991 Turbo S
- it arrived at my house on a Wednesday to zero fanfare and an underlying cynicism that suggested I had little interest in the most expensive Porsche 911. And when it left I felt someone had suddenly removed an intravenous line which had been supplying me with a low-level narcotic.
Latest 911 HUL too fast for additional photos...
Without knowing it, I had become quite addicted.
The last 911 Turbo S didn't really do it for me. It hissed and whooshed like an angry snake, but it wasn't keen to involve the driver in the process. It was speed for the sake of speed.
Why is the new car different? Well, it's massively more expensive to begin with. At £140,852 it pushes the 911 into new territory, perhaps a place where something that looks so obviously 911 shouldn't be. But it is now such a complete road machine because Porsche has managed to include the driver in the process. And, dare I say it, the Turbo S now has a very defined and very attractive character, albeit one which takes a few days to emerge.
It goes without saying that the car is insanely fast: 560hp and 553lb ft on overboost in something that weighs 1,605kg. Actually, 1,605kg is very heavy for a 911. But on the road you have absolutely no idea of the mass because of the genius rear-wheel steering. Forget the power, the torque and the preposterously capable braking system, what sets this car apart is the rear-steer. It transforms the way the car drives on the road, especially in the very first phase of every turn. The moment you add steering angle the nose of the car moves decisively and the driver instantly feels a sense of confidence in knowing exactly where the car will end up.
...so press photos it is for the time being!
Not only does this mask the weight of the car, but also its size. The Turbo S is very broad around the hips, wider than the old car and yet to drive it feels narrower because of this new steering system. I think it's a complete revelation and especially useful for the narrow roads we have in the UK. Quite often we feel the need to add or take away some steering lock mid-corner - in a wide supercar that can be a potentially terrifying experience, but in this car you have the confidence to do just that.
Unsurprisingly, the way in which it can cover ground is completely alien to most people, even those who drive conventionally fast cars. You hit the throttle and it accelerates like a mentalist - regardless of conditions. You smash the brakes and it seems to bury itself into the road surface. And we've already discussed the way it can scoot around bends, but the grip levels are all the more astonishing because with the dampers set to soft there's good wheel travel and compliance.
You'll have to imagine the wheel on t'other side!
But you really won't be surprised by much of this - I mean a £140K all wheel drive turbocharged Porsche that's really bloody fast, what a massive surprise.
But where its predecessor had all the personality of Ed Miliband this car has some soul. It makes intake noise, the exhaust crackles on the overrun in Sport Plus mode, the whole thing comes together to form a tangible character in a way the 997 Turbo never did for me. After a few days I was grudgingly telling people the car was actually very likeable, after a week I was looking back at it after every drive. In that respect it's much more like the old 996 Turbo I used to run.
There are no real dynamic problems for the 991 Turbo S then. How such a turbocharged motor can be so responsive and still pulling at 7,000rpm is anyone's guess, why anyone could possibly need to cover ground faster likewise. No, the issue with the car is obvious and straightforward - the cabin doesn't look or feel much different to that of a £40,000 Boxster. The homogenisation of Porsche's range helps its cheaper cars, but the Turbo S really struggles to justify itself as an object against brands that really know the value of making people feel special about how their car looks and feels. Even at £100K, a loaded 991 Carrera S is pushing the boundaries of what might be expected for the cash.
You'll be needing to make use of these
The flipside to this is that the 911 Turbo has for me always been the car for people who wanted the ultimate 365-day practical sports car, but it's now so expensive I can't see people buying them to use every day, and that then places an even greater emphasis on the car's ability to deliver as an object.
Is that important in a 911? It shouldn't be, and I suppose you can have a basic 991 Turbo for 'just' £122K, but that's still a fair lump for something which to most people just looks like any other 991.
Which sort of brings me back to the clever steering. You see if that heavily specced Carrera S is £100K, then £122K for a base Turbo suddenly appears rather better value to me. You don't get the ceramic brakes, and the thrust is reduced slightly (520hp, 444lb ft), but the rest of the package is the same. I could also do without the PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) and its whizzo adjustable anti-roll bars. In the UK, the search for ever-greater roll stiffness really is the search for an even more chocolate fireguard.
Steer from the rear, but not in a scary way
It's also very easy to overlook or forget just how practical this car is. Bags on the rear seats, a generous front boot, 4WD, even slots for a roof-rack should you need it.
Including a personality is the bit that gets me though. When the first 991 GT3s arrive in the UK I will espy them with a certain amount of jealousy. It's a car with a much broader operating window than its predecessors and it too benefits from the rear-steer system as well as that 9,000rpm normally aspirated six. But the Turbo S is something else, the thrust is completely addictive, the traction makes you grin and the launch control - well, at some point everyone has to experience the launch control. And it has a quiet, burgeoning demeanour that I think would allow the owner to enjoy a real bond with it.
I haven't said that about a 911 Turbo for years.
PORSCHE 911 TURBO S
Engine: 3,800cc, flat-6, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed PDK, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 560hp@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553lb ft@2,200rpm
Top speed: 198mph
MPG: 29.0mpg (claimed)