Porsche 911 Turbo S: breathtaking competence

By Miles Downard

The first time Porsche turbocharged it’s famed 911 sports car was in the mid 1970s. What it created became legend, known by Porsche-anorok-types as the 930, being its internal model designation code. It was early days of forced induction with mechanical fuel injection and the results were an exciting blend of big boost, turbo lag and ill-equipped tyres. Enter the phrase, “widow maker”. 

Engineering prowess has thankfully progressed and as is the Porsche way, the 911 Turbo has been through an evolution with each new model since. Always refining, improving, bettering and most importantly, adding more.

I was in Cape Town earlier in the week to sample the latest iteration of Porsche’s flagship sports car, the 911 Turbo, this time with the model designation 992. Safe to say ‘more’ is exactly what’s been added here.

The 992 Turbo, in S guise, has had various modifications and improvements made to its now 3.8 litre flat six cylinder motor. New variable turbine geometry turbo chargers force an improved flow of cool air into each bank of the motor, while a new set of exhaust manifolds allow it to breathe out more efficiently. The resulting 478kW and 800Nm are numbers that seem unfathomable, even unmanageable, in a vehicle labelled a “sports car”. 

That problem is solved by a set of whopping great 315 cross section rear tyres and a sophisticated All Wheel Drive system. Said system is constantly varying the amount of torque being split between the front and rear axles, based of a multitude of sensors from throttle position to steering angle. In normal operation that’s a 90/10 split toward the rear tyres but on exiting a corner, for example, the car might send up to 500Nm to the front tyres for optimum traction to haul you out the other end as quickly as possible. Aside from optimising traction and stability in corners, this system is one of the major contributors to the 911 Turbo S being the fastest accelerating Porsche on sale today, at just 2.7 seconds from 0 – 100km/h.

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Another masterpiece that aids in keeping all the wheels pointed in the right direction is rear axle steering. Its a system that, at low speed, turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front in order to reduce turning circle for parking and the like. At high speed the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front which helps agility.

Having spent a day driving the new 911 Turbo S around the magnificent mountain roads in the Western Cape I can tell you that this Porsche controls it’s obscene amount of power rather well indeed.

Weaving my way up and over Franschhoek pass revealed a finesse that I wasn’t expecting from a vehicle with sledgehammer power figures and the weight that comes with All Wheel Drive. The light, delicate steering makes the car feel alive at your fingertips. Immense grip means you can carry corner speeds that shouldn’t be possible, yet you burst out of the other end unscathed and in search of the next apex, which arrives in the blink of an eye. Thankfully a mammoth set of carbon ceramic brakes boasting 10 piston calipers do a good job of slowing things down rapidly and repeatedly without fade. There’s no lag from the turbo chargers, the eight speed double clutch gearbox bangs through cogs in milliseconds, the rear wheel steering is seamlessly integrated, all of which combines in a package that is breathtaking in its all round competence. 

On the other side of the pass was a route to our lunch stop near Rawsonville that involves some undulating and uneven road surfaces. This isn’t the best territory for modern sports cars, which tend to be quite stiff in their suspension setups. However this road revealed perhaps the most surprising element of the 911 Turbo S…it’s cross country ability. Dial the drive mode selector to “Normal” and the Turbo transforms into a comfortable cruiser, capable of 300+ km/h yet able to glide over bumps and ruts better than many saloon cars on sale today. The seats are plush, you have climate control, cruise control and all manner of other creature comforts is this discreet weapon of a vehicle that you can use every single day, come rain or shine, a dull drive to the office or a weekend getaway, and throw in a visit to your favourite driving road while you’re at it. Its truly a most remarkable piece of engineering.

At a smidge under R4 million, by no means a small sum of money, I struggle to find a competitor to this Porsche. If your use case demands a sports car that isn’t a one trick pony, the 911 Turbo S is the only option. Anything else at this price point cannot offer the same bag of tricks that Porsche has evolved over the last 40 years. Simple as that.

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