Just as good on UK roads as out on the track

It’s Porsche’s new £100k option, the 3.8-litre 911 Turbo, freshly arrived in Britain. And this is our chance to find out if the car that seemed so greatly improved and generally impressive hammering around Estoril last month, copes so well on a wet, cold, slippery and bumpy UK B-road.

You’ll have probably read what’s new about this car by now. If not, here are the edited highlights: relative to the last Turbo it’s got an all-new 3.8-litre flat six with a variable-vane turbo for each bank of cylinders.

It’s got 493bhp (up 20bhp) and 479lb ft (up 15lb ft). It’s got Porsche’s new seven-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox as an option. And among the other revisions, it’s got some very clever active engine mounts, a revised chassis set-up with Porsche’s active ‘PASM’ damper. It’s also lighter and more rigid than the last car.

See the Porsche 911 Turbo pics

What’s it like?

Phenomenally quick. Porsche claims 0-62mph in 3.4sec but according to our timing gear, this car will race to 60mph in just 3.2sec. Nissan’s GT-R took a mean 3.8sec to hit 60mph when we road-tested it earlier this year. The only car we’ve ever properly road-tested that did 3.2sec to 60mph was the McLaren F1.

It’s that incredible double-clutch gearbox that makes the difference. In Sport Plus mode it bangs through changes with unbelievable speed, one short intermediate ratio after another with almost no interruption in acceleration.

Very little else piles on speed as keenly as this car, up to 150mph and well beyond. And thanks to a bigger engine running less boost pressure relative to the last Turbo, throttle response is great and turbo lag next-to-absent.

Inside the car, the driving experience is improved by the addition of a slightly smaller steering wheel, which makes the car feel more wieldy than the last, and the option of conventional gearchange paddles; pull the right-hand paddle to change up, the left one to change down.

On the motorway, the new 911 Turbo is quite a bit more usable car than the last. Better cruising economy means you can get 25mpg, so a tank of fuel will last 300 miles. Those intelligent engine mounts even mean that there’s less engine vibration filtering into the cabin, and because they provide better body rigidity in extremist, Porsche has even been able to decrease the car’s chassis rates slightly, improving rolling refinement.

Since Porsche’s very first all-wheel drive version, the 911 Turbo has had crushing any-weather cross country pace, but this new one’s got much better body control than any previously. It handles and steers with greater precision too.

The four-wheel drive system is quicker to cancel out understeer, there’s less unwanted nodding from the car’s front end, and you can be more confident of the grip you’ll find at the front wheels in wet weather.

That said, this car is definitely not the last word in ultimately stability and dynamic perfection. It’s a Porsche 911, and that means it’s still hampered by a second-rate weight distribution that causes it to understeer in certain circumstances when other sports cars just wouldn’t. You can’t hurry this car into a corner; get on the power too soon and the inevitable happens.

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Over bumps and through dips, it sometimes takes slightly longer for the 911 Turbo to regain its composure than, say, an Audi R8 would need. Get hit by a crosswind and you’ll be diverted much more than you would in something front or mid-engined. These are the idiosyncrasies that make 911s beguiling to some and annoying to others.

Should I buy one?

If you’re a 911 fan and you’re looking for a fast car to use all year round, absolutely. There has never been better Porsche Turbo than this, and owning one – making the most of that incredible performance, day in and day out - would make you feel very fortunate indeed.

It’s as well to remember, if you do like Porsche 911s, that the GT3 is a sweeter-handling, more exciting, more rewarding and cheaper prospect. If you’re not so loyal to the Stuttgart shield, bear in mind that the Audi R8 V10 is probably a better handling, better riding, better sounding and slightly more desirable road car.

And yet, nearly 35 years after the first one, the 911 Turbo still has its own place and its own charismatic allure, because somehow you can acknowledge its flaws and still consider it the finest fast car in the world.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
Allanp 12 December 2009

Re: Porsche 911 Turbo PDK

well in a word yes its a better call full stop and a better brand and an all round better feel good factor

porsche dont quote it because the figure all cars with a full tank of gas and two up and are historically conservative, however the times were posted at the official launch of the car and as i said thers a rang of time have a look at you tube

0 to 100 time was 7 secs on the day and 11 to 200k

and out of interest how much does the converstion cost to the GTR and do you factor in the 11k required when the gearbox packs up and thee waranty is void due to the converstion!!!

ryaner 8 December 2009

Re: Porsche 911 Turbo PDK

Wanger wrote:

Is Allanp, seriously saying 0.1s advantage to 62 is worth £60,000???

And if it can do that, why dont Porsche quote it??

What was this new beetles 0-100 time? ( Out of interest)

Whichever way you look at it...This German is a beaten German!

I think with these 911 turbo vs. GT-R comparisons, peole are missing the point. ON paper, a Vectra VXR is as quick as most supersaloons costing twice the price, a Monaro more so, so why don't people just buy those instead. A scuderia is very close to an enzo around fiorano, that doesn't make the enzo redundant though, despite being three times the price of a very expensive car.

The raw performance figures do not account for the sole reason for buying fast cars, or any cars for that matter. It is the persons feeling towards the car, its looks, sounds, tactile responses that make the difference. (Admittedly, there are also factors such as image). A persons choice is down to his/her preference over a variety of factors, many of which a set of numbers cannot define.

Wanger 8 December 2009

Re: Porsche 911 Turbo PDK

Is Allanp, seriously saying 0.1s advantage to 62 is worth £60,000???

And if it can do that, why dont Porsche quote it??

What was this new beetles 0-100 time? ( Out of interest)

Whichever way you look at it...This German is a beaten German!