997 TURBO REVIEW
Give Porsche £100,000 or thereabouts and it will hand over the keys to one of the fastest and most capable cars in the world. It's called the 911 Turbo. Now that's a lot of money to the vast majority of motorists but when we're talking about cars that can hurl themselves from a standing start to 60mph in under four seconds and home in on the magic 200mph barrier, it's actually quite reasonable.
The Turbo might not be the 911 in its purest form but Porsche's finest doesn't come much quicker. Many Porsche aficionados would take the normally-aspirated Carrera S or a race ready GT3 in preference saving themselves £30,000 and £20,000 respectively but in the kind of money-no-object buying decision made by a lucky few, the brute force of the Turbo is always hard to resist.
Aside from that big Nissan-badged fly in the ointment known as the GTR, plus a few weird and wonderful track specials, there's very little that can live with the raw pace of a 911 Turbo and costs less. Audi's R8 V10 will be a tempting option for similar money but if you open the competition up to Ferrari and Lamborghini, another £35,000 can instantly be tagged onto the asking price. The Turbo is a special piece of kit and in its latest form, it's more technologically advanced than ever.
To most, this is the facelifted version of the 997 version of the 911 Turbo but Porsche is touting it as the seventh generation in the 911 Turbo lineage. The primary reason for the car being positioned as a separate entity is that it features an engine that's new from the ground up. People who know about Porsche will be only too aware that all new power units don't come along very often. In fact, we're told this is the first in the 911 Turbo's 35-year history. It's a 3.8-litre unit with direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers featuring variable geometry.
"The latest model is nothing if not capable, with performance that puts it up alongside the very fastest road cars on the planet"
Naturally, performance is off the scale. The engine produces 500bhp which is forced upon the road surface by an all-wheel-drive transmission system governed by PTM Porsche Traction Management technology. Fans of automotive acronyms can also get their teeth into PTV Porsche Torque Vectoring which helps to sharpen the car's response to steering inputs and PSM Porsche Stability Management which is designed to step in and save the day should things get a little too hairy.
The bald statistics reveal a car that is through the 62mph barrier a mere 3.5s after firing off the line and which can attain a 194mph top speed where conditions allow. It's necessary to spend silly money on a genuine lottery winner's supercar if you want to go substantially faster than that.
Porsche is rightly proud of the evolutionary styling development of the 911 but the policy doesn't generate the buzz around each model that some more extrovertly-styled rivals enjoy. With Porsche, the focus is on the technology and the driving experience and that's the way the company likes it but it sometimes seems as though our ancestors progressed from hitting woolly mammoths with clubs to inventing the microwave oven quicker than 911s change headlights. The classic lines of the car still hold water today and the Turbo model emphasises its potency with an all-round more aggressive look than the standard cars - just not too aggressive.
The 911 interior is as classy as its exterior lines would suggest. Expensively slush-moulded fascia materials made a welcome change to the hard plastics seen in the 996 and it's possible to specify leather trim. The front seats are large comfortable items that still sit the driver low to the ground but there's a choice of four different seat options depending on how racy you want to feel. The PCM Porsche Communication Management system dominates the facia with its 6.5" colour screen display. It bundles satellite navigation, together with the various settings menus together with the audio system and even an optional TV tuner.
Both Coupe and Cabriolet Turbo models are available and aside from that, there are all kinds of options available to personalise the 911. Perhaps the most significant is the Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. The PDK, as we shall hitherto refer to it, is a conventional seven speed manual gearbox with a hydraulic control mechanism which is divided into two separate units. There's one clutch looking after the even gears and one taking care of the odd ones. It means that the clutches can work in unison, producing super fast shifting. Each gearchange is around 60 per cent more rapid that that of a conventional automatic transmission.
The PDK system did come in for some criticism for the way it's operated in manual mode. Some found the system of buttons on the front and rear of the wheel for up and down changes rather counterintuitive but the Turbo addresses this with the option of a steering wheel with conventional paddle shifters. Buyers can also opt for the Sport Chrono Package Turbo which incorporates a launch control function that's activated via buttons on the steering wheel whether it's the standard PDK wheel or the paddle shift item.
Even the fastest cars in the world need to be seen to be efficient these days and the 911 Turbo turns in an impressive performance at the pumps thanks in part to its direct injection engine technology. The PDK gearbox has no impact on fuel economy and shares the same figures as the standard manual car. That means that combined cycle economy is measured at around 24mpg - a great showing for a car with the 911 Turbo's performance.
Porsche traditionally uses the 911 Turbo to show the rest of the motoring world just how much its flagship sportscar is capable of. The latest model is nothing if not capable, with performance that puts it up alongside the very fastest road cars on the planet matched to cutting edge technology and a surprising sideline in efficiency.