Friday 11th February 2011


OPEN SEASON: PORSCHE 911 TURBO

Does the allegedly 'non-enthusiast' 911 Turbo cabrio stand up to the expectations created by that three-digit number? We find out...


For the most hardcore of Porsche fans, the 911 Turbo, especially in convertible guise, is often deemed to be a bit of a mongrel - not a pure-bred Porsche. It's too comfortable, they say, too two-dimensional, too much of a poseur's car to be a 'real' 911. In Harry Potter terms, a 911 Turbo convertible would be a 'mudblood'.

But is this most puritanical of views fair? Okay, so the 911 Turbo cab does seem to pander to the Malibu Beach tastes of the uncommitted enthusiast, and does seem to be used as a penis extension more than most 911s, but surely the folks in Stuttgart wouldn't actually let a 911 out of their factory gates that couldn't also cut it as a 'proper' driver's car?

To find out, we took a 911 Turbo cab (in oi-look-at-me yellow and with the almost-an-auto PDK gearbox, no less) along a 2000-year-old test route.


For those who are acquainted with the Fosse Way only as a line on the map, the modern remains of a Roman road that once speared up from Exeter in a north easterly direction all the way to Lincoln, my choice of using it to explore the depths of the 911's dynamic talent might seem slightly odd.

After all, the Romans were famous for the straightness of their roads, and the Fosse Way, in its original Romano-British incarnation, never deviated from a direct line between its extremities by more than six miles.

Despite how it may appear on your road atlas, however, the modern Fosse Way is far from an arrow-straight stretch of dull Tarmac. These days, the most southwesterly section of the original route has all but disappeared, while the north-east section between Leicester and Lincoln has become the dull and busy A46.


In between Cirencester and Leicester, the Fosse Way has become a series of rural A- and B-roads, with plenty of long straights, but also gaggles of interesting twists and turns where the road meanders from its original Roman route. There are also long sections of bumpy black top so pitted, rutted and rippled that this is where Jaguar and Land Rover engineers go to make sure their cars ride properly - if you can make a car work here, you can pretty much make it work anywhere.

So you see, while an old Roman road might not seem like much of a test on paper, in reality it should be quite a challenge for the 911 Turbo cab and reveal whether or not the arguably 'least Porsche-ey' of all 911s can wear the badge on its nose with pride.


I join the Fosse Way, heading northwards, at Stow-on-the-Wold. Here the road revels in the glamorous title of 'A429' and is one of the main routes up through the Cotswolds. As it is the main connection between several pretty Cotswold villages and market towns, it's heavy with both local and tourist traffic, but the Porsche's gale of torque available between 1950rpm all the way to 5000rpm (479lb ft of it, or 516lb ft from 2100rpm on overboost) is enough to despatch whole clumps of slow-moving motorists with ease.

So instant is the 911's mid-range punch, in fact, that it's one of those cars where you only need open the throttle for a small part of the overtaking manoeuvre; unless you are really chancing it there's no need to do anything other than simply cruise past after an initial stab of the throttle.


Just past the small village of Halford there's a quaint almost-but-not-quite roundabout (have a look at it on Streetview and you'll see what I mean), where the A-road leaves the route of the Fosse Way, and the B4455 takes up the baton. Predictably, the quality of the road surface deteriorates at this point, but the traffic thins - this is where the 911 Turbo cab is going to have to earn its spurs.

The straights prove the pace of the 911's twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six beyond all sane doubt - this is a car that can hit 62mph from rest in 3.5secs and, boy, does it feel like it. Keep your foot down and the nose of the car just hoovers up the road, the engine all breathy, roaring induction, with the characteristic boxer growl in the background.

The bumpier B-road Tarmac, however, reveals the first possible chink in the turbo's thus-far impeccable pukka Porsche credentials - the bumpier it gets and the faster you go, the more you notice a bit of wobble. It's forgiveable, but it is a first reminder that this is a less-than-hardcore Porsche.

The mild wobbles are helped, however, by the optional dynamic engine mounts - part of the 2743 sport chrono package, although stick the 'Sport Plus' button on and the suspension will firm up sufficently to bring the wobbles back (keep that switch for the track only, would be our advice).


On the twistier bits, the 911 Turbo Cab again proves its mettle reasonably well. It's so fast that it occasionally feels like a point-and-squirt affair, but the brakes are typically confidence-inspiring and the steering has that-light-yet-solid feel that the relatively unladen nose of the 911 permits, without the front end succumbing to the gentle bobbing motion that once afflicted most 911s.

As the Fosse Way moves into Warwickshire it gets positively twisty (in parts), providing an opportunity to test the 911's cornering behaviour. As is to be expected of 911 Turbos, there's a good deal less adjustability than in two-wheel-drive 911s, but there are epic levels of grip, and the PDK gearbox is improved almost immeasurably by the simple switch of the infernal standard wheel-mounted rocker switches for column-mounted paddle shifters (a 283 option) - it's now both more intuitive and involving.


The road gets a little trickier to follow after you cross the A5, so I point the 911 back towards Dorset (where an afternoon with the inlaws awaits), with the sat-nav set to avoid motorways as much as possible, and try to decide if the 911 Turbo cab really is a 'proper' 911.

The answer arrives as the sun comes out and I find myself cruising through the countryside with the top down and full of the joys of an impending spring - it doesn't matter. Just for the record, I reckon the Turbo cab does involve the driver (just) enough to satisfy hardcore Porsche purists, but that's not the point.

The committed Porsche fans won't buy one of these, because they'll go for a simple Carrera, or a GT3, or even a GT3 RS instead. But if you want a car that's fast enough to blow away the most sticky of cobwebs and yet that can also allow you to experience the simple pleasures of open-top motoring, you could do a lot worse than a 911 Turbo cab.



Author: Riggers