Can any car be deemed a supercar if you can use it every day? Jonathan Crouch ponders the devastatingly rapid yet wholly untemperamental Porsche 911 Turbo.
Ten Second Review
Most know it as the world's greatest sports car. To the uninitiated it's the Porsche 911 Turbo. Now this car gets more power, sharper design and even broader everyday usability in its Coupe and Convertible bodystyles. Choose from the 540bhp Turbo or the 580bhp Turbo S with all the trick bits from the options list included and then some. Either way, for many, this is still the performance sportscar to have.
The Porsche 911 Turbo used to be terrifying. You'd buy one if you found skydiving or alligator wrestling to be a little pedestrian. It was a car with a reputation for making unscheduled excursions into the undergrowth, a ditch-seeking missile with a power delivery less benign than Pol Pot's. Of course, much of this was exaggerated, but early 911 Turbos were certainly to be respected and handled with care. Over time, the role of the 911 Turbo changed. The GT3 and GT2 models were introduced to cater for the unhinged and gradually the turbo inherited the mantle once owned by the 928, namely that of a devastatingly rapid GT car that could nevertheless entertain, with space for a couple of kids in the back. Getting on for half a century after the introduction of the malignant original, we get this latest even faster version. It's still the one.
The original Porsche 911 Turbo developed 260bhp, drove the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox and could accelerate to 62mph in 5.5 seconds. Now we get a car that cranks out twice as much power - 540bhp in standard guise - and sends it to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The sprint to 62mph is demolished in 3.0 seconds on the way to 198mph. You can even go a step further by opting for the 580bhp Turbo S model, which shaves a tenth off that time and tops out at 205mph. The engines now have what is known as a 'dynamic boost function' to further raise responsiveness in dynamic operation. It maintains the charge pressure during load changes - i.e. when the accelerator pedal is released briefly. A'Mode Switch' on the steering wheel delivers four driving modes - Normal, Sport, Sport Plus or Individual. Both Turbo variants get the Sport Chrono Package that now features a 'Sport Response' button at the centre of the mode switch. Inspired by motor sport, at the push of a button it pre-conditions the engine and transmission for optimum responsiveness. In this state, the vehicle can produce instantaneous acceleration for up to 20 seconds, such as during an overtaking manoeuvre. For fast and precise power distribution to the two axles, Porsche has developed its all-wheel drive system (PTM) with an electronically controlled and activated water-cooled multi-plate clutch. There's also rear-wheel steering that improves both track driving and everyday performance and at low speeds.
Design and Build
Naturally, the new generation 911 Turbo models adopt significant characteristics of the striking design of the latest Carrera models, supplemented by typical 911 Turbo special features. The newly-formed nose with side-mounted airblades and precisely laid out narrow LED front lights with double fillets give the front end a wider look, further complemented by the additional fin in the central air intake. In profile, Turbo buyers get smarter 20-inch diameter wheels that feature a 'ten double spoke' design on the Turbo S. The wheels are slightly larger too. The restyled door handles feature a smoother, cleaner design - just like on the Carrera models. The rear body styling has also been revised. Eye-catching at first glance are the three-dimensional style rear lights with four-point brake lights and 'aura-style' illumination, familiar from the 911 Carrera series. The exit openings for the exhaust system at the rear as well as the dual tailpipes have been tweaked too. The grille of the rear engine lid is smarter and it now features three parts: the right and left sections have longitudinal louvres, and in the middle there is a separate cover for optimised air induction for the engine.
Market and Model
The 911 Turbo's value is a tough one to assess. It's either a very expensive sports/GT car or a very good value supercar, depending on your viewpoint. It's certainly a more multi-dimensional proposition than the hard-riding Nissan GT-R. The standard 911 Turbo is priced at around £127,000 while the Turbo S is pitched at around £145,000. Allow a premium of around £9,000 for the Convertible bodystyle. Standard equipment on every 911 Turbo model includes Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA), rear axle steering, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) four-wheel drive, LED headlights, Sport Chrono Package with Mode Switch, a 360mm diameter GT sports steering wheel, a leather interior, fully electric sports seats, the Porsche Communication Management system including online navigation module and voice control, a 'Connect Plus' set-up with a telephone module and Apple Car Play technology. There's also Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), ParkAssist front and rear including a reversing camera and the Porsche Vehicle Tracking anti-theft system. The 911 Turbo S adds highlights like Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), 20-inch central locking wheels, a two-tone leather interior and adaptive Sports seats.
Cost of Ownership
The Turbo's fuel consumption is 31mpg on the combined cycle if you go for the Coupe version - or 30.4mpg if you opt for the Convertible. This represents a slight improvement on before, courtesy of further advances in electronic engine and transmission management with revised gear change mappings. Emissions are pegged at under 230g/km, a figure significantly lower than something as modest as a Nissan 370Z coupe. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (PDK) includes an integral auto start/stop function with engine shut-off that activates when the car coasts to a halt as well as the proven sailing function at speed. Together with a thermal management system for the turbo engine and the PDK transmission, sleek aerodynamics and weight taken out of key components, the 911 Turbo is right at the forefront of operating efficiency. Residual values should be good, if not spectacular. The popularity of the 911 Turbo tends to ensure that it's not endowed with the rarity value of an Italian exotic. That might be bad when it comes to resale time, but it's part of why they're bought in the first instance. They can be parked on the street without generating a gaggle of kids with camera phones.
It does seem ironic that a car once criticised for persevering with a rear-engined layout that suggested dogma over common sense has evolved into the most sensible seriously high performance car you can buy. The Porsche 911 Turbo has developed into a machine capable of covering many bases. It can cover big miles comfortably and discreetly, it's built tough enough to not require constant attention, its four-wheel drive will cope with our weather, it'll leave you juiced in adrenaline on a twisty road yet allow you to relax on a commute. You could even stretch its legs on track if you fancied. It's hard to think of a better rounded sports car. So much for its capability. Is it special enough as an ownership proposition to command that price tag? That's an entirely different question. Discretion and blinding speed come in many forms these days. Similarly, many seek performance cars that deliver a greater sense of occasion than the 911 Turbo. That this once most uncompromising of cars now represents a singularly compromised choice might surprise you. It's merely a testament to how nuanced its customers have become. The 911 Turbo remains indelibly shot through with greatness.