Turbos At The Glen
Spanking The 997 Turbo In Its Natural Environment
We first brought you the full review on Porsche's new insanely quick 911 Turbo in the September '06 issue, but at the time we hadn't had a chance to thoroughly flog it on the track. But I've just got the chance to run a few hot laps at the legendary Watkins Glen International Raceway, the same place the very first turbocharged 911 made its inaugural appearance in 1974 for the FIA World Championship Six Hours of Endurance.
Fittingly, my co-pilot is none other than legendary racer Hurly Haywood. Very few can toss a Porsche around as quickly and gracefully as this iconic champion. So here I am behind the wheel of the most powerful and competent 911 Turbo, on one of the most challenging courses in the land, and I have Hurley sitting shotgun.
Warming up, my first lap is a wash. Hurley motions with his hand and tells me it's time to open her up. We hit the main straight and the car gobbles it up in a matter of seconds. The new Turbo is the quickest accelerating Porsche ever. Thanks to its beastly 480 bhp, 413 lb-ft. of torque and new clever four-wheel-drive Porsche Traction Management (PTM), the Turbo can now run a 60 mph sprint in only 3.7 seconds. That's supercar territory-the likes of the Carrera GT and Enzo. Just as impressive, the Turbo sells at a mere fraction of their price. Think of it as the affordable supercar.
We round the first set of turns with the precision of a guided missile and nearly as fast. Steering is razor sharp. Point the front end and the rear follows through without the slightest twitch. The suspension is remarkably well sorted. The car handles like a dream-it makes you feel more accomplished.
Where you would expect understeer, the car maintains a neutral bias and runs firmly planted. Active safety systems such as PTM, Porsche Stability Management (PSM), and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with normal and Sport modes are largely responsible. The system analyzes a broad range of values, including acceleration, steering angle and the rotational speed of all four wheels, providing immediate power adjustments to the front and rear accordingly. It allows greater and consistent use of the available power and monstrous torque. Such cutting-edge technology wouldn't work without good rubber. Large 19-inch alloys wrapped with unfeasibly wide Michelin Pilots do the trick and prove an ideal combination, with incredible lateral grip. Such hard driving would normally turn most brakes to mush-not these PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes) anchors. Never once do I sense the slightest amount of fade. Even the standard six-pot units are massively effective under the extreme track abuse.
Equal time is spent with both manual and Tiptronic S versions. I generally prefer manual and the Turbo's six-speed box is easily the best yet. However, my lap times are consistently better with the more refined Tip. Although it has a manual shift option, I leave it in full auto mode, which features lightning-quick changes with virtually no interruption in drive and an almost prescient awareness of road/track conditions.
Handy at the track is the Sport Chrono Package Turbo option, which allows you to fully explore the car's performance potential with the push of a button. Key features include a dash-mounted timer that can split times to 100th of a second. Times can also be viewed, stored, compared and analyzed. The package also features a special overboost function that temporarily increases boost pressure by roughly 3 psi. Suspension variables are also retuned to match performance. Careful, though: the car can be a handful and this feature pours it on thick.
Hurley decides to swap places. He really demonstrates the car's awesome track abilities. I spend the rest of the day driving the streets and farm roads of upstate New Jersey, including several laps around the historic Watkins Glen road course, which begins in town and meanders through the neighboring lush green countryside and back. The serpentine road and its multiple elevation changes are tailor-made for the Turbo. From track star to road warrior, nothing could be more natural.