Life Auto Calling 911: The new Porsche packs a punch
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Calling 911: The new Porsche packs a punch

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A superlative sports car that flatters every driver – no matter what their level of expertise. The stiff price of entry is in part offset by performance and longevity that in the real world makes mincemeat of supercars priced hundreds of thousands of dollars higher. The only supercar you could own and drive everyday.

Scotty would be disappointed. Significantly so. You see, it seems you CAN change the laws of physics. That is, of course, if you’re the driver of Porsche’s new 991-series 911 Turbo and its powered up stablemate, the Turbo S.

A combination of all-wheel drive, active aerodynamics, rear wheel steering, smart traction and braking controls and an engine that has mountains of torque almost from idle, make the new 911 Turbo a supercar, but a supercar that is at the same time almost unbelievably potent, yet almost unbelievably civilised and refined.

Stupendously fast and, with all its safety nannies operating at least, stupendously easy to drive fast, Porsche’s latest 911 flagship makes fast drivers out of mediocre ones and super heroes out of those with some idea.

But it took an ex-F1 driver to prove the true capabilities of the uber-911 at last week’s local launch of the car.

911Turbo_3_4r2

Over two laps, new Porsche factory WEC driver Mark Webber pushed, slid and careered his way around Phillip Island’s 4.45km Grand Prix circuit in a Turbo at a speed which coincided with a lap time half decent for a proper racecar.

Charging impossibly deep into corners, braking from over 200km/h in what seemed like just car lengths, the Turbo felt truly supercar fast. And all the time Our Mark was joking, talking and waxing lyrical to yours truly about both the car and the company that built it.

God knows how fast he could have gone if he was serious, or even on decent rubber…

The all-new, all-wheel-drive, PDK (twin-clutch) only Turbo is now on sale Down Under and will likely be a sell-out success. Priced from $359,800 in Turbo coupe form, it will also be offered in a cabriolet body style and powered-up S variants. The top of the Turbo tree Cab S will set you back an eye-watering $463,100.

Porsche says around 80 Turbos will make it Down Under over the course of what is normally a truncated production run. Just 20 per cent will be S models with their added equipment and power, and the lion’s share of all Turbos will be hard-tops.

Eventually, if the new 991 Series follows the lead of previous generations of 911, a rear-drive GT2 version will join the line-up — its job, to be truly the ultimate iteration of the road-going 911. Given the performance of even the standard 911 Turbo, it will be likely a machine about which legends are penned.

Suffice it to say the new Turbo is quite literally a technological marvel. There are multiple systems pioneered in this car and others refined. To detail and explain all (again) is well beyond the scope of this review. The short version of the tech story behind the new Turbo which Porsche publishes as part of its press kit runs to over 40 pages.

In brief (very), in the new Turbo, Porsche has taken the new 991’s aluminium structure with its longer wheelbase and wider tracks, added an all-new AWD system, added race-standard brakes, 20-inch alloys and turned the whole lot up to 11.

Same goes for the 997 Series II Turbo-sourced direct-injected 3.8-litre turbo flat six and seven-speed PDK twin-clutch gearbox. The engine now makes more power and has an overboost function in both standard and S variants — and manages to use less fuel doing so.

The S model packs a massive 750Nm punch in the above-mentioned overboost mode. And unlike lesser turbo tearaways, the 911 Turbo S can serve up that overboost for extended periods – certainly long enough in a standing start situation to take the car all the way from zero through to its V-max of 318km/h.

In the case of the new cars there is no manual option. But with the PDK so integrally linked to the stellar performance of the both Turbo and Turbo S models, only luddites are really likely to complain.

911Turbo_binnacle

A case in point is the exercise Porsche Cars Australia laid on to kick off its local launch last week. Lining up the standard 383kW/660Nm Turbo (+15kW/+10Nm, compared to the outgoing model) against the 412kW/700Nm (+22kW) Turbo S in a race-start drag race, the capability of the latest transmission technology and Porsche’s revised electro-hydraulic (was electro-mechanical) multi-clutch all-wheel drive was shown clearly.

In Sport or Sport Plus mode (in Sport Chrono-equipped Turbo models), all launch control requires is a sharp stab on the throttle while left-foot braking in Drive, and once the engine is on its launch limiter, side-stepping the brake.

On Phillip Island’s new sticky hotmix, the resulting launch was hard enough to narrow the vision and bring stars to your eyes. And before we’d sorted that out, the transmission had snap-shifted into second and we were approaching the second-third gearchange.

