Revisions make the 911 Turbo faster and more capable than ever

What is it?

The new Porsche 911 Turbo. Unveiled in at last month’s Frankfurt motor show, the latest evolution of Zuffenhausen’s uber coupe/cabriolet has been extensively reworked in a two year program that Porsche’s head of passenger car development, August Achleitner, claims has made it an even better and more entertaining car to drive then ever before.

Given the adrenalin inducing appeal of the old 911 Turbo – a car we described as the best all weather supercar of all time not all that long ago, it is hard to believe such a thing is possible at all. Still, it would be very out of character for Porsche to unleash a new model that didn’t, in some little way at least, improve on the one it replaces.

Not that it’s reflected in the styling. Tweaks include new titanium-coloured louvers in the front side air ducts, LED daytime driving lamps residing in the place previously taken up by the fog lamps, revised exterior mirrors with a new double arm design, altered tail lamp graphics with LEDs as well as larger tail pipes poking out through the rear valance.

The old but mightily effective multi-point fuel injected 3.6-litre flat six-cylinder petrol engine with its twin variable vane turbochargers, relatively low 9.0:1 compression ratio and split deck design has been resigned to history.

It’s replaced by a more powerful direct-injected 3.8-litre version of Porsche’s classic flat six-cylinder running newly reworked twin variable vane turbochargers, higher 9.8:1 compression ratio and closed deck architecture which is claimed to boost rigidity. In doing so, peak power climbs from 473bhp to 493bhp at 6000rpm while torque has increased from an already hugely potent 464lb ft in the outgoing engine to 479lb ft between 1950 and 5000rpm.

Along with the new engine, there’s also a new optional gearbox in the form of a new seven-speed PDK gearbox. Fitted to the car we drove, it replaces the Mercedes-Benz produced five speed automatic offered on the old 911 Turbo.

What’s it like?

Mind blowing. The bare performance figures - 0-to-62mph in 3.4sec, 0-to-100mph in 7.0sec and 193mph top speed - hint at something very special and better its predecessor in each case. But the way the 911 Turbo goes about its business almost defies conventional road car logic.

You’d likely find a more powerful and faster car over a wide and smooth surfaced race track. But on normal roads – the sort you and I encounter every day with varying surfaces, odd cambers and all variety of hidden surprises like those served up at the car’s launch in Portugal this week, I seriously doubt any rival – not even a Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo or Porsche Carrera GT - would come close to matching it for sheer pace or outright dynamic prowess for any length of time.

It is the engine, more than anything else, that stands out. Hard as it may be to image given the sort of power it develops, there is no discernable turbo lag at all. Owing to the increased capacity and higher compression ratio, Porsche has actually decided to dial back boost pressure a touch, from a previous 1.0 to a nominal 0.8 bar, in the interests of added driveability. The result is even keener throttle response and a level of flexibility you really have to experience to believe.

The weight has been trimmed by 25kg in models with the new dual clutch gearbox over those running the old automatic to an impressive 1595kg, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 309bhp/tonne.

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When the road is straight, you’re treated to typically solid and high speed stability, albeit with some characteristic bobbing at the front end as lift forces begin the build. More remarkable that this, however, is the speed at which the dual clutch gearbox manages to pick off the gears without any interruption in acceleration despite having to cope with all that torque.

The steering wheel mounted paddles are nicely weighted, positive in action and enhanced by a Sport Plus function, which lights up on the left-hand spoke of the steering wheel, to signal a remapping of the throttle for an even more aggressive throttle response. As well as making it faster, another one of Porsche’s primary aims with the new 911 Turbo was to make it more entertaining.

It’s certainly gained in terms of overall agility, feeling less reliant upon the four wheel drive system for grip and more accommodating to sudden changes in direction. With the optional torque vectoring automatically braking the inside rear wheel, there’s a new found willingness upon turn in as well as a noticeable increase in the amount of speed you can confidently carry through corners. On normal roads the handling is virtually vice-free, with so much grip you'll never feel the need to turn off the ESP.

However, as devastatingly good as the 911 Turbo is, it can sometimes come across as lacking a certain something. I’m opposed to calling it clinical , but in certain respects that’s exactly what it is, if only because of the way it is able to conquer every thing you throw at it with such crushing authority.

While superbly damped and wonderfully direct, the speed sensitive variable rate steering is also a little short on ultimate feel. Compared to lesser, rear wheel drive versions of the 911, there’s clearly less being communicated from the front end.

Should I buy one?

There are more spectacular looking, faster and better sounding supercars for the money. But as an everyday proposition the new 911 Turbo is just about beyond comparison.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
tommallett 17 October 2009

Re: Porsche 911 3.8 Turbo

Greg Kable wrote:
Just to set the record straight . . . .

. . . the 0-100mph figure of 7.0secs I quoted in the story on the new 911 Turbo came directly from the head of 911 development, August Achleitner. He also provided a 0-186mph time of 38.8sec. These figures were not in the official press information but from his little black book of internal 911 Turbo technical data.

How's the 7.0sec time possible? It's a combination of three things: the torque and the wide spread of revs at which it is developed, the speed and shift quality of the new dual clutch gearbox and the ability of the four-wheel drive system to get it all the the road cleanly without any interaction from the stability control system.

Sure, the LP560/4 has more power than the 911 Turbo.

But in versions running the option Sports Chrono package, the Porsche's NA1 engine has 516lb ft of torque in overboost mode, at which the boost pressure of the Borg Warner turbochargers is raised from 0.8bar to 0.1bar . . . some 37lb ft more than the nominal 479lb ft. It's also developed between 2100rpm and 4000rpm.

The Lambo, on the other hand, has 398lb ft at 6500rpm.

Not to take anything away from the LP560/4, which is brilliant in its own right and arguably Lambos finest effort yet. But the 911 Turbo feels quicker up the strip and, according to Achleitner, is just that, too. At least to 100mph ...

looks like that is the answer then! Clearly horsepower and weight figures don't tell the whole story nowadays. GT-R being the prime case in point.

Pavgub 14 October 2009

Re: Porsche 911 3.8 Turbo

compare the Lambo & Porsche torque figures, no wonder the 911 is quicker to100 - has loads more torque!

Colonel Snappy 14 October 2009

Re: Porsche 911 3.8 Turbo

blasos1983 wrote:

Gallardo LP560, 552bhp, 1410kg, also 4WD 0-100: 7.7s

Porsche, 180kg heavier, 59 less bhp, yet cracks 100 in 0.7 seconds quicker? I don't think so. The laws of physics would disagree with you, lad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Easy: just checked the Gallardo road test ...

"At the heart of the car is an all-new V10 engine that thumps out 552bhp and 398lb ft of torque, but the other key factor is its relative lack of weight; at 1410kg (or 1580kg in test trim measured on our scales) it is impressively light for a 4WD supercar."

I suspect the maker's weight for the Lambo is "dry", i.e. without any fuel, coolant, etc., which as someone commented in a magazine recently is like quoting your own weight without blood.