Driving the Porsche 911 Turbo S is far from the white-knuckle affair that the specifications suggest.
Yes, this is one of the fastest point-to-point road cars that you’re ever likely to encounter, but the towering performance is delivered in a fashion that makes its deep reserves approachable and even exploitable in the right conditions.
I drove the 911 Turbo S on a mixture of roads in the hills behind Stuttgart and some unrestricted sections of autobahn – the very same territory in which we experienced the new Porsche 911 GT3 recently. First impressions reveal a significantly more fluid nature to the handling than the old model, with even less body roll, a clear lift in overall agility, greater levels of purchase and mind-boggling traction as you get on the throttle out of corners.
There’s an almost clinical competency to the way that the new Porsche can be made to dissect challenging sections of blacktop. It romps from one apex to the next with rabid enthusiasm, seemingly without any clear limit to its dynamic prowess and great neutrality. Its ability to carry big speeds through a series of corners without any premature breakaway is simply stunning – clearly on a higher level than its rear-wheel-drive sibling, which is arguably more fun to drive in isolation but not quite in the same league on pure ground-covering.
Reflecting the changes brought to other Porsche 911 models, the chassis is completely new. The wheelbase is 100mm longer, at 2450mm, the front track is 49mm wider, at 1539mm, and the rear track is 1590mm, 42mm wider than before.
Further developments include switchable PTM (Porsche Traction Management), which includes stability control and a locking differential function; PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), with adaptive damping control in two distinct steps, and PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), with hydraulically operated anti-roll bars to reduce body movements during corners. They all come as part of the Sport Chrono package, which is standard on the 911 Turbo S.
The most impressive achievement is how the PTM system works when left on, because it allows the 911 Turbo S to be driven up to the limits of adhesion without any premature electronic intervention in both dry and wet conditions. Only when the tenacious grip is finally breached does it spring into action, and even then it is incredibly subtle. It doesn’t attempt to reel you in when you’re pushing hard but merely serves to provide a safety net when all options are exhausted. Oversteer? You can get the tail to hang out in slower corners when the PTM is switched off, but it takes a good deal of provocation. And even then, the quick reactions of the four-wheel drive system ensure that it is only fleeting.
The steering is also new and very much state of the art. The front electro-mechanical system is shared with other 911 models. But as on the 911 GT3, it operates in conjunction with an electro-mechanical rear-wheel steer system. At speeds of up to 37mph, it steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to those up front, enhancing low-speed agility. Above 50mph, the rear wheels are operated parallel to the front wheels to enhance longitudinal stability. There’s added directness, more consistent weighting and an inherent calmness to how it operates, but the electro-hydraulic system lacks the overall feel, feedback and sheer confidence-boosting factor of the old hydraulic system.
There’s nothing much wrong with the ride, though. There’s now a broader variance in the firmness of the two-stage dampers and added control from the springing. It delivers truly impressive compliance for a car with such potent performance. The brakes seem similarly over-engineered, thanks in part to huge six-pot front and four-pot rear Brembo calipers that operate on 410mm front and 390mm rear carbon-ceramic discs, which come as part of the Sport Chrono package.
But for all of its enhanced back-road agility, it is on more open roads where the 911 Turbo S is at its dazzling best. The engine is a remarkable feat of engineering and truly compelling, providing standing-start and in-gear acceleration that borders on the preposterous.
Initial response isn’t quite as razor sharp as in some super-sports cars, though. There is some telltale lag in the delivery low down as the two turbochargers spool up to their maximum boost. But when they do hit their nominal 1.2-bar operating window and then extend a further 0.2 bar on overboost, you are thrust forward with great force at anything above 2100rpm – the point where the prodigious peak torque arrives. That action in the lower gears verges on outlandish, while in the higher ratios it is a little less brutal but unremitting nevertheless.
True, this engine doesn’t rev with quite the same eagerness as the 458 Italia’s naturally aspirated 4.5-litre V8. Nor does it reach such dizzying heights; the 7200rpm cutout is well short of the Ferrari’s 9000rpm top end. But that hardly matters when the surge of torque is so titanic.
There is very little let-up in the rush of speed until you are well into three figures, by which time the longer wheelbase, widened chassis and some of the most advanced active aerodynamics brought to any road car combine to provide Zuffenhausen’s latest supercar with vastly improved tracking ability and phenomenal longitudinal stability.
The 911 Turbo S has always shown a penchant for wandering a bit at higher velocities, due to its relatively narrow tracks and inherent lightness at the front. Not this new one. A three-stage front spoiler works in tandem with a three-step rear wing to ensure vastly improved levels of downforce. It is remarkably stable, even when approaching its claimed 198mph top whack on an unrestricted section of autobahn, at which it is also claimed to develop a serious 132kg of downforce.