a race start function) and its turbos are spooled up, the 911 starts reeling in the Taycan and reaches the double-tonne 0.9 seconds sooner. From there on, it’s no contest, as the EV tops out at 260 km/h.
The 911’s performance feels somewhat otherworldly. During the drive, I rarely used more than 20% of the throttle travel to overtake long lines of cars and trucks. You always arrive in the far distance much sooner than you had anticipated before you slingshot to the next visual marker. Few automotive conveyances will get you from Johannesburg to Cape Town quicker simply because you’re rarely held up by slower-moving traffic while waiting for an overtaking opportunity.
THE DRIVE WILL BE AS COMFY AS IT’S BRISK
While its performance is hugely impressive, a 911 Turbo has always had to juggle a pursuit of ultimate pace and handling with everyday usability, and no Turbo before this one has struck such a pitch-perfect balance as the new model. The cabin is familiar fare – comfortable seats; great sightlines; a surprising amount of room for two (plus a pairing of toddlers aft) and their luggage; superb build quality (although the finishes are rather plain considering the price, unless you take a deep dive into Porsche’s options catalogue) – but what’s been greatly improved is refinement. The rear tyres (315/30 R21s to the fronts’ 255/35 R20s) kick up less of a ruckus and wind noise is low. The optional sports exhaust system as fitted to our car can be deactivated … although, why would you; it sounds purposeful without resorting to the flatulent histrionics of something like a Jaguar F-Type. The Turbo S can quite happily play the role of cruiser.
Pootling along, however, does it a disservice. Stability is astonishing – the adjustable front-spoiler lip and rear wing offer up to 15% more downforce than before (a maximum of 170 kg) – but the Turbo S is lively, too, and feels quite a bit lighter than its 1 640 kg. Grip levels are sky-high: not once did I detect slip on a very, very wet Franschhoek Pass. The electrically assisted steering is light, crisp and uncorrupted, and makes placing the 911 in a corner an instinctive exercise. Body control is absolute (there’s a revised PASM system with a damper envelope that’s much wider than before: softer in comfort, firmer in sport+) and yet the Turbo S creates an impression of breathing with a road surface rather than pummeling it into submission.
THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT, SURELY?
Well, as I mentioned, the interior does feel somewhat plain for a R4.0 million car (R3,849 million, to be exact) and the 911 Turbo S lacks the OTT design extroverted buyers would expect of a car with comparable performance. However, I reckon that’s the crux of its appeal: owners of a Turbo S know they can compete with a Lamborghini, Ferrari or McLaren when the lights turn green (or, more responsibly, when an unrestricted section of autobahn nears) but they don’t crave unwarranted attention when popping to the shops or stuck in gridlock. It’s a near-flawless mix of both understatement and overachievement.
All Porsches include a two-year/100 000 km warranty and three-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupé PDK: R3 849 000
Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet PDK: R4 049 000
*Apologies for all the adjectives…