Cue multiple perfect launches and 0-100km/h sprints in the 3.0-sec flat range (Porsche claims 3.1 seconds; 0-200km/h in 10.3 sec for the Sport Chrono S) time after time. And now, try doing the same with three pedals and a gear stick!

Standing-start times are just a minor part of the Turbo and Turbo S repertoire, however. It’s the sheer ability on the track that astounds – in particular not only its pace but the aplomb with which it carves laps and, if necessary, gets its driver out of trouble.

Although the Turbo models are chocked full of chassis technologies (again I stress, read Marton’s review!), the road and track performance can largely be sheeted home to three key technologies: the car’s active aerodynamics, revised all-wheel drive system and the unique to Turbo active rear-wheel steering system.

At low speeds the rear-steer system turns the wheels opposite to the front wheel, in effect ‘shortening’ the wheelbase the equivalent (in terms of turn rate) of around 250mm. At high speeds, the rear wheels sync with the fronts and turn in tandem. This has the opposite effect – virtually ‘extending’ the wheelbase the equivalent of 500mm.

Porsche Cars Australia demonstrated the low-speed actuation of the rear-steer with a Turbo up on stands and we can vouch the wheels depart straight ahead by a considerable margin. On the track this helps tame low-speed understeer, on the road you’ll find the new Turbo easier to park and more manoeuvrable.

The high-speed effect of the ‘virtual wheelbase’ is better stability, plus increased traction and cornering grip. But what’s really smart is the active rear-steer infrastructure’s ability to decode what the driver wants and deliver it – in conjunction with the new all-wheel drive system and traction and stability controls in particular.

Crossover speeds from low to high-speed operation and vice-versa are listed at around 80km/h but aren’t strictly set, for instance. Instead, the car interrogates a protocol to make the decision in concert with a range of parameters including such variables as steering rate and angle, throttle position, suspension settings and the like.

In terms of the seat-of-the-pants impression, at high speeds corner entries feel like the car is a little ‘loose’ (oversteering) but then the rear settles, the front points and the cornering forces load up.

Part of the credit here must also go to the active aerodynamics that extend and retract (via inflatable hoses) a three-position front spoiler, as well as the height and angle of the adjustable rear wing – a Porsche stalwart.

The variable front geometry is a world first and, says Porsche, generates up to 44kg of downforce (albeit at 300km/h). The active biplane rear wing adds another 88kg at the same speed. Porsche says together they trim the Turbo S’s Nurburgring lap time (7:27) by two seconds.

At Phillip Island it might only be a fraction of that, but we can vouch for the car’s uncanny ability to track as directed through the four fastest corners on the track – in contrast to the standard Carrera S lapping at the same time.

In low-speed corners, there’s little if any of the understeer that the 997 Turbo exhibited. The car just turns in and tracks cleanly – again a function of the virtual wheelbase and rear steer.

Credit here also needs to go to the new AWD system. Faster acting, more precise in terms of the torque it delivers and able to direct more torque to the front axle, the new system also interacts with active torque vectoring on the rear axle to further tailor the Turbo’s handling and roadholding.

All these chassis smarts do their best to steal the show, but the star of this car is still the twin-turbo 3.8-litre boxer six. Happy to rev beyond 7000rpm in S form and packing huge amounts of torque and power, this is a mega engine and yet remains remarkably tractable. Its soundtrack is pure 911 and although it doesn’t have quite the notes of the atmo Porsche sixes (the GT3 RS 4.0 comes to mind), it is still a wonderfully emotive tune.

Never loud. Always present…

If there’s a better street car engine available today, I’m yet to drive it. Simple. Period.

I’d love to tell you exactly how this all translates on the road, but in this case it would be rather pointless. For a start we didn’t drive the Turbo or Turbo S on the road this time around and arguably this is a car that needs the elevated speeds Phillip Island generates to unlock any idiosyncrasies.

I’ll enjoy driving the car on the road, if only for the chance to spend some more time behind the wheel (and give you detailed accounts of its fuel economy and the effectiveness of the infotainment system). As supercars go, this is easily the most civilised on the road today and definitely the only one with which you could live every day.

Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S

Price: $359,800 [$441,300] (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.8-litre horizontally-opposed, twin turbo six-cylinder petrol
Output: 383kW/600Nm Overboost 710Nm [412kW/700Nm Overboost 750Nm]
Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual
Fuel: 9.7L/100km [9.7L/100km]
CO2: 227g [227g/km]
Safety Rating: Not tested

What we liked:
>> Best street engine on the market today
>> Unimpeachable handling and roadholding
>> Unburstable feel in every mechanical aspect

Not so much:
>> Can’t afford one

This article first appeared on motoring.com.au.

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