Warp Speed (997 mk1) 911 Turbo [review]


Porsche’s flagship the 911 Turbo has also become the giant slayer of sorts in the kingdom of extreme supercars. In an arena surrounded by supercar greats like Ferrari and Lamborghini, the 911 Turbo’s relatively demure appearance is deceiving.

Back in 1974 the flagship 911 Turbo may have started life with just 260 bhp and would today be easily upstaged by the current Cayman S. The latest 911 Turbo comes with 480 bhp and though pale in light of the competition’s 600 plus bhp, the engineers at Porsche have made every bhp count. It will blast to the 100 km/h mark well below the four second barrier that seems to be the benchmark for today’s supercars. The manual 911 Turbo does it in 3.9 seconds but beyond our wildest expectations the automatic, Tiptronic version beats the manual in a mind numbing 3.7 seconds, certainly a first in automotive history when the auto version beats the manual all the way to 200 km/h which arrives just 12.2 seconds after take-off and maybe to the 310 km/h top speed too.

Porsche’s engineers have coaxed yet another 60 bhp out of the previous 420 bhp 3.6-litre turbo motor and whilst it may be less than the 512 bhp Cayenne Turbo S, the 911 Turbo is certainly the fastest of current Porsche models. Nominal boost pressure is 1 bar but there is a 10 second overboost facility available when you engage Sport mode which allows a momentary increase of charge pressure to 1.2 bar. This is clearly felt in the midrange where it cuts 5th gear overtaking time from 80-120 km/ down to 3.5 seconds from 3.8 seconds, a sensation more obvious than on paper. This extra 60 Nm is available from 1950 to 4000 rpm so does not effect peak power. Turbo lag has been further reduced by a variable turbine geometry (VTG) turbocharger that spools up so quickly it seems like a small lightweight turbo but actually has the capacity of a large turbo in order to develop 480 bhp out of 3.6-litres and 680 Nm of torque when overboosted. Detecting turbo lag is only possible in the manual version as the Tiptronic’s characteristics hide it well.

To handle this sheer power is the new all-wheel drive system called Porsche Traction Management (PTM). The system has the ability to divert power instantly and infinitely to either the front or rear axle when traversing poor surface conditions like ice and even on normal roads as the power of this engine easily overcomes the grip available at the rear tyres at full throttle. This provides the driver of the 911 Turbo a skill set that only expert drivers could achieve to control oversteer or skids by diverting excess power away from the rears in real time. Working in conjunction with the PTM is Porsche’s Stability Program (PSM) that acts mainly through judicious application of the brakes and engine power to further control under or oversteer situations. It seems most effective at higher speeds rather than parking speeds where you might experience some front-end push thanks to that powerful motor which gives most traction to the rear wheels.

Perhaps of more 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 easy access to most of its stupendous performance potential with minimum effort so it is best to use it 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.

This Tiptronic transmission not just harnesses the turbo power better than 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. Not surprisingly, overtaking is its forte passing slower traffic with disdainful ease and so addictive that one will be stepping on the gas just to feel this power surge over and over again.

Porsche has always been famous for their bullet proof brakes and there is no other Porsche it is needed most than the Turbo. We had the good fortune to sample both the steel and ceramic PCCB systems. Thanks to the brake priming circuit that predicts when you need the brakes via the immediate closing of the throttle the brake pads are pressed against the rotors to give it an immediate, zero-latency feel to the brakes so both types of brakes work extremely well on initial application. The steel ones match the much vaunted PCCB but on continued heavy application, the PCCB ones do not fade and feel as fresh as the first application.

For 300 km in the mountainous roads that snake around 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 fighter jet. Before you know it the needle is sweeping alarmingly past 200 km/h and its rate of increase seemingly unabated even at 260 km/h on the way to its top speed of 310 km/h, a figure shared by both transmissions.

It would seem that Porsche has managed to improve ride comfort and road harshness despite raising the spring and damper rates over the previous Turbo by about 20% overall. This is attributed to better PASM damper control and a new celloprene rubber mounting material used in the top mount of the struts. Driver comfort comes from a less frenetic steering as the superbly chosen rates of the variable ratio steering of the Carrera is carried over to the Turbo. Also by removing most of the elastic nature of this turbo engines the application of its power is more predictable and user friendly.

When it comes to handling, the 911 Turbo is extremely stable but tuned with an element of adjustability to its handling at the limit. Like the current range of 911 coupes, the steering is nigh on perfect, offering a degree of accuracy and feel that very few cars offer. The ride on the normal setting while offering decent comfort is certainly on the firm side however “Sport mode” is so firm it should only be used on a flat track as it is far too unyielding for city use. A must-have is the intelligent PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) that will adjust settings to suit any driving condition always finding a ride-handling compromise that is second to none.

For sheer ground-covering ability, there are perhaps only handful of exotics that manage a modicum of quiet refinement and sheer warp-speed ability but none does it in such a devastatingly potent yet understated manner as the new 911 Turbo.

Fast Facts

BODY : Two-door coupe, Steel monocoque construction

CAPACITY : 3600cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder
VALVES : 24 valves
BORE X STROKE : 100 x 76.4mm
MAXIMUM POWER : 480 bhp at 6000 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : Nominal: 620 Nm 1950-5000 rpm
                              : Overboost: 680 Nm 1950-4000 rpm

TYPE : 5-Speed Tiptronic and 6-speed manual

TOP SPEED : 310 km/h
0-100KM/H : 3.7 seconds(Tip), 3.9 seconds (man)

FRONT : McPherson Struts PASM dampers
REAR : Multi link with PSAM dampers

FRONT : 350mm Ventilated and Cross drilled
REAR : 350mm Ventilated and Cross drilled

TYPE : Michelin Pilot Sport 2
SIZE : f: 235/35 ZR 19, r: 305/30 ZR 19

ABS : Yes

LENGTH : 4450mm
WIDTH : 1852mm
HEIGHT : 1300mm
WHEELBASE : 2350mm
KERB WEIGHT : 1590-kg (Tip: 1620-kg)

Fuel Consumption: 19.8 L/100 km in city mode

Standard Equipment: Six air bags, PSM, PTM, Xenon headlamps, climate control, Bose sound system, alarm and immobiliser, 19-inch alloy wheels, multi-function steering wheel, leather upholstery.

Price in 2006: $ 638,888 



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