Porsche 911 Turbo (996) [review]


Three hundred kilometers per hour is the new sports car benchmark because the new 911 Turbo will reach 305 km/h. It will zip to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and continue to 160 km/h in another 5 seconds. That is certainly towering performance but are buyers of the latest Porsche 911 Turbo really interested in duplicating these mind boggling numbers? Probably not. Just the knowledge that this ultimate Porsche flagship can, will do very nicely, thank-you.

However Porsche is not that kind of company. They are truly serious about their products and it shows, not that too many care about the details. The 911 Turbo is where Porsche traditionally shows all its wares. It is a showcase of its high-tech abilities and that is where it has built its rock-solid reputation.

For a start, the flagship had to look different but still be recognizably 911 despite the large front air ducts under the nose. A pair of new lamps which have high-tech Xenon lamps for both high and low beams now characterizes the face. A discreet bi-wing spoiler is found in the rear and is only deployed once past 120 km/h for stability. But in typically Porsche fashion, there is a lot more than what meets the eye and that is what you are paying for.

Although you see very little of the engine, it is truly the heart of this car. It sports many innovations but none more important than VarioCam Plus, Porschespeak for a variable cam device that is not unlike Honda’s VTEC but only smarter as would befitting a car of its stature. It is the next step up from what they have using so far and will be the technological feature for future Porsches. It helps boost power to a staggering 420 bhp and has a log snapping 560 Nm of torque. What the figures cannot show is just how usable all the power really is. It is as docile as a happy cat when driven in town and it can easily turn into a rocket at a prod of the throttle.

The second development is perhaps more of interest to Porsche buyers, the inclusion of Tiptronic S, Porsche’s no compromise automatic transmission. It adds the final element of user-friendliness to a truly awesome performance package. Normal drivers will have quite easily, 90% of its stupendous performance potential at their disposal so it is best to use with extreme discretion. Never before has there been a more powerful Porsche so friendly to so many users. It really has the ability to make one look like a better driver than they are. Mating an automatic transmission to a high performance engine may sound ludicrous but in fact in this application is rather synergistic. The transmission not just harnesses the turbo power as well as the manual, it also can predict to some extent what you want and select gears for you instantly so all you have to do is step on the gas. It has the curious side effect of allowing the turbocharged engine to slip and jump right into its sweet spot, delivering the full impact of its ferocity upon application.

Imagine in 1974 the first 911 Turbo had just 260 bhp and it was one of the most capable cars of that time. So how do you rate one that has 420 bhp at its disposal? The engineering brief for the development team was to make a sports car that has no peer. Make it safe and user friendly for its driver. And make sure it will leave an impression on all who drive it.

For 300 km in the mountainous roads that snake around the area between Seville and Jerez in Spain, we risk the laws of physics and the land to determine fact from legend. But as the miles pile on, it dawns on us that legend is indeed becoming fact and we are its principle witnesses. At first gingerly we overtake slower traffic but soon we unleash the full fury of its twin-turbo motor and the 911 fairly catapults toward the horizon giving us the perspective of being just launched in a space fighter craft in a Star Wars movie. Before you know it the needle is sweeping alarmingly past 200 km/h and its rate of increase seemingly unabated as it flashes 260 km/h. With enough unrestricted road we are sure it will reach 305 km/h in manual form and 298 km/h with the Tiptronic transmission but we are happy to trust those figures. The elastic nature of turbo engines has now been eliminated, making the use of its power more predictable and user friendly. Few cars are quite so ridiculously fast and perhaps one or two so user friendly but certainly none at this price point though it is by no means inexpensive.

With all this speed, it would be a shame if it did not handle as well. No surprise here, it does so with total composure as if it does not want you to feel threatened. The 911 GT3 reviewed recently is more a racer. It demands you to be up to the mark in terms of skill and ability but it rewards handsomely. The 911 Turbo demands equal commitment, not just financially but it does not require from its driver much more than a steady disposition behind the wheel and the ability to pay multiple composition fines. In its typically understated manner, Porsche has created the world’s best sports tourer.


BODY: Two-Door Coupe, 2+2 seating. Steel Monocoque

ENGINE: 3600cc, Horizontally opposed, Flat Six-cylinder, VarioCam Plus. Max Power: 420 Bhp @ 6000 rpm. Max Torque: 560 Nm @ 2700-4600 rpm.

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual or 5-speed Tiptronic S

STEERING: Power Assisted Rack and Pinion

BRAKES: Ventilated Discs front and rear with four piston calipers and ABS.

SUSPENSION: Front MacPherson struts, rear Multi-link with gas pressure dampers

ACCELERATION: 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds(4.9s with Tiptronic)

TOP SPEED: 305 km/h.(298 km/h Tiptronic)

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Composite: 12.9-Litres/100 km, Highway: 9.2-litres/100 km

STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Air-conditioning, heat rejecting glass, Xenon lamps, Stereo system, central locking with Immobilizer, Hollow spoke 18 inch alloy rims, Leather seats, 4-airbags, Heated mirrors.

PRICE in 2000: $780,000 without COE. 12 months Road Tax, Registration Fee, 2-yr unlimited mileage.


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