Friday 20th November 2009


2010 PORSCHE 911 TURBO CABRIOLET

The 911 Turbo's new heart goes straight to our head


Purists sometimes wince at the sight of a 911 Turbo Cabriolet, but I've always had a soft spot for Porsche's ultimate boulevardier.

There are those who think that a true sports machine should, by definition, be equipped with a folding fabric roof. In this unseemly age of feverish male grooming that's an increasingly controversial point of view, but there are products on pharmacy shelves these days designed to stick even the most artfully arranged barnet resolutely to its curator's scalp - and at velocities our motoring forebears would have found unthinkable. Dax from the red tin does the trick for me, although it can be darned tricky getting the stuff off your hands, post-primp.


The other main area of Cabriolet controversy has proved more complicated to deal with, namely the once incontestable truth that lopping the roof off a 911 (for example) must compromise rigidity, and thus its owner's reputation as a 'real man'. There's nothing available over the counter to deal with this embarrassing issue, so over the years Porsche's engineers have formulated their own prescriptions, latterly even developing Cabrio versions of the 911 in advance of the Coupe, in order to design maximum design stiffness from the outset.


The latest 911 Turbo Cab has another trick up its sleeve, namely a set of (optional - as part of the Sport Chrono Pack) dynamic engine mounts that isolate unwanted forces generated as the powertrain moves within the vehicle's body. Designed primarily to reduce roll and pitch forces during fast manoeuvres, a side-effect is to isolate potentially disruptive forces from working their way out through the Cabriolet's chassis, thus accentuating the sense of 'hewn from rock' the car instils in its driver. At least that's what the man from Porsche said in the press conference, suggesting the dynamic engine mounts' good effects are arguably felt to be at their most beneficial in this roofless version during 'normal' driving.


That said, even over the less than perfectly-surfaced Portuguese roads that Porsche chose to introduce us to its new 911 Turbo, it took a while to appreciate quite how solidly the latest Cabrio version feels welded together.

The reason being, perhaps predictably, that first acquaintance with this new machine leaves its driver slack-jawed in wonderment at the elephantine performance shovelled out by its new 3.8 litre flat six.

It's an epic engine installation, this, with twin variable turbine geometry turbochargers, direct fuel injection and an expansion-type intake manifold collaborating to produce a mighty 500hp and 480lb ft of torque from just 1,950rpm - or 516lb ft from 2,100rpm when on overboost. Coupled to the super-slick seven-speed PDK gearbox (available with a 'proper' paddle-shift) that's a beefed up version of the 'box in lesser models, the results are literally mind-bending - particularly if launch control is applied.


The 0-62mph figure quoted for the Cabrio is 3.5secs with launch control and the PDK 'box, or 3.8secs with the manual six-speeder, but other testers at the launch event were repeatedly data-logging sprints that shaved two or three tenths off the quoted times.

Those sorts of launches are the ones that momentarily liquefy the grey matter, creating a type of internal tsunami that ricochets off the back of your skull before reforming into something more useful 50 metres up the road. This effect is magnified when accompanied by a hangover, so if you take anything at all from this review make sure it's not 'just one more' glass of porto the night before your own 911 Turbo experience...


A hot passenger lap of Estoril with Walter Rohrl at the wheel of my Turbo Cab test car was, I suspected, also going to be best enjoyed sans hangover - although I certainly wasn't going to turn the opportunity down. Yet oddly, in spite of the maniacal sound and fury of his previous laps when viewed from the grandstand, his supernaturally smooth progress from opposite lock to opposite lock made the experience soothingly balletic when experienced from the passenger seat.

The mostly sideways demonstration lap should have served to illustrate Porsche's claim that the new 911 Turbo's chassis set-up has been revised to encourage a bit more of the fun stuff - and it would have, were it not for the certain knowledge that Walter could wring exactly the same magic out of an original Turbo in 1975. Still, the maestro was good enough to acknowledge that this latest Turbo's linear power delivery and almost complete lack of 'lag' does make things a lot easier these days.


From this lesser mortal's perspective, Estoril track time offered a chance to verify the fact that the 911 Turbo clings to the tarmac with extraordinary tenacity, a physics-defying testament to the intercession of Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Traction Management (PTM), Porsche Stability Management (PSM), and new optional Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV).

For those not yet afflicted by PSAF, (Porsche Systems Acronym Fatigue), PTV is designed to brake the inner rear wheel, increasing the rotational force on the chassis and significantly enhancing the turn-in effect at the sharp end - thus reducing the inherent tendency to understeer when traction is exceeded. (A tendency that is also easily overcome by the timely injection of a gobbet of horsepower with all systems set to 'sport', when the rear is allowed to step out of line just enough to make you feel a bit of the Walter Rohrl magic without actually being blessed with it.)


The effect of PTV in particular, is to improve steering precision as well as the ability to get the power on quickly out of a corner, and when transferred to the road the results are particularly blistering. With its relatively compact dimensions, awesome acceleration equalled by eye-popping brakes and amazing 4x4 traction, this latest generation Turbo has been said by other reviewers to provide the most easily accessible performance from the 911 line-up, and it would seem churlish to disagree. It's also mightily refined with the hood up or down, and you get all sorts of rewardingly gruff noises from the engine that coupe owners simply live without.

Let's face it, if you're looking for the ultimate in handling finesse from a new 911, you'll probably be ordering a GT3 for its sharper focus and greater feel than either of the new 2010 model year 911 Turbos. A fact which adds to my conviction that those purists who suggest the Turbo Cabriolet is in any way compromised by its open configuration are slightly missing the point. At £109,048 it even looks quite good value in relative terms against the competition, doesn't it?

(Anyway, I can't stop to argue, I've got an appointment at the hair salon. And yes, I'll gladly take a Turbo Cabrio as 'something for the weekend' anytime it's offered....)










 
Author: Chris-R