Thursday 13th May 2010


DRIVEN: PORSCHE 911 TURBO S

Extra power and all the toys make the new S a compelling choice


The first Turbo S of 1992 was a very different car to those that have worn the badge in recent years. An amalgamation of angrier 3.3 Turbo and the now revered 964 RS, it was light and fast: 381hp with a hardcore focus. But in recent years the badge has been applied to a different kind of 911 Turbo, one with a kitchen sink approach to the options list, as well as a bit more power. Starting with the 993 Turbo and then with the 996 variant, this was also something of a run-out deal as the replacement model waited in the wings. But this time the Turbo S model has appeared less than a year after the gen2 997 Turbo made its debut, and it's also the first opportunity to get a factory developed power upgrade for the Turbo model.


So, laid bare, this Turbo S is a simple equation formed from two parts. Firstly, it offers all of the kit that you'd probably want - and that buyers and the market are apparently demanding - neatly pre-packaged in one complete car. That means major mechanical items from the options list such as the PDK twin-clutch gearbox (with the new paddle shifters, too), ceramic brakes, PTV torque vectoring rear limited slip diff and the dynamic engine mounts. It also includes the 19" RS Spyder centre lock wheels, 'Dynamic' cornering headlamps, adaptive sports seats, cruise control and a CD auto-changer, on top of the usual Turbo spec. The only cosmetic difference is the two-tone leather upholstery (black/cream or black/blue) and the S badge on the engine cover.


However, the deal sweetener is that although the above kit is no bargain - the S (£123,263) is comparable in price to a standard Turbo with the same extras - also included in this price is a power upgrade that raises the peak output from 500hp to 530hp and sets torque permanently to 516lb ft (instead of on a temporary overboost in 'Sport' as on the standard car). There's less tailing-off of that torque curve over 4,500rpm as well. Remapped, with larger intercoolers, bigger compressor wheels in the variable vane turbos and with revised intake valve timing, the S runs at 1.2 bar boost (as opposed to 0.8-1.0 of the standard car).


Yep, guess what - the Turbo S is mind-bendingly quick, but then I'm sure you're hardly surprised to read that. It's the fastest accelerating road car Porsche currently makes, and probably the fastest from rest that the firm has ever made. The company claims 3.3sec to get to 62mph, but knock 2mph off for our currency, and factor in that UK mags have launched standard PDK-equipped Turbos to 60mph in the very low threes and you get an idea of the accelerative force of this car. And with launch control and the PDK 'box in 'Sport Plus' it's a trick the car can perform all day long.

Unfortunately, mere numbers simply don't adequately express just how quick this car really is, or the ease in which its titanic performance can be deployed. With PDK you don't have to do anything; no real skill is required. Simply stamp on the throttle and there's frantic forward thrust. Keep you toes pinned and it continues relentlessly, charging on deep into three figures.


Although the gen2 Turbo has improved upon the previous car in many areas, the replacement of the dearly beloved 'Metzger' flat six with the new 3.8 DFI unit has had two perhaps less desirable consequences for certain niches of the customer base. One, that the new engine predictably appears to be less tuneable than the old race-bred lump, and two, that while it produces an efficient rumble it doesn't have the aural character of the old engine - and 911 Turbos have never been the most musical of supercars anyway! But the new S improves upon the standard car in this regard thanks to the harder working Turbo chopping up more air and the corresponding whoosh and whistle, while a pronounced 'cuckoo' of surplus boost every time you lift off the accelerator under load is most welcome. The S gets a carbon airbox too, and this seems to have made the engine note louder, the low-rev drone now really sawing its way into the cabin.

Otherwise it drives as you'd expect - like a current 911 Turbo with the full arsenal of mechanical and electronic upgrades to sharpen the dynamics and trick the laws of physics. If any 911 suits the PDK gearbox it's the Turbo, much-improved with the new paddles, while the combined efforts of the diff and those mounts make an appreciable difference to the way the Turbo turns into a corner, and how it drives through. The roads on our test are streaming wet and smooth, making them very slippery, but the S turns in keenly and precisely (Porsche claims in the manner of a mid-engined car and there is at least some truth in that). From there, in these conditions however, it's about resisting any more speed or power otherwise the predictable understeer builds, followed by a swift transition to oversteer in some slow speed corners. At this point, the four-wheel drive system does everything it can to claw you straight and down the next straight as quickly as possible, a process that in slick conditions you can sense very clearly.


The S offers all the traditional Turbo strengths and characteristics and, perhaps inevitably, that means the same dichotomy of its appeal. You can argue that compared with more extravagant rivals it sounds uninspiring, that it lacks visual drama and individuality, and that it's (still) a peculiar challenge to drive quickly that isn't to all tastes. And you'd be right probably on all accounts, just as you'd also be right to champion its usability, uncanny 'rightness' of size in everyday situations and explosive performance contributing to its extraordinary cross-country pace. That's the inescapable truth about the Turbo S: when you're really going for it, and the boost gauge is right up the scale, you'll never find yourself asking for more drama, excitement or emotion. You just won't have the time...

Author: Adam Towler